We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Renee Bhatti-Klug and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Dr. Bhatti-Klug, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I have served as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Cultural Intelligence (CI) trainer for about ten years at a university. During the initial COVID-19 lockdown—in the midst of both stay-at-home orders and racial tensions—the need for my services grew. In response to this need, my business—Culturally Intelligent Training & Consulting (CITC)—developed serendipitously.

The thought process behind forming the business was in my paying attention to current cultural shifts and attitudes and taking advantage of the time I had been given back because of stay-at-home mandates. I foresaw a need for an expansion of this business and used the extra time to develop, build, and grow a company that is responsive to the dynamic needs of the communities it serves. I decided to create an LLC with the hopes of scaling the business in 2022, after I completed my doctoral program. Nevertheless, by the end of summer 2020, the business grew to a team of six consultants. Then, in 2021, through my doctoral research project, the CI model and accountability tools I developed were proven to be effective in helping individuals become more culturally aware of and responsive to diverse cultural needs. In the year and a half since launching CITC, we have served more than twenty organizations across the U.S. through implementing various accountability tools through our CI model.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
CITC is a Women of Color-owned and-operated DEI consultancy group that respects the process of change. Our growing team of trainers, consultants, and researchers—who are currently in Arizona, California, and Colorado—aim to model what we teach in culturally intelligent ways. We use our original CI model because it empowers individuals to personalize CI so they can disseminate and institutionalize it organizationally for systemic transformation.

CI is a person’s ability to gather, interpret, and act upon drastically different cues to behave responsively across cultural settings, in multicultural situations, or with people of diverse ethnicities, genders, ages, abilities, and backgrounds (Bhatti-Klug, 2020; Earley & Ang, 2003). By equipping individuals in our CI approach, we help them develop the values of curiosity, empathy, and compassion, so they can demonstrate the cultural capabilities of Cultural Openness, Cultural Awareness, and Cultural Responsiveness.

We help organizations reach DEI-outcomes through research-based curriculum and engaging, interactive activities. Since people learn by doing, we equip participants with self-reflection tools and practical solutions for immediate action-oriented change. By understanding themselves, they can engage with others more compassionately. We start with an organizational culture audit and follow this with a dynamic blend of training and consulting: we listen to needs, consider timelines and budgets, and offer honest answers to guide leaders in developing DEI-first organizations. Our consultants have expertise in the following community-centered topics: compassionate leadership, disability, the Enneagram for business, gender equity and empowerment, global/international advocacy, LGBTQIA+, racial justice, trauma-informed leadership, and veterans.

CITC’s DEI Solution is different than other models because: 1. We are not satisfied with the one-and-done DEI workshop model; true diversity and inclusion work takes time. We honor this process. 2. Our model is data-driven and time-tested for organizational success. 3. We will leave organizations better than we found them. 4. We empower the members within organizations to continue DEI work into the future. Our research-based and time-tested approach helps move organizations from intentionality to action.

Although our trainers and consultants on average have over twenty years’ experience in implementing DEI-related programming, because our business launched in the midst of COVID-19, we were given a unique opportunity to facilitate all programing online. We discovered that developing interactive content in online spaces, and connecting with people across time zones and screens, could be difficult, but through implementing CI strategies, our team united to learn from every organization with which we partnered to make future content more accessible and responsive. Moreover, despite escalating racial and political tensions, we learned how to approach sensitive topics—like bias and privilege—with compassion. Many clients have noted that this method allowed them to understand the importance of these topics, as well as their roles in building more equitable systems.

I believe because CITC came together during universally trying times that we developed resiliency, tenacity, and focus in understanding how to ascertain and address complex organizational challenges with patience and action-oriented solutions.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This answer is entirely dependent on the friend, as any Cultural Intelligence trainer will note, but if someone invited me to show them what I enjoy about Phoenix, here’s what I would share:

Monday: hike South Mountain and eat brunch at Snooze in Ahwatukee. In the evening, we’d reserve the couches at The Cellar for tapas and the best wine (I’d recommend the Lapis Luna Red Zin and the truffle fries).

Tuesday: Make breakfast at home. Take a drive the mountainous roads to Saguaro Lake and—weather-pending—go kayaking. Eat dinner in (or order in Thai from Chanpen or Chon Thai).

Wednesday: Spend the morning and afternoon doing whatever—even hitting up the outlets at Wild Horse Pass. We’d get dressed up to enjoy a progressive dinner through Old Town Scottsdale (letting our stomachs lead, but making sure to hit Tapas Papa Frita, Citizen Public House, and a speakeasy).

Thursday: have a picnic at Papago Park (maybe pick up Ike’s Love and Sandwiches). In the evening, we’d go Downtown and eat on the patio under the tree at Cibo, and then we’d enjoy jazz at The Nash.

Friday: During the day, we could visit Book Gallery in Gaslight Square, then perhaps shop at the Biltmore and/or see a movie at the Esplanade. For dinner, we’d have pizza (the gluten-free is amazing) at Pomo. For dessert, we’d walk over to Hillstone for the homemade hot fudge sundaes.

Weekend: We might spend a night at the Buttes and explore the many spas/pools they have.

At any of these events, I would invite other friends and my family to join in where we thought it most appropriate.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My husband and three young children have been stalwart champions of my pursuing my dreams, and my parents have been consistent in their willingness to support my growing family in myriad ways.

Professionally, it has been my business partner and friend, Dr. Alene Terzian-Zeitounian, whom I owe greatest thanks for coming alongside me on a wild ride and providing solidarity, wisdom, expertise, and friendship to help get this business off the ground. Dr. Naomi Olson, also, has generously shared invaluable strategy and insights, which have allowed us to develop curriculum that is even more engaging and responsive to the learners it serves.

As the business grows, I continue to learn from the remaining team of consultants and advocates at CITC—Shawn Banzhaf, Nicole Cottrell, Dr. Amy Jacober, and Earl Lee—whose approaches to their work demonstrate empathy in action.

Website: www.culturallyintelligent.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/culturallyintelligent

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/reneeronikabhattiklug/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxCMszTXDIr_qKN4H43zpzw

Image Credits
Headshot: Renee Kinworthy Transforming Culture photo: Ben Sanders Painted hand photo: Sharon McCutcheon

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