Countries around the world gather biennially for what could be considered the greatest cultural experiment of our time: the summer and winter Olympics. An exhilarating juxtaposition of unwavering nationalism and profound respect for athletes from a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities – all competing for the gold.
This event presents a lesson for all of us in community association management: the importance of recognizing the enormous benefit of embracing diversity and recognizing the different cultures that exist within our communities. Having that mindset within our boards, homeowners and management teams is crucial to creating a more inclusive community.
While progress has certainly been made, there is still more to be done beyond a protected class moving into your community. That alone is no guarantee of an inclusive community. Not only should the new residents feel welcome in a neighborhood of people who, conceivably, could be very different from them, but they should also feel like their voice will be heard during board meetings. It is in the best interest of both the HOA and the neighborhood to encourage inclusivity by making everyone feel like they belong.
How can a board, committee or fellow neighbor make protected classes feel welcome and heard?
Make a point to welcome and engage racial and ethnic diversity to help create and foster that core sense of community. Make sure new residents feel welcomed, listened to and given opportunities to become involved.
Make Rules Understandable for All
You would do this with any new HOA member if they asked. However, it is especially important if that new member’s first language is not English, that they know they can reach out for help navigating governing documents, rules and community guidelines. Of course, do not assume your new HOA member needs help, but should they ask, be there to assist.
Diversify the Board
Intentionally grow your inner circle to open yourself to new ideas and viewpoints the association may not have explored yet. Even if you do not serve on the board, inspire inclusion by establishing a representative group that meets with the board on a scheduled basis. Everyone can benefit from the minds of our culturally diverse neighbors.
An excellent start to creating community trust among people who feel underrepresented is to form committees that address inclusion. Neighbors are less likely to come out of their home and mingle if they do not feel comfortable, so be sure to communicate and connect with protected classes ahead of the next board meeting. Let them know when elections will take place and make it clear that they have the same opportunities to run for a seat on the board if they wish.
Craft Inclusive Meetings
Nobody enjoys feeling like they do not know the rules or that they cannot ask questions, and rigid meeting structures can deter people from participating. All meetings should be both welcoming and accessible to all. Perhaps you have never seen a person using a wheelchair at previous meetings, but the space should still be wheelchair accessible.
Be sure to explain the agenda and how the meeting will run. Get to know your neighbors by having them introduce themselves if the group is small enough. Furthermore, consider translating communication to members into Spanish if that is the predominate language in the association.
Develop Projects that Bring Neighbors Together
- Block parties.
- Community gardens.
- Crime prevention initiatives.
- Directories and newsletters that spotlight homeowners.
- Holiday celebrations/potluck dinners.
- Neighborhood cleanups.
- Yard-of-the-month programs.
- Sharing information about volunteer opportunities within the community.
A strong HOA serves the interests and concerns of all people within the neighborhood. An association that embraces and represents people of the neighborhood’s various cultures and backgrounds will likely prove more effective in identifying problems and finding solutions, planning for the neighborhood’s future, building support and creating a harmonious community.
For more information on running a successful HOA, visit our HOA Management Services page.