πŸ“» β€” Anika Gupta & Felicia Fulks: Real Talk on Mending, Restoring (Racial) Relationships in a Virtual Community Group

Reading Time: ~ 6 min.

Good morning yeniverse!

We’ve got another video #breakdown for you as well as a few fun links for you to share around with your communities and teams β€” and a killer video that should get you going today!

  1. Building a SaaS isn’t hard; just a lot of writing. So… do this.
  2. Andy Jassy. Measuring SaaS engagement. Pricing changes.
  3. Did you miss this? Side Hustle Stack! Fast homepage.
  4. Self-hosting is not better. Talent mapping. Virtual events. Wow.
  5. Affordable mental health. Sales performance. B2B checkout.
  6. AWS compensation. Marc’s calendar. Gumroad alternative.
  7. Apple and the metaverse. Kevin… Kevin? Workspace.
  8. Snazzy content? Peekalink! Rutter API for eComm.
  9. MixPanel for startups. Buy a content network. One more Parler.

And yo, I may not be legit now… but, the goal is to be legit.

Oyay Mayo

I mean, watch this video! You cannot leave without smiling and also thinking: Damn… that hustle and grind yo! There’s a ton of wisdom here folks:

Build stuff that your customers (and community) want. And Oyay knows his customers and community! He’s a true craftsman; not just of his business and product but also the people.

Good product + good relationship. This is how he do. He’s a people person, just like all of us here in the wider yeniverse famsquad! L(Β° O Β°L)

To infinity & community,

β€” john


As I shared in a personal newsletter update yesterday, I’m trying my best to practice gratitude every single day that I open my eyes. Apparently, this is much harder to do as a daily ritual than I initially believed!

In fact, I’ve institutionalized it: 365 Days of Gratitude where I effectively wake up and write / share something that I’m grateful for. This is now the very first exercise and activity and meditation on my long list of daily todos.

Can I challenge / encourage all yenizens, everywhere, to try this? I’m certain that it’ll change something significant in your life. And, if you have a moment, I’d love to know what you’re grateful for!

One thing I’m immensely grateful for is our small yenSQUAD of Alpha Testers in our community-building platform who are helping make it better very single week:

Humans desperately need a real sense of belonging. The raw ingredients for authentic S.o.B., as far as I can tell, are connection and shared purpose. If you can create those with folks then you’ve got a strong foundation to build from!

But, from there, you’re going to need to learn to lead, manage, and even moderate your virtual community β€” I know that I have a lot to learn in this department so when I heard of this chat between Anika Gupta and Felicia Fulks on leading and moderating virtual communities I had to take a look and take notes!

So, here they are!

Anika and Felicia jump right in and open up on the topics of “mending” and restoring relationships and communities online. They share some of the larger topics that generally come up, like:

  • How do you respect community members while also addressing harm?
  • Is there a way forward that doesn’t involve banning or cancelling?
  • What does “mending” look like and who does it, and how?

These are topics that many folks have encountered, but, if I’m honest, I’ve never been given any “formalized” training of that kind in a long time. What a great refresher for me!

I think this is particularly important because I, myself, was recently asked to not join a community and I found that difficult to work through, at least emotionally at first, and I’m so grateful for these fresh reminders!

For Felicia, there is one particular area that she wants to call out specifically through the presentation:

Anti-racism is a grassroots effort. Work on changing the minds of people in your lives.

Origin story time! It begins with a community called the “Pantsuit Nation” β€” the two met and shared some of the unique challenges that they had being women of color in a broadly white community.

Here are some of the training that they shared:

  1. Provide tools and sample phrases for de-escalating tension
  2. Emphasize education, particularly providing resources to community members around issues related to marginalization.
  3. Moderator self-care and emotional “coping” β€” ways to address the personal impact of difficult conversations.

As Anika shares how these conversations and questions sparked even larger dialogues that eventually boiled to a point where she and Felicia wanted to have a more dedicated place for these conversations in a more protected, managed, and specific environment.

This process, by the way, is very typical as the “unbundling” of larger communities is a natural outcome that we should be grateful for!

Felicia then describes the ethos behind the cultural rules that they built out when they first began putting this new environment and community together:

Our main goal of this group is to create an atmosphere that is supportive to WOC while also allowing women who want to be allies to better understand how they can truly offer their support.

Empathy and respect are the keywords here. This is group for anyone identifying as a woman. We are not allowing men into the space. We are a diverse group with WOC (women of color) and their women interested in being allies (people who support those who are WOC or otherwise threatened individuals).

We all have something to learn from each other.

Real Talk Rules post

Being crystal clear on who you’re serving and who you’re target demographic / community member should be is important in the very beginning stages of a new community. Remember, it’s not for everyone! It’s for the “true believers“:

A few questions that the two then answer are about the topic and practice of “mending”; another way of managing harm in a community. Here are some questions that they walked through:

  1. How did Real Talk get started? Who is in charge and why does that matter?
  2. Why did you create mending? What does a mending interaction look and sound like?
  3. How do you identify whether someone’s a good candidate for mending?
  4. How do you set expectations within the community so that they appreciate mending?

How this process is described is that if there is clear evidence of harm then they will take the person “outside” of the general communication channels into a “mending channel” and experience. There, with the guided support of a trained professional, they can engage with that member of the community in a more intimate and private setting.

The conversation isn’t punitive in nature; rather, it’s to help them understand what’s been done and why that matters. If the moderator believes that the member is “phoning it in” and not being honest or open to growth and learning, then, the “menders” stay calm and offer a ton of grace in the conversation and process.

This “separate space” model and system and it’s not just always a one-time event! Sometimes, the process take a few weeks or months.

Who Should Be a Candidate for Mending?

Short answer: Anyone and everyone.

How does one identify a candidate for “mending” instead of outright removal or banning / canceling someone? Felicia says that everyone is a candidate for mending and most of the time they can recover if the person is open and honest with the mending process and genuinely wants to come back into the larger community space.

But, as Felicias shares candidly, it’s usually “obvious” when someone doesn’t want to be there and is unwilling to grow and learn more about racial issues that are creating harm. So, they essentially self-select themselves out of the larger community group through the process.

What’s also interesting is that this isn’t just relegated to a specific community platform! If Felicia sees someone on Facebook “acting out” in a way that requires mending, she’ll confront that person even if it wasn’t on the community sites directly! This awareness and care of their brand and culture is a “Pro Moveℒ️” in my book, 100%.

Anika doubles-down on this point above and says that this type of thinking can elevate all of the conversations in the community and both menders and mendees have a lot of autonomy and agency in how they confront and fix the broken relationships and the misunderstandings that come up.

The goal is to create understanding and allies, to continue moving the conversation forward and making these types of conversations more common in our everyday discussions instead of making them limited in scope, scale, and keeping them on the fringe.

Finally, in terms of setting expectations, they have training and documentation that helps moving people through the process and so that they can understand the foundational “whys” of the process.

And, within these coaching and different rooms, smaller groups have formed that have allowed even greater transparency and vulnerability within the larger groups.

In the final bit they take questions from the audience; of course, the full video is here for your viewing and listening pleasure!

Thanks Anika and Felicia!

The ideas around creating “dedicated spaces” for de-escalating tensions and creating opportunities to minimize harm and create mending and restoration through education is absolutely brilliant and something that all communities can think through!

/end

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