A great example of WhyNott?

Jan 12, 2012 by

This is one of the most unusual columns I’ve written in a long time. Before reading further, please strongly consider looking at 3 websites:

The three places are the same: the church, conference/event center and golf course share space. And what a location! They are located in a magnificent tropical rain forest in the 2,000-foot Koolau Ridge mountain range. This is on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, where I spoke last week.

In many years of going to meetings, attending religious services and playing golf, I’ve never seen the three brought together. Of course, you could joke about combining golf and church…go out for an early 9 holes, attend church, and then finish your round. You’d be, as someone who works there told me, “Great with God and golf!” (I don’t mean to offend anyone with this…it is an incredible place to celebrate the wonders of creation).

So why write about this unlikely combination? It’s a wonderful example of creativity.

It’s also a great example of what’s encouraged in a new book by a friend, Ray Harris. The book is called “Welcome to Wynott”. Harris is 83, and has been a successful real estate developer. But even more important, he is a practitioner of the “Why not?” principle. He has helped create luxury housing in low-income areas, helped create an innovative new public school based on powerful learning principles, and many other things.

His projects start with moving beyond grumbling, “Why does it have to be this way?”

As he writes, “At some point you, we need to stop saying ‘Why?’ and start saying, ‘Why not?’” He gives examples of how he and others have been able to help produce change and often improvements. It might be, using the “Godfather” principle, that you make people an offer that’s very hard to refuse. It may be that you “lure them into a big profit making opportunity.”

He also writes about things I’ve never heard about, like “community currency.” He says that in many communities, people have written brief statements about how they can help each other, and passed them around. People find allies for new projects…often people they had not known. And things get done.

He has a chapter on making much better use of school buildings. Why not use the buildings form early morning to late at night? Why not offer green space to gardeners? Why not partner with local dance, theater and other groups to offer low cost space, or exchange space for workshops that local artists lead with students?

Harris emphasizes the importance of sharing “good news.” There’s always bad news. But if people hear some “good news,” they question whether progress is possible.

“Welcome to Wynott” is $9.95. It’s full of cartoons, and great advice. When I saw the remarkable Hawaiian combination of church, conference center and golf course, I thought: these are people practicing the “Whynott” way of doing things!

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, directs the Center for School Change at Macalester. Reactions welcome, jnathan@macalester.edu

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