“When will we be going back to England?”
That was the plaintive question from Yvonne Boyd’s daughter almost two years ago, as the US election results rolled in and it looked as if Donald Trump might win another term as President.
Yvonne, who leans Blue, is an energetic trainer of and resource for Braver Angels, and an organizer herself. A naturalized American born in England, she had been voicing heartfelt concerns throughout 2020. “I’d been at home all year with the pandemic, and watching the news all the time,” she explains. “But I was making myself ill; I couldn’t drag myself away. It was like one of those reality shows.”
Earlier, Yvonne had made a mental note about Braver Angels after hearing about the organization on the radio. But as the election result became clear – and contested – she knew the time had come to stop worrying and start doing something.
Days after joining, she received an e-mail from Washington state coordinator Will Clemmer inviting her to one of the informal gatherings of Braver Angels in the east and central regions of the Evergreen State. Those get-togethers were on Zoom, not just because the pandemic was still very much a thing but because the state is vast – almost 240 miles north to south.
After a few such meetings, Yvonne offered to write up a description of the gathering, as a way to extend its impact. Her note was warmly welcomed. It wasn’t long before she was also drafting agendas for the next meetings. Those inputs were valued too – and they helped lay the groundwork for formation of the Central/Eastern Washington Alliance.
Soon, the new alliance had held its first workshop – Skills for Bridging the Divide. “I became an organizer pretty much just by feeling my way around!” smiles Yvonne. At that time, super-organizer Mary Beth Stibbins, based north of Seattle, suggested that Yvonne could help to pilot the new Event Request Form – a document that streamlines and routinizes the organizing of workshops, debates, and other Braver Angels events.
Given her highly active and effective involvement, it was hardly surprising that Yvonne considered being a candidate for one of the three Blue chairs of the Central/East Washington Alliance. But she demurred, opting to stay where she knew she could be most useful. “I consider myself a problem-solver,” she says. “I said ‘I’ll be an organizer – I’ll be your secretary or assistant – but you’ll make the decisions.’”
Yvonne’s problem-solving prowess and volunteerism are ingrained. In England, she had worked in customer service for one of the UK’s largest national banks. “I was fixing problems for people. I loved the investigation aspects of it,” she says. Moving to Washington in 2000 when her husband was recruited to work at the Hanford nuclear site, she became a busy volunteer for her kids’ school parent-teacher association, for a women’s shelter, and more. Characteristically, she excelled in the support roles rather than on the front lines. That extends into her professional life today, as the secretary of a middle school in her town of Richland, WA.
Yet as Yvonne brought her battery of skills to bear for the new alliance, she was keen to do more. Learning about Braver Angels’ Ambassadors program, she took the training. Again, though, she fitted naturally into a key support role as a participant manager and Zoom event manager.
Next up: early work on the “Event in a Box” pilot program, when she paired with Casey Jorgensen, Red, to envision what physical signage – stand-up signs, retractable banners, and so on – could be standardized, assembled, and shipped to alliances that could benefit from such a kit.
That last program didn’t pan out as planned; the package wasn’t cheap, and the logistics of buying, assembling, packaging, and shipping the box required more Braver Angels resources than were available. (Subsequently, the signs and products were made available for Alliances or volunteers to purchase.) But Yvonne’s amicable collaboration with Casey took her on to her next Braver Angels role. “Casey had been asked to take over as National core coordinator of training of new organizers,” explains Yvonne. “I stepped in to help the fledgling organizers – those who’d been trained but are new to the job. Just this week, I was answering questions for a new person organizing her first workshop.”
The overall initiative is rigorous and disciplined — more and more critical as demand for events grows and it becomes tough to recruit and train organizers fast enough. “Casey, Mary Beth, and I are struggling with the volume of work. We’re training between 5 and 10 organizers a month – sometimes up to 12 – and constantly receiving e-mails asking for help from new organizers,” says Yvonne. (Help Wanted ad here: if you think this is a role you could move into – with the right training and support yourself – Yvonne and her co-trainers would be all ears.)
At the same time, it’s crucial to present Braver Angels in the best possible light – ensuring that everything is handled as professionally as it can be. That can be a challenge in a volunteer-run organization. In three separate instances, an organizer has accidentally submitted two ERFs for one event, creating two versions of an Eventbrite registration and two Zoom calls, which resulted in two sets of participants for the one event. It was necessary to delete one of the events but save the registrations and merge them with the other event, making sure participants then had the correct Zoom coordinates.
So how does Yvonne help run a family, a middle school, and do all that she does for Braver Angels? By her estimation, she devotes 15 to 20 hours each week to the organization. “The other night I was on three Zoom calls that took four and a half hours altogether.”
In practice, she has rolled off of some roles as other volunteers have stepped in. And practice has made perfect. “It used to take me maybe 15 hours to put together an alliance workshop, but now it’s just three hours or so. I know all the steps by heart,” she says.
So what does Yvonne see herself doing a year from now? She expects to be handling much the same behind-the-scenes jobs – “maybe better, more efficiently.” And if she had free rein to do what her heart desires? “I’d love to develop a project to bring Braver Angels into high schools,” she says.
Don’t be surprised if that’s where we see Yvonne Boyd next. And after that? Whatever it is, it will be of enormous benefit to Braver Angels.
Yvonne: we need a thousand of you! ⧠