I used to run PeoplePoweredRochester.com. Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. (Here’s the link to the original)
The TED brand of conference is resolutely “apolitical”, to its great demerit. Robber barons rub shoulders with scientists and marvel at technocratic attempts to fix the problems that they themselves caused. Tales of people-powered organizing are only entertained once in a while, and only when the countries affected are safely exotic and far away.
There’s one in Rochester soon. You should go.
The short version: There will be smart, passionate, and powerful people there. You want to meet them, befriend them, and build alliances. After all, TEDxRochester is quite a different beast from the flagship event.
The longer version:
The speakers at TEDx aren’t the point – instead, you want to mingle with the attendees. Luckily for you, the organizers have spent hours and hours cultivating a guest list of interesting, driven, or powerful people. Young professionals, entrepreneurs, hip young pastors, etc. You want to meet those people. You want to meet them because they’re the competent, passionate people that make amazing members or allies.
As organizers and activists, we fail when we live solely in our own bubble. That’s a fairly anodyne, even boring statement. Let’s take it a step further, though: “As organizers, we need to be engaged in – and even help build – local civic society.”
There are a few reasons why organizers should have a stake in building even apolitical civic society:
- As citizens organize any kind of group, including neighborhood or charity groups, they become comfortable with participating, funding, and leading. You’ll benefit from those skills and assumptions becoming the norm.
- Already existing local groups make your life as an organizer so much easier – you can partner with them on projects, or engage with them to try to convince them of your values.
- A strong civic society broadens the pool of engaged citizens. Engaged citizens are exactly the sort of people you want to recruit.
In short, a civic society is a society in which you can participate. It’s a framework to work in and generates organizations worth partnering with.
There are, confusingly, two separate TED-branded conferences in Rochester every year – TEDxRochester and TEDxFlourCity. TEDxRochester is the one I’m discussing at the moment – it’s the one with the application up.
TED is the flagship conference in California. It was so successful that local volunteers organize TED-branded events across the country.