If Mister Rogers knew Taz Romine-Mann, he’d probably consider him a kindred spirit.
Taz’s job was to move a major solar company’s operations to the Sun Valley neighborhood in Denver. Sun Valley is a primarily residential, inner-city neighborhood. It’s culturally diverse, home of Blacks, Hispanics, Ethiopians, Middle Easterners, and more, and it’s close knit. It’s also the poorest neighborhood in Denver.
According to Taz, his company (employee-owned Namaste Solar) is predominantly white.
And its footprint would be big – a warehouse full of solar panels, and all kinds of structural supports, people and trucks coming and going.
“When the building was being renovated, we had two tagging incidents, very common on constructions sites,” Taz said.
Not a good start. Namaste folks felt uncomfortable, fearful. They talked about it and offered various, and typical, solutions, bigger fences, better lighting, more security.
Taz saw a different way. Maybe his being bi-racial played into it, or maybe he’s just enlightened. Namaste Solar is, after all a B-Corp, and with a name like Namaste, it better be special. Taz is also a supporter of Conscious Capitalism – which seeks to humanize business.
He wanted to turn fear into friendship. Not only did he want to cut down on tagging and graffiti, he wanted “to show gratitude and thank people for living beside us and being our neighbors.”
Like Mister Rogers, Taz’s priority was being a good neighbor.
Did the dozen people on the Namaste facilities task force buy into that? Not at first.
It took what Taz calls “fragile conversations.”
“We started to do a lot of diversity work, to understand others, and Namaste did a good job of pivoting, of turning away from potential fear,” Taz said.
About this time, Taz reached out to another company relocating to Sun Valley, Meow Wolf. (Meow Wolf creates “immersive art experiences that transport audiences to fantastic realms.”) They, too, wanted to be part of the neighborhood, not dominate it.
Taz’s main contact was Zoe Williams, director of community engagement for Meow Wolf. She had been a community organizer. Zoe and Taz put their heads together. They decided to engage with the community in a positive way.
They came up with the idea of having the community paint a mural on one of Namaste’s warehouse walls. Then the next – and Taz might say equally important — part of the plan was to have a community celebration. They invited the people who lived in Sun Valley to celebrate the mural, and to tour the inside of the warehouse, to eat free locally catered food, to play games in the parking lot. Namaste hired local restaurants and caterers to provide food for the whole community. The party took place in late June 2019.
Marketing people thought this was a great opportunity to tout Namaste’s good works. It’s what most companies do. But Taz had an opinion about that, too.
It was, “Let’s not use the local community to make ourselves look good. Let’s just be good in the neighborhood.” (Mister Rogers would be proud).
In business, usually nothing much is done that doesn’t make money – or have solid publicity potential.
So what was the value of this exercise? A recent ride-by shows no graffiti.
And can you put a price on Mr. Roger’s cuddly sweater? Or social capital? Now, as protesters’ voices and demands for change rise to a roar, more than ever, goodwill has value.
Story by Bojinka Bishop, July 2020
- It’s all about art… and community “Art is something people can disagree about in a way that brings them together,” Pat Miller said. She should know. Miller has been working in community arts for 30 years and has brought lots of people and organizations together as community volunteer....
- Odd job or dream job? Counting trees How many trees are in your favorite park? On your street? What kind are they? Are they healthy? Don’t know? If you live in one of 33 North American cities, probably “Evelyn” does. She travels the country – from inner city parks to luxury neighborhoods – analyzing and cataloging trees....
- A woman in power When Tracey Stubbs was in college in California, she took a job as a warehouse clerk. It was a nice desk job for a college girl; but she looked around and saw what she thought would be a more interesting job – being a forklift operator. And she said, “Hey,...
- Family treasures – Solve a mystery in a museum Remember that quirky cup you drank cocoa from in your childhood? You just might find one like it in a museum. Those doorstops, chairs, vases, teapots, lamps, and bowls sitting casually in your parents’ or grandparents’ homes, those mundane everyday objects, just might be valuable. Do-it-yourself “Antiques Roadshow” One way...
FlyingHighSolo.comCelebrating special people, good ideas, and useful actions
Keep on top of what's new – subscribe to Flying High Solo! You'll get a brief email alerting you to new articles. (Your email is safe -- we will not share it with anyone).
What readers are saying
"amazing variety of topics"
"an intelligent, strong, creative, eclectic approach .... that we don't get a chance to read everyday"
"very cool and intelligent"
Bella DePaulo's blog for Psychology Today, "the truth about singlism..." News, analysis, facts, and stories about being single in America