The Benefits of the Cultures du Coeur Project

June 30th, 2015

Can cultural mediation become an intervention tool for social workers? Researcher Kheira Belhadj-Ziane is investigating this question after being mandated to assess the initial measures taken byCultures du Coeur in Estrie. Published under the supervision of the Institut universitaire de première ligne en santé et services sociaux, her report is unequivocal: this innovative approach "provides an excellent potential for using strengths, developing abilities, empowering, giving recognition, providing social support, and setting in motion events which could lead to social inclusion (TRANSLATION)."

Innovative social intervention and research

In Québec, Estrie has been the incubator of the Cultures du Coeur project, which focuses on cultural mediation (tickets for concerts, shows or museums) to reinforce social and family ties, to combat social isolation, to develop a sense of autonomy, to make individuals responsible for their decisions, and to ultimately foster a civic attitude.

Kheira Belhadj-Ziane, a professor at the social work department of the Université du Québec en Outaouais, has met more than 50 people and held one-on-one and group interviews with users, social workers, and heads of cultural organizations.

A genuine difference

The report seems positive. Users mention the openness provided by the cultural activities, a defining and beneficial moment which encompasses a feeling of well-being, an emerging social support network, a feeling of recognition, and a stepping stone to new social abilities (taking the bus, taking care of oneself, etc.).

This method has gained consensus among the cultural mediators - the workers and volunteers who oversee this process: "Cultures du Coeur makes it possible to intervene from another perspective with greater focus on the strengths and aspirations of users (TRANSLATION)," according to the report of the Institut universitaire de première ligne. Mediation, however, changes the distance normally established between users and workers. It creates "personal proximity which most (workers) say they had never experienced until then, and which raises ethical guideline issues to be determined." A cultural mediator stated, "Sometimes we end up walking on a tightrope (TRANSLATION)."

Cultural organizations have also pointed out the benefits of this approach which enables them to carry out their social mission.

So is all well? Many governance, training and accompaniment issues still need to be resolved by the cultural mediation project's partners. Challenges also need to be addressed in integrating this method to other social intervention practices.

The Institut universitaire de première ligne would like to make this research known throughout the health care and social services network in order to support the emergence of this innovative approach in social interventions elsewhere in Québec, to facilitate its recognition, and to add cultural mediation to the tools which ultimately help to improve public health and well-being.

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