Small Steps to an Inclusive Community

Co-Authors: Alicia Betancourt, Linda Seals, Carol Roberts and Ramona Madhosingh-Hector


Is your community an inclusive community?

In times of crisis, topics like diversity, equity and inclusion can get pushed to the sidelines. Sometimes the crisis itself is an outcome of the communities struggle with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Each of us can take small steps to create a more inclusive community. We all want to feel included.

Why is building an inclusive community important? … A community that is diverse can take steps to develop … equity so that everyone has equal access to economic, social, and educational opportunities. Diversity helps community members hear different perspectives that can lead to positive change. Decisions that serve one group well might inhibit progress for another group so it is important to embrace diversity.

Engaging community members by allowing individual voices to be heard through community conversations and forums helps build diversity and inclusion. Including all members of the community in the development and management of the community encourages engagement, and leads to a more vibrant community.

Diverse communities are often more resilient—they have the capacity to address complex issues more efficiently. Those that have invested in developing inclusive leaders and cultures are better prepared. Communities that build balanced leadership teams across the community will fare better than others.

Consider sharing these suggestions for creating inclusion in your community with church groups, clubs or organizations to which you belong.

Organize a cleanup or rebuilding campaign to erase graffiti or eliminate vandalism. Put up “Hate Free Zones” signs in the community.

  • Do something as a community to repair physical damage done by discrimination. This shows that the people in your town will not stand for such displays of hatred. It also can attract media attention to your cause.

Identify and support new candidates from different racial and ethnic groups to run for city council and other community-wide governing bodies.

  • Conduct candidate forums and voter registration drives. This will increase residents’ knowledge about the candidates and their stances. In addition, it increase the candidates’ accountability to their constituents should they win.

Put together a community forum or town event on racism.

  • Give people a chance to talk about how racism affects your community. This can provide insight into how people feel on the subject.
  • You might identify ideas on what you and others can do to combat racism. This can be a chance for people who share similar concerns to network with each other.
  • Such an event also serves to publicize that your community will not stand for racism.

Support events that celebrate the traditions of different cultural and ethnic groups.

  • This can be as simple as including such events on the community calendar and actively publicizing them. Your organization can also co-sponsor these events to show its support.

Organize vigils, anti-racism demonstrations, protests, or rallies.

  • Organizing a vigil, demonstration or public protest will not only give you and others some effective way to respond, but also help give hope to your community.

Organize a coalition of community leaders made up of representatives from the different cultural and ethnic groups, as well as different community sectors (e.g., police, schools, businesses, local government). Work together to examine each other’s existing policies and determine what needs to change.

  • Do something as a group to demonstrate the individuals’ commitment to reduce prejudice.
  • Create a stakeholder group that represents institutional leaders to reduce racism at the institutional level.
  • Review hiring and contracting policies in all the employment sectors. This will help change institutional norms that could be perpetuating economic disparities.

All of these suggestions have a common thread – they include you performing a simple act. Conducting. Giving. Reviewing. Bringing and Doing. Other things you can do include talking, inviting, reading, and listening. It is all about bringing people together for sharing and understanding. It all can start with you including yourself in the discussion.

Resources and Definitions

Find this great anti-racism resource guide for recommending readings

Read about why diversity matters by the independent sector.

Professional training in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, encompassing the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. While diversity is often used in reference to race, ethnicity, and gender, we embrace a broader definition of diversity that also includes mission-relevant experience, age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language(s) spoken, and physical appearance. We also recognize that individuals affiliate with multiple identities. 
Equity is fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. In order to improve equity, we must increase justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society. This is integral to Code for America’s mission. Inclusion is the environment in which any individual or group is and feels welcomed, respected, supported, valued, and able to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming culture embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people, and fosters a diversity of thought, ideas, perspectives, and values.

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Alicia Betancourt, Community and Family Development Extension Agent and County Extension Director for UF/IFAS Extension Monroe County
Posted: June 12, 2020

Category: Community Volunteers, Professional Development, UF/IFAS Extension, Work & Life
Tags: #Blacklivesmatter, Community Development, COVID-19, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

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