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Inside TEDxGrandRapids 2013

Stephanie Doublestein is one of Rapid Growth's freelance writers and a member of the 2013 TEDxGrandRapids team. 

This May, TEDxGrandRapids will hold its third annual event at the Civic Theatre, hosting dynamic speakers in front of an audience interested in “ideas worth spreading,” that infamous tagline that all independently organized, local TEDx events take from the national TED conference. This year is my first being a part of the all-volunteer team that puts on TEDxGrandRapids. Before, I’d seen TED talks online and been vaguely aware of the local event, but I mistakenly thought that its impact was limited to the few hundred people lucky enough to be in the audience. What I’m realizing, though, is that having TEDxGR here sends ripples of goodness out into our community, positively affecting even people who have no idea what TEDxGR is.
For example, because our city holds a TEDx license, we're able to annually host a free one-day livestream of the TED conference from the west coast. This year, a group of GVSU students from the Frederik Meijer Honors College has taken the lead in organizing the Feb. 27 event, allowing them to gain real-world entrepreneurial experience in event planning, fundraising, promotion, and collaboration with the greater Grand Rapids community. The event, called TED Live, has been almost entirely planned and executed by the students in the Social Impact Through Community Engagement seminar with guidance from the TEDxGR team. It's designed to appeal to both college students (some of whom can earn credit for attending) and the general public; to register, see the Livestream tab on our website.
Speaking of livestreams, another way TEDxGR impacts the broader community is through Livestream for Education. Born in 2012, Livestream for Education allows speakers on the TEDxGR stage to reach hundreds of Michigan educators and students in satellite locations in real time on the day of the event. It encourages new ways of teaching and learning in our schools, allows for inter-disciplinary connections to be made, and helps to motivate and inspire leaders in the classroom. Teachers who attended last year have changed teaching methods, instituted new recycling initiatives, collaborated on new curriculum, and incorporated TED talks into their instruction -- all outcomes that positively affect students in districts across our city and state.
And about those speakers: bringing nationally -- and internationally -- known speakers to talk here at TEDxGR allows us to give them a glimpse of our fair city. The speakers are exposed to local musicians and artists at the event, welcomed at a reception that showcases local food, craft beer, and coffee, and generally immersed in the heart of our city for a couple of days. We hope they'll leave TEDxGR as ambassadors of our region, wherever their travels may take them.
Every year, we expect our speakers to inspire our audience to do something with what they've heard, and these actions, too, resonate in the whole community. Furniture designers bring innovative sustainability ideas back to their teams; local universities implement new ways of using technology to reach students and collaborate with faculty; ideas presented in a talk about coffee end up influencing a recent museum exhibition about beer. In ways big and small, the audience soaks up great ideas and then manifests them in infinite ways in their families, workplaces, classrooms, and studios.
From the outside looking in, TEDxGR might seem to be a small, insular, elite event. I know it can have that reputation. But from the inside looking out, I can tell you that we're working hard this year to reach out to as wide and diverse a swath of Grand Rapidians as possible, because we want the conversations that come from this event to ripple far and wide after the day is over. We've been opening up virtual dialogues on social media and literally showing up on the doorsteps of multiple organizations to encourage participation. Consider applying to attend, arranging to host your own free livestream, sponsoring our event, volunteering, jumping into the conversations on social media, watching a TED talk, or just starting something new in our community. Our theme this year is "Tag - You're It," and we'd love for you to get in the game.
We're never going to fit the whole population of West Michigan into the Civic Theatre on May 9. Instead, it's my hope and belief that no matter where you're sitting that day, the reverberations of TEDxGrandRapids will benefit you and the greater Grand Rapids region all year long. 

Disclaimer: RapidBlogs are lightly edited and honor the stylistic decisions of the writer. Views and opinions expressed in RapidBlogs do not necessarily reflect the views of Rapid Growth Media or its staff. 

Photo By:
TEDxGrand Rapids
Photographer: Terry Johnston
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