If collaboration isn’t an option, Cultural Consultation involves seeking the views of people inside a cultural group you don’t belong to, acknowledging that it is difficult for outsiders to detect clichés, stereotypes, racism and plain old mistakes. However, consultation is often a superficial way of engaging in partnerships – collaborations and engagements are strongly encouraged.
Consultation may take the form of ‘sensitivity readers’ (aka ‘beta readers’), cultural consultants, advisory committees, expert panels or community forums.
In Cultural Consultation, power is retained by the outsiders – the insiders offer advice but don’t have ultimate creative control. Consultation is one of three options for engagement and power sharing in any cross-cultural project – the others are collaboration (where control is shared between insiders and outsiders) and community-led engagement (where insiders have control, supported by outsiders). Of the three options, cultural consultation shares the least power, and so is the least effective way of achieving an accurate representation.
However as a first step in a journey towards racial equity, consultation can help navigate issues such as cultural appropriation, tokenism and stereotyping to avoid causing offence, exploiting others or breaching intellectual property law. Good cultural consultation can spark creative connections, improve equity in your projects and increase your relevance to wider audiences.