Communities inspire change, create movements, and are powerful spaces for people to come together to feel seen, heard, and valued. After the impact of the pandemic, online communities have become increasingly more significant.
As a community leader, it’s vital that you don’t overlook the importance of fostering diversity and inclusion into your community’s DNA.
This isn’t just about diversity in gender, race, ethnicity, ability, religion, or sexual orientation. It also includes the diverse voices, experiences, and backgrounds of each of your community members.
Keeping the diversity of your community in mind when planning for your community goals, not only helps you to recognise and support the challenges and needs of your members, but it also ensures that your community members; feel safe to share their voice, have meaningful interactions in a non-judgemental space and feel validated for their uniqueness, as opposed to being made to feel like an outsider.
After all, isn’t that what community is truly about?
If you’re wondering what steps you can take to make this happen, we’ve got you covered with our top tips.
3 ways to build an inclusive and diverse community
Step 1: Do your research
Your community comes from a diverse range of backgrounds but have you ever stopped to dig a bit deeper into learning about the people who are engaging in your community? It’s really important to do some customer research and explore who your members are and what makes them tick. Dig into your analytics, get chatting to your members, and spot patterns.
Some questions you can ask your members to get this information are:
- What are their challenges?
- Where do they go to find answers?
- What would they find valuable?
- What would get them to spend time in your community?
- What does their day-to-day look like?
Maybe you’ll discover that your members are more diverse than you’d originally thought, or maybe you’ll notice that your members have very similar backgrounds or come from the same part of the world – if this is the case it gives you an opportunity to widen your net and consider how you can speak to people from different backgrounds and who may hold different values. It’s in doing the work to truly explore your audience that you’re able to challenge your perceptions and take your community growth to new heights.
When this is done, you’ll be able to brainstorm ideas on how you can solve their pain points and meet their needs.
Step 2: Audit your community
After digging a bit deeper into the diversity, challenges, and pain points of your community members it’s vital to do a full audit of your existing community setup.
Who are your top contributors? Who’s writing your blogs, hosting interviews, or appearing in your videos? What types of images and messaging are you using across your marketing activities?
Doing a full audit alongside conducting research and insights from your members not only helps you to understand their struggles, but it also helps you to identify how you’re showing up to your community, where you’re lacking in diversity, and what changes need to be made to create a more inclusive environment.
You can also use this period of reflection as an opportunity to create an even deeper connection with community members by asking them to offer feedback on your content planning, design, or marketing activities. Bringing in a variety of voices and perspectives is a powerful way to learn more about what your community members really want from you.
Step 3: Make your intentions known
Change only happens if we’re courageous enough to take the action steps required to create it.
If you want to send a clear message that diversity and inclusion are a key part of your community then it’s vital that you’re intentional about implementing changes and being conscious about how you’re choosing to show up to your community.
As a community manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that each one of your members feels safe, respected, and valued. The only way to ensure that this becomes a reality is to highlight issues, be clear about your guidelines, values, and initiatives, and ensure that you’re living and breathing these things on a daily basis.
Your values are just as important, if not more important than the content you’re providing your audience with, and as a community manager, it’s imperative that you set the tone. This also means that you’re bold enough to take swift, consistent action whenever any guidelines are broken – it’s the only way members will build trust with you.
How Disciple customers tackle inclusion and diversity
We reached out to some of our customers to hear their top tips on fostering an inclusive community.
‘Gag Life’ is a globally inclusive community that connects girls and queers from across the world to find roommates, connect with gym partners, and find friends who share similar interests. They host regular virtual and offline events as well as digital group discussions based on interests, remote work opportunities, and taboo topics.
Here’s Gag Life’s founder, Cody McDermott’s best practices to foster diversity in your community:
1) Create profile fields that demand inclusion and set the tone for welcoming diversity & expression.
2) Be transparent. Discuss and make decisions WITH your community to avoid implementing changes that hinder inclusivity and diversity. As a cis white man, my job is to listen and use my privilege to make space for marginalized communities.
3) Have zero tolerance for microaggressions or harassment on your community app. You either hype someone up or don’t say anything at all.
Blackout UK is a not-for-profit social enterprise run and owned by a volunteer collective of black gay men. They recognize and celebrate the diversity of experience and views among black queer men in the UK and create spaces to explore and reflect on their commonalities and differences. Their community encourages and stimulates debate, discussions and workshops both online and face-to-face to meet the needs of black queer men.
Here’s Blackout UK’s, founder Rob Berkeley’s thoughts on creating a diverse community:
1. Allies are great, accomplices even better – acknowledge that society fails many of us not as a result of a few bad apples, but because there the evils of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, have the greatest impact on the lives of people of colour, women, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities, and courageously members of these groups stand up every day to challenge them. We can share this burden more fairly – as Angela Davis notes ‘it is no longer enough to not be racist, you need to be anti-racist’ – discrimination never just goes away, justice is fought for.
2. I aspire to host a community where everyone is equally valuable, all voices are heard, where disagreements don’t have to mean division – where we can be our best selves. I want to be part of a community that disrupts the inequalities and lack of empathy that leads to prejudices, if you do too, make sure that you tell your members, even better, show them. Champion your most marginal, platform voices from a range of backgrounds, give people permission to be themselves, and reason to trust you, and, crucially – listen.
Whether you’re a new community manager or your community is already established, remember it’s never too late to do the work required to create an inclusive and diverse community. As a community manager, it’s really important to reflect on your actions thus far and to create a safe space where all of your members’ voices are represented and where members from all backgrounds feel celebrated and supported.