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Diversity + Inclusivity

To foster a well-rounded perspective and leverage the power of difference, communities must encompass people of different backgrounds from different places while ensuring all are actively welcomed and engaged. Diversity, as well as inclusivity, is essential to a thriving community, and this requires airing and grappling with different perspectives, experiences, traditions, and paradigms; engaging in rigorous listening; and undertaking and deep reflective work. The community must actively foster inclusion, value diversity, and promote a sense of belonging among its members, including welcoming different levels of mastery for different types of knowledge and experiences.


Work intentionally, step-by-step.

  • Members of communities often seem completely flummoxed by how to make their communities more inclusive and diverse. It’s really a step-by-step process that requires a long-term commitment to success and that begins by actively reaching out to colleagues whose backgrounds and experiences differ from those of current community members; going where they are as well as inviting them to join us where we are; inviting them to participate in ways that produce positive, meaning results for them as well as for the community and those it serves; and working, with a commitment to civility, through the inevitable conflicts that arise when people of different backgrounds collaborate to foster positive results around shared goals. This leads us to the next item in this document: Engagement and Collaboration (Paul Signorelli).

Include a variety of stakeholders.

  • In my opinion, a tremendous value of a community (particularly in higher ed) is the knowledge that others bring to the table. Most of us are not inventing a new wheel but building on or trying things others have probably done (Nancy Rubin).

  • For example, when looking at “classroom redesign” there needs to be a community that is mixed, with members from each of the different areas, in order to develop a plan and be successful. Involving those who utilize the space and “live” in the space is essential in all stages of the design and implementation process. Applying this thought to all types of communities is not only valuable but essential (Jenna Linskens).

Insist on inclusion.

  • With the Horizon Project, we refused to initiate the work until we had at least 50% female/women-identifying vs male participation. EdTech space is an interesting one and we're seeing more and more people who identify as women - but this wasn’t always the case. As a male, you can advocate for diversity by refusing to serve on a panel or be a part of a community of practice that excludes other genders (Samantha Becker).

Value a diversity of viewpoints.

  • The term diversity and inclusion should include people with the same interests who are not like-minded in terms of their views about that area.  This creates a richer debate. Also, bringing in the international perspective makes the discussion more global (Cristiana Assumpcao).

  • We found that people feel safe in our community of practice “academies” and they’ve started to talk about issues they’re facing in their classrooms, including challenges related to gender and identities. We are scheduling in-service trainings for our learning design staff so that they can learn more about where to direct our faculty facing issues beyond the scope of our expertise (Christine Kroll).

Recognize different backgrounds.

  • It's important to actually make sure your practices are inclusive. For example, as a graduate student I teach, but it’s usually in an adjunct capacity. Sometimes in communities of practice, workshops, or conferences, there’s an assumption that everyone is tenure-track faculty at an R1 institution. There’s not an understanding of other teaching forms and the experience of adjuncts. I have also been a part of communities and workshops that do understand. It's important to recognize different backgrounds (Rachel Sullivan).

Seek representation.

  • A community has to have something for everyone in every role from novice to master.  Members need to be able to see themselves and others like themselves represented in the community, and feel that there is a place for them. Recognize that there are various areas of interest within the community (Alex Pickett).  

Build with community members.

  • Community of Practice norms should be built by the community, not imposed (Marilyn Dispensa).

Acknowledge time differences.

  • Consider rotating times to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to attend (Lisa Koster).

  • Leaders may need to schedule multiple meetings to accommodate folks from different time zones (Elan Paulson).

  • Make sure that all meeting invites and planning clearly specify what time zone the suggested times are in - most people can adjust to their own time but it needs to be called out specifically (Jenna Olsen).

Related Case Studies + Examples:

Many of the case studies reflect multiple, intersecting best practice categories. See the Examples/Case Studies section for additional examples.

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