Reinventing Thunder Bay TEDx February 16, 2012

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Frank PulliaTHUNDER BAY – On Thursday, February 16, 2012 over a dozen inspiring speakers came together at Lakehead University for the first TEDx Thunder Bay to share in “Ideas Worth Spreading”. This has been the theme of TEDx (which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design) since its inception in 1984. Its scope is now much broader and it includes the x which stands for “independently organized TED events”.

The Thunder Bay event was organized by Anthony Scaffeo with the support of many volunteers and sponsors including Netnewsledger and Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre. The theme of Thursday event was “Reinventing Thunder Bay for a More Vibrant Community” so when the first speaker (the founder of Evergreen) started talking about green cities and the benefits thereof, but nothing specific about Thunder Bay, I started to wonder about how the audience was going to make the connection between the presentation and the “Reinventing Thunder Bay” theme.

Well, I did not have to wait long for that to happen, as the attentive audience was keen to absorb and listen to every idea that was being shared by the intense and powerful speakers who had a compelling “idea worth sharing” and it showed. Brad Doff, a graduate of LU and the principal consultant for Smart Greening, spoke on the importance of green infrastructure and the power of living technology in the ecosystem to maintain a sustainable future. The buzz and energy in the room was palpable and it grew as following speakers like Eric McGoey started talking about youth outmigration and what we as a city can do to turn that trend around.

The presentations by the local speakers were also mixed by videos of internationally renowned TEDx speakers like Seth Godin who spoke about the “Tribes we Lead” and the paradox of modern age with the Internet now allowing every one to develop silos of interest while being connected to the world. This also means that it is never too late to start heading in the right direction if we do not like the status quo. Connectivity permits penetration of ideas and the ability to lead your own group (or tribe) in way that it was not possible in the past. The Occupy Movement would probably be a good example of that.

In keeping with the “Reinventing” theme, Doug West, Associate Professor of Political Science at Lakehead University spoke about “Food, shelter, Community: The Turn of the Commons”. For Commons he means “resources that are held in common” and that can include everything from natural resources and common land to software. He thinks that the time has come to reclaim the Commons which are now practically being owned and dictated by corporate entities. His theme was one of power at the local level, the need to be involved and helping your neighbour, to be close, of putting oneself in the picture. He believes that TED is a commons, a place to share ideas.

I could not stay for the rest of the presentations but I was able to notice in the audience many young people, some city administrators, academics, educators and business people but no politicians. As the numbers were restricted to 100 attendees maybe some could not make it, but I have been reassured by the organizers that next year they will be able to accommodate a much larger crowd. For those who could not make it this year, TED talks from the local event will be posted on www.tedxthunderbay.com

Frank Pullia is the Principal of Pullia Business Consulting and a frequent columnist for NetNewsledger and other local and regional media. He can be reached at 767-6579 or at frank@frankpullia.com

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