May 9, 2022

Why It’s Important To Think About DE&I In Your Community?

DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), JEDI (Justice, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion), DEI&B (Diversity, Equality, Inclusion, and Belonging) are some of the common acronyms you would find when you search online for the meaning and importance of diversity.

No matter what the term, there’s a common theme behind all these ideas: Fairness. DEI stands for giving everyone a fair chance regardless of how they look, behave, speak, or interact with others.

Defining DEI

To understand the need for DEI in your community, let’s begin by defining the concept. Catalina Colman, Director of HR and Inclusion at Built has a perfect analogy about the concept that presents DEI in practical and functional terms:

  • Diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting
  • Equity is the process of ensuring that processes and programs are impartial, fair, and provide equal possible outcomes for every individual
  • Inclusion is the practice of ensuring that people feel a sense of belonging within a given setting

How to build communities with DEI

Now let's understand that in a larger context. What’s the role of DEI in building a community? That process should begin with these questions:Are the different individuals across various social sub-groups represented in my community?Can individuals from these social sub-groups actively contribute to conversations within my community without fear of feeling out of place?Do processes (polls, event signups, etc) take into account various individuals' needs towards accomplishing them?Asking these questions gives you a clear view of why DEI should be an active component of building an intentional community. DEI highlights diverse voices within the community. A community consciously built with the principles of DEI can look at those different individuals and say "Hey we see your work and appreciate you.”

It doesn’t have to give special treatment to individuals from marginalized groups. It only has to acknowledge their presence, contributions, efforts, and unique challenges.

Lack of intentionality in DEI

While most brands and organizations are quick to get behind DEI, these efforts seldom lead to any concrete action on the ground. The problem is a lack of intentionality in their DEI initiatives. From internal team compositions to individuals and ideas expressed in marketing campaigns, there is little effort to actively incorporate the principles of DEI.

Brand communications and business events have nominal and pointless representation from marginalized groups. Without any conscious effort, these tend to become caricatures without positively impacting DEI.

When diversity initiatives become intentional, inclusion will become real. That’s when a community will create content and events centered around the concept of fairness. That’s when the community will be willing to ask hard questions and admit that they would have messed up in their previous or current attempts. But that’s not a bad thing at all.

Learning about DEI isn’t a one-off event or program. It’s an ongoing effort that will reveal mistakes. It will make communities accountable and encourage them to listen and take corrective steps. In that sense, DEI wouldn’t just be a goal. With intentional diversity, it will be a way of life that becomes the new normal in a community.

Why is DEI so important in community building?

DEI is important in community building for two reasons. For starters, it brings about different perspectives to community processes. DEI isn’t just about addressing physical and visible differences but also incorporating “ the diversity of thought".

But merely having representation from marginalized groups won’t bring these diverse thoughts. They need to be empowered to express themselves without fear. Community members from different backgrounds with varying life experiences will then be able to provide new perspectives that will help refine and enhance processes within a community.Secondly, DEI creates a sense of belonging in communities. No marginalized individual wants to be the token person to represent a particular race in a community. With true, conscious, and active inclusion, people will feel a sense of belonging when joining a community, without having to change their cultural identity or diluting their beliefs.

Quite simply, DEI matters and should be an important theme of any community building because it advocates for the fair treatment of all humans. And that’s something we can all agree on.

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