3 Steps To Building A More Inclusive Community
Intentionality, diversity and personal accountability – you can’t create an inclusive community without these elements.
As leaders and community-builders, we need to be mindful of inclusivity. And you can’t be a mindful or inclusive leader without an intimate knowledge of what community members need in order to thrive.
One of our basic human needs is to feel a sense of belonging. We seek out this need in every aspect of our lives. And when we experience rejection in relationships or community, the denial of this primary need to belong can cause distress and disruption – so much so that many will avoid situations, events and people that could possibly reject them.
Building an inclusive community takes intentionality. Be intentional about creating a community that is inviting and accepting of diverse backgrounds, especially people of color and those who experience marginalization, as they tend to disproportionally encounter rejection. As a community leader, it’s not enough to just say that you want to be inclusive. You need to put in the work. Listen to needs and concerns, then take the necessary steps.
I know this all sounds wonderful in theory, but there’s some real work that goes into building an inclusive community. Here’s how you can put this intention into action.
Do The Work
Research and preparation are required when building an inclusive community. Talk to existing members and reach out to those who are not necessarily a part of your community yet, and listen to their concerns. Talk with them about ways to address these issues.
Notice, I’m not recommending that you ask people of color to fix all of your community’s problems. Don’t ask them to do the emotional labor of educating you on how to improve. I’m challenging you to do the work. Ask members for perspective on how your community can do better for them. Then, hold yourself accountable. Read books and articles about people of color and people of diverse backgrounds, study-up on inclusivity, digest resources from multicultural creators to gain a better understanding of those you want to serve and support.
Extend An Invite
I’ve talked to quite a few community-builders and one of the concerns is that members of diverse backgrounds are just not joining their community. So, what should they do? They say that all are invited to join, but for some reason, the message isn’t getting across. As a community-builder and leader, I feel it’s my responsibility to actively invite diverse members into my group. I want people of all backgrounds and beliefs and abilities to feel invited, and sometimes waiting or expecting them to join without a little prompting from me doesn’t work. Instead, I try to personally reach out and share with them what my community is all about. I actively ask people to join instead of just hoping they’ll go for it.
This sounds time-consuming, but if you’re committed to embracing diversity and building real community, then this is the intentional work that’s required. Don’t expect everyone to accept the invitation, but keep reaching out.
Making connections with new people is easy. People of color aren’t hiding. Often it’s just the case that you’re not looking, and that’s something you have to acknowledge and process in order to move forward. An easy place to start is Instagram. Just take a look at my profile and the people that I follow. Then, look at the people that they follow. You’ll find at least 10 new amazing women of color that you can support and partner with. Go to events, build relationships, hire a person of color to help cultivate inclusivity.
Collaborate With Diverse Leaders
Want to know an effective way to build an inclusive brand? Collaborate with other inspiring and diverse leaders. The collaboration possibilities are endless, and can include things such as guest blogging, podcast interviews and co-hosting events. The ideas for collaborations can be a one-time happening or an on-going partnership. The point is to collaborate and cultivate the relationship while building awareness in new communities, and providing value to all.
Building an inclusive community takes a lot of intention and work, but remember that you attract what you put out. So, seek out opportunities. Put yourself out there and be willing to elevate people. Focus on the growth and create new openings for everyone.
Monique Melton is a believer, wife, and mother of two. She’s a published author, international speaker and relationship coach. Her work is central to loving God and loving people, and encouraging others to do the same. She offers coaching, tools and resources to support women and couples in living their best life. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.