Melvin isn’t just about individual pursuit for improvement. It’s all of us working together to create a community — a community that is an alternative to our current institutional-based debacle. Working individually to create our own Perfect Worlds and coming together in force will be the way we all grow and rise together, not through scrounging for crumbs thrown at us from those in the ivory towers looming above us. We call this civic alternative Melvin’s Neighborhood.
Biologists say trees are social beings. They can count learn and remember. They nurse sick members, warn each other of dangers by sending electrical signals across a fungal network and for reasons unknown, keep the ancient stumps of long felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through roots. (Marije van Zomeren)
To find an perfect example of what van Zomeren explained above, all many of us have to do is look out our kitchen window at those obnoxious tree sprouts littering your perfect lawn. But what if those vegetative intruders are exactly the societal model we’re looking for. One of nature’s most effective means of sustainability and resourcefulness is exactly that, the rhizome. The rhizome is a modified subterranean stem of a plant that is usually found underground, often sending out roots and shoots from its nodes. Rhizomes develop from axillary buds and grow perpendicular to the force of gravity. Most importantly, the rhizome has the ability to allow new shoots to grow upwards breaking through to flourish above ground. Rhizomes are opportunity based. They identify the situation that best accommodates success; easy access to nutrients, water and potential sunlight … and there they are.
Imagine if our communities and neighborhoods functioned just like a rhizome. Why do we rely on a select few we put in charge of our beleaguered institutions, many of which are no position to perform as intended? Instead why can’t we replicate the rhizome and tap into our community’s talent, often hidden away in jobs and life situations that prohibit them from making the contribution they’re capable of? Everyone has their strengths that only require the right situation to bloom. If our neighborhoods provided a nurturing environment and a conduit for discovery for these potential situational leaders, our communities would not only become more inclusive; we’d address the real problems we face everyday, not the ones determined by those out of touch
A few days before Christmas 2016, a phone call took place that no one could have predicted. One of the world’s most esteemed HIV doctors, Professor Sheena McCormack – whose life’s work as an epidemiologist has been to track and fight the virus – picked up the phone to deliver a message that would make headline news: In the space of 12 months, the number of gay men in London being diagnosed with HIV had dropped by 40%. Across England it was down by a third. No British doctor has been able to report a fall this steep in more than 35 years of the virus. It is the kind of figure that in medical circles is so large as to look jarring, even false; and yet it was true.
Behind this story lay a series of secret meetings and a network of people with one man at the centre who, unknown to the public, helped change medical history. His name is Greg Owen. He was the man McCormack phoned.
“She said, ‘Don’t look at the percentage; I want you to look at this another way. There are thousands of people who didn’t become HIV-positive this year because of you.’”
The man McCormack credited with this unprecedented reduction in HIV transmissions was not a fellow doctor, nor the head of a charity, nor even a politician. Owen is unemployed, a former sex worker, and homeless.
Greg Owen never thought of himself as a leader; and I’m sure today he still doesn’t. But he a man who who saw an opportunity to help others in his community and took advantage it, for no other reason than he thought he could. His story is inspirational, aspirational and just plain unfathomable. It shows what a regular person, like you and I, can do if they choose to do it. Please, please read his story here.
The concepts of rhizome resourcefulness and situational leadership are the cornerstones of Melvin’s Neighborhood. Everyone deserves a chance to contribute in their own way and add their piece of fabric to the neighborhood tapestry. Through the bleedingEDGE platform, Melvin’s brain, the Neighborhood uncovers leaders and matches them with the needs and opportunities of the community by providing the conduit to the Front Porch network and its roster of volunteer cause projects.
From this new effort of inclusion our attitudes will change. Diversity and all the varied experiences and exposures it brings will seep into the very foundation of our neighborhoods. We have an opportunity to literally define the attitudes and societal expectations of our communities. They can take a conservative form or a progressive one; NIMBYism and gated communities, or collaborative and communal; closed and silos, or tolerant and welcoming; Wall Street or Main Street. How and who we nurture as our situational leaders will determine our community’s priorities and the direction our decision making takes. This is why we always need to be looking ahead building our Perfect World, not in the rear view mirror at a past filled of division and exclusion. The road through this is Melvin, his bleedingEDGE platform, and the nudges and projects the Front Porches of Melvin’s Neighborhood put out to their Residents.
The Melvin’s Neighborhood is a subset of the entire community. It can be well organized, motivated and driven — but still it’s only a part. That said, this part can exert influence over the entire community. As it sees how Melvin’s Neighborhood nurtures and and builds its Residents and the collective flourishes … more and more will join.
Even though we should not ignore the impact of the collective in Melvin’s Neighborhood, it’s how we build our personal self-efficacy that underpins the Neighborhood. It’s each individual and the contributions they make that create the fabric of the community and builds collective strength. But it’s not just contributions we need. We need to acknowledge these contributions – even when they’re small; like helping a disabled person across a busy street. When a stranger lets someone know they appreciate a good deed they performed for someone in need, they will be much more likely to do it again. It reinforces positive behavior. We at Melvin’s Neighborhood get this. In fact it’s a core tenet. That why we created “Leaving everyone better” Appreciation Cards. When you see someone lending a helping hand, especially to stranger, now you’ll be able to acknowledge it by handing them an Appreciation Card. For a deep dive on Melvin’s “Leaving everyone better” Appreciation Cards, please click here.
At its foundation, Melvin’s Neighborhood exists to create an environment of well-being and empowerment that benefits all Residents (inhabitants of the Neighborhood). It will be through Melvin’s the bleedingEDGE Experience platform at its core and its Front Porches generating healthy nudges that the Neighborhood develops around around these ideals.
For a deep dive into the philosophical source code developed by Deleuze and Guattari that influenced the creation of Melvin’s Neighborhood just follow this link.