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'Inclusive Guide' helps identify safe and welcoming places

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Posted at 3:35 PM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 15:35:48-04

From 1936 through the 1960s, the "Green Book" was a critical resource for African American communities. In recent years, Crystal Egli and Parker McMullen Bushman have been creating a modern digital version called the "Inclusive Guide."

“The Negro motorist guide, which is known as the "Green Book," would list places that were safe to stop," Egli said. "They would list places that were OK for a restaurant, for a hotel where you wouldn't place that physical or emotional danger.”

The "Inclusive Guide" is an online review, customer review platform where people can go and rate spaces for how safe, welcome, and celebrated they feel regarding their identity in that space.

Egli thought of the idea when she was hunting for the first time and didn’t know the area well.

“I was out there and I was like, 'I wish there was a way I could figure out if, like this restaurant or this ammo store is going to be safe and welcoming for me or am I going to be in danger from potential racism,'” Egli said.

In their lived experience, both women say they’ve experienced discrimination. Their goal isn’t to "call out" businesses for not being inclusive but rather to help them improve. If there’s a pattern of a business being rated poorly, Egli and McMullen Bushman say the inclusive guide offers resources like diversity, equity, and inclusion training.

“Could we add in a component to this whole idea to give support to businesses so that businesses could see on the back end as we're getting data in from people leaving reviews for spaces which communities feel really welcome in this space and what communities do not so that we can start to make changes and adjustments to make sure everyone feels included,” McMullen Bushman said.

To get that data, Egli and McMullen Bushman say they need everyone to leave reviews. They say every business across the country is on the guide, and you just have to search for it.

“When we say it's for everyone, it truly is. It's even for white, cisgender, heterosexual people who don't have a disability," Egli said. "We need people who don't regularly experience discrimination to also review businesses and places as well because that helps establish a baseline.”

Businesses also can join a partnership program to show they’re committed to being inclusive.

“Just last week, we had a church in Florida. We had a climbing gym in Washington state,” McMullen Bushman said.

Whitney Ariss is an owner of the Preservery in Denver, Colorado. The Preservery recently became a partner. It’s a restaurant and bar with a big focus on building communities through food.

“Review sites are sort of the bane of most restaurant owners' existence and tend to be a place where people just kind of, you know, unload a lot of passive aggressive, unhelpful feedback," Ariss said. "And so something like this, I already anticipate having a much more engaged user base and people I think who hopefully genuinely want to give you feedback to help you improve.”

Ariss says she and her husband have worked hard to make The Preservery a space where everyone feels welcomed.

“We're fully accessible in terms of ramps and accessible bathrooms," Ariss said. "Our bathrooms have always been non-gendered, and you know, we have inclusive signage for those. "And I think hiring practices to are really important as far as inclusion goes.”

She says people want to see themselves reflected in the employees of a business and even in the art or advertisements on the wall.

Egli and McMullen Bushman are eager to witness the impacts of the Inclusive Guide. However, it’s had a slow start due to a lack of capital investment.

“Studies show Black women have been prolific and starting new businesses, but also are one of the least invested in that group,” McMullen Bushman said.

In a report from ProjectDiane about the state of Black and Latinx Women founders, it was shared that only .27% of total venture capital investment between 2018 and 2019 went to Black women.

Meanwhile, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shares 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or running new businesses compared to just 10% of white women and 15% of white men.

“It's interesting that the discrimination in the real world that we're trying to address, and we have a technological solution for is also seeping into the way we could potentially be funded,” Egli said.

“We want to show that there is an economic incentive to inclusion, right, and we know there is a lot of buying power within these communities and people want to spend their money in places where they feel that they are treated with dignity, where they feel welcome, where they feel celebrated,” McMullen Bushman said.