Posts Categorized: Community

Ideas Worth Spreading (And Printing. And Pasting on City Walls)

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By Chris Daley, UPMC Health Plan

172,281 portraits. 592 locations. 1 TED talk.

The breadth of TED Talks is incredible. Impressive, really.  It may be the one platform where diverse audiences come together to learn how to lean in, why we are happy and to love, no matter what.  From art to literature, success and motivation to the essence of the everyday, all TED Talks have one common thread: the power of sharing an idea.

My favorite TED talks are the ones that inspire tangible action — where spreading an idea can lead to spreading ink over a canvas or building bridges over divides.

It can be easy to think of art as inaccessible, a difficult and specialized endeavor that is so specific and divided by the individualized tastes of the viewer.  But, TED turned the lens on the artist: JR, a French self-proclaimed “photograffeur” and recipient of the TED2011 Prize to find unity.  JR’s “My Wish to Use Art to Turn the World Inside Out” is truly inspiring, a global initiative to change the world through photos.  Through his large-scale participatory art project, JR challenged the world: “To stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world . . . inside out.”  His use of art — merely the simple portrait of everyday people — to equalize differences and show what people across the globe have in common.

“The people I photograph were proud to participate in the project and to have their photo in the community. But they asked me for a promise basically. They asked me, ‘Please, make our story travel with you.’ So I did.”

An idea that spread over the Facebook walls and the walls of 30-story buildings alike, or fed through black and white printers and Instagram filters is an idea that belongs to more than one person. Through the power of paper and glue, JR has helped to shatter the notion that creativity is only something the chosen few possess.

This example shows that art is personal, yet social. Assertive, but welcoming. Even more, JR’s Talk shows just how prolific an idea can become, shared and spread.

What is more exciting is that this kind of thing is happening in our own backyard. Just wait and see what happens when a ripple effect hits three rivers – that’s what this Saturday’s installment of TEDx Grandview Ave is about.  A room to meet in, ideas to share, and the ability to dare to create.


What is social enterprise?

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And how does it relate to this year’s theme: “Dare to Create?”

In a previous blog post, TEDxGrandviewAve organizer Kacey Wherley defined “create” as “to start something new.” She also stressed that it was not so much about the act of being creative, as it is about taking that first step to create.

That resonated with me, as I thought about how much that theme, as well as TEDx more broadly, this year’s featured speakers, and the stories they’re telling relate to the drive to create social enterprise.

People ask constantly, what do you mean by social enterprise? Is a non-profit a social enterprise? Is our local food co-op a social enterprise? These are complicated and loaded questions, because the term “social enterprise,” just like the word “sustainability,” often means something different to every person or organization who uses it.

However, though it carries many different meanings, at Idea Foundry, we define social enterprise as using responsible, ethical, and accountable business to create sustained, impactful, and positive social change. We consider market-driven solutions to the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges the most compelling form of social enterprise, mainly because like all for-profit businesses, they are revenue generating, which makes them financially sustainable, and therefore more impactful, over the long run.

There are so many terms for this: “triple bottom line;” “profit with a purpose;” “business for good;” “conscious capitalism;” and the list goes on. What they all have in common, though, is that they represent this specific type of wide-reaching, innovative, and replicable solutions that spread economic, social, and environmental benefits through our communities. For-profit social enterprises are often elegant models for how we can create a more just and sustainable world through business.

Now, while not all TEDx speakers are social entrepreneurs, especially by the definition laid out above, many of them are. (For example, Thread International, the company of Ian Rosenberger, one of this year’s speakers, was one of the first social enterprise ventures Idea Foundry supported.) This is because social enterprise at a very basic level harkens back to Kacey’s definition of “create,” or to start something new. At its core, social enterprise is designing new solutions to old problems, executing unique ideas that disrupt the status quo in the name of social good.

Social enterprise often starts with a person who is acquainted with a problem, often in their own community, and often on a deeply personal level, such as poor air quality, substandard public transit, widespread unemployment, recidivism, or unequal access to healthy foods. Social enterprise results when that person has the drive to solve that problem, is not afraid to try something new, knows what it takes to accomplish their goals, can rally others around their passion and ideas, and has the courage to just go for it.

So as you’re enjoying this weekend’s TEDxGrandviewAve festivities, my question to you is: What will you do to change the world for the better? What will you Dare to Create?


Guest post written by Nicole Muise-Kielkucki, manager of social enterprise initiatives at Idea Foundry. Idea Foundry is a sponsor of TEDxGrandviewAve.

To learn more about social enterprise in Pittsburgh,  follow us on twitter at @InterSectorPGH. 

How to Launch Your Big Idea – 5 Lessons from the Founder of TED

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by Joe Vennare, Storyteller


TED talks have become a global phenomenon. Stories of success and struggle. Inspiration and ideas. New technologies and innovating thoughts. People and far off places. There a seemingly endless collection of talks that stretch the limits of our imagination and abilities.

While taking in a live event or video online, few people stop to think – how did this happen? Where did these talks begin? Heck, what does TED even stand for? (FYI – Technology, Entertainment and Design)

In a recent interview with American Express Open Forum, TED founder Richard Saul Wurman dives into the details of the first ever TED event. In doing so he revealed more than who was there (i.e. Steve Jobs, the President of Sony showing off the first CD player, etc) and where it was (the Monterey Conference Center in California). Contained within Wurman’s interview, the story of how TED came to be, is a framework for how you can transform your idea into a global success story.

Be on the lookout for opportunities

In the early 1980s, Wurman say something others didn’t. He said, there was a convergence taking place between technology businesses, the entertainment industry and design professions. Not many people saw it. I did.

Lesson 1. If you want to build something big, I mean really BIG, you have to see opportunity where others see opposition. Or, in the places no one else is looking.

Think about failure differently

When recounting the first event, Wurman remembered, about 300 attendees came to the Monterey Conference Center, which held 500 people… I lost money on the first TED conference.

Lesson 2. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying. Yes, the first event was a risk. You might even call it a loss. Maybe a failure. Sometimes you can’t avoid it. Especially when trying to launch a big idea. We can’t avoid failure. But, we can think about it differently.

Go against the grain.

Wurman wanted TED to be innovative. Here’s how he did it – One path to true innovation is through subtraction. I looked at all the elements of conferences that were taking place at the time, and I removed some of the items to create TED.

Lesson 3. Innovation doesn’t occur when you do what everyone else is doing, the way it’s always been done. Different is good, especially when different creates a disruption in the status quo. In this case, less really was more.

Never stop learning

At the first TED conference Wurman asked attendees – to take a journey with me from not knowing to knowing. He told them – “Learning is remembering what you are interested in.” I hate education, but I love learning.

Lesson 4. If you want to be truly great. If you really want to do something spectacular, you have to be a lifelong learner. As Wurman points out, it has nothing to do with education. Just a insatiable desire to learn.

Know your strengths

Planning the lineup of speakers, Wurman chose speakers who were smarter and more talented than I was, and they brought the discussions to life.

Lesson 5. If you want to build something bigger than yourself, you’ll need people other than yourself. Be honest. What are you good at? Do that. Enlist other people to fill in the gaps. You can’t do everything all of the time. That’s a surefire way to burnout. Which is frowned upon when trying to launch a big idea.


Back to the original question – How did it happen?

How did Wurman create such a legendary brand, conference and business? He started with a BIG idea. He saw opportunity where others weren’t looking. Went after it and persisted despite some setbacks (read – failures). He didn’t compromise his vision, he was innovative. He wanted to help others learn, because he loved to learn. And, along the way, he looked to others who were smarter than him to make his idea a success. Wurman ran TED for 18 years before it was acquired by Chris Anderson.

It’s the framework you can use to launch your idea. To make it a success. Who knows, you might be sitting on the next TED. When you think about it like that, the real question is “what are you waiting for?”


Gearing Up For TEDX Grandview Ave 2014 [A Checklist]

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by Joe Vennare, Storyteller


What are you doing on April 26th, 2014?

Think about it.

Are you getting married? Will you be out of the country? Are you the guest of honor or headliner at a banquet of some sort?

No, you say! We’ll then, mark your calendar. You’re not going to want to miss what we have planned for you, Pittsburgh.

1. Check us out – Are you wondering what we’re all about? What we’ve been up to? What you can expect from us? No need to wonder, just keep reading. I’ll keep it short. Promise.

On April 26th we’ll open the doors to the New Hazlett theater. The audience (maybe you!) will take their seats. Then, the ideas and people moving Pittsburgh forward will take center stage. It’s not simply an event, it’s an experience intended to inspire and inform our city and its people.

2. Meet the team – The TEDxGrandviewAve team is working hard to create an event unlike any other in the Burgh. We’re a young, bootstrapping group of creatives and entrepreneurs. We love being inspired and inspiring others. Most of all, we love Pittsburgh. Take a minute to read our bios. And feel free to connect with us.

3. Go back in time – Did you know we had our first TEDxGVA event last year? It was amazing! See for yourself. Last year’s speakers and their presentations are featured on our website.

4. Show your support – If you like what you’re up to and want to get involved we’d love to get you input. Join the Community Board. Volunteer on the day of the event. Become a sponsor. Or, email us and tell us how you’d like to help.

5. Stay tuned – I know what you’re thinking, I wish it was April too! But, there’s still some time between now and the event. We should definitely stay in touch till then. Let’s connect on Facebook and Twitter. This way you won’t miss the huge announcements we’re going to me in the weeks to come. Like who the speakers are and when tickets go on sale. Kind of important, I now.

Our Future Takes Center Stage

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by Joe Vennare, Storyteller

New Hazlett Theater

The story of starting again is one that we Pittsburghers are familiar with. A narrative that we know all too well. One that, dare I say, we’ve come to embrace.

The steel boom that built our city could just as easily brought us down when it went bust. But, instead of breaking we came together, like carbon and iron. We formed an alloy capable of withstanding the elements. One that would come to define the revival by the rivers.

The results of this restart, of this revival can be seen all across this city. There’s a touch of resilience at every turn. A palpable history and sense of brilliance that are redefining our direction.

The Same Story, a New Narrative

At TEDxGrandviewAve we’ve made it our mission to showcase the people and ideas that are playing a pivotal role in this restart. So, on April 26, 2014 that’s exactly what we plan to do. When the speakers take the stage at the New Hazlett Theater their ideas will be added those thoughts capable of setting a new course. Preserving the past while preparing for the future.

Which is to be expected, given the restart story of Pittsburgh that we know. But, so fitting given the resilience of the New Hazlett that might be overlooked.

The History of the New Hazlett


In recent years Pittsburgh has become home to a number startup spaces and business accelerators. During that same time, the New Hazlett has served as an incubator for the arts. It’s history mirrors that of the city it resides in.

History – Thanks to Andrew Carnegie, the New Hazlett was built in 1889. Originally it was the Carnegie Free Public Library and Music Hall – the first of it’s kind. Later, in 1980 the Public Library and Music Hall was renamed in honor of Theodore L. Hazlett Jr, a civic leader who supported the arts and worked to rid the city of smog.

Resilience – When the hall was threatened by demolition in 1967, the community stepped up (as we’ve been known to do) to secure the necessary funding for a renovation.

Defining the future – Flashforward to the present day and this nonprofit theater continues to thrive and as an active component of PIttsburgh’s arts community.

And on April 26, 2014 the New Hazlett will play host to a performance that encompasses the arts, but doesn’t stop there. We’ll explore technology and education, creativity and innovation as we engineer the businesses, relationships and communities as we continue to redefine Pittsburgh.

Calling all Creators! Call For Speakers Now Open

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by Joe Vennare, Storyteller









Calling all creators!

Do you have an idea worth sharing or a story worth telling?

If you’re a maker, a doer, or leader interested in speaking at TEDxGrandviewAve 2014, we’d like to hear from you.

Speakers Wanted

With a theme of Dare to Create, we’re in search of speakers who have made the leap from idea to action by creating something, anything that inspires, impacts, or changes our region and world. We’re practically interested in showcasing the people and ideas that are redefining Pittsburgh, so keep that in mind when you’re applying.

Are You Interested?

We hope you are!

If the answer is yes, then you’ll need to complete the application process. (Go go ahead, click that link right there.)

The call for speakers is open until December 1, 2013, and we’ll get back to you by January 15th.


New to what we’re doing? Here’s some helpful FAQ’s:

What is TED?

First, TED isn’t a person. TED is a conference that originally dealt with Technology, Entertainment and Design, but is now a platform for ideas worth spreading on any topic!

How is a TEDx event different from a TED conference?

TED conferences are organized and run directly by TED. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.

What happens after I submit my idea?

TEDxGrandviewAve organizers will review all applications and send out confirmation emails upon decision. If we have any questions about your application, we will contact you to discuss any details.

How long does the presentation have to be?

Presentations can be from 6-18 minutes, but aim for 10-12 minutes.

Do speakers get paid to present?

To keep the program fully in the hands of the organizing team and community and per TED guidelines, speakers are not paid and sponsors cannot speak. However, speakers will get to experience an amazing event that might be life-changing, for them and the audience.

Can speakers seek funding whilst onstage?

Speakers are prohibited from both selling and seeking financing while on stage.

Have any more questions? Contact us at

Why We Do What We Do

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by Joe Vennare, Storyteller

PGH love

From time to time someone will ask a TEDxGrandviewAve team member a question.

Right after we’ve fielded all of the “who is TED?” questions, everyone wants to know:

Why do you do this?

What do you get out of hosting this event?

These questions are simple enough, but the explanations are a little more involved.

First, if you’re thinking we do it for a paycheck, you’re wrong. The TEDxGrandviewAve team is an all volunteer squad. As a matter of fact, TED prohibits TEDx events from making a profit. All of the money we raise is put right back into the event. The speakers aren’t paid either. And no one, speaker or organizer, is permitted to pitch or sell anything.

Nope, money isn’t the motivator.

Then what is?

As the Q and A goes on, it becomes clear that we do it because we couldn’t imagine not doing it.

Does that make sense?

Yes, the planning, organizing, designing, fundraising, and marketing take a whole bunch of time and effort. But, the payoff is priceless.

“The event was Pittsburgh at its best: intimate, authentic, and inspiring.” - TEDxGrandviewAve 2013 Attendee

We get to have a hand in sharing ideas and inspiration, two very powerful things. And, because the TEDxGrandviewAve team and event is deeply rooted in Pittsburgh’s community, we’re focused on the people and ideas that are leading the way in our region. We want to showcase them and their ideas, we want to see just how far these ideas can spread.

So the not so simple, simple answer to the “why?” question.

We do it because we’re passionate about Pittsburgh and we’re passionate about making a difference. And people that do things out of passion, do them better.

But, there’s a catch. Something we don’t want you to overlook. It’s kind of the most important part of the event.

It’s not about us, it’s about you.

We’re just the platform; you are the next big thing.

We need your ideas, insights, and innovations.

So, tell us, what are you working on? And, don’t forget to answer an important question; “why do you do what you do?”


The best ideas are meant to be shared

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TEDx experience

Have you ever played telephone?

You know…

Everyone stands in a row. Then, a sentence or phrase is passed from one end of the line to the other. Anyone familiar with this game knows that this task is accomplished via a tried and true messaging system – the whisper. Usually, when the message reaches the end of the line the original statement is unrecognizable.

Sure telephone is a fun game, but it’s a terrible method for sharing ideas.

A better idea, about spreading ideas…

If you’re searching for new ideas, or you have some of your own that you’d like to share, we have a better approach than the whisper.

You see, we LOVE ideas!

We think that the best ideas, the kind worth spreading, aren’t meant to be whispered; they’re meant to be shared from high atop a mountain (Mt. Washington maybe?).

Trouble is it’s really hard to get your idea noticed; even if you scream.

Thankfully, TEDx is trying to change that. Officially, the “x” stands for independently organized, but at TEDxGrandviewAve the “X” could be a “U” because that’s what we’re all about, you – the community, the local voices redefining the Steel City.

How we’re spreading ideas

Of course coming up with an idea isn’t all that difficult, it’s spreading it that’s the real challenge. Lucky for you, we’re making it easier by providing the “who” and “how”.

WHO: Surround yourself with people that want to change the world. The rest will follow.

Exactly! That’s why we’re undertaking a thoughtful curation of speakers and attendees who listen to and engage with ideas on the local level.

HOW: Increase distribution channels

With all of the region’s change-makers and do-ers united under one roof, ideas, resources, and stories will flow freely. These conversations create a cooperative environment that sparks collaboration.

Take some advice from Harvard Medical School professor Nicholas Christakis who said; “Things don’t just diffuse in human populations at random. They actually diffuse through networks.”

You don’t have to tell us twice.

We’re doing our best to build a network of individuals and ideas that will inspire and inform our city and its people.

We hope you’ll join us. We can’t wait to hear all about your ideas.