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Resilient Connections: Creating an Online Support Community for ACEs to Navigate Life Together

Over recent years, there has been greater recognition of the impact Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) can have. This can only be a positive thing, as it can prompt organizations and agencies to take decisive action to address the causes and symptoms. However, this isn’t to say that adults with ACEs are always able to access the nuanced resources that can make a difference throughout their lives.

This is where grassroots community action can be a vital resource. One of the most important and impactful ways for those with ACEs to build resilience and navigate challenges is through online support networks. We’re going to take a moment to explore how you can effectively and practically approach building a community with this goal in mind.

Identify the Most Relevant Platforms

The first step in creating an online community for ACEs is to establish the most appropriate platform. You need to make certain that there is easy accessibility to meaningful engagement. At the same time, it can be wise to find a platform that offers some element of privacy for members to feel comfortable sharing their experiences.

It can, therefore, be wise to first do a little research about your target audience. If you’re looking at certain age groups, explore the types of platforms they’re already most active on or find easy to navigate. If your demographics are location-based, perhaps examine whether they’re active on existing online community message boards.

Firstly, social media is considered a good way to raise awareness of ACEs, but it can also be a solid platform for supportive communities. It’s important to choose a social platform that allows for simple text discussions, alongside sharing of links and resources. For instance, growing a Facebook group can be a free and practical way to maintain connections with your target audience. When starting, consider whether you want to make this a completely open public group or a private group, as this may impact your ACE audience’s engagement with it. From here you should start promoting your group on social media, alongside regularly engaging with your group to ensure it grows and thrives.

Another option is to build a community on a dedicated website. This isn’t necessarily as daunting a project as it may seem. There are a range of free and user-friendly content management systems — like Wix and Wordpress — that enable you to build and host your site with a forum plugin. This can provide you with an extra element of control over your community, what it looks like, and how it operates. However, it’s important to remember that maintaining a website and forum can take a lot of time and attention.

Encourage Sharing of Resources

Once you’ve established your platform and started to build your community, you need to lean into activities that enable members to navigate the challenges together. Research shows that collective engagement from a trauma-informed community can foster resilience for those living with ACEs, so you need to make the most of this. Certainly, this involves boosting the emotional components of individuals with ACEs providing one another with support, and treating interactions with sensitivity. But it should also be a route to practical tools. One of the ways to approach this is to encourage your community to share resources.

This involves leading by example, to begin with. Make certain that you’re active in posting links, articles, and information that others may find useful. You can also regularly post suggestions or themes to your members that prompt them to share resources people with ACEs can benefit from.

Some of these may include:

Guidance on lifestyle changes

Encourage sharing of practical resources that help individuals with ACEs leverage lifestyle changes for holistic benefit. For instance, moving to a new location can be an opportunity for personal growth, reducing stress, and making a healthier space to live in. Doing this effectively requires specific steps, including researching locations that meet individuals’ needs, finding a home within budget, and establishing a new start with positive personal connections. Encouraging the posting of guides that provide step-by-step advice alongside recommendations for related resources can be positively impactful.

Recommendations for therapy and support

Ongoing therapy and both in-person and online support groups can be invaluable resources for those living with ACEs. That said, finding the right examples of these can be a difficult experience, as each person has different needs. As a result, encouraging community members to share recommendations, alongside information about what they feel is good about the groups or therapists they’ve visited, can provide positive resources for your group.

Offer a Place of Safety

ACEs are a difficult subject to discuss at times. Indeed, individuals’ willingness to engage with your community in a meaningful way can be a huge demonstration of trust. It’s important, then, to show that you recognize and respect the well-being of your members by ensuring your group is a safe space to share their thoughts and interact with one another.

Some elements you should focus on to achieve this include:

Moderation and community guidelines

As the host of your online community, you have a responsibility to ensure that everyone is treating one another respectfully. Create a set of clear community guidelines that set expectations for behavior and interactions within the community. You should also couple this with methods to make complaints or express concerns. Be strict but fair in applying your rules and even banning users if appropriate. While you don’t want to exclude people unnecessarily, the safety of people in the community must come first.

Bolstering cybersecurity

Cybercrime is one of the most prevalent risks in the digital landscape. It’s also a particular safety concern for a group dedicated to those with ACEs, as there may be personal and sensitive information at risk if breaches occur. It’s important to adopt security protocols on your website or group and regularly provide users with recommendations that keep them safe.

That said, it’s also important to mitigate security fatigue, which can occur when users feel they’re inundated by cybersecurity measures, leading to reduced engagement with these measures. This type of fatigue can put everyone using the website at risk of breaches. You can mitigate this by making your protocols simple yet strong. For instance, you could set up passwordless security on your website or use artificial intelligence (AI) driven threat detection to limit security prompts only to specific circumstances.

Conclusion

Building an online community can be an invaluable tool to help those with ACEs navigate challenges. You’ll need to start by choosing a platform that best meets your community’s needs and goals. Be active in encouraging the sharing of useful resources, including practical advice and therapist recommendations. Remember that your community must represent a place of safety, so moderate your forums carefully and utilize effective cybersecurity techniques.

Your community isn’t going to undo the experiences your members have lived through, nor can it reverse the trauma they may still live with. However, when you proceed with compassion, knowledge, and positivity, your group can influence greater resilience that genuinely improves people’s lives.

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