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An engine of commerce, American Express provides innovative payment, travel and expense management solutions for individuals and businesses of all sizes. They provide customers with industry-leading benefits, access to unique experiences, business-building insights and global customer care.




At TEDActive 2012, American Express sponsored the TEDActive Community and Commerce Project, harnessing the energy, optimism and talent of the TEDActive community to create innovative answers to big questions. Working with the TED team, American Express focused the energy of thinkers and doers on answering this question: In a networked society, how do we create community value? Get a sense of this incredible event in 1500+ photos.

The process

We jumpstarted the brainstorm online, creating a TEDActive Community and Commerce Facebook Group as a conversation platform and promoting the discussion with this incredible video. On-site at Palm Springs, the excitement around the Projects was infectious. The week began with an immersive pre-conference Experience and an idea-sharing Builder's Breakfast, opening the question up to the community at a Picnic Lunch on Tuesday. As ideas coalesced around the Project Wall, the community went out to mingle and celebrate on Wednesday night at three breathtakingly scenic Project House Parties.

On Thursday, after final meetings, the entire community raised a glass to the ideas that emerged as the lead facilitators delivered short, inspiring talks during the Project Toasts.

The blogs, thoughts and the story of the Community and Commerce Project were all recorded on a dedicated page on TED.com. Every Project was manned by a facilitator to encourage conversation, a storyteller to capture and represent ideas and an amplifier to take those ideas to the wider community.



The conversation online

  • 3 weeks
  • 231 members
  • 339 posts, comments and likes

Over two weeks leading up to the TEDActive conference, people joined the Facebook group to share their ideas and spark discussion. People shared posts and photos about interesting programs in their communities, related articles, videos and more.

Here are a few of the posts we loved (go to the Facebook Group to read them all):

We have a program in Oklahoma City that is just now expanding to Tulsa called "Keep It Local." It's a little $10 saver's card that only local businesses can join ... I've used my 2012 card eight times already, saved $11.32 … But the LARGEST win is they have created a community around how cool it is to support local business, art, and culture. -- Adam Croon

Here in Napa we have monthly "Facebook Wine Meetups." Via Facebook, people are invited to the event at a local business, usually a winery. Last month we hosted one at our Aveda Salon. We invited 3 local wineries to pour, a neighboring restaurant to serve finger foods and had 4 team members providing head, neck shoulder massages to the guests. -- Reid Maeda
This is a solution we have worked up with 7 other small businesses in Chicago to do good in a meaningful way with a larger impact than the unstructured one-off pro bono gigs we used to do sporadically throughout the year when needed. It has been amazing what we have been able to do for the non-profits we work with. GrantForGood.com -- Brian Thompson


The conversation on-site

The Community and Commerce Project began their journey on-site with a question that helped them look inward: When have you felt emotionally connected through buying something? This group was fluent in the language of community, but found commerce to be more difficult. This was the challenge to be bridged -- to marry commerce and community.

The group came together around the question: How do we define value? To gather responses, they put a poster up in a high-traffic area with common answers.

Attendees voted with personalized stickers, and the group was able to determine the most popular answers. The clear champion was: Sense of purpose.


Growing the question further, the group asked: How might organizations and businesses create a sense of purpose? How might consumers create a sense of purpose? This question sparked the week's most interesting and insightful responses.




Insights and ideas

These are some of the most popular ideas and insights we discovered during this process. We hope that you find these as stimulating and exciting as the TEDActive community did:

  • Businesses should highlight local champions and empower them to make decisions on a local level.
  • Create a local “Give the change” program for consumers, where they choose a network of businesses around a theme they would like to give to.
  • Tell the story of a local business through data by following "The journey of a local dollar" using an infographic or video.
  • Identify citizen experts in each community that can make local decisions for big companies, and give insights into local behaviors.


  • Create a new kind of price tag that reflects not only the monetary cost of an item, but also tells consumers who made it, where it was manufactured and under what conditions.
  • Build a platform for local businesses to chart their growth and, in response, see the financial impact they are having on their communities.

Watching the TEDActive community grow and think continues to be a thrilling journey, as over 600 attendees flock from all corners of the Earth to be a part of this community and these conversations. The TEDActive Projects continue to be a celebration of ideas, imagination, innovation and inspiration.