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Your Role as a  Support Group Leader – DEI Tips for Personal Success

Support group leaders have a unique opportunity to not only support and advocate for those in the food allergy community but to learn from those in the food allergy community. As a support group leader, your role is like a tree with many branches and how you are rooted is tied directly to the success of your group. A leader who wants to be successful knows they must lead with open eyes, open ears and a curiosity that grows each day. Improving your cultural dexterity can take your levels of connection that can create impact in your community for years to come. It is up to you to be willing to do the work to make this happen as part of your dedication to the work you have committed yourself to. Realizing we do not know what we do not know, and it is ok to find others to support you on your leadership journey as a support group leader is key.

Here are some inclusion-based leadership tips to help you improve your own cultural knowledge base to improve your connections and hopefully increase engagement and membership:

  1. Understand your leadership style. Remember this is a volunteer role.
  2. When engaging others to be a part of your group know that not everyone communicates the same way.
  3. If you want to be sure to support everyone, you must find ways to recruit people from underrepresented communities and make this as much of a priority as those in majority communities.

Here are some belonging ideas things to think about when recruiting and even running meetings:

  1. Have you considered the learning AND communication styles of your current communities /individuals or those you want to be part of your group?
  2. What do you have in place to increase or improve accessibility (i.e., technology considerations, closed caption for meetings, things for the hearing impaired, large print literature for the visually challenged, literature that equally represents various communities)?
  3. Is the location where you have events easy enough to find or access? (Think busy caregiver, limited time, multiple family needs)
  4. What have you learned about generational differences, needs and ideologies that could help you relate to everyone from grandparents to same sex parents, single parent homes, families of color, high income to low-income families and more?
  5. How can your group improve barriers to accessing safe foods if someone lives in a food desert regardless of where you live or work?
  6. If you were to have people over for dinner that you normally interact with, how many of them can offer life experiences different from yours that can help you become more relatable to a broader range of people in your support group recruitment efforts?

Below you will find some tools that can help you begin to improve the way you think about different cultural lifestyles. Identification of differences is not mean to call people out or separate but instead makes people feel welcome when you identify who they are holistically.

  1. Create buddy groups. Try to match people with different life experiences to help support one another and bring ideas to the table for the group.
  2. Be intentional about understanding your own implicit biases to see where you may have blind spots. WE ALL HAVE THEM because our brain can only process so much at once. Knowing them helps us be more aware of what we need to pay attention to.
  3. Create culturally inclusive welcome packets.
  4. Invite local chambers of commerce, religious groups, and other diverse community organization to come speak at your group meeting or join you online to broaden the reach of your community advocacy.
  5. Bring yourself up to speed on DEI terms. Here is a brief list of things for you to look up so you begin to understand more about yourself and others. The definitions are purposely left out to give you an opportunity to seek out information for yourself to help those you serve.
    • Code switching
    • Tone policing
    • Ally
    • Implicit bias
    • Microaggression
    • Underrepresented communities
    • Ableism
    • Gender non-conforming or Gender non-binary
    • Microaffirmation
  6. This is a list of some resources to look at to support how you communicate with others.
  7. Here is a list of few a diverse organization to contact. Consider finding chapters in your local area to connect with. Also consider local chambers of commerce.

The role of a support group leader is rewarding yet there can be a lot of work. Strive to put together a diverse team to make the load easier and help you to find better ways to support the community. Doing so helps improve your leadership skills and theirs. It also shows your members that you are a community organization open to hearing the opinions from and working with everyone. It also shows the group is community owned and open to ideas.