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Reader Opinion: TEDx Buffalo?

Since I posted the very exciting news of a TEDx event in the works for Buffalo, I have received numerous emails and on-the-street responses from enthusiasts and naysayers. Granted some TEDx events are more successful than others–being granted the permission to host a TEDx event doesn’t automatically ensure that the event will be profound or well-executed.

And in Buffalo–a city I love and would never consider leaving–it is doubtful that anyone could announce the erection of a lemonade stand without encountering some kind of negative feedback, unasked for advice or unknown permitting process. So it is with a solid tablespoon of salt (rather than a single grain) that I would like to ask Buffalo Rising’s readers what they would hope to see happen at the first TEDxBuffalo. And secondly, what they think the results of that hope–were it to come to fruition–would be.

I have a fair share of my own opinions, those close to me will tell you that bringing a TEDx event to WNY has been on my list of things to do for a reasonable amount of time. I laud organizer Susan Lynne Cope’s efforts and look forward to the day when the final plans are in place and we are able to see, fully formed, what this event will look like, who will agree to speak, where it will be held, and, foremost on this foodie’s mind–what will be offered for lunch!

All kidding aside, this morning when we were taping Buffalo Rising’s Roundtable with WBFO’s Mark Scott (look for the post on Monday), I expressed my desire to see at least one very innovative speaker who is not from our region. I do think that there are a lot of local geniuses and idea people who may not have had a public forum in the past and have important things to share, but I also think that we can really learn from positive and successful examples that come from outside of WNY. On a side note, geniuses and experts are not always great public speakers, and given TEDx’s format, big personalities and public speaking skills are definitely required for the job.

Cope’s website states that the theme of the conference will be What Buffalo Needs Now!, and I appreciate what appears to be an effort to focus on today (real building blocks and tools for change) rather than the future (sometimes enrobed in hypotheses and wishful thinking). Also of note is the TEDxBuffalo mission statement: “With community involvement and active participation from the city’s residents, we can rebuild the East Side, bring new employment opportunities to the city and create a sustainable infrastructure for our future and future generations. Change starts with you.”

As an advocate for the local food movement and reinvestment in our own economy, I can easily agree and see where Cope is heading with this plan, but does anyone fear the subject too broad, or conversely, too narrow?

Who could come here and, in 18 minutes, change the way Buffalo thinks and feels about itself? Who could ignite 100 ReUse’s or 100 MAP’s? Who could inspire 100 urban farmers or 100 Prish Moran’s? Because that is, after all, what we hope will come from TEDx. With an audience of only 100 people, the ideal result is 100 people ready to fight fire with fire, to never take no for an answer and to build their own Little Engine That Could from virtually nothing.

So who do you want to see at TEDxBuffalo 2010 (dream big here people, it can’t hurt), and why? What do you envision as the optimal outcome from TEDxBuffalo 2010? If someone connected to the event asked you for your two cents, what would they be?

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