This paper responds to the call for culturally-relevant intervention research by introducing a methodology for identifying community norms and resources in order to more effectively implement sustainable interventions strategies. Results of an analysis of community norms, specifically attitudes toward gender equity, are presented from an HIV/STI research and intervention project in a low-income community in Mumbai, India (2008-2012). Community gender norms were explored because of their relevance to sexual risk in settings characterized by high levels of gender inequity. This paper recommends approaches that interventionists and social scientists can take to incorporate cultural insights into formative assessments and project implementation These approaches include how to (1) examine modal beliefs and norms and any patterned variation within the community; (2) identify and assess variation in cultural beliefs and norms among community members (including leaders, social workers, members of civil society and the religious sector); and (3) identify differential needs among sectors of the community and key types of individuals best suited to help formulate and disseminate culturally-relevant intervention messages. Using a multi-method approach that includes the progressive translation of qualitative interviews into a quantitative survey of cultural norms, along with an analysis of community consensus, we outline a means for measuring variation in cultural expectations and beliefs about gender relations in an urban community in Mumbai. Results illustrate how intervention strategies and implementation can benefit from an organic (versus a priori and/or stereotypical) approach to cultural characteristics and analysis of community resources and vulnerabilities.
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