Blinding Flash of the Obvious: The Election Results and SBC

This is a risky post, but I’m doing it anyway.

It’s been two weeks since Election Day when I woke up ready to seize the day, donned my pantsuit and optimistically went along in my blue bubble. By 11pm that night, optimism switched to disbelief as I watched the country turn red. I could no longer ignore my blind spot.

With the election results came a message loud and clear. People are mad as hell and they are not going to take it any more – on either side. A populace unwilling to settle for the status quo swept an anti-establishment candidate into the most powerful political position in the world. In fact, a large portion of SBC’s rural constituents were part of the wave, no doubt a response to, among other things, the disenfranchised feeling of the urban rural divide. My bubble had burst.COMM DM Blog Image 2015 01

Darkness quickly turned to light when a trusted colleague posted on my social media stream. “50% counts. We can do a lot with 50%. Look at our day jobs: we don’t have anything close to 50% and look what gets done.” She was right. Change begets change and I decided to look for the silver lining: the work we do at SBC moves the needle for the 100% each day. Our work provides benefits for everyone; red, blue, black, brown white, straight, gay, immigrant, locals – everyone. At SBC, we take a systemic long view of prosperity because we know this to be true: humans drive the economy and neither the economy nor humanity can exist without a robust, healthy environment and an inclusive, equitable society. This is why SBC works to drive change in our communities from a holistic triple bottom line perspective. Let me explain:

SBC’s Environmental Focus:

The earth is non-partisan. The planet doesn’t care how you vote. The planet will continue to provide natural resources long after humans are gone. The truth is, there is no economy or humanity without the ecosystem services the planet provides. SBC builds consensus between rural and urban communities, educating policymakers on the fact that rural communities are often the source of food, energy, water, waste disposal sites and recreation for urban communities. Rural communities in California and throughout the country have been largely ignored when it comes to funding and advocacy, a fact that has never been clearer than in this election.

SBC’s Social Focus:

One of the best parts of my job is working with people like Craig Rowe of Truckee High School. Craig started La Fuerza Latina, a program that works with high potential, underserved youth to ensure a clear pathway to college because as Craig says “when the sun rises, it rises for everyone”. SBC works on hyper local social issues and broad based rural strategies to inform policy makers on creating a culture of inclusion. The degree of disaffectedness cannot be denied after looking at our election results. Creating an understanding of shared benefit has never been more important.

SBC’s Economic Focus:

This is clearly a sore spot for most voters. Average annual income in the US has been shrinking for the past two decades with the only real gains going to the top 1%. The US has the highest poverty rate of any OECD economy (17%), the highest incarceration rate and massive student debt. Everyday at the Sierra Small Business Development Center, I meet motivated visionary entrepreneurs and forward thinking, conscientious public officials working to make our communities inclusive, prosperous and sustainable. Local change makers have the power to transform our economies much more so than federal policy.

The morning after the election, I drove to Quincy, CA, a decidedly red community, for a day of meetings. It turned out to be a day filled with hope and inspiration led by Plumas Arts and the tireless Roxanne Villadao. I met with a diverse, passionate group about building a maker space and creating a community investment cooperative that will revitalize the picturesque downtown. This group never mentioned a class culture gap; there was no talk of who voted for whom because it didn’t matter. What matters is doing the best for their community. Proof that the bond of community is stronger than the divisiveness of politics.

I believe the outcome of this election is raising our awareness about what is not working and more importantly about what can. I’m ready to embrace the unrest and meet people where they are so we can listen to dissenting points of view and try to come to a common understanding of the deep change that needs to occur.

Am I disappointed in the election result? Absolutely. Would I be elated in four years if it had gone the other way? Possibly. But at the end of the day, all that matters is that we move forward together and lead with love, compassion and understanding because that is where we find common ground and that is where the magic happens. I believe love of family, community and mutual respect for shared values are the ties that bind.

As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”. So to the game changers and dreamers, red or blue, I say, onward, together we rise!