Lessons from TED and TEDx
Last month I facilitated my first workshop through HourSchool on community building in the beautiful offices of Machteld Faas Xander, a design agency located at The Tannery District in downtown Kitchener, Ontario. This workshop was a result of ongoing conversations that I have had with a number of friends and colleagues who continuously inspire me to aspire for more, and are also interested in social change and engaging communities across Waterloo Region towards making a positive and lasting difference.
Based on my experience in organizing a number of community initiatives in Waterloo Region, including TEDxWaterloo, and having had the opportunity to attend TEDActive in California and the inaugural TEDxSummit in Qatar these past few months, I decided to put together a workshop that allowed me to share lessons learned along with my experiences of community building from a TEDx perspective to a group of 20 people who represented a good cross-section of my local community, each with their own ideas of actions worth doing.
I believe these lessons learned are certainly applicable to different sets of communities, be it a neighbourhood, school, city or organization (for-profit, non-profit, government) given the nature of TEDx events that are run in all sorts of communities worldwide; from villages, cities and regions, to high schools, universities, corporations, and even prisons. Yes, prisons, given the example of TEDxSotoDelReal this coming September in Spain where the inmates are both the speakers and the audience for the event, promising to be a transformational experience for everyone involved.
When Chris Anderson, Lara Stein and the team at TED decided to experiment with the TEDx platform back in 2009, they had no idea that this platform would become as powerful as it has become now. I don’t think anyone in the world could have anticipated the broad reach of TEDx as a platform for bringing people together in a local community to educate, inspire and connect people with one another and to discuss ideas worth spreading that are relevant to their own context and lived realities. More importantly, it’s more than just discussing ideas worth spreading, rather, the key now is to take these ideas worth spreading and turn them into actions worth doing, a nod to City 2.0, the TEDPrize for this year where for the first time, the prize was not awarded to an individual, but rather, to an idea on which our planet’s future depends on.
At the TEDxSummit held this past April in Doha where over 700 TEDx organizers from all over the world gathered to share stories and lessons learned with one another, as well as to work on action items and discuss the future of TEDx as a movement, it became clear that the “x” in TEDx no longer stood for “independently organized TED event”, but rather, it now stood for “the power of x”, where TED and ideas worth spreading are multiplied exponentially many times over in communities across the planet. Ken Bautista from TEDxEdmonton wrote an excellent blog post on the unstoppable nature of The Power of X where the TEDx community is on the verge of making the red x as iconic and influential for a new generation as the red T-E-D letters were to a generation at the first TED conferences twenty years ago.
TEDx events that have taken place in cities such as Baghdad, Mogadishu, Khartoum and even Cairo, have contributed to the revival of civil society where there used to be none, or perhaps, suppressed, given the political, social and economic sensitivities of the regions. TEDx events in Toronto, Amsterdam, and Singapore are great examples of TEDx events in big cities that bring people together from all walks of life. Both TEDxMuscat and TEDxAlAin in the Middle East aim to inspire youth towards possibilities for a better future that they themselves have the potential to create. TEDxYouth@HongKong was created as a response to tackling the disillusionment faced by young people with the education system, giving them opportunities to explore creativity, placing no limits on linguistic or class barriers. TEDxDoubleRoad in Bangalore, India, is hosted in a hacker space that brings together the best of art and technology, with a strong focus on open education. TEDxGaza also has an arts component to it, where the intent is to showcase the real Gaza that is brimming with culture and full of talented artists, dancers, and musicians, instead of perpetuating the stereotype of Gaza that we see currently in the news. While TEDxAlgonquinPark asks stakeholders how they are invested in one of Canada’s most beautiful provincial parks, and TEDxCSU at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, has a vested interest in cultivating CSU students as well-rounded community leaders.
And I could certainly go on, and on, and on given all of the stories I heard from countless TEDx organizers that I met from all around the world.
To date, over 4,300 TEDx events have taken place in 1,200 cities in 133 countries all over the world, where ordinary people just like you and me are imagining, dreaming and creating a better future for themselves and their communities, using the TEDx platform to make it happen. A recent Forbes article distilled the essence of the widespread success of TEDx down to the individual organizers behind each TEDx event, who do it to make a difference because they are passionate about their communities rather than chasing after money or fame.
Ever since I can remember, I have always been the type of person interested in seeing what happens when you bring together a room full of extraordinary people who are passionate about making a difference in their communities. In many ways, I like to surround myself with people who share the “FIRE, AIM, READY” mindset, those willing to experiment, to fail, to learn from these failures, and to continue to push the creative boundaries of unrealistic possibilities. And then to repeat this creative process all over again.
Now, imagine being surrounded by over 700 people for a week in the middle of the desert who shared the same mindset as well. When I returned from the TEDxSummit in Qatar back in April, I wrote on my personal blog shortly thereafter that I may have just gotten a glimpse of world peace given the 90+ nationalities represented; where we as humanity, with mutual respect, genuine trust and empathy for one another, work through our differences and cultural backgrounds, values and perspectives, in order to achieve a goal much larger than our individual selves.
And perhaps this was the motivation behind organizing my workshop right here in Waterloo Region, my own community, on lessons learned from TED and TEDx: to contribute to re-creating the magic when hundreds, if not, thousands of like-minded individuals come together to experiment with model versions of the future, all with the intention of making a lasting difference in our community.
The future may not be such a bad place after all.
Powered by Facebook Comments