TED is About to Change the World… Again

Posted by on August 10, 2009 in Featured, North America


I love TED.

There may not be a single greater source of inspiration in our world today. I’m gushing, but it’s how I truly feel.

One of the first TED Talks I saw, back in 2006, was by Jeff Han from NYU on multi-touch computer interfaces. Maybe six months later, Microsoft announced its Surface Technology. Oh yeah, and then Apple released the iPhone.

Some time later, I watched Jill Bolte Taylor, a well-known brain scientist, perform a dramatic re-enactment of her own experience as a stroke victim. (Watch it if you haven’t, it is incredible.) After another several months, I saw her book, “My Stroke of Insight,” on book stands in Minneapolis – it had been reprinted and had become a New York Times bestseller.

I could go on, and it’s no coincidence. Chris Anderson at TED has created a platform for bringing to the world paradigm-changing ideas… and making them spread.

So I was thrilled when I heard that TED was open-sourcing it’s secret sauce through TEDx. I was even more thrilled to find out that TEDx was making its way to Minneapolis/St. Paul.

TEDx, the “x” standing for “independently organized TED event,” was announced earlier this year. Since then, events from parts of the world as distant as Sydney and Saudi Arabia, Chile and Sri Lanka have taken place or are in the works.

If you haven’t yet detected as much, know that the implications are enormous. In every country on earth, innovators, artists, and entrepreneurs have a new, remarkable opportunity to share their ideas not just with their own communities, but potentially with the world at large.

Here in Minneapolis, I have been privileged enough to be part of a group of volunteers dedicated to making the TEDxTC event both a source of inspiration and a platform for telling the world about the incredible ideas being born in our own community. (If you’re in Minneapolis or St. Paul and interested, register here.)


The space, provided by the Science Museum of Minnesota, can accommodate around 280 people. However, if every person in that audience tells just five people about the talks they saw, we’ve touched 1400. We’ve also released an avalanche of conversation with the potential to reach hundreds of thousands more through word-of-mouth and the power of the web.

Similarly, in Bolivia, TEDx coordinators Mikel Butron and Claudia Ricaldez from Innovateurs Sans Frontieres are planning an August 22nd event, which they intend to repeat annually and that they hope will inspire Bolivians to begin sharing their ideas more broadly while also giving them a forum in which to do so.

Claudia and Mikel face greater challenges recruiting attendees than their peers in places like the US and the UK. Pre-registration via a website is not likely to work well, and TED itself is not as widely recognized. Still, TEDx Sans Frontieres promises to be a remarkable event, with speakers like Kathya Cordova, a Political Scientist and Founder of South Group who will be sharing her research on laws and policies that promote innovation and entrepreneurship in Bolivia, and Dr. Gustavo Calderón, President of Jalasoft Foundation (Jalasoft is one of the sponsors), whose social projects promote technology transfer among high school and college students.

These are two among dozens of TEDx events that are being planned or carried out across the globe as we speak. If each TEDx event can bring to light one or two amazing ideas from previously unknown thinkers and entrepreneurs then… well… you do the math.

Imagesource: lunchoverip.com, pfeiler.us

Mike Shoemaker

Mike is a graduate of St. Olaf College in Minnesota and a former Fulbright Scholar at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia. Mike currently manages strategic alliances for a global consulting firm, is a volunteer and advisor to The Ayllu Initiative, and blogs at Human Ventures.

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