During a workshop on creating a TEDx manifesto, attendees face the difficulty of defining something so ineffable: “What makes the TEDx community so strong is the shared gut understanding that’s already there, about the manifesto, about what TEDx is.” They concluded with five items, including this mission statement: “Our mission is to spread ideas that will inspire people to improve society.”
While discussing TEDx tools for the developing world, Kelo Kubu from TEDxSoweto points out that high production value, like that at TED, does not always translate across cultures. A luxurious venue or too smooth an operation can actually work against the mission in some communities; people become distracted from the ideas and instead focus on the “WOW,” or wonder how they can exploit the host organization. As Kelo says, “Don’t bring things into the community that don’t fit there! When you bring people into an environment where they don’t feel they belong, they don’t feel comfortable enough to share.” Sometimes plastic chairs do it best.
In a workshop on hosting an event in a “complicated region,” Yahay Alabdeli from TEDxBaghdad reflects on the precariousness of cooperating with a government sponsor in a country like Iraq. He jokes (with seriousness), “Get EVERYTHING on paper. No ‘inshallah’” — before urging attendees of the workshop to really ask themselves if they want to hold a TEDx event in their native countries, where they may be perceived in the wrong light. As TEDxAnnaba’s Mehdi Dib puts it, “Here, we are perceived as thinkers; but in our countries, we are perceived as activists.”