One of the reasons that my campaign focuses on Relationships is by building friendships and expanding personal networks, life can be much easier for people.
I hope by sharing a little of my background and experiences with training sessions to improve acceptance of the less advantaged we can try similar exercises in the town that go beyond dialog and are translated into action. The goal is to help the privileged come up with useful actions to help the under-appreciated, unloved or powerless. Also to help minorities navigate life more successfully with more joy and less pain.
I first came to the US as part of International Women's Year. IBM was wanting to attract more women to the computer business and decided to recruit two women from each of the European countries it operated in to be summer interns. IBM took the risk on me and I am very grateful they did as it opened my eyes to office life - I'd only worked as a cleaner, a factory worker and a supermarket cashier before that.
Four years later, Bell Laboratories executives were measured on their commitment to hiring diverse employees. I was hired because I was female, along with 3 other post-graduates. Once again, I was extremely fortunate to be hired because a director 3 levels above me was from the UK, saw my resume and took a chance on me.
Bell Laboratories and AT&T, by law had to have affirmative action training, so below I've listed some of the exercises we had as they can be modified for helping people understand how to treat the disadvantaged better.
Fast forward another 7 years and I was starting my consulting business. A client hired me and some of my subcontractors because they saw me, a female business owner, as a minority. I'm grateful someone, once again took a risk on me because of their diversity initiatives.
Exercise 1 - Getting People To Share Real Feelings
In this case, the goal of the exercise was to empower women. The lesson learned here is that it is not enough to share thoughts and feelings, each man had to develop a plan that would help empower women.
Our department at Bell Labs took a whole day for this exercise - it works best where the people know each other before hand - so if any employers are thinking what they can do for employees to help the less-advantaged this could be an approach.
EXERCISE 2 - Understand the Odd One Out
Exercise 3 - Understand Black Lives Matter
This was another of our compulsory Affirmative Action Trainings at Bell Labs - we were a small conference-room sized group led by a consultant who was African-American.
Exercise 4 - Dealing With People You Don't Like
Read "Coping with Difficult People" - a classic. Whether it's a difficult neighbor or town employee that is difficult to work with, this book is an invaluable source for how to work with others. I've also used software in my consulting business to profile clients and match it with my own profile and then the software suggests an approach to the client.
Exercise 5 - Giving People Self Esteem and Confidence
The aim of this exercise is to help people build relationships with clients and boost their confidence. As there are layoffs, Californians don't rank very high on LinkedIn's confidence list. It challenges you to think of yourself as a consultant.
In some sense we consult to each other as we build relationships in Portola Valley - so for Town Committees a workshop of this type to help members advise the town council could be useful. Even though at Bell Laboratories we didn't think of ourselves as consultants until after this exercise, in fact we were. We were advising telephone companies, helping them with strategies, systems and cost studies.
So here's a book to read and notes on my experience with the author. This is not my favorite book - but the group exercise was useful.
Why Build Relationships?
I support any activities in Portola Valley that help neighbors build community. Our PVForum provides a resource that brings people together, despite some disagreements.
When I moved to Portola Valley, almost 30 years ago, I knew from my own upbringing in a similar-sized town that it would be hard to get to know people because we had no children. So I invited everyone who lived around us to a party. The late Van Judah said it was the kindest thing anyone had done for him since he arrived in Portola Valley.
It is very easy to get overwhelmed with work, chauffering children and scheduling family. We need Portola Valley to provide a community for rest and relaxation. Having a strong sense of community can help us when there are disasters and tragedies, but also when there are good times to be enjoyed together. The Alpine Inn reopening, gives us an example of where a local business has helped foster relationships between residents.
Town Staff, Council & Committee Relationships
I have worked on two committees - the Bicycle, Pedestrian & Traffic Safety Committee, and the Sustainability Committee. This has enabled me to get to know town staff and members of the Town Council. I want to encourage more residents to build relationships with the town through volunteering.
Welcoming The Newcomer
If you move to Portola Valley with a family that has children, you are likely to get to know other families with similar-aged children through the school system and through children playing together. If you come without children then it can take longer to know what facilities are available to residents. I propose we provide town events to welcome newcomers, as has happened in the past, where new residents can meet each other, town staff and officials. It is also an opportunity to showcase some of the services provided by the town, town committees and volunteer groups.
We have neighborhood watch groups and emergency preparedness neighborhoods. We need to make resilient neighborhood groups because in an emergency, neighbors will need to help neighbors. Where are those who cannot drive who might need a ride? Who would need help turning off their gas or water in an earthquake? Some neighborhoods have Friday night street parties, other neighborhood groups have get-togethers for special days like July 4th. We need to strengthen our neighbourhood relationships to increase neighborhood enjoyment and safety. Maybe neighbors can car pool, helping the town reduce energy use too.
The trail users have changed since they were developed. There are more mountain bikes wanting to use Portola Valley trails. Mountain bikes are useful for children riding to school. We need to work with the schools to find ways that children can bike together to reduce the number of cars going to schools. Safe Routes to School have been identified, but are they in the right place.
We need to look at whether we need parallel trails for horses and bicycles in some places, ensure crossings are well-marked and signage is appropriate.
To ensure that trail walkers and joggers feel safe, I recommend that a volunteer group arrange hiking meetups for town residents to increase social interaction.
Aging In Place
The Portola Valley Women's Club has held some Zoom sessions on Aging in Place. There are swimming pool activities open to all at Alpine Hills. Various town committees organize talks and events. We could still do more to help older seniors stay engaged and make new friends as old ones leave the community. We don't have a senior center in Portola Valley, and with many very active seniors, maybe we don't need one. However, it may be useful to have daytime activities in the town center for seniors to reduce loneliness and anxiety.
Angela Hey is a candidate for Portola Valley Town Council. She is an experienced technology marketing consultant who serves nonprofits, as a volunteer.