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Ok, I’ll admit it: I was never a huge fan of the ABC reality show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I would catch it from time to time, but my Sunday evenings used to revolve around Desperate Housewives and the Kardashians.

That all changed a couple of months ago when I got a chance to get a firsthand look at the making of the show. How? Extreme Makeover: Home Edition came to Fayetteville, and I was lucky enough to head up the media team on behalf of our client, the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. I got to see for myself what goes on behind-the-scenes to produce a 60-minute show that airs on primetime television. We’re talking about months and months of advance planning, lots of which has to take place under a veil of secrecy before the show even announces it’s coming to town. Then, once the official announcement is made, there’s lots more work to be done before the recipient family is announced: volunteer coordination, special event planning, sponsor and donor coordination, marketing and promotions, fundraising, and media outreach of course. If you think things calm down once the family is announced, you’re wrong: that’s when things really get cranked up to full speed. The week of the build is a whirlwind of 24-hour-a-day activity on every front you can imagine. And don’t forget temperatures in Fayetteville hovered around 100 degrees during that entire week!

You would think a grueling schedule and tough conditions like this would all get to be a bit much for the cast and crew of the show. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Everyone on the Extreme team had a permanent smile on their face. They almost always had a minute to speak to an adoring fan or a member of the media. And when they talked about Barbara Marshall and the Jubilee House, the recipients of the new house, it was obvious that they do what they do because they love it. Their passion and dedication drives them to work faster, longer and harder than most people probably dream of doing. It drives them to not mind that they haven’t showered in days and to not remember that they haven’t had on a clean set of clothes in days. It drives them to view what they do on a daily basis as far more than just a job.

The Extreme team truly is changing lives and communities one home at a time. I’m honored that I had the chance to play a small part in that for a brief time this summer.

So now, come Sunday night, you better believe I’ll be curled up on my couch watching my new favorite reality show.

by Leah Knepper Brand Futurist Rubberneck Propaganda Specialist

Photo Credit: Charles Howard via Extreme Makeover: Home Edition


We believe the ten change agents below show great promise for bringing about a variety of improvements to mankind. To put our money where our mouth is, The Republik is going to make a $50,000 donation to the agent of change that gets the most votes. You can only vote once, so make it count. Below the poll are links to websites of the ten contenders. Final votes will be tallied on November 4 and we’ll announce the winner right here shortly thereafter. Thanks for participating in our little effort to support those who want to change the world for the better.



About the change agents:

The Pickens Plan
Spearheded by T. Boone Pickens, founder and chairman, BP Capital Management, the Pickens Plan calls for building new wind generation facilities that will produce 20% of our nation’s electricity and allow us to use natural gas as a transportation fuel. The combination of these domestic energies can replace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports in less than 10 years.

Aravind Eye Care Hospital
At age 65, instead of retiring, Dr. G. Venkataswamy mortgaged his home and opened Aravind Eye Care to perform free or low-cost cataract surgery on poor Indians. In his first year, Dr. V. performed over 5,000 surgeries.

Today, Aravind is the largest and most productive eye care facility in the world. From April 2007 to March 2008, about 2.4 million persons hav received outpatient eye care and over 285,000 have undergone eye surgeries there.

Grameen Bank
Founded by 2006 Nobel Peace winner, Professor Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank (GB) has reversed conventional banking practice by removing the need for collateral and created a banking system based on mutual trust, accountability, participation and creativity. It’s goal is to eradicate poverty from the world.

Largely due to Grameen’s work, Bangledesh is the only country in the world on course to reach the millennium development goals of reducing poverty by one half by 2015.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology)
Founded by the inventor of the Segway, Dean Kamen, FIRST was created “To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes.”

Its mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills.

FIRST students are:
– More than 3 times as likely to major specifically in engineering.
– Nearly 4 times as likely to expect to pursue a career specifically in engineering.

Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC), University of California, San Francisco
SynBERC’s vision is to catalyze biology as an engineering discipline to allow researchers to design and build standardized, integrated biological systems to accomplish many particular tasks. Just as technicians can now assemble off-the-shelf electronic components to build computers, SynBERC foresees a day when engineers will assemble biological components into host organisms to achieve specific functions.

SynBERC is currently working on:

a.) Construction of a custom-built E. coli bacteria that will hunt down cancer cells and destroy them
b.) Development of a bacterium for customized chemical synthesis to create a super-strong silk
c.) Development of a bacterium to produce cheap biofuels from corn and other plants

A Swarm of Angels
A Swarm of Angels (ASOA) is an open source film project, whose aim is to make the world’s first Internet-funded, crewed and distributed feature film. The Film will be written, funded and distributed over the Internet. The plan is to gather a group of 50,000 people who each contribute £25 ($47.50) to join the project.

The film will be released under a Creative Commons license, and people are free to share, remix, and, distribute the film anyway they like.

Population Services International (PSI)
PSI is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. that harnesses the vitality of the private sector to address the health problems of low-income populations in more than 60 developing countries. With programs in malaria, reproductive health, child survival and HIV, PSI promotes products, services and healthy behavior. Products and services are sold at subsidized prices rather than given away in order to motivate commercial sector involvement. In 2007, PSI estimates that its programs directly prevented more than 156,000 HIV infections, 2.6 million unintended pregnancies, more than 149,000 deaths from malaria and diarrhea and 19 million malaria episodes.

Atlas Economic Research Foundation
Atlas is committed to discover, develop and support ‘intellectual entrepreneurs’ worldwide who can advance the vision of a society of free and responsible individuals. Atlas believes a free society can be achieved through respect for private property rights, limited government under the rule of law, and the market order.

Atlas discovers, develops and supports intellectual entrepreneurs by leveraging its position at the center of a worldwide movement to bring attention to all sorts of experiments at the task of furthering the free society.

Doctors Without Borders
Doctors Without Borders, USA (DWB-USA) was founded in 1990 in New York City to raise funds, create awareness, recruit field staff, and advocate with the United Nations and US government on humanitarian concerns. It assists victims of disasters and conflicts worldwide by supporting relief projects conducted primarily by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) affiliates. MSF is an international independent medical humanitarian organization that provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, negligence, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. In 2007, MSF-USA raised $152.1 million and sent 200 aid workers to work overseas.

Accion International
ACCION International is a private organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need – microenterprise loans, business training and other financial services – to work their way out of poverty. A world pioneer in microfinance, ACCION was founded in 1961 and issued its first microloan in 1973 in Brazil. ACCION International’s partner microfinance institutions today are providing loans as low as $100 to poor men and women entrepreneurs in 25 countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the United States. In the last decade alone, ACCION partners have disbursed more than 22.4 million microloans totaling more than $17.4 billion; 97 percent of the loans have been repaid.

by Robert Shaw West Brand Futurist The Republik Companies Chairman/CEO