Building an Online Community Promoting Inclusive and Welcoming Businesses: Inclusive Guide Case Study
- Make Inclusion Good for Business. Being inclusive and welcoming is good for people and good for communities. By demonstrating customers care about inclusion, we can incentivize more businesses to invest in becoming safe and welcoming spaces for everyone.
- Celebrate Different Identities and Experiences. All businesses, shops and attractions - from cafes to museums, from art galleries to food carts - can become safe and inclusive places for community members. Celebrate the different experiences visitors have and consider what makes your place more welcoming to as many people as possible.
- Nobody’s Perfect, but Everyone Can Be Better. Receiving negative feedback from customers can be scary, but it’s actually an amazing opportunity for you to work on becoming better. You don’t need to be perfect. It’s what you do to respond and react to such feedback that matters.
Shifting the Economy Toward Inclusion
Co-founded by Denver, Colorado-based entrepreneurs Crystal Egli and Parker McMullen Bushman, Inclusive Guide is an online community that lists safe and welcoming spaces for anyone who faces discrimination. Led by two Black, female tech start-up founders, Inclusive Guide seeks to create data-driven, economic incentives for businesses to be more inclusive and welcoming.
As the country and the world look for ways to address social justice issues, the Inclusive Guide is something actionable for both consumers and businesses to shift the economy toward inclusion resulting in safer spaces for people who regularly experience discrimination.
How Does It Work?
Inclusive Guide works like “a Yelp for inclusivity”.
Similar to review sites like Yelp, Inclusive Guide users can submit business locations and recreation spaces they feel safe in, and rate the businesses based on feelings of safety, welcomeness and whether they feel celebrated.
- “Safety” on the Inclusive Guide is defined by feelings of physical, mental and emotional well-being.
- “Welcomeness” is defined by whether the customer feels they’re receiving good service,
- “Celebrated” is measured by how well a person’s identity is reflected in business’ space
In addition, customers can rate businesses on a range of attributes such as courtesy of staff, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, sense of personal safety as it relates to their identity, gender neutral bathrooms, and more, populating crowd-sourced “inclusivity reviews'' for businesses and.
Inclusive Guide is about celebrating those businesses that are doing the work to make sure they are being welcoming to all people, and helping customers who want to support inclusive businesses find those places. At the same time, Inclusive Guide also seeks to help businesses that get negative reviews to improve their practices by providing detailed reports and feedback.
Inspired by the Green Book
A part of what inspired the idea of Inclusive Guide is the “Green Book”, which was first published in 1936, a guide by Victor Hugo Green listing hotels, guest houses, service stations, drug stores, taverns, barber shops and restaurants around the United States that were known to be safe for Black travelers.
Inclusive Guide co-founder Crystal Egli shares her personal experience that led to the idea of a modern-day Green Book in this piece by The Colorado Sun.
The original Green Book was developed and published by and for black travelers in the United States, listing establishments that were black-owned or verified to be non-discriminatory. The Inclusive Guide, which it’s concept may be to be the “new digital Green Book”, aims to be a safe travel guide for everyone, celebrating places that are welcoming to people who typically experience discrimination.
Journey of Black Female Tech Start-up Founders
As two Black female tech start-up founders, Crystal Egli and Parker McMullen Bushman have faced a number of obstacles in their entrepreneurial journey. The fact is, Black women are among the most underrepresented groups in the start-up landscape, with Black women founders receiving just a tiny fraction of venture capital funding: just 0.34% of the $147 billion in venture capital invested in U.S. startups in 2021.
Egli and McMullen Bushman have faced questions from investors such as why it’s not enough for businesses to simply promise they’ll become more inclusive, which turned such meetings into education about systemic oppression, rather than focusing on the innovation and technology - and the business potential - behind the Inclusive Guide.
Nevertheless, the founding story of the Inclusive Guide has been one of inspiring success, with supporters contributing through a crowdfunding campaign, a nationwide "Liberation Tour" to help raise awareness, and various local and national media coverage (from The Denver Channel, Outside Magazine, AFAR, to National Geographic) - all leading to a national launch on Juneteenth 2022.
The Inclusive Guide continues to engage more travelers posting business reviews, as well as assist businesses with becoming more inclusive. It continues to provide a concrete, actionable tool for both consumers and businesses to make more and more places safe and welcoming to everyone.
- History - “The Green Book: The Black Travelers’ Guide to Jim Crow America”
- Rocky Mountain PBS - “Inspired by the Green Book, these women created an 'Inclusive Guide' to help make businesses safer”
- Folklife - “Underground Railroad Quilt Codes: What We Know, What We Believe, and What Inspires Us”
- NPR - “Juneteenth: What It Is and How It Is Observed”
*This case study has been created based on Inclusive Guide's story submitted to the 2022 GLP Films Sustainability Storytelling Competition. Inclusive Guide's submission was the category winner for the "Environmental Justice" category. In collaboration with GLP, TrainingAid is sharing the various lessons from the stories submitted to the competition as case studies.