“Community is a catalysing force”: How leaders and managers can promote diversity and inclusion

Quiip community consultant Vanessa Paech

Venessa Paech is a senior community consultant at Quiip. Source: supplied.

Community management is the art of making choices with social intelligence. These choices shape the culture of the group you’re convening and the spaces you’re inhabiting.

The mindset and methodology of your community moderation enshrines values, establishes social norms, and leads participants to champion or discourage certain behaviours. Moderation isn’t just about legal risks, it’s about social and cultural risks. It’s the work of fine-tuning participatory balance. 

Most communities are organically bound by a sense of ‘sameness’ — alignment to purpose, identity or affiliation. Community builders work to nurture these bonds of belonging. But homophily can become harmful if it distorts difference into a target.

As the world confronts profound, systemic legacies of demonising difference, community builders, managers and leaders — especially those who enjoy privilege and platform — can and must do better to promote diversity and inclusivity.

Here are a handful of approaches that help us operationalise these ideals.

Constitutionalise it

Ensure you’ve laid out an expression of what the community stands for, and how and why people are expected to show up and participate. If your current guidance doesn’t touch on inclusivity and diversity, refresh it so it does, align it to your binding purpose, and talk to the community about why you’re evolving.

Recruit proactively

Community leaders need to proactively bring diverse voices into the community. Recruit with this in mind. Your members will be drawn to you because of purpose, value set and group identity. But within those parameters, champion nuance. Which voices and perspectives are rarely heard in your subject matter? 

Be an equalising force

Dominant voices in our community may intimidate the less loud, or those with different views. Community managers need to modulate the balance. Elevate and amplify voices prone to silencing, and mute those that suck the oxygen out of the room. Let new voices guest host or edit the community space for a time. Spotlight them through content and invite them to take the lead in discussion. Cede and redistribute platform.

Scale via trust

Reach out to those who carry trust and power in your community and share your goals around diversity and inclusion, relevant to your purpose. Empower them as surrogates in elevating marginalised perspectives, and defence against unacceptable behaviours.

Illuminate the individual

Even on common ground, we are never monolithic. Invite your community to share personal stories and lived experience as part of your content and activities. Tease out the personal within the larger group identity, and drill down into the differences.

Normalise learning

Whatever your community is about, make room for learning in your content and shared experiences. Letting people fail and grow, and finding ways to introduce new ideas or perspectives, creates momentum and short-circuits group-think. It shows forward motion is real, and can feel good. Help your people crave exposure beyond their horizon.

Offer pathways for action

Amplifying voices matters, but supporting them via concrete action is better still. If it’s relevant in your community, offer ways for participants to apply direct action to support those who need it, such as donations of time, money or resources, and offer reviews or comments on their content to help it perform algorithmically.

Community is a catalysing force, and can be a tool for change. Now is a great time to reflect on how yours — whether a public brand community or internal workplace community — connects to the challenges of the moment, and asserts its specific contribution.

NOW READ: ‘Diversity is integral to business growth’: A Q&A with Bring Me Home founder Jane Kou

NOW READ: Forget gender quotas: It’s time to review your definition of diversity

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