TEDxRichmond was held in Richmond's Uptown Innovation Center February 9th. It was hosted by Richmond native Evan Blum, an I.U. Bloomington medical student who impressively managed to generate interest, network with local sponsors, as well as with the official TED organization, to host roughly 100 attendees waiting eagerly to hear the five speakers in attendance presenting topics ranging from skydiving and entrepreneurship, digital fabrication, community revitalization projects and in an official TED video shown, diversity in spaghetti sauce.
TED stands for Technology Entertainment and Design. It is their mission to promote "Ideas Worth Spreading". TED was formed in Silicon valley by a private nonprofit company called Sapling in 1984. TED originally began as a narrower focused technology conference and has grown to an international movement. Videos of brilliant speakers from all over the globe are featured in TED's 1,500 free on-line videos. It is TED's mission to share the best of today's minds with communities everywhere.
My husband and I sat one row shy of the front at our local event. The first thing we noticed was everyone else clustered towards the back of the room. One of the ladies present remarked, "It's just like being in high school again. No one wants to sit in the front." As the event continued, we may all have been sitting towards the back, but we were all leaning forward. Two of the speakers were recognizable Richmond natives. Chris Hardie, a businessman and community builder who recently ran for public office spoke of personal journeys, running, motivation and friendship. His speech resonated with the feel and air of the event. Rob Zinkan, gave an excellent presentation on our City's Higher Education resources, billing us as a "Knowledge Town", due to the presence of our four major colleges: Ivy Tech, Purdue, Indiana University East, Earlham and in addition, not to be overlooked, Earlham College's associated Bethany Theological Seminary. Richmond may not fit the criteria for a traditional college town, but that's okay! We are wealthy in college resources. There are currently 10,000 enrolled college students in Richmond now.
People spoke of technology and our changing world. A North Carolinian neuroscientist and inventor, Ted Hall gave a fabulous speech about digital fabrication. He explained ShopBot Tools, Inc., his company which makes and sells computer controlled prefabrication machines for factories, large and small. The machines are small enough for any one person's shop or garage. Computer controlled machines are capable of working with various materials metal, plastics or wood. Their accuracy in guiding a cutting tool, enables one person to manufacture a wide range of products, which otherwise would be very difficult even for a skilled tradesman. He spoke of the dark side of his personal invention. How it made job losses and smaller salaries, in some cases seemingly inevitable. But he also noted, how this technology is democratizing manufacturing. Anyone can make virtually any thing.
Perhaps the most inspiring speech was reserved for last. André Leroux, a community organizer from Lawrence, Massachusetts gave a presentation on the change in his community. Lawrence shared many parallels with our community. Much of the industry which formerly supported the city has expired. The giant, empty mill buildings littered their landscape, in stringent zoning law limbo. Lawrence is a diverse city. Much like Richmond, groups of people living in their city were fragmented and living separate lives. André helped lead an effort of community revitalization. Neighborhoods came together and campaigned to change outdated zoning laws to put the dinosaur buildings of old industry to a lively modern use. They cleaned and greened their neighborhoods- even converting abandoned, crime ridden alleyways into community garden space. André noted that not all of the community's goals were met, but he did show a map of the areas in the city that they had managed to save from neglect
What was most astonishing about that last talk were the images. People of all kinds of backgrounds in that mill town came together, putting aside their differences to find common ground. Mill owners, immigrants and people of different races and demographics in that town have chosen to really own their place. They are making their city safe and beautiful. All I could think, as I watched that screen is how we all want what they want. Safe, beautiful green spaces where we can live, work and play. As I held back a tear (He showed pictures of adorable children playing in formerly frightening alleys turned community garden spaces, okay! You keep your face dry in light of that!), I thought this is possible. I want this for Richmond. I want this for my family and friends. If they can accomplish these things, in Lawrence, Massachusetts so can we in Richmond, Indiana.
After the event I spoke briefly with Tom Williams, representing an initiative to improve the North side of Richmond. He's concerned with affordable and safe housing in his neighborhood. We sat next to Valerie, the Associate of Japan Studies at Earlham. I didn't realize that Earlham college has maintained a cultural exchange with Japan for 100 years (more or less). We recognized an acquaintance attending as part of a young business professional group (HYPE) who are active in the Richmond area. Before the event, I was not aware of the existence of these organizations. I wonder how many Richmond residents are out there trying to do something for our community, who could use volunteers and interested parties willing to lend a hand.
My husband and I discussed the "Earlham Bubble". Students in Richmond tend to stay on campus. It is rare (unless you happen to be at a bar on a certain night) to see a real student presence in our city. Hence, we do not feel like a college town. Richmond is also becoming a more diverse city, and it isn't only Earlham students who live in a bubble. I believe that we all do. Birds of a feather flock together, so they say. So we all keep to our bubbles, be that a small individual bubble or a specific group bubble. It is rare to see people really mixing it up. I think more than anything Richmond needs to have a better awareness and a quality dialogue between already existing groups and people in Richmond who desire to make a difference.
Videos of the event will be available on-line soon, in case you missed it. While you wait, browse TED's website. You can even watch the official videos shared at our local event: Derek Sivers, Simon Sinek, and Malcolm Gladwell. Let's keep the dialogue going!
I am looking forward to covering more future community events! Just this morning, I caught sight of a new group called Sprout of Control, forming a Facebook presence. They are hosting an open meeting at the Townsend Center February 23rd at 2 for those interested in making Richmond green and beautiful. I am excited!
Your Local Gal
TEDXRICHMOND VIDEOS NOW UP!!! CLICK ON THIS LINK TO VIEW THEM!