Management and Leadership
Making Your Digital Campaign Space Inclusive
June 18, 2020
Pride Month may have inclusivity at the forefront of your discussions, but the work of making campaign culture positive and welcoming is a year-round commitment.
Take the time to consider how you make your campaign spaces inclusive to staff and volunteers of all identities, especially as we continue to shift an unprecedented amount of our work to the internet.
While you may not be able to knock on doors or host physical events, there are many ways you can not only conduct voter outreach, but also keep your campaign’s internal culture thriving digitally. As you navigate through digital space in new ways, you’ll want to be particularly mindful of how you open your campaign space to your staff and volunteers, and take steps to prevent the harms that may come from the obscurity of digital interactions.
Embodying Your Values: Inclusive Norms
If you’re a candidate, there are LGBTQIA+ people in the community you hope to represent, and are probably working for your campaign. It is important that you not only “talk the talk” in public, but also “walk the walk” in day-to-day campaign operations.
One great way to make your digital campaign space inclusive is to create “norms” as a group to support and hold everyone accountable to a mutually agreed-upon standard of conduct.
Norms are the first step of living your values as a campaign and will send subtle messages internally and externally as others come into contact with your team. Norms should always consider the safety and inclusion of marginalized groups: people of color, women, sexual orientation and gender identity minorities, differently abled, working class folks, and people with different religious beliefs.
When creating norms — and regardless of your team’s explicit norms, when interacting with your teammates — it is important to be thoughtful of the myriad ways your words and actions might impact others.
The norms you establish with your team are one of the best ways to foster inclusivity within your digital campaign space, and should be models to follow right now, as campaigns work remotely, and physically, when workspaces begin to open up again.
For inspiration, you can see NDTC’s norms here.
Special Considerations for Digital Campaign Spaces
Our suggested best digital practices are hardly an exhaustive list, but they should serve as a starting point upon which you and your team can construct your own norms around gender- and sexual orientation-inclusive practices:
Include your pronouns
When working in a digital space is the only option, it can be challenging to know who is on the other end of digital communications.
By making it standard practice to include your pronouns in public-facing venues, you take the guesswork out of how you address people and how others address you. You also encourage others working with you to do the same. This allows everyone in the space to go by their pronouns.
You should include your pronouns:
- In email signatures
- In Zoom names
- When livestreaming
- Anywhere else your name might be seen by an audience
Use first names when addressing people
While we luckily have video conferencing software to allow face-to-face communication with staff, volunteers, and other supporters, it is important to remember that appearances don’t always tell us all we need to know about a person.
It may be in a virtual event or a staff member interview where you have to address someone by name, and you should always avoid “Mr.” and “Ms.” designations. By using someone’s first name, you further break down a barrier of formality and come across as warm and approachable.
Perform video introductions with an icebreaker that includes preferred name and pronouns
Any time a new volunteer or staff member joins the team, you should get your whole campaign team together for a series of introductions. Allow the new member to present their name and pronouns and hear the rest of the team’s names and pronouns.
Use non-gendered language in campaign communications
Whether talking to a small group or sending out a campaign-wide email, you should never use gendered language such as “dude,” “guys,” “gals,” and so on. Defaulting to addressing others as “friends” or “folks” is an easy way to avoid misgendering your team. Additionally, when you refer to someone whose pronouns you do not know, you should default to using “they.”
Establish and respect exclusive digital spaces for LGBTQIA+ folks and women
In our current digital-only world, it can be more difficult for your team to become acquainted with one another based on common interests and traits. You can and should feel empowered to build exclusive spaces, like dedicated channels on Slack, within your campaign in which members of an identity group can convene within that identity. These groups and spaces serve important community-building and support system functions.
Norms to Utilize in All Spaces
Include your pronouns in email signatures and business cards
By making it standard practice to include your pronouns in email signatures and business cards, you take the guesswork out of how you address people and how others address you.
Modeling this practice can make your organization a safer, more welcoming place for staff and volunteers.
Use language that avoids assumption
Not everyone is straight and not everyone is cisgender. Instead of asking, “Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?” try, “Are you dating anyone?”
When promoting organization events, do you invite “husbands and wives” or “partners and friends”?
Develop a clear, written nondiscrimination policy for your organization
Identity-focused legal protections for workers vary greatly by state, but your organization or campaign can proactively support staff diversity by writing and enforcing a written nondiscrimination policy.
Check out this article for some language you can use to get started developing nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies.
Include nondominant voices on topics not directly related to sexual orientation or gender
No one likes being pigeonholed or tokenized. Respect folks’ intellectual contributions by providing opportunities to contribute beyond representing their identity groups.
Maintaining Awareness of LGBTQIA+ Rights in Your State
In spite of the progressive efforts made to build a more inclusive political landscape, the reality is there is still a great deal of work ahead in the struggle for gender and sexual orientation equity in the United States. This is a national challenge that manifests differently in different regions of the country and on different campaigns.
In many cases, LGBTQIA+ folks are often forced to show up as incomplete versions of themselves in professional spaces to minimize harm exposure. Even with the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that federal civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender workers from being fired due to their gender identity or sexual orientation, that does not mean that the hiring of marginalized people will be any more prevalent.
No campaign opportunity, be it for staff or volunteers, should come at the expense of someone’s inherent dignity and humanity. With this in mind, it is everyone’s job on a campaign to ensure that everyone, regardless of their identity, is given the utmost respect, support, and compassion.
As an ally, or as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, you should be informed of policies that either serve to advance or hinder sexual orientation and gender identity equity. The Movement Advancement Project (MAP)’s Equality Maps is a resource to keep in your corner, as is MAP’s guide on discussing LGBTQIA+ equality.
Ready For More?
The things we can do to show up and stand in solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community, and others, are endless. We can never be progressive enough, and it is important that we continue to seek education that allows us to make our spaces more inclusive for everyone.
Our courses on Creating a Positive Team Culture and Creating a Culture of Inclusivity & Accountability are a good place to begin.
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