Building a safe and inclusive community in 5 steps✌🏽✌🏼✌🏻

MARY OKARETHE
4 min readMay 14, 2022

Have you ever had that moment where you feel out of place immediately after you walk into a room? Or that split second when an “oops, not for me” buzzer goes off in your head after joining a community.

Half of the time, these moments of discomfort span from an uninviting environment, and the other half might just be your introverted personality (Don’t worry, I’m with you on this one)!

As community professionals, you want to ensure that your community is a safe, inclusive, and welcoming space for everyone. This blog post covers 5 steps you can get into action in building a truly diverse space for everyone that comes into your community.

1. Create an expectation of inclusivity before members join your community

Before any new member joins your community, you can decide to share a diversity and inclusion statement with them to get a sense of what inclusivity looks like in your community; this statement can be in a simple document or in your community guidelines/terms of service.

Not sure what the statement should contain? Here are some tips;

  • Ensure you don’t get too wordy with your statement, Your aim should be around 75 words or less.
  • Share examples of practices, videos, and programs you are already implementing to promote inclusivity and diversity groups.
  • Stay original. Use the same tone/voice you use with old members.
  • Mention how you handle exclusionary comments, posts, and attitudes. I.e would they be taken off the community or given a public warning.

2. Motivate members to put their best self forward

A recent community survey carried out by GWI shows that users believe that being a part of a community makes them feel like they can be themselves.

To help your members feel at ease and be themselves, you can encourage them to take the following steps

  • Encourage your members to update their profile pictures, fill in the “about me” section, and other relevant information that would tell people more about them. Let’s face it, having all of this information in place goes a long way in connecting with members. Platforms like Slack provide different options your members can use to share more about themselves.
  • Make it a habit of always introducing new members so they are not lost in the crowd.
  • Empower your members to always reach out to you with topics, and discussions they think would be relevant to the community.

3. Create Inclusive Content

When crafting posts or content for your community, you should take care not to share content targeted at a certain group in your community. For example, if making a post about #BlackLivesMatter, it is important you make it known in the post what the movement stands for and why it matters so much. This approach should also be applied to other topics like LGBT rights and the women’s rights movement.

4. Don’t stop educating your members

Setting expectations for members doesn’t just stop at the initial phase when they just joined your community. As humans, we might tend to forget or take missteps at one point or another. On a regular basis, teach them about the right cultural acceptable phrases, and emojis that are welcomed in the community. And always have your diversity and inclusion statement on hand so you can always share it with community members.

5. Pay attention and take feedback

Community members will always speak up and it would benefit you a lot if you listen to their feedback.

There are tons of online tools you could employ in getting real-time feedback from your members. You can also create surveys, questionnaires, and feedback threads that would focus mainly on amplifying the voices of your community members.

Having these measures in place will help you know what is working and also help you act swiftly on issues that your members might be facing.

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

To wrap things up

Having a truly diverse and inclusive community takes time and consistency to build and it all starts with the community lead. You really can’t fake it because people would know from their first contact with the community.

Don’t just put the effort into trying to build a diverse and inclusive community because you need to tick off a bix or because “my boss told me to”. Build one because you believe that people from different races, genders, and ethnicity should be valued and respected.

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