Tedx Redding: Mapping Connections
Inspirational dreams and revolutionary thoughts pop up everywhere; in cities big and small, in the countryside, atop mountains, in the middle of the sea and in the desert. The trick is collecting those ideas and sharing them with anybody interested in listening.
That’s where TED comes in. For the past 29 years, the popular nonprofit organization dedicated to “ideas worth spreading” has hosted conferences featuring top-flight thinkers, artists and visionaries who talk—for a maximum of 18 minutes each—on topics that touch on science, business, the arts and global issues. The talks, now numbering more than 1,500, are available online.
TED, which is an acronym for technology, entertainment and design, instituted the TEDx program to provide communities a template to create TED-style events at the local level to facilitate dialogue and the exchange of ideas. Talks at these independently organized events also are distributed online.
That’s where Catalyst Redding Young Professionals comes in. Last year, Catalyst members Aaron and Rachel Hatch, both longtime TED fans, organized a TEDx event at Old City Hall with the theme of “Fill in the Blank.”
They wanted an idea-sharing event that spoke to the future. “The notion is that those ideas worth spreading are useful frameworks for making the world a better place,” Rachel Hatch says. “The global nature of the conversation is important, too. These conversations about ideas worth spreading are being carried on all over the world. It’s a shift in education, with more access to free quality concepts.”
The inaugural TEDx Redding event packed Old City Hall and nearly filled the Shasta College Health Sciences building where the talks were simulcast on closed-circuit television. One of the ideas discussed at the event—an explanation of Detroit SOUP, a monthly community dinner that funds micro grants for creative projects—prompted Justin Babb to start Redding Soup, featured in the February issue of Enjoy.
The Hatches hope those same kind of inspirational sparks will fly when they join with other Catalyst members in hosting the second TEDx Redding event Sept. 7 at the Cascade Theatre. This year’s theme is “Mapping Connections.”
As Rachel Hatch explains: “We’ll be mapping connections between people who may be working on similar things, but they’re in their own little silos.” Jack Burgess, a Redding artist who served as a graphic facilitator at last year’s event, agrees. “Redding seems to me to be full of really amazing people, that for one reason or another, aren’t connected and collaborating. TEDx Redding can intentionally get a broad cross-section of Redding in the room and listening to each other.”
Redding architect James Theimer, who presented at the first TEDx Redding event, says the format encourages speakers to distill and refine their ideas. “It’s not just ‘let’s make Redding a better place,’ but here’s a person with an idea. The community gets to see what resources they have in their own community, what kind of ideas there are.”
Rather than a gathering of professional speakers, Theimer says TEDx is an opportunity to gather disparate parts of the community in the same room to be exposed to some of the brightest minds. “It completely debunks the concept that we’re a small town. People think big thoughts in small towns, but how do you get those out there? You don’t, except for something like this.”
Jenny Abbe Moyer, whose experience with TED dates back to 1990 when she co-produced the second-ever TED conference, participated in the first TEDx Redding event and says the gathering generated a positive response.
“It felt as though people knew they were experiencing something special, something with the potential to help put us on the map,” says Moyer, whose aunt, Patience Abbe, was one of last year’s speakers.
“Redding, and this region of the North State, has so much physical beauty, yet we tend to downplay our intellectual assets and let stereotypes define us. As a result, we reinforce our collective inferiority complex as a city. TEDx Redding will continue to showcase futurists and forward-looking thinkers to chip away at those false impressions, and help redefine our place in this rapidly changing world.”
Change is afoot, agrees Burgess, and events like TEDx are a great way to make it happen. “It seems as if in a lot of ways Redding is right on the edge of some really positive change, and lots of people seem to have the collective intent to make this a really great place, and I think TED is part of that collective intent.
“I have conversation after conversation with different people or groups of people who are trying to make positive change here. The more of those people we can connect, the more likely something good is going to happen.” •
TEDx Redding: Mapping Connections will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. Sept.7 at the Cascade Theatre. Tickets are $35 and available by visiting www.cascadetheatre.org. On the web: www.tedxredding.com