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Why Nextdoor’s CEO hopes users will talk about Black Lives Matter on the platform



Good morning, Broadsheet readers! State Sen. Nikema Williams will replace the late John Lewis on the Georgia ballot, preemie births are down during lockdown, and Nextdoor’s Sarah Friar talks about responding to racism on the platform. Have a thoughtful Tuesday.

-Won’t you be my neighbor? Fortune’s latest Leadership Next podcast features Sarah Friar, CEO of Nextdoor, the app for connecting with your neighbors. It’s a great interview by our colleague Ellen McGirt, and given the way the pandemic has most of us living a newly hyperlocal lifestyle—and in many cases, getting to know and leaning on our neighbors with fresh intensity—it’s a particularly interesting moment to hear from Friar.

Ideally, all is friendly and, well, neighborly on the platform, but in reality that’s not always how it goes. Ellen asks Friar about Black people’s experience on Nextdoor and the CEO acknowledges that the company has “definitely seen examples where Black neighbors have not felt welcome.” In response, Friar says Nextdoor is focused on making changes to the product to try to foster more empathetic dialogue—including a “Kindness Reminder” that kicks in before someone posts a potentially hurtful or offensive comment.

Of course, tech fixes can only go so far, so the biggest thing Nextdoor can do is remove such content—and the people who post it—from the platform. Friar says the company is more willing to go there: “Unequivocally, there is no place for racism on Nextdoor,” she says.

Having grown up in Northern Ireland during The Troubles (and having lived for a time in post-apartheid South Africa as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission did its work), Friar brings a global perspective to the issue. Nextdoor tries to discourage conversation about national politics, and that policy led moderators to remove posts in support of Black Lives Matter, which Friar has said was “our fault.” But the CEO now says that Black Lives Matter “is a local conversation.” When it comes to systematic racism, the company has acknowledged that “we need to want to talk about it, be able to talk about it and be able to talk about it in a constructive way.”

Finally, it’s also worth listening to hear how Friar has managed to get more women onto the company’s board and management team. (One tip: let your reports know you are evaluating them based on their ability to diversify their teams. “People will react if they know what they’re going to be graded against,” she says.)

Listen to the full podcast here.

Kristen Bellstrom

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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