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One week later


This time last week, TEDxCalgary was less than 24 hours away and our team was hard at work with last-minute tasks.

Our speakers were ready, and were arriving for their rehearsals at the venue. Around them, our creative team was setting up lighting, sound, and cameras. The logistics team was doing final checks on name badges, catering, and the sundry other details that go into hosting a day like this.

The people we do this for, our participants… what were they doing?

We would hope that many were waiting with great anticipation for the next day’s event. What were they (you, if you were one!) thinking and doing in that 24 hours before?

The passion of ideas propels our team to expend their energies in this way. Rather than be passive about the ideas, or the opportunity of TEDx, we have chosen to act on the inspiration of TED. We’re not paid, and not always applauded, but that’s not the part from which we derive our motivation to spend time away from other opportunities or even our families.

Instead, we’re firm believers that ideas can help to change us. Not always right away, and not easily. But properly spread and cultivated, they can make a profound difference in the way we look at our world and how we each formulate our personal actions within it. The TED motto is “Ideas worth spreading”, which introduces an important qualitative dimension into the mix. It’s not JUST about ideas, but about finding those that matter.

Our counterparts at TEDxAmsterdam have taken it an important step further with their own sub-motto of “Ideas worth doing”, calling on us not only to spread the ideas but be willing to roll up our sleeves and do something about them.

A week later, the buzz of the moment has worn off and we return to planning other things in our work and lives, and to setting up the year’s work for TEDxCalgary. Yet the passion for the ideas, the sharing, continues… and we hope that it does for you as well.


The pride of TEDx


As a local TEDx organizing committee, the TEDxCalgary team is exceptionally proud to have been involved in today’s TEDxLive event from TED2011. Throughout the day, we’ve been treated to an awesome roster of speakers and performers who have provoked, educated, and entertained. The experience was everything we had hoped it would be, and more.

Our team is equally pleased to have been able to present today in collaboration with our extremely talented colleagues from the TEDxYYC organizing team, and to welcome members of the TEDxRed Deer team, who are getting set to hold their first event later this year.

For all of us at TEDxCalgary, and likewise for all of the TEDx events watching the TEDxLive web stream across the globe, there is pride in being part of the TEDx world. It is deeply rewarding for us to know that there are others out there who share a similar passion for spreading ideas that can change the course of humanity, and connect us as fellow humans.

Above all, we commend the courage and foresight of the TED/TEDx organization for opening up the brand to our involvement. It is, we hope, a relationship of mutual benefit that will last for a long time. For TED/TEDx, we are committed brand evangelists and promoters, and hopefully also seen as partners in one of humanity’s most intriguing collaborative efforts. For us as organizers, TED is an unparalleled vehicle for engaging others in our community in discussions about the issues that humanity needs to explore: deeply, thoughtfully, and urgently.

For those who were able to attend the event today, we thank you for your committed engagement, and we look forward to a continuing relationship with you as we get set to run our second main TEDxCalgary event in June. TEDxCalgary starts with you, and you are the energy that powers the “X”.

Visit our TEDxCalgary page on Flickr to see some of our event photos in the collage below…

TEDx for TEDWomen in December!


The TEDxCalgary organizing team is immensely proud that we were selected to be one of the local TEDx viewing events for the inaugural TEDWomen event on December 7 & 8, 2010.

As a local TEDxLive viewing event, we have the unique opportunity to bring Calgary the complete TEDWomen program web stream, being broadcast live from Washington, DC. Only those registered through an authorized TEDx viewing event, or those who are TED Associates, can watch the live web stream.

TEDxLive is a new extension of the TEDx program, launched by TED in 2010. TEDxLive events are built around the live webcast of the TED Conference. Instead of featuring local speakers or pre-recorded TEDtalk video, TEDxLive events enable TED enthusiasts all over the world to experience all 5 sessions of TEDWomen – 25+ live speakers, performers, tech demos and more over the span of 2 days.

TEDWomen will reveal: Who are the women leading change? What ideas are they championing? And how will they shape the future? TEDWomen will also reveal women and men in concert with one another, orchestrating different but complementary approaches to ideas worth spreading.

Our event is filling up fast, and is limited to 100 participants on a first-come basis. Visit our event page to register now!

Reflections on TEDxChange


The TEDxCalgary event team is very thankful to everyone who came out to join us for the TEDxChange event today, and to the TEDxChange organizers and speakers who made the event happen. Deepest thanks also to our event venue and co-presenter, the Calgary Public Library, and all their staff who helped make our event possible.

While smaller and perhaps more impromptu than some of the other TEDx partner events occurring across the globe, the TEDxCalgary event for TEDxChange highlighted an ongoing commitment in this community to supporting the sharing of ideas and building communities of action. We are one of many diverse actors across Calgary sharing this goal, but have the unique opportunity to help showcase the entire intellect of the TED/TEDx community in building perspectives that help to move us forward. These genuinely are “Ideas worth spreading.”

Each of the TEDxChange speakers highlighted that progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is one of the great hidden stories of international cooperation and focused effort. Indeed, hard work by a number of governments, agencies, and tireless individuals has saved tens of millions of lives in the last ten years. That said, there is still much work to be done to see the vision of the MDGs met by the target date of 2015. TEDxChange has, we think, helped to bring some much needed attention to the efforts and initiatives on the ground, as well as to stimulate us to re-conceptualize how we think about development.

For many of us in the room at TEDxCalgary’s event, there was a renewed sense of optimism that the challenges can be met. With so much talent being brought to bear on the issues, it’s clearly not a matter of missing brain-power. As several speakers pointed out, the gaps in the effort have more to do with how we gain attention for the issues, persuade people to take effective action, and roll out key initiatives on the ground.

Whether it’s Mechai Viravaidya’s unique marketing campaign to reduce HIV/AIDS infection through the widespread distribution of condoms in Thailand (the “weapons of mass protection” T-shirt campaign is priceless), or Graça Machel’s efforts to bring empowered women to the forefront of making change, there are success stories to be told and victories to be celebrated. And, as Hans Rosling pointed out in his presentation around the numbers, we have to re-frame how we’re even thinking about the concept of “development”, and how we’re tracking the numbers from a progress point of view. Too many of our conceptualizations are, in fact, out-dated stereotypes that badly need to be challenged.

Ultimately, as Melinda French Gates pointed out in her remarks, getting the numbers right is a key initial step. We loved her remark that running complex development programs without a way to track real-time progress is, as one development worker put it, “like bowling in the dark”. The numbers can be tracked, and they help to “turn on the lights” to make the path forward even clearer.

Combined with mobilizing the innate creativity and entrepreneurship of those in the developing world, there is ample opportunity to make even greater progress on these issues. Her final point was around marketing — less in the traditional advertising sense, than it was about persuading people to pay attention to the plight of the world’s poor and devote resources to meeting the challenges at hand. On the verge of being able to eradicate polio globally, we face issues of “polio fatigue” among many donors in the developed world.

Being able to maintain positive attention around the great work being done, track real-time progress, and fine-tune programs is possible — if Coke can build a distributor and sales network that reaches into even the smallest and most remote villages of the world, there’s no reason it can’t be done around these issues by others.

Again, our warmest congratulations to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the TEDxChange team for all their efforts, and to our fellow TEDx partner programs who also tuned into the event: some 82 event sites in 40 countries across  6 continents. That’s the power of collective wisdom when people come together to “talk TED”!

Stay tuned for more news coming soon about our plans for hosting the live web stream from TEDx for TEDWomen in early December, and about the main TEDxCalgary event coming back in 2011!

Elections and Civic Engagement


As the 2010 civic elections in Calgary gather steam, we face an interesting challenge: a year with one of the largest number of candidates for office at all levels, yet the prospect of voter turnout remaining (at best) somewhat static. Although the city faces many future challenges as it struggles to find its footing as a member of the fairly exclusive “million plus” club — there are only about 500 cities world-wide in that category — there is a very real possibility that the 2010 election will be decided by roughly 3.5 or fewer voters out of every 10 eligible.

Calgary is not particularly unique in Canada or North America in this low level of civic engagement, but it speaks poorly of our broader societal attitude toward leadership at the moment, and the resulting voter apathy. At least at the electorate level, since there actually is a great deal of interest in terms of people vying for public office. There are now a full baker’s dozen (13!) candidates running for mayor, and we haven’t even reached the formal nomination day of September 20, by which time there could be even more.

How to compare and decide?

One of the challenges being voiced by many in the general electorate — meaning those who are not considered “hyper-engaged voters” — is how to make an informed choice between candidates, whether those running for mayor, alderman, or school board trustee. We thought we’d try to help a bit by profiling a few of the resources available in Calgary to build up such an informed perspective. This focuses primarily on relevant online resources, but we note that many of these also blend into public forums that also need to be widely publicized. Chances are, there is a group set to host an all candidates meeting in your local area, and we highly encourage people to take the time to have a first-hand look at their options.

(click on the images to access the resource)

City of Calgary elections website

Of course, this is the authoritative source on where to vote come election day — October 18th, if you haven’t already marked your calendar! — and what information you need to establish your identity at the polls.

A multi-year project involving TEDxCalgary 2010 speaker Grant Neufeld, the site attempts to aggregate information across issues and candidates, including by ward. It’s an ambitious and complex project, but you can find links to the sites of each candidate running in a given ward, plus those running for mayor. Right now, one of the most valuable aspects of the site is the video channel profiling interviews and statements by the mayoral candidates (second image).

Calgary Herald Election 2010 Site

As usual, the Calgary Herald is providing ongoing election coverage, both with regular stories in the print edition and a special election section on the website.

Political Calgary blog

A frequent commentator on recent announcements, this local political blog presents a range of additional stories and resources on the election, including some great links to the initiatives of Civic Camp — such as upcoming candidate forums and reviews of various campaign platforms.

DJ Kelly

Many in the TEDxCalgary community will be aware of DJ Kelly, whose site contains a number of relevant stories, particularly in terms of the way the 2010 election is focusing on the use of new social media tools by the candidates as part of their broader strategies.

Calgary Beacon

Last but not least is the Calgary Beacon, a local online daily “newspaper”. They have extensive coverage of the 2010 election issues and profiles of various candidates, and also are one of the frequent online commentators around various election themes and personalities.

Social Media Links and Tools

There are too many related social media sites to mention by name, but it’s an obvious bet that Twitter is buzzing with commentary, announcements, and political sniping between camps. At the moment, the main Twitter hashtag for the election seems to be #yycvote (it, too, was democratically elected by the engaged social media crowd), so be sure to check out the range of ideas being presented via micro-blogging.

Pretty much every candidate also has a Facebook page, so it’s a good idea to select those you want to follow in your own profile. There’s currently a bit of a Facebook arms race in progress, as this is being viewed as a measure of relevant engagement and support by each candidate. Alas, this doesn’t necessarily discriminate between those (like us) who might be watching more than one candidate’s feed.

Also consider keeping track of various candidates by RSS feed. Although Twitter and Facebook capture the more dynamic content being put out there, there’s still a valid role to be played by the venerable RSS feed, which can pick up on more subtle changes on a candidate’s main site. Use either a stand-alone RSS reader program, or the one built into most common browser types.

And, if you’re an iPhone or iPad user, there’s even at least one related application out there! The campaign of TEDxCalgary 2010 speaker Naheed Nenshi has released the first-ever iPhone app for a Calgary election campaign, and it remains pretty unique for municipal elections anywhere across Canada.

Talk back!

We’re interested in what you think about these issues, or if you have other suggestions for us to profile. Use the comments field to send us your thoughts!

Reflections on TEDxOilSpill


As part of the global family of TEDx events, and through the magic of webstreaming, we’re fortunate to be able to hook into a number of amazing initiatives across the TEDx world. One of those, held on June 28th, was TEDxOilSpill in Washington, DC.

Focusing on the causes and impacts of the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, TEDxOilSpill went well beyond in terms of exploring the factors that lead us to undertake such risky and speculative ventures in ecologically sensitive places. Clearly, given the explicit complexities of deep water drilling, the primary lesson of the recent spill is not IF such events will occur, but WHEN. Indeed, as several speakers highlighted, the current spill is not necessarily the worst of the lot in recent memory, but it certainly is unfolding as one of the most notorious for its location and handling.

Our Opportunity: Learn from our mistakes

Amid all the ecological carnage and socio-economic chaos of the spill, the biggest unfolding tragedy is that we risk not learning from it. As was highlighted repeatedly throughout the day, we aren’t even really applying our learning from past spills like Exxon Valdez, or what we already know today about the potential impacts of some of the clean-up techniques being employed. As but one example, there is clear and alarming evidence that the dispersant chemicals being used are a source of longer-term ecological harm than is the oil itself.

X PRIZE Foundation announces an oil solution challengeAt the same time, the TEDxOilSpill event highlighted some of the initiatives that are helping both to sort out the current crisis, and to think more deeply about alternatives to the types of risky exploration and development that are occurring today. Many of these are driven by innovation from people just like you.

Interesting among these are the concept of employing crowdsourcing solutions for solving the crisis. One that was highlighted in the online chat was Stop The Gusher, which is a good example of using a social media collaboration platform to generate ideas from unconventional sources. Even the X PRIZE Foundation is now involved, with the June 28 announcement (at TEDxOilSpill, no less) that they’ll be setting up a multi-million dollar prize to give incentive to still more solution-building. Still, the biggest challenge may not be a lack of ideas — already, some sources say that BP and the U.S. government have received over 35,000 submissions of ideas, including through dedicated sites and challenges that both have set up — but the ways in which these ideas are filtered, evaluated, and tried out. Or not.

From the TEDxCalgary viewpoint, the TEDxOilSpill event did a great job in not just dwelling on the negatives of the actual event, but on trying to highlight speakers with ideas to break out of the vicious hydrocarbon cycle that we find ourselves in across the globe. From much-maligned tar sands in our own back yard, to risky offshore drilling in places where humans can’t even dwell, we’re out hunting fossil fuels the way we once scoured the oceans for whales to use as fashion accessories and heating oil. Ironically, fossil fuels saved the whales from extinction and helped build today’s world, but they also have the power to topple many of the gains they brought us unless we work to redefine our relationship with hydrocarbon-based energy sources. This is a critical dimension of the current crisis, and one which calls for us to think deeply about not just avoiding future accidents, but how to break the current cycle.

Browse the list of TEDxOilSpill speakers and watch for upcoming posts of their event videos: if you missed them the first time around, you’ll be glad you caught the re-runs.

TEDxCalgary 2011 is coming!


We’re very pleased to announce that our application for renewal of our TEDxCalgary licence has been approved, clearing the way for a second TEDxCalgary event in the spring of 2011. Many, many thanks to the incredible organizing team at TEDx headquarters for their support, both in terms of wrapping up our 2010 event and getting us back on the slate for 2011!

Our local organizing team will be taking most of the summer off (all two weeks of it, if Calgary weather continues the way it has been… *sigh*), then returning to planning for our next event. We have several potential alternatives under review, and we’re actively looking for YOUR ideas on what our next event should look like. If you’d like to share your thoughts, use the comments feature or email us!

In the interim, we’ll be continuing to release some of the interviews we conducted with potential speakers (those who couldn’t make it to the event, but whom we wanted to have heard) and seeking to connect with like-minded groups across the city. We’re already making progress on those fronts, and will be looking to bring even more bridging events to your attention as we move forward.

If you’re not already signed up, consider attending the June 30th event with the Calgary Innovation Exchange group. There are many hard-charging social innovators like you out there who are trying to make a difference, and they occasionally gather under a single roof for a beverage of a sociable nature… be one of them!

For now, stay tuned… and enjoy your Calgary summer while it lasts!