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How Manchester answers the “Why?” question

by Anthea Ayebaze | Sep 28, 2016

Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on the importance of starting with “Why?” has been viewed 23,623,134 times and counting.

Sinek says many organizations focus on what and how, “but very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by ‘why’ I don't mean ‘to make a profit.’ That's a result. It's always a result. By ‘why,’ I mean: What's your purpose? What's your cause? What's your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?

A year ago, at our undergraduate faculty workshop, John Planer and I started a conversation about our mission and values. Our initial exchange was heated and took place before an audience of 70-plus colleagues, but continued on the way out of the meeting and then by email.

John and I continue to disagree about the whats and hows of Manchester, but we agree completely on answering Sinek’s “why?” question. In one email, John said this:

 “…  Our nation and world need inspiration and hope —

  • A path leading toward a better future
  • A way to find meaning in our lives
  • A vision of people working together and caring for one another.”

In that same message, John quoted from an email he’d received from a student, Katie Clauser ’17. Katie wrote, “I just want to play a part in creating a world that isn't as awful as it seems right now.” 

Manchester’s “why” is to bring hope and prepare our students to deliver that hope. As John put it, “Instead of ignoring the unhappy world we live in, proclaim what we can do to improve it.”

 We communicate our fundamental commitment to improving the human condition when we tell prospective students that there is hope for a better world and that we will prepare them to be part of the solution; when we recruit new faculty by letting them know that teaching at Manchester changes lives and, through our graduates, changes the world; and by letting donors know that contributions are multiplied many times over through the work of our faculty, staff, students and graduates.

We are growing because the world needs more Manchester graduates, graduates who are eager to “play a part in creating a world that isn’t as awful as it seems right now.”