Increasing Community Diversity

While pitching for a community project a couple of years ago, I was asked:

“We want to increase the diversity of the community – particularly with younger black audiences. How would you go about that?”

I looked at the room of five white, middle-aged, men and women and replied:

“Well, I think the first step is to increase the diversity of this room”.

While I didn’t get the project, I did get a lecture about how diverse the experience was of the people in the room and how considerate they were to the needs of the audiences they were trying to reach.

I’ve noticed in the years since, the community has completely failed to gain any traction among its target audiences.

Last year, I worked on another project which sought engagement from younger minority audiences. We hired representatives of each audience to work for the community, gave them real decision-making power (even making decisions we strongly disliked), and supported them with the resources to pursue their goals.

They decided what technologies to use, what activities should take place, what outreach messages should look like etc…They began by sending the outreach messages themselves to their friends.

And it worked! The community today has hundreds of participants from this exact target audience. All of whom appear highly engaged and motivated.

Being considerate and empathetic are terrific skills to have. But they’re not a substitute for having a reputation and lived experience amongst the audiences you want to attract. IF you want to increase diversity in your community, increasing the diversity of the community team is the best place to begin.

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