Home > Education, TED > Passion worth spreading – Fast Forward Inspiration @ TEDxUBC

Passion worth spreading – Fast Forward Inspiration @ TEDxUBC

Image Credit: HNBD / Jeff Arsenault

I know self-organization is possible! After all we know that life emerged from the chemical soup that was Earth ~ 4 billions of years ago — through nothing else but self-organization at molecular level. I guess something must make this Universe inherently capable of self-organization at many levels.

But to see self-organization including people with completely different backgrounds — at any level you can imagine: from education, to skills, to profession, to culture! — come together to organize an event like TEDxUBC was a mind-boggling experience for me!

I won’t explain what TED and TEDx stand for. If you haven’t heard them before, I encourage you to check the TED and TEDx sites. It is probably worth explaining what TEDxUBC is, though!

TEDxUBC is few things! It is a quest to figure out how should secondary, post-secondary and lifelong learners be prepared for a world moving fast forward at breakneck speed? It is a conference that brings educators, business people and enthusiasts to share their ideas about transforming education. It is a movement to stir the public and various institutions into action to implement those ideas. It is a bunch of passionate people coming together to change the world in their own little way!

The last is what made me write this article and think about passion in people. Before meeting Judy, Faye, Bret and Dave, the main members of the organizing committee that started TEDxUBC, I thought of TEDxUBC as an organization in a classical sense. People come together with a common goal, they build a plan and implement it. It was not until the conference started unfolding in front of my eyes that I realized that view was wrong!

I joined the TEDxUBC bunch in the same way that many other volunteers have probably done it — I learned about it through social media, was thinking to apply (I actually did), but then I realized that since I care a lot about education and also love TED, simply sitting among the attendance would not cut it for me! (Ok, I was also a bit scared I am not cool enough to be admitted and saw volunteering as a guaranteed entry ticket 😉 )

Since then, I sat through the volunteer meetings, did my bit in helping create buzz around the conference, shared some ideas during the brainstorming sessions…

Then the final week before the event came and everyone got to pick some way to help on the conference day. I chose to do live mind mapping — you should know that I hated taking notes during my University days and live mind mapping is like note taking in the class of the fastest talking Professor who wipes the blackboard clean every few minutes, after filling it with unrecognizable scribbles! 😉

The final days were closing in and I focused my energy learning Mindmeister, the tool me and two other volunteers, Laurie and Janice, were to use for the live mind mapping. As this was happening at the same time as me and my company, Indicee, were working hard to release our new product — just got released today, btw! 😉 — I was too busy to give any thought to how the preparation was unfolding, if everything would be ready on time, etc.

The night before the conference (Friday, October 22) — after 11 hours at work and some disappointment we couldn’t release that day — I went in for a dress rehearsal. Partly because I was tired, partly because I started developing fear I will flunk the mind mapping, I spent 3-4 hrs paying attention mainly to the speakers and their talks so I can prepare for the morning as well as putting the finishing touches on the mind map templates with Laurie.

When finally the morning came, things didn’t start well — a 5 minute snooze turned into an hour nap, which caused me to run to the venue with no breakfast or coffee and a headache getting ready to burst! Agitated and afraid more than ever that I will fail at my task, I met my mind mapping partners Laurie and Janice and started setting things up right away as the official start was less than an hour away!

This is when something wonderful happened! I saw this:

Video Credit: Komail Naqvi and Juhi Jaferri (two awesome students @ UBC 😉 )

Two very talented UBC students who were volunteering for the event have been filming the dress rehearsal until 10pm the Friday night, edited a behind the scene video and posted it on Facebook at 5am Saturday morning so I got a chance to enjoy it at 8am!

This is when it daunted on me: This event is not organized by a committee! This event is not backed by money! This event is made possible by the 60+ passionate volunteers — more than half of whom were high school students — who took ownership and did their best to contribute to its success! And what a success it was!

13 speakers came on stage that day and gave truly inspiring and thought-provoking talks! Beside the talks, many other activities were organized through the day, including entertainment, presentation booths, refreshment and lunch for all of the guests, prizes and competitions, etc. All this was prepared and run by volunteers!

It was very inspiring to see how 60+ volunteers are trying really hard with practically no guidance to keep the event running and everything going as smooth as possible. Many people commented after the event that though one could see things were not as polished as when going to one of the global TED conferences, they were highly appreciative of the support they got from the volunteers and felt the conference was very well organized — something most didn’t expect will happen unless professional crews are brought in.

And TEDxUBC have shown by example how a learning revolution can be started without waiting for someone else to do it! By inviting high school students to be responsible for its production, it offered them a real life learning opportunity! Among other things, the event was streamed live — though the technology failed several times, huge credit goes to the high school students who were frantically trying to keep it going through the day! — and was filmed by a crew of high school students from the North Vancouver Digital Media Academy. I have no doubts the quality of the videos, as they appear on the TEDx YouTube channel soon, will be equal if not better than most of the other TEDx events already there — even comparable to the quality of the talks filmed by the professional Hollywood-style crew during the global TED conferences!

As I was watching the video that morning and taking part of the event as it was unfolding throughout the day, I learned something very important!

People deserve more credit than they usually get!

Passionate people can pool their minds and use their skills in ways no planning committee, management team, or board or directors can achieve when instructing their workers what and how to do it! Self-organization with people is not only possible, but a desirable outcome in the brave world of the future! If you ever end up into a committee, management or director role, you should rethink your job — there’s much to be gained if you try to inspire people, bring up their passion and let them use their creativity and energy to achieve a vision and a lot to loose if you hand-hold them through the process! For that, I give credit to Judy, Faye, Bret and Dave!

As for the mind mapping, I think things went pretty well! 😉 Inspired by the video and surrounded by two lovely ladies who were doing their best too I enjoyed the experience and cherished the opportunity to try something new! You can judge the results yourself @ http://www.mindmeister.com/landing/tedxubc2010 😉

P.S. This is how happy and passionate volunteers look like 😉

Photo Credit: Mola Shahsavari

For more photos and to get a sense of the spirit of the event check this Facebook album and Flickr stream. And the talks should appear soon on YouTube!

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  1. October 27, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Thank you Kima for distilling the essence of what this experience was about. Passion WAS the common denominator of the event. I know I learned much, including great examples of leadership, cooperation and connection.

    • October 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks Laurie! I truly had appreciated the chance to work with you and all of the other volunteers. As I said to Bret, the experience opened my eyes about few things and in the spirit of what I learned about passion this past Saturday, I wanted to write this article to give credit to all of those helping TEDxUBC become a success!

      You guys all rocked!!!

      I also hope other people with passion about something that may be sitting there and thinking “why bother, no one would care” would change their minds and draw inspiration from success stories like TEDxUBC! 😉

  2. October 27, 2010 at 4:56 am

    This article was very inspiring! Congrats on a job well done!! I truly appreciate the hard work of all volunteers to make this event unbelievable! It truly was an unbelievable experiece for all of us speakers!

    • October 27, 2010 at 3:03 pm

      Thanks Sunddip! I am truly honored you read my article and are helping spread some of the passion and inspiration that was going on last Saturday. I am sure I can safely speak for all of the volunteers if I say we all appreciate your positive feedback about the experience from the speaker-side of the fence! 😉 I hope more educators will draw inspiration from your talk and the talks of the other speakers and start a discussion about the kind of changes needed to transform the education you have vividly shown in your talk is outdated!

  3. October 27, 2010 at 12:28 am

    Wow, nicely done Kima. Thank you for the kind words and inspiration you have provided in return! We have selected this to be placed on the main TEDxUBC site with a link back. Thanks again.

    • October 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm

      Thanks Bret! I found the experience eye-opening from more than one perspective so I was hoping writing about one such perspective in a blog would help others draw inspiration. You guys did a great job in lining up some amazing speakers on the roster and getting the ball rolling, but letting the volunteers take ownership and feel as if they were running their own conference is what probably made the biggest difference. And now, after the conference is done, inviting the same people again — this time along with the audience — create legacy behind TEDxUBC and start a movement around transforming education in BC simply reinforces the ownership! I can’t wait to see what kind of goodies will come out of it! 😉

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