Project Backlash: YAY!

by | Jul 29, 2013 | Archive

Imagine driving down a busy street in a bad mood and seeing a lighthearted happy flash mob holding signs that say, “It’s going to be okay.”  The Happiness Sprinkling Project, one of our most recent grantees, has taken place pop-up style in 20 cities all over the US.  What’s not to like, right?

Well, this editor at the online blog, Portland Mercury, found something not to like and we wanted to take an opportunity to share it.  (It is the first piece of negative media we’ve seen about a grantee so we wanted to celebrate!)  Read his critique:  “This would be such a great “worst.night.ever”

When our grant making team originally considered the application from the Happiness Sprinkling Project, we had a lively discussion about the impact of these sprinklings.  Does a bunch of people dressed alike holding signs really make a difference?  Ultimately, we decided, that despite the fact that it is nearly impossible to measure, groups of people coming together to spread happiness and joy, alters both the participants and those who bear witness to the happiness sprinkling.  So we proudly funded it.  We had no idea that it would stir up such reactions (positive AND negative) from the people who see it.

Laura Lavigne, the founder of the Happiness Sprinkling Project, is one of those people who, every day, is saying yes to something bigger than herself.  She said in this recent interview with the Service Space community, “Something comes through me, and I can’t not do it. It’s like, if you have an itch, you’re going to scratch it. When it’s coming through me, I just have to do it.”

Laura recently shared some stories from sprinklings:  A passerby spontaneously asked to hold a sign during a Seattle rush hour happiness sprinkling.  She held the “It’s going to be all right,” sign right in front of her and a few minutes later, she had tears running down her face. A man on his way to the gym who asked to hold a sign just long enough for the light to change.  He stayed for an hour, saying, “There’s no way I’m going anywhere else. This is the best thing that’s happened to me.”

For us, Laura is an example of a great grantee:  Someone who knows that her project may be seen as goofy, or trivial, or even the target of someones rage- yet she does it anyway because it is not about her or what people think.  She is so compelled to take action, that she just keeps going no matter what.  Of course, Laura read the negative review of the project, and said with delight, “I’m tickled!”  (And the cute photo of peeps below was created by the very funny Portland Happiness Sprinkling Team!)

The Happiness Sprinkling Project is about changing the negative, disempowering and defeatist conversation that we’re collectively living in; thinking we can’t and don’t make a difference. Congratulations to Laura and the whole Happiness Sprinkling team.  You have touched on something powerful.  Keep on changing the world!

Written by Carolyn Ashworth