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Thinking about the Secret Powers of Time


From the brilliant mind of Philip Zimbardo and the incredibly talented pens and animation magic of RSA Animate comes this ten minute exploration of how our individual and societal attitude toward time influences the way we view the world, and what this means for things like our sense of collective responsibility and the ways we educate current and future generations.

The concept of time is inherently personal, though aggregated on a societal (or organizational, or community) basis, it starts to have a larger cultural meaning. As the video points out, many of the pressures of modern life have to do with time: how to “spend” it, how to allocate it across all the competing demands for it. Saddest of all is the finding that, if we could add an 8th day, many would choose to spend it on work and other trappings of success, rather than making their lives more meaningful in other ways.

What’s your concept of time? Use the comments feature below to give us YOUR thoughts!


What role for civil debate?


As Calgarians gear up for municipal elections and the mud gets set to fly, we’re reminded that the art and practice of civil debate (read that as civilized debate) is something that needs to be learned, honed, and consistently emphasized. Alas, too many times in modern society—Calgary very much included—we see the complete opposite.

Fortunately, has a timely refresher on civil debate in the form of an engaging talk by Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel. Author of the new book Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, Sandel’s talk from TED2010 gives us some hope that we can restore elements of civil debate even around highly-charged issues. Whether it’s major civil projects, snow removal, community programs or your municipal taxes, he highlights that finding ways to talk civilly about the “essential purpose” (as understood by Aristotle) of things is key to restoring a more effective process of debating the issues.

Watch the talk:

A further exploration of the growing crisis in civil debate comes from the April 2010 issue of The Walrus magazine, titled “The Shout Doctrine” by Mark Kingwell (yes, we’re struck by the coincidence with TEDxCalgary 2010 as well). If you’re concerned about how we’re going to deal with complex issues as a society or as a community in the face of the current low standards of debate, it’s worth a read—and a future discussion with your TEDxCalgary contacts!

Thinking about next steps


As we get close to wrapping up our “housekeeping” from the inaugural TEDxCalgary event — like getting all our speaker videos posted on the TEDxCalgary playlist on YouTube and feedback submitted — we start to turn our attention to “what next?”

One of the things we very clearly heard from our participants was that the event itself was simply the START of the conversation. That was good to hear, as we never saw the event to be a culmination, but the genesis of something bigger. That said, maintaining a conversation takes time and effort from all concerned, and there has to be some level of purpose behind it.

Consequently, we’ve been working to hook into some existing conversations that may be of interest while we simultaneously start our planning for the next TEDxCalgary (yes, we fully intend to continue to build!). Two that may spark some ideas are the newly-formed Innovation Exchange meet-up group, and the Calgary Timeraiser event, both of which are scheduled for the near future.

The Innovation Exchange meet-up group is a place where social innovators of all stripes and interests can come together to explore opportunities. While they’re only moving into their second event (scheduled for June 30th) and are exploring different ways to structure the events, there are 71 members as of this writing and likely many more to come. As a way to continue some of the conversations started through TEDxCalgary, it’s a great opportunity to meet like-minded folks and also those who will (cordially) challenge your thinking for the better.

We also had opportunity to attend the pre-event VIP party for the Calgary Timeraiser event scheduled for June 17th. If you’re not familiar, this is an amazing structure to support artists and simultaneously raise time to be volunteered to community organizations. It is highly innovative in many ways, and we’re pleased to be exploring ways in which TEDxCalgary and the local Calgary Timeraiser group can collaborate more closely moving forward.

All this said, we’re also looking forward to having our own follow-on events to continue the more deliberate TEDxCalgary conversations that we started with the inaugural event. We’re also looking at an emerging number of options for our next event based on models from across the TEDx community globally. Stay tuned for further, and in the interim let us know if there’s a conversation that you think we or our community of participants would benefit from being connected to. Simply email us, or let us (and others) know through commenting on the post!

Our thanks, and more to come…


The weather was tumultuous, but TEDxCalgary’s participants, guests, sponsors and volunteers made our inaugural event, Humanity 3.0: Leadership the World Needs Now, a warm gathering of those interested in sharing ideas and moving forward on several fronts!

We would like to recognize the extraordinary commitment and vision of our event curator, Rahim Sajan. It was he who brought us together as a team, and who provided us with quiet guidance throughout our months of planning. He also brought forward the amazing list of speakers we experienced at the event.

The organizing committee also would like to thank everyone who contributed to the success of the event, starting with our team of volunteers who devoted time, energy, and considerable talent to everything that went into the day. Without them as the core of our effort, we simply wouldn’t have been able to bring you the event.

We also would like to thank you — our speakers, participants, and special guests — for your support and encouragement of our efforts. Our goal was to start a conversation about the types of leadership we need at this point in history, and your active sharing of ideas has set our minds buzzing about the possibilities that events like TEDxCalgary have for helping to build a community of dedicated change-makers. From generating ideas to finding those committed to following through on initiatives that will help us change our perspectives, our communities, and our world, it is YOU who will make events like TEDxCalgary a lasting part of our civic engagement.

Last but certainly not least, we would like to thank all of our sponsors and partners who helped to make the day a reality through their generous contributions of funds, in-kind services, and encouragement (itself a valuable commodity in an initiative like this). We hope that all of our participants and online followers will take time to show their appreciation for the support we’ve been given. Please visit our Sponsors and Partners page for links to each of the organizations that helped to support us.

What Next for TEDxCalgary?

While we’ll be taking a few days to reflect and rest up, look forward to a range of things coming out of TEDxCalgary in the coming days, weeks, and months. Our initial event day set our minds to thinking about ever-more innovative ways to spread the word about TED and TEDx to our communities, and we’ll be coming out to you for even more ideas for future events. We even received our first speaker nomination for next year just this morning!

An initial step is to start posting content from the day, including your feedback and photos, and the videos of our speakers. The process for videos will take a bit of time to complete, as we have considerable footage to edit and combine together to produce the final versions for upload. So, we ask for your patience, and we’ll keep people undated as the video starts to flow out.

That said, we’ll start posting some of the pre-event interviews we did with speakers who ultimately couldn’t be with us on our day. These include Eboo Patel of the Inter-Faith Youth Core; Peter Barnes, author of Capitalism 3.0 (available as a free PDF download); and former Canadian Supreme Court Justice, the Honourable John C. (Jack) Major, C.C., Q.C..

Based on a great suggestion by one of our participants yesterday (thanks to @cathduncan!), we’ll be compiling a list of Twitter names for our speakers (those who have one, of course), so that you can readily follow them as they continue their efforts on a range of fronts.

We’ll also be working on hosting some follow-on events that will continue the conversations already started. Stay tuned for more of these! In the interim, we suggest you keep open the evening of May 26th, when many of us from the TEDxCalgary team will be joining members of the newly-forming “Innovation Exchange” meet-up group for their first public event. We’re very supportive of their efforts, as they have been of ours, and we look forward to sharing ideas moving forward.

Our thanks again to everyone for an amazingly fulfilling first event!

The TEDxCalgary team

How to spread ideas?


From the TEDBlog comes this interesting guest post on TEDxStockholm week by TEDxStockholm founder and driving force, Teo Härén.

TEDxStockholm weekYou might recall that we highlighted Teo’s thinking in a previous blog post, and the concept that he and the TEDxStockholm team is pursuing is even more provocative: if a day of TEDx is good, wouldn’t a week be even better?

The TEDxCalgary team entirely agrees, as we didn’t set out to have just a day of TEDx activity. Instead, we set out to help support the TEDx concept on a year-round basis, bringing the ideas that TED and TEDx stand for to a daily discourse on ideas.

That’s part of the reason we’ve launched a companion TEDxCalgary community site on Ning, and why we’re now rolling out into the wider community at various events to “talk TEDx” with people who might not be as aware of what TED/TEDx are about as we are.

We also take to heart Teo’s discussion of the qualitiative dimensions of the TED slogan, “Ideas worth sharing”. As we have encountered in our own work, there are several levels of ideas floating about in community. Some demonstrate shallow self-interest, some are very important but still quite conventional in their approach, and others — the ones we’re most interested in profiling — are truly remarkable for the way that they recombine ideas, push boundaries, and compel us to act on them.

We’re hopeful that TEDxCalgary isn’t ever viewed as a day of ideas, but as a movement to help encourage ideas to be shared and acted upon year-round. Although we have a long way to go to reach the momentum already achieved by early adopters like TEDxStockholm, we’re designing our own initiative to go well beyond April 29th and our initial 100 participants. Join us on our TEDxCalgary community extension site, and add your own ideas.

Water and life as we know it


With the most recent World Water Day having just passed on March 22nd, it has struck me just how much focus there will be on water-related issues at TEDxCalgary. This wasn’t intentional on our part, although perhaps it should have been given the number of our speakers who believe this is something we must address going forward as part of our Humanity 3.0: Leadership the World Needs Now theme. Fundamentally, water defines life as we know it, yet only about one percent of the world’s water resources are actually usable to help feed and hydrate some 7 billion people.

National Geographic coverage of fresh water issues

Click to visit the NG site

National Geographic has added some compelling coverage on water issues to a recent focus on World Water Day, and it provides a sobering picture of what we’re up against as a species. Although we Canadians live amidst an apparent abundance of fresh, drinkable water, this is an illusion.

For Alberta in particular, the future of our water resources may come to be more of a defining issue in the public debate than the future of oil. Unfortunately, there is an all too real possibility that we’ve reached or passed our “peak water” point, and that some communities in the more arid parts of the province will be facing increasing challenges to maintaining their water supplies in coming years.

Globally, the reality is that up to one third of the earth’s population — some two billion people — will face severe shortages of fresh drinking water by 2050.  Already, water-borne illnesses and disease take the lives of countless thousands each year, a disproportionate number of whom are children with little protection against these threats when they’re already malnourished or lack access to proper health care.

Beyond drinking water, the lack of water resources in many areas can severely restrict the viability of local food supplies or even the ability to continue developing many of the products that we take for granted today. That cup of coffee I’m drinking as I write this? Add up all the water inputs used to cultivate the beans, process them, and serve the final product, and I’m consuming the equivalent of 140 litres of water with each cup I drink. Visit the Water Footprint Network for other examples.

While it is an obvious call to action to get involved in water-related issues locally, nationally, and internationally, we’re focused on the hope and the impact that better leadership can bring to the issue. From focusing people on undertaking research to help develop cost-effective water retrieval and filtration technologies, to the leadership spirit that drove several of our speakers to start water-related projects in the “two thirds world” that lives in comparative levels of poverty and disease, we’re hoping that our participants at TEDxCalgary take away the message that it IS possible to make a difference on these issues.

Add your voice to our blog through the comments option below, or join our newly-launched TEDxCalgary Community Site. We want to hear your stories, your ideas, and your voice.

Click to visit the World Water Day 2010 site

Commuting with the Calgary Eyeopener show


Jonathan Perkins of the TEDxCalgary team was pleased to be part of a joint interview on today’s CBC Calgary Eyeopener show with Jim Brown. Together with Sarah Blue of the TEDxYYC team, we were on the show to further explore why the TEDx phenomenon has taken hold so strongly in Calgary and surrounding areas of Alberta.

We’re grateful to Jim and the show’s producers for giving us the air time, and hope that listeners found our comments helpful. The segment is available on the show’s main site now (see the right-hand navigation bar), and we will post a direct link to the podcast version once it is available.

If you want to be part of the TEDxCalgary event, our application process is still open. Visit for more information, and to submit your form.

Visit the Calgary Eyeopener site