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This post originally appeared on startupweek.co.

If you’re around me long enough, you’ll most likely hear me talk about the importance of radical inclusion at a Techstars Startup Week™. Making sure everyone, regardless of background, feels welcome and included is at the heart of this community building effort.

As organizers of Techstars Startup Week, this sense of welcoming is just as important as the educational content that’s delivered – maybe even more so. Creating a space where people feel safe and have a seat at the table where their voice is heard is a huge step towards creating a healthy and sustainable startup ecosystem.

One of the tools that we use to create this safe environment is our Techstars Startup Week Code of Conduct. These are the parameters by which all participants in Techstars Startup Week agree to abide by. Whether you’re a panelist, speaker, volunteer or attendee, by participating in the event you agree that you’ll take part in creating an environment that’s free from harassment.

In order for our Code of Conduct to work, it’s your responsibility to enforce it. It’s one thing to have people agree to follow it, but it’s an entirely other thing if an incident arises but no one is willing to take action.

Failing to take action can have a long-term, negative impact on how your community grows.

There have been many examples throughout the years where organizers of other events failed to act when something was reported, resulting in a dark cloud hanging over their event, and sometimes causing damage to the community afterwards.

I know that enforcing the Code of Conduct can be difficult. When a report of inappropriate behavior comes to our attention, it can feel like a punch to the gut. But it’s in those moments where we have to step up and protect the integrity of our work. If we’re truly committed to bringing our community together, fostering deep and long-lasting connections between entrepreneurs, then you owe it to them to act when something comes to your attention.

I encourage you to read through the Techstars Startup Week Code of Conduct and share it with everyone participating in your Techstars Startup Week. If an incident should arise during your event, having this code to point to will help tremendously, especially if the person accused feels they did nothing wrong.

In situations where you feel stuck or need some guidance, feel free to reach out to me directly at matt.helt@techstars.com or through our online reporting tool, saysomething.techstars.com. We’re here to help you and make sure your attendees feel any situation is handled appropriately.

I also encourage you as a Techstars Community Leader to sign a pledge to abide by our Techstars Code of Conduct if you haven’t done so already. It’s a great way to let our community know you’re committed to upholding the ethics we all stand for.  


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Matthew Helt Matthew Helt
is the Director of Startup Week at Techstars. In this role, Matt works with organizing teams all around the world to host Startup Week in their cities. Prior to his work with Startup Week, Matt worked in marketing and advertising for over 15 years, specializing in brand strategy.







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