DEI in your community: It’s more about contribution than attendance

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, otherwise known as DEI, is a term that advocates for all humans to be treated fairly regardless of their differences. In building a community, DEI plays a huge role in how your community is perceived.

Diversity just doesn't span across the race and identities of your community members, it also includes their beliefs and thoughts. Equity comes into play in having a fair and impartial approach towards treating community members and Inclusion is creating that sense of belonging within your community, where members feel comfortable in contributing to ideas and topics in their own unique way. Here's a deep dive into why diversity is important for any community.

One of the biggest hindrances towards a diverse and inclusive community strategy is "assumption". Community leaders often make assumptions that simply having a few people of color, people who are nonbinary, or people who represent different cultures and experiences is enough to make their community 'diverse'. But simply checking a box with a few 'diverse' backgrounds is not true diversity.

True diversity is when individuals are provided a channel and means to express themselves and actively contribute to ideas, conversations, and even programs in a safe zone.​​ It's only through expressing, and being exposed to the expressions of others that are different from our own, that true diversity is achieved. And that expression happens more readily when individuals feel both invited and safe to do so. Communities thrive on ideas and exchange, so this is a key reason why fostering true diversity is important.

Getting underrepresented individuals into your community is the first step. Community leaders need to pursue a full spectrum of enabling diversity by creating a safe space where these individuals can get a sense of belonging. This can't be hacked!  Creating a truly diverse community is built on trust and constantly being intentional about DEI.

So how does a community leader or manager take a practicable approach towards creating an atmosphere where individuals from various subsets can actively contribute to ideas and conversations?

Here are four simple ways:

1
Personalize the onboarding process:


I have joined communities where the onboarding process was a bit bland. It lacked that "personal touch”. Personalized touches can be added into the welcome message in your community and the template you provide for community members’ introductions.

A community leader/manager should create a template for community members’  introductions that highlights the individual's ethnicity/country, hobbies, special facts, and pronouns; this way when users join your community, they can express themselves as they want to.

Note: Not all users may want to share this information. Some community members may be quiet observers (I was guilty of this ;) but the best part of these quiet community members is that they are there! They see you and hear you!

2

Be intentional about access to your community:

A diverse community brings up a variety of audiences ranging from BIPOC, LGBTQIA folks, and other marginalized folks who are often victimized by society. Creating a community where these individuals are free from bullying and harassment should be one of the top priorities for any community manager.

Creating a specific and clear code of conduct (e.g Uncommon’s Code of Conduct, Community Club's Code of conduct) that highlights the community's stance in creating an inclusive space as well as creating a seamless vetting process that screens out trolls and bullies are some ways to create a safer environment for contribution in your community. Loom also does a great job of showing its stance on DEI.

Screening doesn't necessarily mean bullies or trolls won't join the community, but by standing firm on the community guidelines and weeding out such individuals from the community, you can show your community members that their safety is your number one priority.

3
Create sub-groups for underrepresented individuals:

Before crafting a sub-group channel for underrepresented individuals in your community, a community leader/manager should conduct an audit to know if there are a considerable amount of these individuals in the community. If these persons are less than 10, first start by asking them if they'd like to connect with other individuals of the same sub-group in the community, then bring them together through a shared DM or a small group event. To start the conversation, you could ask:

  • "What are you enjoying about the community?"
  • "What initiatives would you like to see implemented in the community?"

The goal of creating sub-groups is to create a platform for these folks to talk and express themselves with people with whom they are familiar, while still contributing to the broader community as well.

4
Research holidays and special days that represent meaning to marginalized people:

Black history month, MLK (Martin Luther King) Day and Pride Month are just a few examples of special months/days that mean a lot to underrepresented folks. By doing research within the community and acknowledging these holidays in your community, you create an atmosphere where these marginalized folks feel valued and appreciated. One way to do this is in the personalized onboarding process. By including just a section that asks about community members' favorite holidays in their home countries, you let your community members highlight which holidays are important to them.

A few ways in which a community can highlight these special holidays and events are:

  • Changing the logo of your community to represent the occasion
  • Host or sponsor events tailored to the occasion
  • Invite speakers from a particular subset to speak on a guest panel about a topic related to the occasion, and tie it back to your community goals as well

Communities thrive when different voices and cultures come together. Wanting diversity in your community is a great first step, but actually increasing diversity in your community requires a well thought-out and researched approach.

You can start the process with these simple steps:

  1. Personalize the onboarding process for community members
  2. Be intentional about access to your community
  3. Create sub-groups for underrepresented individuals present in your community
  4. Research holidays and special days that represent meaning to these marginalized people


I'd love to hear how it goes. Find me at Jephtah Abu.

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