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Advice for DEI in your Online Communities

Khoros Staff

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The social justice events of 2020 have many business leaders reviewing and rethinking policies to make their workplaces more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

As a community manager, have you taken the same approach toward your community?

If not, we have some suggestions for you, compiled by Khoros’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. This committee is made up of Khoros employees from different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, ages, religions, and genders. We encourage you to thoroughly review each suggestion and, if possible, include colleagues or super users (your most active users, or users who are a part of a specific recognition program) in the process.

Before we get into the suggestions themselves, it’s important to mention a few things to keep in mind as you go through this review: 

  • Keep in mind your company’s values. In fact, you might even consider printing them out and having them right in front of you as you go through each suggestion. Make sure that any action items or outcomes that come from this review are in line with the values.
  • The suggestions below assume that your online community already has Community Guidelines in place. These could go by many names, some include Code of Conduct, Guiding Principles, User Guidelines, Participation Guidelines, House Rules, Community Rules, Rules of Engagement. If you don’t have this in place for your community today, check out this article from CMX

Suggestions: 

  • Review all images, stock photos, badges, icons, and avatars that depict or are meant to represent people. Keep in mind that these could be drawings. Are the people included diverse in race, ethnicity, age, accessibility, and gender? (Note: This assumes the images depict your company’s target audience, which may be specific ages, genders, etc.)
  • Your Community Guidelines or Terms of Service should have a section that speaks to negative behavior that could create an environment of exclusion or harm that discourages people from expressing their authentic selves. If there are repercussions for such behavior, be sure it’s explicitly stated. (And if such repercussions are not currently part of your community Moderation Guidelines or Community Guidelines, it is highly recommended that you add them.) Check out the Guidelines from Ebay’s Community as an example
  • Is there a section in the user’s profile where the user has the option to share information about themselves (whether publicly or privately), such as the following? Even if there were an open text field, such as an “About Me” section, this would suffice. (Coming Soon: A dedicated field in your Atlas settings to add your pronouns!)
    • Gender Pronouns
    • Race
    • Ethnicity
    • Age
    • Religion
    • Anything else in terms of identity

Here’s an example from Slack: 

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  • Are you utilizing Khoros functionality to block hate words/speech or be notified of specific words/speech? In addition, be sure that your Moderation Guidelines have a section dedicated to moderating these as well as culturally-inappropriate slang (please note that this is not a Khoros document).
    • In Khoros Communities, set up content filters to accomplish this.
    • In Khoros Care, set up tags to accomplish this.
    • In Khoros Marketing, we can route and label inbound volume based on keywords, but first, you have to pre-configure the alerts.
  • Is your community leveraging the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines? This ensures your site is accessible to people of all levels of ability. In full disclosure, Khoros believes a good experience is inclusive for all users, and we are fully committed to accessibility. That being said, today’s Khoros Community solution does not currently meet W3C or ADA accessibility standards. From our findings, the experience with certification is a moving target and standards are always changing. Khoros is fully committed to addressing accessibility issues as we continue to develop our products. Over the past years, we have closed over 600+ accessibility issues and have plans to back-port all fixes to our customer base. Additionally, we will be adding accessibility tools into our standard QA process to proactively address accessibility issues as they arise. Khoros, as a company, is committed to addressing accessibility needs for our communities with the partnership of our customers. With the implementation of certain product enhancements within the next year, we will seek WCAG certification. 
  • Have you thought about creating a Group Hub for your users to share/foster discussions about DEI or related initiatives that are in-flight or upcoming? If it’s beneficial to your audience, we encourage you to dedicate a place on the community to serve as a resource for all-things-DEI. This could be a public or private section. In this space, brands could spotlight certain users on their specific DEI work. 
  • Check the titles of your community’s categories, discussion styles, posts, articles, rank names, and badges. Look for titles that may be indicative of cultural appropriation and work with your Community Team to edit those. For example, I once came across a community that had a badge called “New York Pow Wow” which was awarded for users who attended their New York in-person meetups. The phrase ”pow wow” is culturally inappropriate. Our own Community team is in the process of reviewing and updating the verbiage we use on Atlas, and we are aiming to make changes complete by the end of the year. 
  • Educate your community on the use of appropriate language, emoji's, and GIFs. Teach them about culturally inappropriate words or phrases that may be used in your industry, and digital blackface, and let them know that posts using either of those will be removed, per your Community and Moderation Guidelines.

If this is a topic you’d like to dive deeper into, please check out these great podcast episodes: 

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Please keep in mind that completing the suggestions above does not necessarily mean your community is doing all it can to address injustices toward many different groups of people. 

We hope you, and your community’s leadership, are also engaging in ongoing education and dialogue around the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion. If you are already doing this, or are planning to, please reply to let us know which resources you have found helpful. And if you are up for it, feel free to share anything you learned from reviewing these suggestions and applying them to your community. 

~This article was written as a collaboration amongst the employees on Khoros' DEI Committee and Atlas Community Team~

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