3 things I learned from founding a TEDx event

Apart from the amazing ideas generated from the TEDx events held in the last divided capital in Europe, Nicosia, and showcased at TEDxNicosia (www.TEDxNicosia.com) there are several nuggets I learned from founding the first TEDx event (and subsequent movement) there, starting in Nov. 2011. Truth be told, I always believed in these five nuggets, in a visceral or gut-knowing way. However, the TEDx platform helped prove these:

1- Margaret Mead was right: 5% or 5 people out of 100 is all you need to make a difference.

As I embarked on this crazy idea of creating a TEDx event in Cyprus in Nov. 2011. I knew from my Six Sigma project planning days that it would require more brains, hands and hearts to make it happen. Inviting four close associates I had met in various other projects or socially was a gamble: l was up front with the fact that there was absolutely no monetary remuneration from this effort. The benefits would all be intangible: passion, teamwork, ideas, gratitude, goodwill and may be a bit of local fame. The team was amazing: working late hours, after their regular day jobs for over three months to make it happen. The event grew from 1 to over 1,800 followers on Facebook. There have been four events so far in 24 months with total reaching in person and mainly online of over 500,000 people. That’s about half the population of Cyprus (estimated at 1.2 million) and 200,000 more people than the population of the last divided capital. Nicosia.

2-  Start-ups and the private sector can and have made a difference in their TEDx community

In communities plagued by the financial crisis it is incredible how start-ups and the private sector can contribute and lift the morale through initiatives like TEDx. While this may be a no-brainer for more developed communities where community volunteerism for causes is developed, in a community like Nicosia cause sponsorships were polarized between terminal illnesses and football. TEDxNicosia created a paradigm shift in supporting ideas generated by women and men by giving them a platform to share ideas on peace building, sustainability, personal growth, personal struggle and subsequent victory. In a society where the power of voice has been traditionally limited by the media to middle aged men elected, politically appointed or with money- all of whom have proved largely ineffective to lead or solve problems given the recent economic quagmire in Cyprus. According to the EU Report ‘Mind the Gap’ – Cyprus is ranked in the top 4 of 27 EU countries with the best-educated youth aged 24-36. Imperial, Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, Cornell, Harvard grads are almost a dime a dozen in the 1.2 million people country. But no one ever heard of them as they were wasting away, mostly in dead-end government jobs. TEDxNicosia, following TEDx requirements of an online presence, initiated new, digital and social media platforms managed by our pro-bono digital manager and built largely pro-bono by local start-ups. In the second year, TEDxNicosia secured an exclusive partnership and cash contribution for the country’s main telecom provider who was committed. We even managed to get the telecom provider to install free wifi forever in the municipal theater we hosted the event, a tiny example of a private public partnership at work.

3- Socrates was right: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

For those of us that recognized the need for change, through TEDxNicosia, along with the core team of organizers, speakers, volunteers, sponsoring partners and the audience we strived and built, out of one idea, a new platform for expression, inspiration networking for ideas worth sharing island wide. For a country plagued with a 45 year old political impasse, over 40 years of UN presence on the island and stalemate peace negotiations and now an economic quagmire, it is time for a new paradigm. Ideas worth spreading know no borders and UN buffer zones. TEDxNicosia speakers from the north and the south of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, speakers from Greece and Israel for a truly southeastern European dialogue. The first event theme was Dream.Risk.Care.Live! and the second was RE-Think. RE-Generate. RE-Act.

A TEDx event reflects the pulse of the community, which creates it. In retrospect, TEDxNicosia was a truly life changing experience and provided empirical evidence that finding one’s voice and helping others find theirs is truly priceless.

Marina Theodotou is a global PPP Strategist who inspires teams to carve new paths in the realms of womenomics, entrepreneurship and sustainability. She founded and curated the first TEDx event in Cyprus, TEDxNicosia in Nov 2011.Today, the TEDxNicosia continues on with more events relfecting the community www.TEDxNIcosia.com

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