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How to build an inclusive online community (and why it matters)

Raelyn here, and I had the pleasure of hosting this month’s Biz Lab on how to build an inclusive online community. Having both a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and social media background, I thought I would combine the two and bring this presentation to our members. If you missed it no worries, because here is the recap!

What is an inclusive online community?

Inclusive online communities are digital spaces where individuals from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives feel seen, heard, welcomed, respected, and empowered to participate. These communities ensure that all members, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or other identities, have an equal opportunity to engage, contribute, and be heard. Inclusive online communities foster a sense of belonging and mutual respect among members, promoting meaningful dialogue, collaboration, and understanding.

Why inclusivity matters on social media

Being inclusive within your communities on and offline fosters a sense of belonging, respect, and empowerment among users. When prioritized, it leads to more meaningful interactions, increased community engagement, and a greater sense of connection.

What are some challenges?

  • Limited diversity: Difficulty attracting and retaining diverse community members.
  • Unconscious bias: Unintentional bias in content creation and decision making processes, leading to underrepresentation or misrepresentation of certain groups.
  • Miscommunication: Challenges in fostering dialogue and understanding among members with diverse perspectives.
  • Resistance to change: Resistance from members, clients, etc. to adopt to new norms.
  • Building trust: Building and maintaining trust and credibility especially online can be difficult.

Key Elements of Inclusive Online Communities

There are many factors that contribute to building an inclusive online community, but I’m going to highlight three of them. To show an example of each, I want to use Groundwork as a case study to show how these can be implemented.

Diverse Representation

Ensure that your content reflects the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives of your audience and community. This can look like actively seeking out and promoting the visibility of individuals from underrepresented groups within your community. When you’re showing a variety of perspectives, opinions, and experiences in your content, you encourage critical thinking, empathy, and understanding. This all contributes to fostering a more inclusive and open-minded community. Utilize your local resources (Buy Black NB and South Coast Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for example) if you are unsure of how to find collaborators outside of your immediate network.

Groundwork is intentional about ensuring our content online showcases the community that is Groundwork. We use our blogs to amplify voices of underrepresented groups, and prioritize local, underrepresented artists through our gallery.

Respectful Engagement

Emphasize the importance of empathy and understanding towards others’ experiences, perspectives, and emotions. Encourage community members to consider the impact of their words and actions on others. This can look like establishing clear community guidelines and boundaries for acceptable behavior, including prohibitions against harassment, discrimination, hate speech, and other forms of harmful behavior. Enforce these guidelines consistently to maintain a safe and inclusive environment.

Promote constructive feedback that focuses on ideas and content rather than personal attacks. Encourage members to provide feedback respectfully and offer suggestions for improvement. Encourage members to engage in positive interactions, such as expressing appreciation, offering encouragement, and celebrating achievements. Foster a culture of kindness, support, and mutual respect within the community.

Most importantly, your community is watching YOU. Lead by example by demonstrating respectful behavior in your interactions with others. Set the tone for respectful engagement and hold others accountable for upholding these standards.

Here at Groundwork, we utilize our Community Manifesto as guidelines for our community on and offline. We lead by example and encourage positive and respectful dialogue not only through our interactions through social media, but within our Slack community channel folks get access to as members. We are always seeking feedback, whether it be through Google Reviews, surveys, or asking our members.


Upholding integrity involves maintaining consistency in our actions and communications on social media, ensuring that they align with our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Take responsibility for your actions and decisions, and being willing to address and rectify any harm caused by unintentional mistakes or oversights.

The team at Groundwork continues to act within integrity and within our values. Receiving the Wicked Cool Places Grant allows us to continue to uplift local artists and artists of underrepresented groups. We also collaborate with organizations by donating our space for events such as United Way of Greater New Bedford’s Power of the Purse and the New Bedford film Festival.

Creating an inclusive online community takes effort and a willingness to keep learning. By focusing on diverse representation, respectful engagement, and integrity, you can create a space where everyone feels welcome, valued, and empowered to connect and contribute. Hopefully you can take some of these tips and start implementing them in your spaces on and offline!