Engaging with Ethnically Diverse Communities

Engaging with Ethnically Diverse Communities

Engaging with Ethnically Diverse Communities

While no specific blueprint exists, research shows that effective engagement with ethnically diverse communities starts with developing an understanding of the community. Some identified features of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities:

  • are vibrant and growing
  • have strong links to culture and religion
  • are not a homogenous group
  • have bonds to culture or religion which are unique to everyone


Intersectionality is a framework for conceptualizing a person, group of people, or social problem as affected by a number of discriminations and disadvantages. It takes into account people’s overlapping identities and experiences in order to understand the complexity of prejudices they face.

In other words, intersectional theory asserts that people are often disadvantaged by multiple sources of oppression: their race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and other identity markers. Intersectionality recognises that identity markers (e.g. “woman” and “black”) do not exist independently and a number of cultural, social and religious nuances exist in relation to age, gender and religion etc.


The table below shows that BAME groups have a younger age profile than white groups.

Source: CEMVO Scotland

Some identified nuances in BAME youth:

  • dual and triple identities: 2nd / 3rd generational approaches
  • country of origin culture will be different 
  • over 18 or 21 doesn’t mean the same 
  • racism and discrimination impact mental heath

Similarly, older BAME age groups may experience more language barriers, health barriers, lack of information and family responsibilities.


Cultural and Religious Nuances

The tables below show ethnic groups by religion and born in UK.


(Source: CEMVO Scotland.)

Graph 2 below

Source: (CEMVO Scotland)

Some examples of religious and cultural nuances for BAME people:

  • some may prefer female mentors 
  • religious dress and etiquette
  • religious and cultural observance, Ramadan, Vasakhi, Diwali, Eid etc.
  • Africa is a continent where people will feel affiliations to the specific country within Africa

Furthermore, religion, which often intersects with ethnicity, has also been found to impact on workplace penalties. Heath and Martin (2013) reported a consistent pattern for Muslim men and women to experience greater labour market penalties than workers from similar ethnic groups who belong to other or no religions. Indeed, a recent report by the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee (2016) reported that Muslim people suffer the greatest economic disadvantages of any group in society, with reasons for this including discrimination and Islamophobia – as well as insufficient role models across education and employment.

Therefore, developing appropriate methods of engagement based on ethnic segmentation and intersectionality are critical success factors. Some key factors to be aware:

  • avoid one size fits all strategies; treat everyone as an individual and base support on need
  • if in doubt ask – knowledge is better than ignorance 
  • your approach will need to be flexible and accommodating to promote full participation with an element of 'handholding' required 
  • remember that BAME people have different cultural and religious backgrounds that can dictate how people interact and participate 
  • racism and prejudices will inevitably have a bearing on mental health and this can impact how people interact and engage.
  • be genuine; treat each person with respect and dignity and leave your unconscious biases firmly checked at all times
  • use a hybrid approach for “hard to reach” communities via in person meetings, telephone long with digital activities etc
  • brokerage service: be proactive - if you can’t help is there someone else that can? 


  • Microaggresions
  • White Privilege
  • Unconscious bias

Useful links

Effective methods of engaging black and minority ethnic communities within health care settings – Race Equality Foundation

Microsoft Word - Copy of full report way of life vds (

What is intersectionality, and what does it have to do with me? | YW Boston - March 2017

Intersectionality: race, gender and other aspects of identity in social work with young people - Community Care - June 2020

Race and ethnicity | Inequality: the IFS Deaton Review

Recruiting, supporting and developing black asian and minority ethnic bame staff (

Further Reading

Heath, A. and Martin, J. (2013) ‘Can religious affiliation explain “ethnic” inequalities in the labour market?’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36(6), pp. 1005–1027.
House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee (2016) ‘Employment Opportunities for Muslims in the UK’

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