Building Inclusive Communities, Workplaces, and an Inclusive Profession

If you’re reading this, we’re guessing that you are in the community management profession. Hi, how are you holding up? Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and too many other Black people, ongoing protests for an end to systemic racism and inequality, and a looming presidential election that has a lot riding on it, life has been more challenging than usual, to say the least. And as community managers, we’re at the center of many of these conversations.

Whether we’re creating spaces for people to safely discuss these challenging topics, working to build and foster diverse communities and teams, or helping companies make the leap to a fully digital workplace, our skills and work are in high demand.

In this episode of Community Signal, Patrick speaks to three community professionals about how current events have impacted their lives and how they think about building inclusive communities. In the day-to-day, that might mean guiding conversations within our communities. In the broader sense, it’s thinking about how we build communities, tools, and platforms that have diversity, equity, inclusion, and the knowledge from our collective decades of experience in community management baked in from day one.

As our guest Bassey Etim puts it, “we stand on the shoulders of the people before us, and we’re Called, and I mean ‘called’ with a capital C, Called to try to make this a more fair and just world.” 

Listen to Patrick, Bassey, Marjorie Anderson, and Nina Collins as they discuss the following and more:

  • Supporting hard conversations in spaces where they need to happen
  • Building platforms that encourage diversity and stamp out racism
  • Identifying broader candidate groups when hiring
  • Designing systems that allow for proper flagging of abuse

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Big Quotes

On fostering communities that embody inclusivity and empathy (3:55): “What’s the tone that you set the minute that people sign up to come into your community and participate? What does that look and feel like? If it’s not one where it feels like people can speak up and have their voices be heard, then it’s really hard to course-correct [later on] and start to cultivate that feeling of belonging.” –@MarjorieAyyeee

Is the time for sarcasm over? (21:35): “Earnesty, applied over time, just wins people over. It’s hard to combat it with sarcasm, irony, anger, all of those things.” –@BasseyE

Do paid communities encourage less moderation and more ownership? (22:10): “I’m finding now on The Woolfer community, we have people who behave; people are in bad moods, people are feeling sensitive sometimes, but generally, they are much more earnest, and I’ve attributed it to the fact that they’re paying for it, that people value things they pay for so they take better care of the space.” -Nina Collins

When what you share is what people will hold against you (37:34): “There is always this Libertarian utopian edge to [Mark Zuckerberg’s] promises and the promise of the internet where once we free ourselves of all of our clothing, once we put everything we are out there and everybody else is naked, it’ll be like, ‘Oh, well we’re all naked. Whatever.’ It turns out that some people, even when they’re naked, they’re going to be extremely judgmental about it. I don’t think this was necessarily something that was unknowable from the perspective of a lot of the folks who built platforms that undergird the internet today.” –@BasseyE

Talking to your community members (in a real way!) about the issues that impact their lives:

“Open up the conversation gently. It doesn’t have to be, ‘What do you think of Black Lives Matter?’ It can be, ‘This is an unprecedented time that we’re in. I want to know how you’re feeling,’ and let them talk. … You know there are people who are likely hurting and [if] you ignore that, how much does that make them feel like this is the community for them?” –@MarjorieAyyeee (51:23)

“This moment is a real moment for humility and for people to show up vulnerable and honest and careful about boundaries, but to be able to really talk about [race and racism] is vitally important. We’ve tried to make the space for them to do that.” -Nina Collins (55:08)

Our responsibility as leaders and community builders (1:23:16): “The domination of the major [social media] platforms isn’t infinite. It’s going to end one day. It’s our responsibility to think about what are we going to build in its place.” –@BasseyE

Choosing to talk about race (1:26:54): “As someone who runs a community for women over 40, where we talk a lot about sex, health, and relationships, I’m known in my little teeny world for talking about anything. I’ll talk about my vagina. But I realized I was not talking about race with these women. Here I am, a Black woman running a community of lots of white women, and I was never talking about race. I’ve decided that’s over. I’m going to be having these conversations, and I’m okay with it.” -Nina Collins

On the responsibility of speaking up for diversity and inclusion within our organization (1:28:27): “As Black folks in America, if we’re in positions in organizations where we have voices that are going to be listened to, a big part of the legacy is that we stand on the shoulders of the people before us, and we’re Called, and I mean ‘called’ with a capital C, to try to make this a more fair and just world. … We need to be agitating for getting professionals who can work on these things. We need to be agitating for change. … For folks who do have the emotional energy to be able to deal with this, I definitely encourage you to make your voice heard.” –@BasseyE

Change will come (1:30:47): “Things do change, but they don’t change if you lose your energy.” –@BasseyE

About Our Guests

Bassey Etim is the editorial director for CNN’s NewsCo. He was previously the community editor at the New York Times.

Marjorie Anderson is the manager of digital communities at Project Management Institute and she also manages Community by Association, a resource for community builders in the association space.

Nina Collins is a writer, entrepreneur, and the founder of The Woolfer, an online platform for like-minded women over forty.

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Your Thoughts

If you have any thoughts on this episode that you’d like to share, please leave me a comment, send me an email or a tweet. If you enjoy the show, we would be so grateful if you spread the word and supported Community Signal on Patreon.


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