TEDx: Exponential Impact for Nonprofits

  • Written by Teresa Coles

Earlier this fall, I was both surprised and delighted when I discovered my dear friend  Julie Turner had nominated me as a potential speaker for TEDx Columbia. Founded as a four-day video conference in California 25 years ago, TED is now an international program committed to Ideas Worth Spreading. Presenters are asked to talk about their passions, inventions, beliefs, observations — the ideas they have that can spark change in the world. Talks are captured on video and viewed worldwide.

TEDx events allow people to use the “talk” model as a tool for effecting change in their own communities. On January 16 (MLK Day), I’ll have the honor of joining seven other speakers in the first-ever TEDx Columbia event. I’ll be talking about CreateAthon, and the incredible things that can happen when you let a big idea go in the world. Others will share stories on topics ranging from First Amendment Rights and brain damage research to urban farming and a program that uses rescue dogs to teach compassion and character development.

To say I was a bit overwhelmed at the thought of joining the distinguished ranks TED presenters is an understatement indeed. So being me, I began the task of preparing my presentation by researching other TED presentations. I was amazed to find the types of topics that were tagged at TED.com: the arts, humanities, animal rights, environmentalism, social justice, health, education, energy, philanthropy. A treasure trove of good.

Meanwhile, back at TEDx Columbia, I thought about the amazing story of Anna Bigham, one of my fellow presenters. She founded a nonprofit organization called Hidden Wounds that provides interim and emergency counseling services to combat veterans and their families. Her work honors her beloved younger brother, who took his life while struggling with PTSD. To realize I will be sharing a stage with someone like her — with such a noble and noteworthy cause — has humbled me even more. And what a gift the TED organization gives by lending a stage to nonprofits and their causes, as well as commercial endeavors that can make a difference in the world.

If you have a cause you’re passionate about, or just looking for a little inspiration, I encourage you to spend some time with TED. If you have a TEDx event in your area, consider how you might introduce your cause to the audience of inspired doers and thinkers in the TED universe. If you don’t have TEDx nearby, organize a team and make it happen now.