Tag Archives: TEDx

Meet our Artist in Residence: Rebecca Shapiro

Loving the awesome art installation that we have for the TEDActive stage this year? Have you had a chance to explore the Dome in the Creative Lounge?

Both of these wonderful pieces were designed and built by the TEDActive 2015 Artist in Residence, Rebecca Shapiro. Rebecca is a painter, illustrator and installation artist whose work has been featured in numerous exhibitions including TEDxMtHood (formerly TEDxConcordiaUPortland) in 2013 when she designed the stage installation and gave a TEDx talk.

Rebecca is the creator and project lead for the TEDx Artist in Residence Incubator Program working closely with TEDxMtHood co-curator, Michelle Jones. The TEDx Artist in Residence Program supports TEDx organizers who want establish official artist in residencies for their events, strengthening community ties, honoring local culture and enhancing attendee experience.

Rebecca’s stage installation, titled Untangled, is a piece about “untangling the stores, beliefs and behaviors that keep us bound and prevent us from enjoying movement and momentum in our lives.”

Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED

This piece and her installation at TEDActive this year are inspired by her long-term projects, some of which focus on themes like discovering yourself, community, and reflection. She enjoys creating interactive pieces that require the audience to think and offer their own ideas to the piece.

“Remember making forts as a child?” she asked me. “Inside the fort, you created your own story. You didn’t know that you were doing it, but you were writing the story of who you are.”

Her interactive art installation, The Act of Stillness, is “a metaphor for the pursuit of the creative process.” This piece invites attendees to create intentional moments for reflection and creativity during TEDActive. People can enter the space and add their own thoughts to its walls, creating a collection of memories and ideas sparked by other attendees or TED speakers. Rebecca contends that  “stillness leads to your best ideas,” so she wanted to create a space where attendees could slow down and invite their best ideas and stories to emerge.

Image provided by Rebecca Shapiro

“I wanted to create a low-tech space within a busy, tech-heavy conference. I created a space you could step into to reflect or ask a question or do nothing, because we need to take more of this time for ourselves,” she explains.

Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED

Rebecca challenges our TEDActive attendees to carve out some time for themselves to reflect on everything they see and hear this week. Make sure to stop by The Act of Stillness this week and add your ideas to its walls!

by Diana Enriquez

Ads Worth Spreading: A Brief from TED

“We’re all gathered here to celebrate Ads Worth Spreading,” announced co-hosts Cindy Gallup and Abigail Posner, dressed head to toe in Zara, or “recession-chic” as they called it. “We are going to see the creative approach about how we think TED can spread its own ideas.”

But the conversation quickly took on a bigger and broader question, as conversations at TED often do. What we were really here to talk about, Cindy revealed, is what the future ads worth spreading will be.


Earlier in the week, Google’s Creative Director Ben Jones had discussed the opportunity to create impactful and meaningful content within the context and the mediums that the world of digital media has to offer. What happens when we ask people the really fundamental questions, like the Doador Sport Campign, for example? How can we create structures that people can and want to participate in, with platforms like Kiva or calls to action like Amanda Palmer’s TEDTalk? How might we create brand ambassadors though the content we create, as Heineken has done with its #Dropped experiment? With so many new kinds of content and mediums with with to capture peoples’ attention, Ben says, “amazing is always on the other side of yes.”

So what should advertisers be saying yes to?

“We need to delve deeper into the nature of our relationship to the different digital spaces that we play in,” Abigail says. Instead of just putting content on a mobile screen, she explains, how can we leverage the insight that mobile is a way for us to build and share culture?

From Cindy’s perspective, we also need to be saying yes to advertising. She points to an almost universal, fundamental belief that advertising is a bad thing. This belief, she points out, exists here at TED, among consumers of advertisments, and among advertisers themselves. We can’t leverage the great things technology and creativity have to offer if we continue believing this to be true, she notes. “The future is about creative collaboration in a way that assumes positive intent on both sides, and that enables us to do our best work together,” says Cindy. “Despite what everybody else thinks, we absolutely have the ability to change the world, just as much as any other speaker you’ve seen on stage this week.”


Over the course of this week at TEDActive, advertising gurus, AWS nominators and judges, as well as the winning ads themselves, came together around TED’s Ads Worth Spreading initiative to think about creating some new ads worth spreading to solve some of TED’s biggest challenges. Ads Worth Spreading began in 2011, to “recognize and reward innovation, ingenuity and intelligence in advertising,” that is, ads that spread an idea through powerful and meaningful connections with their audience. This year, ten winners embodied powerful and transformative work with the power to change the world. You can watch the winning pieces here.

With facilitation led by IDEO, winners, nominators and leaders alike, split into three teams, each handed a brief and three days to design a compelling pitch, the winner of which would be awarded $25K in seed funding by TED to bring this idea to life. The outcome reflected the curious, innovative and proactive spirit that TEDActive is all about.


Think Globally, Act Locally
Create a campaign that tells people how to become a part of the volunteer community of TEDx.

How can TED better tell the stories of local change and engagement? How can we reach everyone who wants to get involved with TED and make a difference in their communities?

Tom Wong (TBWA) and Ben Jones (Google) presented for the group. Ben shared how during dinner the night before, he sat next to Ilwad Elman, a young woman who grew up in Ottowa, but returned to her home country of Somalia after the assassination of her father, to carry on his human rights work with her mother through their Elman Peace and Human Rights Center in Mogadishu, and has used the TEDx platform to connect with her community and others around her ideas. “This isn’t just playing around with a brief,” says Ben. “This is incredibly, incredibly important.”

TEDx is a great gateway product to get involved with a much larger brand, explain Tom and Ben. “We want to help turn TEDx organizers from a power to a great big superpower. Local action, global impact.” This group had several concepts, including TEDxMe, which makes everyone a TEDx organizer at an atomic level and lowers the barrier so that anyone can immediately do so through personalized TEDx playlists. Another, called TEDxEveryday filters personally-tailored TEDx talks to the user based on the amount of time they have to watch. A third (and there were several beyond this) entitled BatSignal, was a way to connect TEDx communities to help each other with common challenges. This collection of offerings centered around a core belief that “local is not measured from where my feet are, it’s measured from where my heart is.”


Youth and Education
Design a strategy to help create awareness of the TED-Ed ecosystem and its potential. 

How might we reimagine the current TED-Ed videos to reach the common person, strike chords in people, and generate emotional investment?

John Mescall (McCann Australia) and Kate Smither (Ogilvy & Mather) shared a plan for unlocking the TED-Ed potential. “There are 2 billion youth in the world. They’re curious souls, but they’re at a time in their life where they’re put into a school system, told to be less curious, not ask why or why not.” From ages 0-9 and 18-18, we’re told to go out and try things, make things, do things. But from ages 10-17, we’re told to sit, be patient, absorb, and wait.  Where TED-Ed can play is in this middle section, where students are made to wait.

You’re not ready. Wait your turn. Pay your dues. You’re just a kid. This is the message we’re telling kids at a time when they’re most excited about the world. What we need to tell them, say Kate and John, is to be impatient. “If you have something inside of you, go learn about it, go do it. You do not need to wait your turn or be taught something by the system.” What their team created was an unlockable device, aimed at 14-year olds. To unlock it, you need to know something you might not traditionally know until age 17 or 18. You can wait to play the game until then, says John, or you can be impatient and use TED-Ed to learn what you need to know to unlock it. “Kids have never been more ready to blaze their own trail and make their own destiny.” And here’s how.


The Ripple Effect
Tell the story of the ripple effect of one idea, to inspire others. And build a clear incentive for people to push ideas forward. 

How might we amplify an idea that can change the world, bring it to the attention of people with the ability, drive and imagination to make a difference?

When an idea worth spreading spreads, what does it create? Georgia Challis (Wieden & Kennedy) and Jesse McMillin (Virgin America) presented for their group. “TED is about ideas worth spreading – big, inspiring, touching, brain-expanding ideas. They’re so big, they can feel daunting to the rest of us.” How do we help those of us who aren’t going to stand on the TED stage understand the key role they have in spreading an idea. How do we compel them to be more than just viewers?

Georgia takes us through their treatment, a action-inspiring piece that shows the impact that sharing can have on the proliferation of an idea. We see a speaker on the TED stage, ready to begin a talk, but seemingly struggling to begin. Then we see someone share his talk online and he begins to proceed. Then another, then another. The shares are powering his talk, making him come alive. “It takes many people to deliver a TEDTalk,” says Georgia. “One person stood on stage, a million people spoke. Share TED.”

After each pitch had been presented, the group talked about the potential for implementation of each idea. Not able to decide on a final one (they were all so great!), the folks at Ads Worth Spreading decided to take the ideas back into TED for further discussion. Stay tuned!

“Around the Campfire” Profile: Will Lucas

willlucastedactiveThe campfire is still lit! We are profiling the extraordinary activators and thinkers who attend the TEDActive conference and highlighting their personal experiences, passions and most meaningful conversations.

Will Lucas is the ultimate doer. He’s started two internet companies from the ground up: In 2007, he founded Creadio a brand marketing technology firm and last year, he created Classana, a discovery engine that connects you to what you want to learn. In September of 2012, he organized the first TEDxToledo event optimistically themed “You Will Do Better.” But, that’s not all! Recently, he was named one of the 25 most influential African-Americans in Technology. This year was Will’s first TEDActive and so we caught up with him to hear about his experience and to pick his brain on what drives and motivates him.

How did your TEDActive 2013 experience begin?

I’ve been a big proponent of TED for a few years. I got introduced to TED several years ago when I saw Steve Jobs Stanford commencement speech. That kind of started it all — you know when you watch one video, then it shows you another video. You get engulfed in the whole environment.

I live in Toledo, Ohio and we have a rich artistic community and a budding technology community. I was thinking about how we could connect the nodes of our growing economies because everybody worked in their own silos. If I could bring TED to Toledo that would really cultivate the environment that I was interested in. I found the TEDx license page, applied and two weeks later I got an email approval. We had our first event in September of last year. I went to Active with the intent to have a bigger audience at our event [TEDx events are limited to 100 audience members unless the organizer has attended an official TED conference]. But after the first day I got there, it wasn’t even about that anymore. It was so much more than that. I think somebody said there were 72 countries represented. You get this sense that you’re a part of something much bigger than yourself. You’re surrounded by people who are really passionate about what it is they’re doing and share one common vision of making the world a better place. TEDActive was a life-changing experience.

Was there any one moment that stood out for you? 

I wouldn’t say a moment. If there was a moment, it happened several times. TED, this year, kind of had a bent towards education. Every talk had a slant towards the shifting view of how we educate our young people and lifelong learners. There were several moments when I realized we’re on the cusp of something great — if we make it great. My thought was that the talks were fantastic, but we can watch the talks anytime. It’s really about the people that you get a chance to meet and engage with and share with. TEDActive is a place where people come with strong ideas, strong opinions and strong beliefs, but are willing to be wrong. For me, this is the essence of what TED is about: sharing these ideas and being open to learning something new that might fly at the face of what you know.

What did you take away from the experience?

The experience solidified some things that I had been thinking about and dreaming about. Post-event, I had a conversation with [TEDActivator] Mauricio Bejarano on Facebook. In response to my post, he said that we all should write down our thoughts and ideas because as time goes on you start to forget things. There’s also this Chinese proverb — “A short pencil is better than a long memory.” I’ve always been the Tumblr type. It’s difficult for me to sit and write longform. I didn’t have the patience to sit and write. After reading Mauricio’s comment, I decided it was time to grow up and be patient and sit and write because I have a lot to share on education. I know one of the editors at one of our large papers in Toledo and I sent him one of my articles just to see what he thought about it. I didn’t have any intent. But he loved it and asked me to be a regular paid contributor.

It was encouraging that someone thought my thoughts were something the community should know about. We all have something to offer the world and I think TEDActive allows you space to be around, people who can feed that inertia. People who are interested in TED are usually people who contribute to their communities. But, you can only pour yourself out for so long before you need to be poured into. A car can run only so long. You’ve got to put gas in it. It’s important to think of TEDActive not just as a vacation but somewhere you can go and be refueled by being around people who can teach you something new or encourage you or confirm what you’re doing. Somebody said in the first Google Hangout, we’re nodes in a global network. Being at TEDActive I now have friends in Sweden and Switzerland, Nairobi – I didn’t know anybody in Africa before. Now I have three friends in Africa. If I ever go to Sweden, I have someone to talk to. Knowing that you can change the world and that we’re all hoping to change our communities– at some point you need to be around people who can pour into you.

A view from Will’s camera:


How did you get into what you’re doing now? What fuels your passion?

The thing I’m most passionate about is the future of education. I love the internet and tech, but I think what I’m doing with Classana is the most important thing I’ve ever done.

I didn’t graduate from college. I did 3 years in college. People were telling me that it’s fantastic that I have my own business but that others will respect me more if I had a degree. About a year and a half ago, I was running my own business Creadio and I decide to take 16 credit hours. I want to finish what I started. I had a conversation with one of my mentors – and I have several mentors and I encourage everybody to have mentors—and he asked why I was going to school: “So, you work for yourself. When you graduate, what are you going to do? Promote yourself?” He said, “I’m not telling you not to go to school. But if you’re going to go, take classes that specifically speak to you and what you’re doing and to get better at that. Not just for a piece of paper.” That reframed how I thought about pursuing my education. I went back to the drawing board for planning the spring semester. But college is not really set up for you to pick and choose classes. It’s set up for you to go along a pre-requisite course towards a degree.

To make a long story short, I thought there’s got to be a better way for people to find educational resources. It’s the early infancy of the MOOCs (massive open online course), the Courseras of the world, the Khan Academys of the world. We believe education will be a more entrepreneurial endeavor. It’s in our natural state to seek out things that make us better. That Stanford commencement speech by Steve Jobs encompasses and solidifies the whole future of education. He said, “The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes, and drop in on the ones that looked interesting.” I think he was more prophetic in that than he even knew. Our goal [with Classana] is to re-imagine the way we distribute education. If we can get people to what they’re passionate about, I think we’ve done our job.

When did Classana launch?

Classana launched publically 3 weeks before TEDActive. I have people on my advisory board from TEDActive! Michael Karnjanaprakorn, [TED Fellow] and CEO of Skillshare, and Ben Jones from Google joined. I met Ben Jones while standing outside of the auditorium waiting for one of the sessions to start. Everyone asks what you’re interested in. I’m into education so we ended up talking about that. That happened to be the session when Sugata [TEDPrize winner] presented. As soon as he got up on stage and started talking Ben turns around and looks at me like “Dude, you’re onto something. This is perfect for you.” We had a couple conversations since TEDActive. I met Michael from Skillshare the night of Jill Sobule’s fireside performance. He gave me advice on how to really grow and scale the business.

What is your advice for someone attending TEDActive for the first time?

I think you should go not knowing what to take out of it. You should go as open[-minded] as possibile. If you go looking for something, you walk with tunnel vision. You won’t see all of the other things that are possible. I think the best thing about TEDActive is that it’s easy to meet new people. There’s a guy I met in Bangladesh who in 45 seconds of meeting him, wanted to help bring Classana to Bangladesh because there’s such a need for resources like Classana in developing countries. I’d never thought about that. They’re just getting online and they want information, but they don’t know where to go. That’s the problem Classana solves. We just met 45 seconds ago. We never would have gotten into that conversation had I been talking to him with an ulterior motive. I would say go totally ready to be fed. Not looking for anything specific. Go and be genuine.