John Werner

Head of Innovation and New Ventures, MIT Media Lab / Camera Culture Group
Brookline, MA, United States

About John


John is an innovator, mobilizer, and human super connector. He constantly builds community and is a ‘moonshot’ thinker innovating as he goes while incorporating the latest technologies. He believes wholeheartedly in 21st century collaborative creativity in innovating with direct human or environmental impact.

Currently, he is the Head of Innovation and New Ventures at the Camera Culture Group at the MIT Media Lab. There he supports developments on new imaging platforms, and developing hardware and software technologies to augment human vision. He is also developing a large scale online learning platform, bringing young people together from around the world, currently India and the Middle East, to solve some of the planet’s most important problems. He does this through rapid prototyping and helping to foster an environment of entrepreneurship to take ideas into the real world for impact. He has been a co-instructor of MIT's Computational Photography and Imaging, Fabrication and Ventures, and an advisor for MIT's Engineering the Medical Tricorder.

John was a founding member of the Citizen Schools education initiative that is now in 8 U.S. states and held titles of Chief Mobilizing Officer and Managing Director establishing the organization from a concept paper in 1995. He helped create their 8th Grade Academy and Writing Coach Program, helping to redefine how learning happens across the country using business collaborations and after school programming.

John is very active in the TED community having attended 9 events and speaking at 10+. He was an Executive Curator of TEDxBoston, and introduced the Adventure concept to the TED organization. Adventures, where participants go behind the scenes at the most innovative labs, venues, and pivotal places to learn and invent together, generate transformative collaboration and nourish lifelong learning. He since programmed some 100 Adventures for over 10,000 people and tapped and trained over 100 Adventure Catalysts (coordinators) from around the globe to put Adventures into practice worldwide. In 2012 John founded of Ideas in Action/TEDxBeaconstreet and established an unprecedented conference of 90 innovators on stage, 1600 attendees of all ages, and hands-on design exhibitions. These talks, streamed at and at, have been viewed by over 2 million people. ... There is info on the last two event too...

TEDxBeaconStreet is not just a TEDx event. It is a disruptive community of kids, educators, scientists, engineers, doctors, cab drivers, fishermen, artists and volunteer organizers. Now, combining his insights from TED, Citizen Schools and his many other experiences, John sees the TED approach and Adventure programs as levers to revolutionize learning for children and adults.

John’s accolades include being recognized by BostonInno’s “50 on Fire” in 2013, named Top 10 Education Troublemakers – Deconstructing Education Brick by Brick by Business Innovation Factory, and he was named one of Boston’s Ten Outstanding Young Leaders in 2006. In Massachusetts, John served on the Governor’s Readiness Project, the Lt. Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, WGBH Community Advisory Board, and the boards of many Boston education and youth organizations, including past and current President of the Boston Hamilton Alumni Society. He was a Connector at Boston World Partnerships, member of LeadBoston and City to City Leadership Exchange, one of ten Harvard University Loeb Fellows, and was featured in the E100 Network of ENTOVATION International Ltd.

He has presented at TED University in Long Beach, CA, TEDGlobal in Edinburgh Scotland, TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar, TEDxWorkshop in PalmSprings, the Intel Visionary Conference in Washington DC, Google’s TechTalk, Cambridge MA, Business Innovation Factory (BIF) Providence, RI, 100k in 10, Washington DC, presented a paper he co-authored at the ISE IEEE conference, Princeton University, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy Institute conference, Cambridge MA, and the 2013 WISE World Summit, NYC.

John is an active photographer ( and his work has been used by and the White House. He manages his own photo blog containing 100k+ images that have had over 2m views, and he is a contributor to Getting Images.

John graduated from Hamilton College, was a Boston Public Schools teacher for four years, and principal of Wediko Children Services. He is an All-American Triathlete having raced at the Worlds four times, and he and his wife Erika Alvarez Werner have three multi lingual young children and live in Brookline, Massachusetts.

TED Conferences

TED2016, TED2015, TED2014, TEDGlobal 2013, TED2013, TEDGlobal 2012, TED2012, TEDGlobal 2011, TED2011, TED2010

An idea worth spreading

People from all backgrounds should assume responsibility for the education of our nation's children. Given recent statistics on the widespread problems with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education in our public schools, it is time for us to re-think our fundamental approach to teaching and learning. For too long "education reform" has been synonymous with "school reform" and "educator" has been synonymous with "classroom teacher." I believe this is a narrow paradigm, and I hope to expand an education model that motivates people from all backgrounds to assume responsibility for the education of our nation's children. As we have seen time and time again through our Citizen Schools apprenticeships, there is an enormous opportunity here to harness the staggering potential contribution of volunteers to turn a young person on to various professions and to the relevancy of school success. Volunteers can help expand programmatic offerings that are limited during school

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Pop-up Cities

People don't know I'm good at

Photography, the Rubik's cube, triathlons (he raced at the World Championship 2008 & 2010, 2011, 2012)

My TED story

Love TED - share online videos with many. Run Ideas in Action that runs TEDxBeaconStreet

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations