Key Strategies to Support a More Inclusive Community

Lena Eisenstein

Every resident in your community is unique and has individual needs. To truly serve their citizens well, local governments need to foster an environment where all individuals are valued for their differences. That concept begins with seeing individuals for their uniqueness as strengths rather than barriers. If you consider all the things that make communities so diverse, it makes sense to factor race, age, gender, ethnicity, physical disabilities, mental health challenges, sexual orientation, political beliefs, religious beliefs, socio-economic status, and the available industries in the area. It takes collaboration to address all their needs successfully by creating a more inclusive community.

Why Local Governments Should Strive for Inclusiveness

The most effective local governments are representative of the populations they deserve. They are open to incorporating a diverse pool of talent and they're committed to retaining them. This makes sense when you consider that such a strong variety of people bring their unique experiences, opinions, and thoughts on critical issues together in ways that serve the needs of the entire population. Inclusiveness doesn't happen on its own. In fact, when local governments fail to address inclusiveness, it leads to a sense of disconnectedness and sends a message that not everyone is welcome at council meetings.

Inclusiveness can only happen when local governments work together to cultivate an environment of acceptance and appreciation for people with all backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences.

The people who live in your community know their needs better than anyone else. Returning veterans have many needs including the need for service dogs, mental health services, housing and a way to plug back into their communities.

People who live with physical disabilities need access to restaurants, transportation, shopping, business services, employment, and medical services.

People with various ethnicities desire to preserve their culture and religious practices while still enjoying being included in activities with the rest of the community.

Every community has its share of elderly people. The process of aging creates the need for housing, living expenses, health care and inclusiveness in their community. Each of them brings ideas and opinions on critical issues facing neighborhoods to help remove systemic barriers in policies and programs to improve lives for all.

Example of a Community That Enhanced Inclusiveness

The city of Decatur, Georgia provides a strong example of creating a civic engagement process called Better Together, which was launched in 2015. The program was created after a group of community leaders desired to create a space for community dialogue among residents. The group was especially interested in drawing out citizens who had not traditionally been welcomed to such events in the past.

The group decided to spend time and money on a civic engagement process to create a plan that was designed to result in a welcoming and inclusive community and they spent a year developing their vision.

Many groups and individuals came together and incorporated conversations across differences. The process included a community outreach component which focused on those who didn't feel particularly welcome at the table. In the end, over 800 citizens came out and spent over 1300 hours on the initiative. It was the largest activity with public participation since its 2010 strategic planning meeting.

Better Together, Decatur's plan for inclusiveness identified six areas of focus.

  1. To expand community participation and engagement
  2. To prioritize racially-just community policing
  3. To ensure the availability of housing options that are diverse and affordable
  4. To cultivate a welcoming and inclusive retail environment
  5. To maximize the use of public spaces
  6. To facilitate low-cost transportation options

The city created an advisory board to lead the implementation of the new plans. The committee resolved to be more than welcoming, inclusive, equitable, and compassionate. The advisory board ultimately included the largest, most diverse citizens in the history of the community, which also included a high school student.

The results of Decatur's efforts have been beyond successful. The group generated 625 action ideas and ultimately, further refined the list to 60 workable ideas. The final effort consisted of 35 people from 50 different organizations coming together to work on a plan.

Imagine what communities can do when they add digital solutions to governance problems. Community by Diligent was designed to streamline and secure council meetings and governance processes to free officials and administrative up for greater thinking such as Decatur's Better Together process.

Community by Diligent Corporation Is the Modern Governance Solution for Local Governments

One thing that people of all kinds have in common is having an openness to how technology can enhance and improve various aspects of their lives'including helping them get involved in their communities. The main goal of Community is inclusiveness and accessibility for all.

Community is a digital solution that provides transparency in local government for all people. It's a fully secure, streamlined meeting management solution for council meetings. Community was designed to be an inclusive program where citizens can attend meetings in person or watch them from home or from other locations. Citizens also get the benefit of being able to watch council meetings in live time as they're happening. If they missed an important meeting, there's no problem, they can always pick up the recorded version later on.

Community is a mobile-first solution which means that citizens can access local government documents and services on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The software encourages inclusiveness and accessibility for the entire community.

Our world is becoming more diverse every year. Advancements in the areas of health and well-being are making it possible for more populations to participate in everyday activities. Each year, there is a greater need for communities to join together to solve the needs of everyone. Communities need new ways to bring citizens together to problem-solve and bring diverse challenges out into the open. Technology can be a huge asset in that way, but it requires making it accessible to all citizens. As the city of Decatur, Georgia so aptly demonstrated, supporting a more inclusive community begins with a strong commitment. Community by Diligent supports backs up their efforts to support inclusiveness with a mobile-first digital solution.

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Lena Eisenstein
Lena Eisenstein is a former Manager at Diligent. Her expertise in mission-driven organizations, including nonprofits, school boards and local governments, centers on how technology and modern governance best practices empower leaders at these organizations to serve their communities with efficiency and purpose.