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What happens after a TED or TEDx conference?

As a long-time lurker and 2-cents adder online at; a real life participant / volunteer / organizer with TEDxTokyo and xToronto; a careful steward of the TED brand having raised money for the Sapling Foundation etc., I notice that a talk / conversation topic / TED Prize / TEDx event attracts a great deal of excitement among many intelligent people. But what comes of all this? Are any of us here prepared to get together for real world action? Unfortunately, I've seen a lot of parting of ways and dissipation after an event. I'm afraid that for real change, a lot of it has to necessarily get political, and even TED is too shy for that. I have yet to hear of a post-TED cross-discipline, integrative, problem-solving success story among people who found each other here and did something synergistic about it!

Is TED the end or the beginning?

I like devising strategies to incentivize similarly inspired strangers to break out of their routines and take on an issue together after their minds have been set ablaze...

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    May 2 2013: I am afraid most people are just keyboard revolutionaries ... I am one of them ... We still live in nations kept apart from each other by nationalities. Governments keep most of us in check even without razorwire fences.
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      May 3 2013: "keyboard revolutionaries" is hilarious. arm-chair warriors of today!
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    Apr 21 2013: "Is TED the end or the beginning?"

    I believe TED is BOTH. Duality... Go! I think TED can be viewed as an "end" because TED conferences and the speakers at them seem to always share their experiences, discoveries, or research up to that point in time and give a "recap" of the conclusions they have arrived at. In this respect TED is an "end", but I like to think of it more as a "moment of reflection". TED I think can at the same time be a "beginning" because people have the opportunity to take action with what they have just been made aware of and start something new by building off those ideas. And also, I guess sometimes the speakers leave the audience with something thought provoking at the end of their talks and maybe that can be the "start" of a something too.

    "I like devising strategies to incentivize similarly inspired strangers to break out of their routines and take on an issue together after their minds have been set ablaze..."

    Whoa! Sounds cool! (cool as in meaningful and constructive) How can this happen?
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    May 10 2013: Sometimes I wonder. Surely it is an honor to speak at or participate in a TED conference. But sometimes I get the sense (from watching the videos) that there's more going on here. And the real business is being conducted elsewhere -- often (always) with other people. Good Ideas, and thoughtful insights can only get you so far. You have to do something with them. Business ideas? Business implementations? New web sites? New stuff for sale? We need a TED conversation about that. We need a systematic opportunity to follow up and report! We have IDEAS, QUESTIONS, & DEBATES - why not add "follow up" to the other three? Would there be anything reported under "Follow up?" Good ideas from TED that led to great businesses, great social change, and a better world. That's the overall idea. But is there any hard documentation as to what's come out of all this? Is it all just entertainment? Is that all there is?

    Hey, some ideas are dangerous. Might such as simple idea as "Follow UP" conversations on TED reveal information that might make some uncomfortable? Or maybe not. Maybe we'd all be excited, energized and proud? Could TED or an idea arising from a TED conference become as big as The Olympics? Could an idea born at TED become as big as Microsoft? You have to ask, where do we go from here? Fair question, yes?

    I am interested (very interested) in what comes out of the TED education conference this May (2013). That was a single conference with a single theme. I am sure that there have been others, but many (if not most) cover a range of subjects. You can't always get a Nobel Prize Winner to come give an entertaining speech.
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      May 11 2013: Oooh, hard and interesting questions! I am a big fan of yours btw :P

      I remember reading an odd entry in the City 2.0 TED Prize blog once stating something like: sorry, we hoped this would be big, but it didn't turn out as amazing as we'd hoped. Thanks for those who tried to do something, but overall it was a disappointment and maybe it was from our end. (The project seems fine now--but I don't know why it had posted that once ??)

      So, I think there have been attempts at movements off the top of my head from the TED Prize: compassion, save the oceans, use art to change the world. Here's a little anecdote from my experience: I participated in the last one, but it was hard to sustain the momentum because in real life because there are a lot fewer TEDsters who know WTH you're on about--and it's their participation that really make the numbers. And then you find yourself having to be a secondhand leader in your own vicinity on the issue. The people at TED did what they could to support--but really it's remote at best, probably because of limited resources. I think a movement requires numbers and that might depend on how ubiquitous TED gets. I think we've erroneously assumed (because it's so enlightening? to us) that there are enough people IRL who care. It needs to be like Facebook huge. Or it may need to join forces with actions that already got momentum.
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    Apr 26 2013: I too am a lurker, mostly because I am not a scientist and confess to having nothing but an avid interest in ideas. For me anyhow this is TED biggest gift to the world, some of the most dedicated thinkers of our time giving away their ideas effectively for free for other (perhaps not so dedicated like me) people to consider, and spring board off into fanciful often-half-witted theoretical imagination and converse. Its an intellectual gift of monumentally generous proportion. I think the people who share my lack of mental capacity are very grateful deep down, I know I am. To think and ponder together is far more magical, enlightening and productive experience than doing it in the dark alone. The supplied TED mental spring boarding fabric lifts us poor mortals to heights and possibilities never previously experienced and therefore brings the sciences and the art of reflective thinking into a more socially accepted, fashionable light. A most worthy accomplishment I believe, especially for the majority who thinks clubbing and sports are the cogs that make the Universe spin....that’s right I said spin :)
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      Apr 26 2013: Remember you may only lack a degree or that certain experience but you never lack Ideas, and the only thing innovation needs is an Idea and the will to follow through with it.

      But I agree wholeheartedly, Teds gift to the world is it's communication of a idea to the rest of whomever wants to hear it. An open source model if I ever did see one.

      What I do know is, we haven't even come close to ending our innovative endeavors, and even when we think we have, someone in their basement will show us all up, and make us think harder and outside the box inside another :)
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    Apr 21 2013: GT, I submit this as pure speculation. I would believe that each attendee has a agenda .. the cost of attendance is prohibative for most to just wake up and say I want to go. I would imagine that a lot of the attendees are attending at the expense of a coorporation or business. There is certainly a lot of networking and business being conducted and I would think it has been successful or attendance would start to fall. Corps and businesses write all of the travel, food, lodging, and fees off on taxes.

    If a project is presented and with prior approval donations of goods, services, and funds are committed as a part of the company public image (and also written off) and hopefully is returned in new clients and future contracts.

    The missing ingrediant to success is the people who are willing to get dirty and play in the mud to achieve the goals. In our society it is easy to throw money at problems and sleep well.

    Ron Finley had it right ... want to help .. grab a shovel and get to work.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      Apr 24 2013: Let me see I have this straight, this stuff requires real work? how can that be?
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        Apr 24 2013: Pat work is a four letter word that ends in K ... The alternative is to live in a country that has a benevolent government that will provide you with programs that meet all of your needs ... currently available in the USA and the EU member nations ... all broke.
        • May 5 2013: Now that is not entirely true Robert. They are not all broke.....yet.
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    Apr 20 2013: Yay TEDx Tokyo and Toronto!

    The entire ideas into action is big sub theme for the TED community. The TED Prize is an example of ideas into action, with, I believe JR, being a solid example of ideas into action. Personally, I think there is a lot to learn from the social entrepreneurship and united way crowd.
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      Apr 21 2013: Hi Ross, I went to YorkU! :)

      What kind of action broke out after an idea set everyone's heads on fire at a TEDxYorku conference?

      I had a lot of fun doing the Inside Out project in Tokyo (and got to meet JR over breakfast!!) and though it is totally natural that a project needs to come to an end, I think things like that have a potential for ongoing momentum too. But how?
  • May 8 2013: An excellent point. I would like nothing better. I recently joined and left several posts. Learning things and doing nothing with what you have learned is empty and selfish. Either we join a cause or create our own and solicit help. I am open to either and have over my life pursued things of significant social value. One was connecting education to the Internet, for the past 15 years.

    My current thought is to pursue a new form of currency. See my post on Communism vs. Capitalism. But that was exactly my thought too. I would like to gather some for the best thinkers out there to devise a new currency system that would better serve the world. Then if it looks viable act to get it implemented.

    Thanks for your post and comment.
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    May 5 2013: Genevieve you have raised a very important point - what next ? However, on the flip side, although no noticeable world wide movement has started on any Ted Talks and Ideas, on individual level - micro level the Ted platform, and here I am talking about myself, has made me sit up and reflect on various topics, and surely in my small world, I have tried to share the knowledge gained in my blogs and in my work and interactions.

    It has made me a better and an understanding person. I am sure many are benefiting by the Talks and discussions, and those who have wider reach and clout in their respective field or organizations, may be percolating the ideas and concepts gained from this platform to their colleagues, friends and family.
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      May 7 2013: that's how it is for me too. i am just curious to know how far some people have been able to take it?
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    Gord G

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    May 5 2013: Better said than not.
  • May 2 2013: Post ted talk, I like to believe there is a one hell of a party, where intellectuals gather and shoot ideas off each other and discuss the talks, elaborating upon points and arguing over the validity of others. In essence distilling the experience to its core and taking it to the next level. *NOTE* this is my imagination, no idea in reality.
  • Dan F

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    Apr 29 2013: Is TED at the end or beginning? A thought or two.

    Incidentally, your 2-cents is often beautifully distilled.

    Perhaps the real beauty of TED lies in the unexpected.

    TED can be viewed as a refreshing reservoir. These ongoing retrievable talks, and resulting conversations, comments and discussions about our modern state of technology, education and design helps define and explain the modern era. Our connections and circumstances can be better appreciated by better understanding the dynamics of all this ingenuity.

    This posting activity tends to be thoughtful and useful. It's easy for me to be sidetracked by a fellow member comments. I personally like the room to fully express thoughts on TED over the more constraining popular texting trends in this arena.

    I would not underestimate the developmental capacity of the TED enterprise, nor the influence of members such as yourself.
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      Apr 30 2013: Hi Dan! I don't want to underestimate what TED is either. It is both refreshing and sad to realize that there is no other place online really that has this level of discussion, outside of like, a Masters course or something.

      I do use these TED talks all the time to inform my work. I can't not know great ideas after I've heard them. I'd like to think that my awareness of these thoughts have at least adjusted the things I've chosen to do or say--making the quality of my work and actions better.

      But, even though I'm sure that's happening--and it's already great, I still think that by now, TED has the potential for a movement. People meet over favourite DJs on dating sites for crissakes, I'm poking around to see what kind of get-together people are up to here. Or are we all smart, well-meaning, introverted e-lurkers only?
      • Dan F

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        May 1 2013: Hi Genevieve,

        For what it is worth, I like and relate to your creative restlessness.

        There is a real world escapism element to those of us fitting the description of your e-lurker (is this your word?) description. My first personal response was to prefer the reference of an ADVERURESOME smart, well-meaning, introverted e-lurker, just to make you smile (I'd even be will to drop - smart!).
  • Apr 28 2013: I've always seen TED as a place to learn about new ideas and get inspiration. And I think that's a lot. By inspiring people, they see that they can make small changes in their lifes and these changes can make a whole difference in the lifes of others... Changes doesn't happen overnight. It takes patience and care to get the right results... but it is even better if people choose to do those changes by themselves and not because a ramdon law ask them to do it.

    I can understand that you want to see those changes happening now, today but... Is it the political way the paht to follow? Endless discussions between party 1, 2 and 3 till they create a law that satisfies their own agendas? I don't trust politicians. They're jus necessary evil because a country needs to have a general manager, as any other company, to keep it running. But every single politician thinks about one thing.

    And what about forcing people to act because a law? Is that the right path? Shouldn't people be encouraged instead of forced?

    And lats, but not least... are the solutions/ideas exposed by TED Talkers (or any discussion group created during the breaks) the right ones? why? Any of these talkers are by far much more knowledgeable and smarter than I am but that doesn't mean that I have to hold on their ideas as the only possible truth.

    The greatness of TED is that it makes me think but it doesn't make any decissions for me.

    Yet, if you do want to check if that synergy created really gets to something, maybe you should do a follow up. Let's say that you propose a 30-day experiment to those who go to a live event. Ask them to participate, write their names on the list so you can contact them to know the results, and ask them to come to this web page and share those results, if not with everyone at least with TED itself. That could be a way to know if these ideas do something or not.
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      May 7 2013: I think it's"enough" for some people to be inspired and set off thinking things in ways that are new...can you tell us if those new thoughts have helped you form something substantive in real life? That's what I'm wondering about. I wonder how far inspiration like this can go...
  • Apr 20 2013: Hopefully a raging rave breaks out afterwards, or attendees go out and Flash Mob a train station somewhere. We can dare to dream right?
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      Apr 21 2013: I hope so too :P

      I've heard it's becoming quite the place to meet your significant other! In which case, action does follow! lol
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    Apr 19 2013: I am not sure if I understand your question. As I see it TED byline says it all. Ideas worth spreading. Period. Activism is a different cup of tea. Probably you got carried away.
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      Apr 21 2013: Well, if you think an organization's tagline ends at a literal interpretation, then many an organization better be more descriptive:

      Hyundai - Drive your way
      American Express - Don't leave home without it
      Movember - Healthier men, one moustache at a time,

      lest we get inspired to think beyond it. lol
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    Apr 19 2013: IMO the question should not be what but why.

    When people exchange ideas it often gives birth to new ideas. This process from the bottom up can have more impact than the top down. This concept is organic to individuals, the results may not be discernible, but without this purpose no forum would exist.
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    Apr 18 2013: I had two thoughts in relation to your interesting question and am interested also in the responses you receive here.

    One thought was that I know that after the TED Prize is announced, people in the audience get up and offer what they will commit to help the effort. Someone gets up and offers a software platform. Someone else gets up and commits to start a SOLE where she is. Those attending in person or online are given a link to make commitments of what they will offer.

    After the talk about planting vegetable gardens on the streets of LA, Chris Anderson asked from the stage whether anyone could help the speaker further what he said his next step was going to be, and connections were left to be made during the breaks between talks.

    At the TEDxs, I wondered how often people go as groups, effectively, and bring the messages they have heard back to the group for action among those who already are a connected team. For example, the Gates foundation may host a TEDx event for employees at their headquarters.

    In other cases, I would guess those who are inclined to network would do so at the TEDx event and that collaboration may result.
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      Apr 21 2013: This year at TEDxToronto, we hope to incentivize strangers who attend these salons, to meet up and do something on the days TEDx is not happening! How, how?

      I like how Ron Finley (the man who did the guerilla gardening in S. Central LA) told the audience at the end that if they really wanted to do something to help him, they would pick up a shovel and come down to his garden, otherwise he wouldn't be interested in sitting around at a board table.
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        Apr 21 2013: It is an excellent question and depends on who you have in attendance.

        Some people who attend your event are probably deeply invested in their own projects. In that case, the most productive way of getting them to do something together is either 1) to connect them with others like them doing projects that have synergies with theirs so they can both see an advantage in it or 2)to find them others in attendance who are interested in being part of something but do not care about leading it and who don't demand more supervision than the person at the helm is prepared to offer.

        You might want to do a survey in advance of your participants asking them what they are looking for. Some people want to be an extra pair of hands in a project, while others are interested only in a leadership or central role or a situation in which they will be mentored..