Why TEDActive? Thoughts on what makes this conference “an ‘a-ha’ experience”

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At TEDActive, collaborative

At TEDActive, collaborative thinking is what it’s all about.

TEDActive was born with a bang in Aspen, Colorado, in 2008. Quite literally. Less than 24 hours before the conference was supposed to start, the sprinklers erupted and drenched the simulcast lounges — red beanbag chairs and all — with buckets of water. But instead of letting despair sink in, everyone grabbed a mop, towel, bucket, hairdryer or dehumidifier and dug in. What could have been a disaster ended up being a success. It defined the spirit of all TEDActives to come: one of taking action, of spontaneity and of all hands on deck.

TEDActive is a simulcast experience that runs in parallel to the TED conference every year. But, there’s so much more to it. The “Active” in its name comes from the observation that when you get a bunch of doers together in the same room and throw in a catalyst as powerful TED Talks, things start bubbling like in a chemistry experiment. What happens at the conference inevitably results in an action, big or small — whether it is a change in way of thinking, a locally organized event or a new startup. Each year, TEDActive takes this idea and builds on it, priming all the conference spaces, experiences and activities toward creating and doing.

Below, attendees give their take on what makes TEDActive so unique:

“It’s a place where people come with strong ideas, strong opinions and strong beliefs, but are willing to be wrong. For me, this is the essence of what TED is about: being open to learning something new that might fly at the face of what you know.” —Will Lucas

“TEDActive is an incubator for ideas to flourish beyond the talks. It’s about the desire to turn ‘TED Talks’ into ‘TED Walks.’ TEDActive is a community of thinkers and doers, people who not only want to create change but pursue it … Being a social-entrepreneur can at times be quite draining — and even scary — because you have to believe in ideas that some may find too daunting. TEDActive is quite simply the first time in a long time that I feel like I am home.” —Eric Espinosa

“I could stay home and watch the TED livestream, but at TEDActive, there’s such a feeling of joy … There’s a difference between watching the simulcast in your living room and watching with a group of people who are all really happy to be there.” —Jenny Zoe Casey

“At TEDActive, we take over a hotel and everyone is there the entire time. That makes creating deep relationships feasible and the whole thing feel so connected and intimate … I recently told someone that being at TEDActive is like being at a school for the brightest people you can imagine, but where everyone thinks everyone else is cooler than they are. That makes for an incredibly fun social setting. I get so inspired by the people I meet; who they are, what they’re out to accomplish and the difference they’re making in the world we share. Besides, it’s just plain fun!” —John K. Bates

“TEDActive is a unique and engaging experience where people come together to co-create something bigger than ourselves and wilder than we could have imagined. It’s an inclusive, accessible event that inspires attendees to continue their TED experience afterwards and maybe even encourages people to be the change that earns a place at TED in the future.” —Jon Yeo

“TEDActive provide spaces for all kinds of activity based learning, which appeals to many entrepreneurs in general and to me in particular as my professional interest includes informal learning through play. I think that TEDActive is the perfect complement to TED as it attracts a younger crowd (both in age and mindset) that gravitates to a design thinking approach to problem solving and embraces non-traditional definitions of success. By providing many entry points for interacting, collaborating and innovating, TEDActive is an inclusive and welcoming group that in a sense turns the concept of the old-boys-network on its head.” —Felicia Kamriani

“Having been to both events, I can say that TED is a truly awesome event, but few people realize just how huge it is. TEDActive is more intimate and takes itself a little less seriously (in a good way).”  —Sebastian Wernicke (Watch the brilliant TED Talk  he gave at TEDActive 2010.)

“The insistence on being mentally present and exploring what it means to be a human and to try to do good creates a rigor that is exhausting — even with coffee — but brilliantly invigorating. Like a good gym workout.” — Betsy Aoki

“It’s an ‘a-ha’ experience that stretched my definition of the possible. Possible in terms of what was being done by people on stage (de-extinction, cheap tests for cancer, reversing desertification) but also in terms meeting different kinds of characters I had no idea existed out there in the world. There were all sorts — from mid-western college students to yoga teachers to immigration lawyers to tech entrepreneurs. I’ve come away wanting to DO STUFF, a la speaker Ron Finley, the artist and guerrilla gardener, from South Central LA.” —Sheila Pham

At TEDActive, the talks are just the starting point. It's the conversations that arise from them that get interesting.

At TEDActive, the talks are just the starting point. It’s the conversations that arise from them that get interesting.

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