Who’s Who: Barry Braun, Happy Community Member!
By Mike Butler
The Valley is filled with exceptional community members. I have the honour of writing about them in this column, including a gentleman I had never met before, but now that I have I’m very excited to share his adventures with you.
Barry Braun is the founder of the Happy Community Project. He has a vision to change the world one community at a time and who wouldn’t want to help with that vision?
Barry didn’t always have this vision. In fact, for a significant portion of his existence, he was living a life that in many ways contradicts who he is and what he stands for today. He came from humble beginnings and upon high school graduation, decided to join the military to fund his education. Although Barry’s real interest lay in business, in those days, business degrees were hard to come by. So instead he completed an engineering degree while he was in the military. The closest thing he got to business school was some required leadership training.
Barry knew that his future wasn’t in the military but he knew he liked working with people and was a natural salesperson, and so after completing his degree, he got into the real-estate business. However, despite being great at his job and obtaining financial success, Barry didn’t feel complete. We’ve all been there when a sense of emptiness floods us. So Barry made some changes.
“I had my own mid-life crisis where I questioned what my purpose and meaning was in life.” Barry told me. “I explored these questions from many different directions and became an expert in human behaviour. In the end, I decided my purpose was to be a better human by spiritually enabling people to connect to other humans.”
Eventually he did get a business degree, and he also got a certification in neuro-linguistic programming. You could say that he was a professional influencer. This lead him into the coaching business, and for the next thirty years he coached successful and capable business people, showing them how to use their businesses to make more money while serving their souls. More recently, after 30 years of coaching business people, Barry felt the need to do more. Once his grandchildren were born, his fear for their futures sparked him to leave his coaching business and start an organization called “Women Reshaping Our World.”
He held a number of conferences and workshops aimed to inspire and equip women to make meaningful changes in the world. Although this new phase in his life brought Barry a lot of personal satisfaction, it also came with a lot of heartbreak and struggle and modest practical results.
Women Reshaping Our World taught Barry some key principles that would be the foundation for what would come next. He says, “I learned that people want to do things to better our world but, they are only willing to make small changes, they often want to be told what to do, they need background support, there needs to be minimal risk involved, and they do not want it to interfere with their personal lives.”
Barry took these findings and came up with the concept for the Happy Community Project, whose goal is to increase social connectedness and belonging across the diversity of a community: “Communities that play together, work together, and talk together develop a greater empathy and support system for each other and are better equipped to deal with any disruptions that may come to their community,” Barry says.
The way Barry Braun and the Happy Community Project do this is through supporting community members in initiating and launching projects where people do things together. In Windsor, Nova Scotia, for example, since October 2017 the community has launched a farmers’ market that attracts hundreds of people every Sunday, relaunched the Ellershouse Breakfast, which attracts 250 people on the last Saturday of the month, started a 2-acre community garden that supplies the local food bank, along with eight community garden boxes, and in the spring they held an old-fashioned community picnic, to name a few projects! All of this teamwork has refueled Barry and the community and he feels it’s back to way it used to be when communities worked together.
These results have brought lots of recognition to the Happy Community Project from institutions like Yale, Dalhousie, St Mary’s, Acadia, Mount Allison, the Nova Scotia Legislature and the Happiness Research Institute. These institutions recognize that the results that the Happy Community Project has produced are exceptional and surprising. As Barry puts it: “common sense instead of expert sense is what makes communities thrive. All you have to do is give them the opportunity.”
On October 4, The Happy Community Project is starting a series of town hall meetings, both to celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of the Hants west community and to ask: how does extraordinary become ordinary? According to Barry, “it is every citizen’s responsibility to contribute to the wellbeing of their community, and these meetings will help get all the right steps in place for the future.”
Barry started the Happy Community Project as a legacy for his grandchildren. He was asking, “where are my grandchildren going to find a happy place twenty years from now?” Given that his three grandchildren are spread across Canada, Barry’s ambitions are to make it so that every community can be a Happy Community. His latest efforts have been to expand the Happy Community Project, and he is now in conversations with several other communities to explore how they too can be Happy Communities.
If you have any questions or wish to get involved, contact Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the Facebook page or the website at happycommunityproject.com, and enjoy making your community better and happier!