Okay, let me start by saying, neither Katie or I are particularly good at being up and running on all cylinders first thing in the morning. We had to contend with a 40-minute drive to be there at 9 o-clock. In the morning. On a Saturday. Ugh.
So how was it that by 9:15 we were revved up and ready to change the world?!
That is how great TED Talks work.
What are TED Talks? From their website:
TED is a non-profit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader.
So this past Saturday we found ourselves a part of the spell-bound audience at TEDx St. Catharines while it was simultaneously being live-streamed online.
We watched nine terrific local talks in all. The speakers and their backgrounds couldn’t be much more diverse. Each of their talks were distinctly different in both content and style but there were still a number of common threads that ran between them.
Whether deliberate or as a result of the passion and personality of the various speakers there were echoes of powerful themes: the ability for an individual to affect significant and lasting change for the good, that a collection of great ideas with some will and effort can make our world a better place, and finally that the status quo is merely a destination on a longer more satisfying journey to a better place.
The interesting thing about these people and the conversations that they had with their audience is that they all recognized where we were coming from, the progress that was being made, but knew there was more to be done. Sometimes they spoke about the work they were doing, but most often citing a situation that needed to be changed or quiet heroes in our community already fighting the good fight without an army, or the funds, motivated by the will to do good and accepting that there was no reason why they couldn’t be the one to do it.
Each speaker spoke for 12-18 minutes and each one said something that resonated with us. There were some terrific points to be had from every speaker and here are a few things that resonated with me.
Adrian Petry got things started by taking us back over a century ago and providing us with a glimpse of the life that we once had here in Niagara – giving us a clear perspective of where we have been and sharing the character of the city and the mindset of the exciting future full of hope that we had at that time.
From the past we moved forward into a vibrant present-day where eight visionaries, dreamers and optimists of today’s Niagara are making the kinds of decisions and taking the kind of actions that will take us to a better future one better day after another.
Melissa Hellwig shared her inspirational story and message about how a personal challenge can cause a person to prioritize the really important things in life and work to solve the world’s problems by realizing that no problem is truly isolated and the solutions need to be looked at holistically. The root of our problems are internal and it is only by changing the way we look at ourselves that we can change the way we look at our problems. You need to be expansive in your thinking. And kind.
I love Tiffany Mayer. She has passion, she is smart and she is committed to Niagara. She makes me care about where my food comes from and makes me eat things I thought I wouldn’t like. Turns out she is also a great speaker.
She admitted to creating a whole different public identity for the purpose of building a social media campaign and awareness. This person, Catharine, was created to be you. To be relatable and to go through the process of learning what it takes to make good “green” decisions here in Niagara. Tiffany shared what she learned through this process and how Catharine made real friends and had a real affect on people in Niagara because the motives and concerns were real to everyone she connected with along the way.
Kurt Anders Richardson has made multiple trips to Bosnia. He told us that despite dire obstacles, the people there are beginning to find hope and peace again through their faith, hard work and unbroken spirit. A hope that is bringing ex-pats from around the world back home again.
Camille Rutherford is a professor of education at Brock. It was interesting to me that from all the examples she is exposed to everyday she chose 3 powerful stories of leadership that all came from children still going to school and how they used the reach of social media and their will to resolve real challenges that they and other students were tackling in their lives.
Then, this was followed by the dazzling and truly inspirational presence of 14 year-old philanthropist, Wes Prankard. Wes is bright, charismatic and has a world-view that could change this planet and his enthusiasm is contagious.
When Wes, at 11 years-old, saw photos of the “third world lifestyle” of the northern Ontario town of Attawapiskat he was moved to take action.
In 2010 he slept in a tent in the winter to raise money and food – this resulted in $6000 and 12,000 lbs of food and clothing. His awareness campaign provided him with an opportunity to visit the region and, when comparing their lives to his here in Niagara, it motivated him to make an extraordinary commitment.
Wes pledged to provide the children of Attawapiskat with a modern playground within a year. He returned home and learned this would cost $100,000. At this point most people would have quit; but not Wes. He rolled up his sleeves and made good on his commitment by raising the funds necessary to build that playground the following year as he promised!
Liz Palmieri reminded us that Niagara used to be made up of 70 communities and shared stories about young and old who were doing their part to give what they could to make their community better motivated only by putting the welfares of others before their own.
Stephen Fischer spoke about how Welland is rebuilding itself. His enthusiasm and optimism were abundant as he spoke about how the city succeeded with their vision to take 12 kilometres of the old Welland Canal and convert the waterway into a premium flatwater sports destination. A key component was a strategy to diversify their activities to 8 flatwater sports and invite the world to see what they offered in the heart of Niagara.
The Welland International Flatwater Centre is in the works as part of a world-class sports tourism destination. Already they have been host to training and events featuring the medal-winning athletes of the Canadian Olympic team, hosted 30 events this year and are responsible for 20,000 visitors over 60 days and expecting to create 48 million dollars worth of economic impact over 3 years.
Finally, Trevor Twining wrapped up the day discussing how he embraced the life of a freelancer. But he was not alone. In Niagara there are 11,000 people who make self-employed income totaling more than 200 million dollars in direct economic impact. He suggested this was a pot to be grown and that activities like “coworking” are proving to become the hubs where this workforce are meeting, learning and growing their businesses. You can do it on your own and not be alone.
This was a 3-hour event and I have probably done a disservice to the speakers and their talks but I wanted to showcase some of the great ideas and the range of subjects that were addressed.
The TEDx events are independently organized and this one was a first for Niagara. The organizers and volunteers did a terrific job and the event proved (once again) that we have some great people with great ideas that want to share what they have learned to help us make a better world, one idea and one person at a time.
Rumour has it that the response was phenomenal and they are already preparing for a 2013 TEDx St. Catharines Talk!