Alliance for Inclusion Update

  • Published
  • On August 7, 2019
Amy Levak giving talk at Telluride Foundation event

Alliance for Inclusion (AFI) is a coalition of executive-level leaders in San Miguel County who are dedicated to liberating San Miguel County’s institutions from monolingual and monocultural policies and practices. Members of the Alliance for Inclusion continuously explore ways to be more inclusive and supportive of the diverse population who live and work in our communities. The Alliance accomplishes these goals by meeting quarterly to discuss inclusive leadership, operating as thought partners with one another as organizations undergo cultural audits and review and renew their mission, vision, and values, as well as through collaborating on projects and trainings to move individual organizations and their cultures towards equity and inclusion.

The Alliance for Inclusion was formed in 2016 and has been chaired by staff from Tri-County Health Network since its inception. When local leaders began uniting with the intention of bringing about more inclusive practices, it became obvious early on that local society as a whole would benefit from the collaboration of the Alliance. An early example of this was the decision of the Town of Telluride to install peepholes in all Town managed properties. This came about when Alliance member Melanie Montoya Wasserman, Telluride Housing Director and Interim San Miguel Regional Housing Authority Executive Director, learned that a young resident of Shandoka with limited English-language skills had inadvertently opened the door to his unit for unwelcomed guests. When this was brought to Melanie’s attention at an Alliance meeting, she brought it to the attention of Town of Telluride authorities, who subsequently decided to install peepholes in all existing and future Town-owned housing, improving the safety of all who reside in Town-managed properties.

These types of success are often the side-effect of leadership chatting informally through the course of the meetings. The formal conversations at Alliance meetings often center on topics that affect the internal culture of member organizations. Those include the San Miguel Resource Center, Wilkinson Public Library, the Towns of Telluride and Mountain Village, Tri-County Health Network, Telluride Medical Center, and the Telluride Foundation, among others. Organizations discuss everything from hiring practices to upcoming opportunities to cross-train on topics like implicit bias and cultural respect. Over time, members begin to see increased value in being inclusive leaders and adoption more equitable polices within their organizations.

In early August, Alliance member and Executive Director of the Trust for Community Housing, Amy Levek, decided that it was necessary to seek out diverse voices to contribute to the Town of Telluride’s Southwest Area Plan. After having helped organize several meetings to solicit feedback of the town’s plans, including publicizing the meetings in Spanish as well as English, she noticed that very few members of Telluride’s immigrant community had joined the meetings. In her view, this was a problem, and may be connected to things she’d been discussing about equity and inclusion in meetings with the Alliance. Amy sought out other members of the Alliance for Inclusion for advice, and ultimately decided to present Telluride’s proposals to a meeting with Somos Uno (We Are One) Telluride, a group of local leaders from Telluride’s Spanish speaking immigrant community who collaborate frequently with Tri-County Health Network.

Amy also invited Ron Quarles, the Planning and Building Director for the Town of Telluride to the meeting. At the meeting, held on August 4, 2019, members of the local immigrant population provided input on new plans for buildings in Shandoka and the expansion of affordable housing. Afterwards, Amy commented via email that the meeting was “very productive,” and included culturally-informed suggestions including moving Shandoka’s new iteration further away from the hillside, moving the parking lot into the shadow of the mountain and the housing into the sunlight, and making any community spaces such as playgrounds accessible to all neighborhood residents, not just those who live in Shandoka. Ron also commented, noting that it will be important for the Town of Telluride to continue to engage this segment of the population in future planning meetings. The Alliance for Inclusion looks forward to continued collaboration, and to push the regions institutions and their policies to reflect the diverse needs and perspectives of all residents who live and work in our communities.

The principal objectives of the committee, as stated in their founding documents, are as follows:

  1. Identify challenges faced by organizations in San Miguel County in providing inclusive services for all people in San Miguel County.
  2. Promote member organizations in the development of formal channels to solicit community feedback about the changing needs and challenges of our constituencies.
  3. Identify organizations that have incorporated successful practices and replicate.
  4. Support the collaborative development of solutions for challenges by:
    1. Communicating frequently across organizations and disciplines on multicultural issues.
    2. Meeting regularly to discuss best practices, share resources, and implement joint ventures.
  5. Through these efforts, ensure:
    1. Effective, equitable, understandable, and respectful quality care and customer/client services that are responsive to diverse cultural beliefs and practices.
    2. Staff in member organizations who can communicate in our community’s preferred languages or that practices are in-place to ensure translation and interpretation support where appropriate.
    3. Policies and practices of member organizations are reviewed and revised by member organization’s board and staff to reflect the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.

Invite, welcome, and implement community-based ideas and initiatives to better serve the multicultural populations in the county.