TEDxSomerville event to be held at Tufts

TEDxSomerville is hosting its third TED talk event, under the theme “Reinvent,” in two weeks in Cohen Auditorium.

The event from the independent Somerville TEDx chapter will feature 14 speakers from the Somerville area on Sunday, Sept. 27 from 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. According to Devin Bramhall, executive director of TEDxSomerville, the free event is open to the Tufts community and the public, though seating is limited.

“I see this event as a kind of platform for local people to hear the ideas of other local people,” Bramhall said. “It’s not just the Bill Gateses of the world who have big ideas, but people in smaller places have them, too.”

TEDxSomerville chose to hold the event at Tufts because it serves as an educational hub for the city of Somerville, Bramhall said.

“Tufts is a place for ideas to foster and grow, and that’s not a line,” she said. “They’re a financial supporter, but I mean that genuinely. It’s the perfect place to have this event. Tufts has a diversity of ideas about clean energy, personal growth, how to be a responsible leader in one’s personal and professional life, how to be an active citizen and what that means.”

Alex Parks, the director of public relations for TEDxSomerville, said this year’s theme of “Reinvent” was selected in order to reflect the shifting culture and demographics in Somerville over the last four to five years.

“It’s clear that the city is going through an incredible transformation,” Parks said. “When you see green tech organizations, developments like Assembly Row, start-ups coming here…these are changes Somerville has never really seen before, and we thought this would just be a fun year to talk about reinvention given the transformation of Somerville.”

Bramhall said the speakers were selected based on the quality of their ideas, not their academic qualifications or background. Everyone who pitched an idea, either for their own presentation or for that of someone else, was given equal weight in the selection process.

“Anyone can apply to be a speaker,” she said. “We’re not looking at a resume. We’re looking at what the idea is and how much you have researched it or thought about it. You don’t have to be a 50-year-old multiple graduate to have a really important idea to share.”

She added that the members of TEDxSomerville look for a broad array of speakers, considering gender, race and age in the candidates they select for each event.

Patrick Hellen, one of TEDxSomerville’s co-hosts, said the presentation will follow the normal TED Talk format, with each presenter speaking for between 10 and 15 minutes.

College students in general can especially benefit from being exposed to the ideas featured in this event, he added.

“It sounds cheesy, almost like a bad graduation speech, but when you’re 18 or 19, you can literally go in any direction to make money, be successful or whatever,” Hellen said. “Most people screw it up at first, [and] there are the jerks who figured it out right away. I think these talks are examples of people who either screwed up at first and then figured it out or did the right thing.”

Parks said the event was made possible by a list of local partners and sponsors who donated food, venue space and other necessary elements.

“Instead of asking for money [from local sponsors], we asked for specific resources we needed to get the event done,” he said.

Parks added that everyone who works for TEDxSomerville is a volunteer, devoting time to this event in addition to a separate, paid job.

Bramhall said she hopes the event will excite people as much as TED Talks excite her.

“I kind of geek out about this stuff,” she said. “It sounds naïve and idealistic, but I’m really inspired by things I don’t understand and have never thought about before. To be able to offer that to other people…I want to inspire them, too, the way I get inspired.”


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