It is with great pleasure, confidence, and perhaps authority that I write this letter endorsing Cheryl Edison.
My authority is based on my tthirty-five years of study and research on how people use space and objects to construct their social identity, address social problems, and create and maintain productive societies across time and around the world. My area of published expertise is on the psychological processes behind how people give meaning to spaces through their activities and how this then reflexively gives the spaces, objects, and people in those spaces power.
In the following text, I will describe my professional experience and accomplishments in the scientific and academic world of theory and hypothesis and link this to Edison’s practical accomplishments in our modern world.
My training began with a property-centric project to help Kenyan communities establish large scale museums. This project was designed to provide Kenyan people of all origins, tribal and otherwise, a way to understand and respect one another’s abilities to use their environments in a productive and nondestructive way. The subject population included hunters, gatherers, agriculturalists, and urban dwellers. The goal was to build a safe space where cross-cultural conversations could be had and where historical and current conflicts could be set aside in favor of creating a sense of national Kenyan identity without sacrificing pride in their diverse and distinct cultural histories.
Cheryl Edison’s creations, the makerspaces, locations are exactly the type of place making needed to bring together diverse populations to face the future. Edison has brought together developers, city officials, makers, artists, and tech companies to focus on achieving a common good. By developing beautiful, large scale places that engage visceral and intellectual recognition by combining diverse artifacts that visually adjoin cultures, constituents see and imagine themselves collaborating closely. In this way, a new norm of coexistence of people and ideas is established.
People in makerspaces are akin to those tribes with differing perspectives. In Edison’s phraseology, linking creativity, community, and commerce, she offers a path for people who do not share a worldview to collaborate. To overcome obstacles through collaboration, Edison uses trigger phrases that invite people to reinforce these principles of unity. This is the same methodology employed by chants and prayers performed in places of worship throughout history. ‘Make it here’ is one of Edison’s phrases that causes individuals to believe their presence in the maker-space will lead them to achieve their goals. This mix of visual and self-affirming triggers is advanced socio-economic psychology in action. Theory made real.
Furthermore, my studies and published works have been on the origin of the grand Swahili trader houses and the major role they played in establishing trust in the East Africa Indian-Ocean trade. Edison’s work is substantiating these theories as well. My conclusions are supported by data collected during my ethnographic surveys along the coasts of Africa, India, and the Middle East. These results are illustrated in my dissertation for King’s College and the University of Cambridge, and furthered in several later scientific publications which explore the role of trader houses on the Kenyan coast. I personally excavated these with an international team of thirty; composed of Kenyans, Americans, the British and Scandinavians. This took place over the course of ten years and definitively proved that such large-scale structures became a central basis for establishing a new and credible economic order. Yet again, Edison’s maker-spaces prove these theories in that her ventures cross into the foundation of a new economic order for each community. These incubators and accelerators have been well documented as quick to produce financial stability for individuals, companies, and the surrounding communities.
Power and how power is defined is another area of my expertise, and it is this interest that led me to a further six years of post-doc academic and clinical training at the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute. I gained a working knowledge of the interior workings of individuals and communities engaging in these psychological processes. My focus as an analyst in private practice is to work closely with clients who consider their work and living spaces are affecting their productivity or causing conflicts in their life.
Edison’s work extends the conclusions of my study at the archeological site in Catalhoyuk, Turkey, where excavations revealed one of the earliest built spaces on the planet. It was constructed in the Neolithic context approximately 9,000 years ago. As a member of the Archaeology Research Faculty at UC Berkeley, my field work has been published, providing theories and practical analysis related to the psychological outcomes resulted from the daily use of these spaces. The presence of artifacts offers explanations that link large scale mural stories with larger than life size scaled characters and handmade art, small enough to hold in hands, together. These are strategically combined within the environment to provide a context to confront and overcome fear-based emotions.
These emotions, central to the cycles of birth, life, and death, are likewise experienced by entrepreneurs, and can be seen dealt with in a similar, practical manner in Edison’s maker-spaces. She provides a modern day version of the large scale murals, larger than life sized characters, and handmade art small enough to hold in one’s arms. The patterns of these 9,000-year-old environments are proven to develop coping skills and facilitate positive outcomes by offering a path to a broader perspective of our place in the world. It encourages the growth of self-confidence, provides a how-to knowledge, practical skills, and provides for the essential human need of a sense of belonging.
Edison’s intuitive understands and rationally tests and employs the concepts that I have explored throughout my career as a licensed, practicing, and published ethno-archaeologist and psychoanalyst. She interprets these concepts for practical success in the day-to-day rituals and business of our modern world. Edison does this 100% accurately without the benefit of the twelve years I spent at five universities, ten years in working in the field, and twenty years in private practice. I have watched and greatly admired Edison as she has managed and led with charm and brilliance. She has an attention to detail with enormous projects that span years with casts of thousands. She gives individuals attention and coaching, she works often with conflicting points of view and brings them to a common focus, she facilitates collaboration, and provides unity through establishing local, regional, and international relations, all centered in a big, beautiful space where people come together and think big.
My research supports that big buildings reinforce the feedback loops that cause people to believe they can think big and believe they can make big things happen. Edison works big, but she also knows that people need to have a range of space types to come together for varying group engagement. Her development and use of furnishings and rooms take into consideration patterns of engagement and pedestrian and vehicle traffic flow. Her choices reflect an understanding of the deep psychological needs to separate and come together over and over again in order for a community to move forward. She is on the cutting edge of the conceptual use of space. Thoughtfully constructed and appointed spaces bring us together with the engagement of all our senses, save us from isolation, and increase cooperative productivity. Edison has a big vision and all the ability and personality to lead this evolution around the world.
A clear demonstration of Edison’s methodologies is the Westgate Mall project. A twenty-four-acre property was in foreclosure and had nearly ceased to be a place where the community traded. Despite installation of a digital superhighway to give proximity to the physical crossroads of an international airport and roadways, the property showed no signs of life. I witnessed as Edison’s vision and hands-on execution of her plan caused a full-scale transformation and reinvention of the property into the prestigious community of innovative entrepreneurs and retailers it is today.
During this process, Edison began by working alone with her vision for the 1930’s car factory, without benefit of endorsement or funding from property owners or assistance from property management. In the first four months, the only concession achieved was authority to rename the property ‘TheGate510’. At that turning point, her leadership was recognized and she began curating newcomers to establish a new property culture and purpose for the place.
I found this process fascinating as it followed the pattern established over thousands of years of historical developments along the salt trade routes I had studied. Her achievements were noted by the press and witnessed on site. As she developed the trading center and trading routes, the property began to fill. A press release recorded the first endorsement by SKB ownership and Cushman-Wakefield management, and it stands as a turning point in the belief systems of the community. The power of Edison’s change-making continued to gain visibility through the news media.
Soon after, the credibility and trading power of this modern-day market hub was noted by the press when new funding, referred to as capital partners, was secured. However, despite the change in property ownership and potential for greater development, I personally witnessed an upheaval in leadership on site. A demand was made that Edison change operating procedures to take on more risk. She did so by launching a separate company, TheFactory510. It was to co-work on hosting the same activities which had been initially provided as change agents. This co-working company played a central role in the next phase of development. It mirrored a typical iterative phase employed by Kenyan traders who increased their credibility and power by opening their once tightly barricaded doors to welcome community leaders and community events.
News in the press illustrates how Silicon Valley watched closely as Edison persevered. In the subsequent months lobbying, gathering agreement, and curating individuals, the company was internationally recognized and Edison delivered on the promises of her initial vision.
Edison is repurposing huge, often antiquated, industrial spaces, office complexes, and derelict malls to inspire people to come together as market squares did for communities for centuries. Her newly repurposed spaces, built from her creative concepts, are a sheltered area where people can talk and laugh together while they exchange not just trade goods, but ideas and abilities. This reinvents the role that cathedrals performed in establishing and disseminating religious ideas. Big spaces allow larger groups of people with diverse technological abilities to link with art, production, and manufacturing experts. Beyond this, their large scale, the individual buildings, and the detail of the art and furnishings are finely attuned to the activities and events that take place there. These elements empower those involved with the projects that are birthed there.
I continue to admire Edison’s evolutionary ideas about how to facilitate productive communities through place making. The presence of Fortune 500 and 100 companies, curated with emerging technology start-ups, makers, and artists that flock to the spaces she leads, provide further proof of these theories in action. As supported by my academic field and clinical background, I can state that Edison’s methodologies are successful. She is at the forefront of the 9,000-year-old trajectory of the way that people continue to use spaces to evolve our society and connect with one another.
Having studied the symbolic use of place and objects through the academic lenses of history, archeology, anthropology, and psychology, I find myself self to be uniquely qualified to fully endorse Edison’s accuracy in practical application of these far-reaching theories of evolution. Edison’s spaces are intensely powerful and efficiently constructed for immediate shared experiences that lead to bonding and belonging. Her work breaks down social barriers and empowers the individual. Edison is intuitive, and therefore highly effective.
It is my goal to continue scientific analysis of Edison’s design and curation to better record how she refines and condenses the powerful experience of the space, while maintaining the all-important sense of subtlety and nuance that makes her spaces truly experiential and inspiring to a wide range of people. Simply put, people arrive in the spaces Edison creates and the universal reaction is notable: that of delight, and that they want to stay. Triggering such feelings is a hallmark of the successful creation and use of spaces.
I fully endorse Edison’s intuitive implementation of the principles I have studied. Her ingenuity is revealed in the successful incubation of innovations across numerous industries within each location, increased value for the property owners and economic development for the cities where Edison provides placemaking. Edison’s leadership skills demonstrate that she is uniquely suited to put these placemaking and economic power theories into practice around the world.
Please contact me if you are interested in hearing more about my 10 year plus knowledge and impressions of this very remarkable person. My number is 415 828-9800 and e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best, Linda Donley-Reid, Ph.D.
To Whom It May Concern:
As CEO of Firefly Mobile, a cell phone and MVNO service for kids, I had the opportunity to work with Cheryl Edison for 2+ years. Cheryl led the efforts to develop markets in Europe and Latin America.
When the objective is identifying the most effective path to market, Cheryl excels at channel development. In my 30+ years of experience, Cheryl Edison is one of the most skilled professionals at articulating market trends well before they become mainstream and then pragmatically and expediently delivering those solutions to both international and domestic markets.
Cheryl Edison is her own best reference.
Private Investor and Professional Board Member
I highly endorse working with Cheryl Edison and was astounded by her ability to bring together the community in our Bay Area workspace. Before her arrival, our building was merely a group of separate, non-interactive work spaces. She quickly learned about each unique business and the creative forces that drove each company. With her extensive network and marketing skills, she found creative ways as a liaison to link people together and inspire them in new directions. She coordinated countless events that allowed a seamless cross-pollination of ideas and projects that continue to grow. Overall, the energy and passion that she brings to any project is unparalleled and I support any project that she embraces.
I am thrilled to have the opportunity to tell the world how amazing you are. Please quote any part of this letter that serves you.
Since the first day we spoke, over six years ago, you have made my entrepreneurial goals a reality in a way I hadn’t dreamed possible.
When we first met I had already launched my first company: Bare Mixers. I was stuck and unable to figure out how to scale the operations. I felt crushed by a loan I had taken out and couldn't pay off. Each month I found myself scraping by with just enough funds to produce the product necessary to serve my growing clientele. Everywhere I went people loved Bare Mixers and I was named top female to watch in San Diego by forbes.com, but my profits weren’t growing fast enough. The only number truly growing was the number of hours I worked per week. I didn't want to give up, but I didn't know how to grow my business.
Then a friend referred me to you.
I called and you listened. You heard my fears and you made clear my options. For the first time, I saw I had choices. I felt empowered to take action. At every turn you were there lighting the way with clear focus and insight. With your advice I grew the Bare Mixers brand. When the time came to sell you were right alongside me. You negotiated and closed the deal with a nice salary for me and a budget to continue growing.
Since then, I've seen you work your magic for dozens of companies. When I learned you were launching TheGate510, I flew in for the event. I was so impressed with the thousands that came for the party and the impression you left on the media. It has been amazing to follow the story of so many growing companies as you transform the place from a vacant retail mail to a vibrant maker community.
In being coached by you, nothing helped me more than your blend of intuition, facts, and logic. You always knew justhow to help with your three points of advice. I used to laugh that there always seemed to be three points for your answers, but as negotiations unfolded and opportunities evolved, you were always right. Now we laugh about it. I don't know how you do it, but I know I've come to rely on your clarity.
You rock, Cheryl. Thanks for your smarts, your kindness, and most of all, your attention.
With your vision and practical approach, you've made so many things possible for me and my business that I didn't dare dream on my own could be made real.
Cheryl is a magic maker. She is the instrumental core of an engaged and thriving community that breaks down barriers between demographics and disciplines, opens up possibilities, and inspires collaborations between unlikely pairs. She’s a creator of spaces, places, and ethos that have a profound sense of purpose.
Her work with us made me think further and bigger than I otherwise would have and made possible an enormous and complex experiment in sharing mobility.
We worked together for over a year conceptualizing a new way for people in her community to share mobility. Her endless support of the concept and engagement of the community fueled the development of total new mobility innovations. Her vision of the future and ability to make possible what is not yet visible helped bring these ideas to life.