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Beyond TEDxGrandRapids

In year three of TEDxGrandRapids, organizer Bill Holsinger-Robinson says it's all about sustainability and community. 

"The first year is to see if you can do it," he says. "Then you say, 'can we do it again?' Is it repeatable? Last year, we proved (TEDx) was repeatable. Now, is it sustainable?"

TEDxGrandRapids' team of 20-some expands to 100 the day of the event. That's important, and so is securing the right sponsorship. But, Holsinger-Robinson says the real question is wrapped up in the impact of the event. "Is it doing the right kind of good in the community that we want it to?" he asks. 

Holsinger-Robinson, who also teaches at Grand Valley State University, recently had a class do some work around "creating some guidelines for measuring social impact," he says. The intent is to apply what they've learned and figure out who the stakeholders are, who the event is affecting, and "if there's an appropriate kind of value that we can assign." Even if there's always enough sponsorship and the event sells out every year, he says, that doesn't mean it should keep going. "I'm not that interested in it if the only benefit is a really good one-day show," he says. "I'd like to believe and hope that it can be more than that."

Holsinger-Robinson says that because of the TEDx brand, the team's been able to secure a "great lineup." But because the event itself is invite-only, there is only the potential to connect those speakers with the 750 guests that attend the one-day conference. "We've been working really hard on getting the speakers connected to events the day after," he says. "We're leveraging the talent that's here."

Of TEDxGrandRapids' 14 speakers, two are from overseas -- one from Scotland, one from South Africa. Holsinger-Robinson hopes that emotional connections to ongoing projects can be made between the speakers and Grand Rapids. "I've always believed that it's those personal connections that get people excited about Grand Rapids," he says. "We've got all these speakers coming from around the world that we want to make sure have a really fantastic experience. We want to have a completely engaged audience…I want all the speakers to feel overwhelmed by the experience."

TEDxGrandRapids is also concerned with facilitating a diverse audience. "We sold out two years in a row," Holsinger-Robinson says. "We looked at the audience and said, 'who's missing?' If our commitment is around creating some sort of positive impact, who needs to be there?" This year's event saw Skot Welch (also featured in today's Rapid Growth) act as Inclusion Lead.  

"High levels of diversity across a number of dimensions in a dense population is a thing that necessitates innovation," he says," because of all these differing ideas, perspectives, and histories rubbing against each other. If we're looking to have some sort of positive impact, we need to ensure that the audience is like that. That's the only way we could ensure something good could come from the event."

Whether you're going to TEDxGrandRapids this year or not, below are some of the satellite events open to the public. 

Friday, May 10 from 8:30 - 10 a.m.
2 W. Fulton St.

In collaboration with AIGA West Michigan, TEDxGrandRapids offers a second chance to hear Greg Galle, co-founder of ingenuity firm Future Partners. The event begins bright and early with coffee, followed by a short talk and Q&A session with Galle. Galle's interest is in improving life through design. 

Nurturing an Entrepreneurial Community with Tim Rowe
Friday, May 10 from 8:30 - 10:30 a.m.
Kendall College of Art and Design - Historic Federal Building Room 217
17 Pearl St. NW

Organized by Hub Grand Rapids and sponsored by Herman Miller, Tim Rowe, CEO and founder of Cambridge Innovation Center, will lecture at this morning event. The Cambridge Innovation Center currently houses over 450 start-ups and has seen 1000 companies get their start since its inception in 1999. Rowe is also a founder and venture partner with New Atlantic Ventures. The event includes a continental breakfast prior to the lecture, and time for networking afterwards. 

It's a Girl
Friday, May 10 at 7 p.m.
Celebration! Cinema Woodland
3195 28th. St. SE

It's a Girl is a documentary about "gendercide," or the prevalence of killed, aborted, and abandoned girls in India and China, and the struggles surviving females face in these parts of the world. The United Nations estimates 200 million women are missing worldwide.
It's a Girl is the first feature length documentary from director and TEDxGrandRapids speaker Evan Grae Davis.

TEDxGrandRapids Music Showcase and Pre-Movement Party
Thursday, May 9 at 9 p.m.
The Pyramid Scheme
68 Commerce Ave. SW

TEDxGrandRapids has partnered with Paxahau for an after-party for TEDxGrandRapids and a pre-party for Detroit's Movement Electronic Music Festival. DJs include Kenneth Thomas, Dan Bain, Duky, and Alexander Roelandt. 

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