TEDx Raleigh offers chance to exchange ideas, solve problems

CorrespondentOctober 10, 2012 

  • More information What: TEDx When: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday Where: Lincoln Theater, 126 E. Cabarrus St., Raleigh Tickets: $25 Info: 919-821-4111; http://tedxraleigh.eventbrite.com/

The concept behind Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) is a simple one: Ideas worth spreading. Potentially, though, it unleashes the power to solve complex problems and create endless opportunities for people around the world.

Since 1984, when TED started as a conference to bring together experts from those three disciplines, TED has persevered and grown to a worldwide motivational online presence with an award-winning TEDTalks video site that shares some of the best talks from two annual conferences.

TED even has a “farm system” for local entrepreneurs and people with exciting new ideas to share on a local level, with the promise of taking their ideas nationally if the democratic system of massive online video views signals a greater thirst for those ideas.

That program is called TEDx, and since 2010, local entrepreneur Matt Murray, 39, has curated TEDx Raleigh. This year’s event takes place Saturday at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh.

Speakers include Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst; Durham architect Phil Freelon; director of the North Carolina Film Office Aaron Syrett; and Biofuels Center of North Carolina President Stephen Burke, among others.

Murray, a computer resources staffer and phone app creator, also started a company called Muri Bags that creates recycled tote bags and messenger bags from old billboards on I-40.

“I haven’t sold anything for 100 million yet, but I’m still working on it,” he says.

Murray found out about TED just a few years ago when he was Googling a designer whose work interested him. Then he happened to find a video of that designer speaking at a TED conference.

He also found a video of William Kamkwamba, who legendarily built a windmill for his village in Malawi when he was just 14 years old and saved his neighbors from drought and famine. It occurred to Murray that if this 14-year-old with handmade tools and scant resources could accomplish this in Malawi, what could be accomplished in Raleigh with its “rich tapestry of resources?”

He’s been devoted to TED ever since.

“I realized that there are probably a lot of other cool ideas like that floating around,” he says. “It turns out there are.”

It’s not just networking, which involves business rituals such as handing out business cards. TEDx provides opportunities for “real-time collaboration.”

Award-winning Durham architect Phil Freelon, founder and president of The Freelon Group, Architects, knows a lot about collaboration in his line of work. He plans to speak about the process of turning ideas into reality, which often involves bringing people of different disciplines and interests toward a consensus.

“It’s also typical of any project,” says Freelon. “They vary in size and complexity, but many of the issues and design approach and collaboration can be very similar. It’s really a team sport. It’s not just one person’s vision.”

Aaron Syrett of the N.C. Film Office says he’s kicking around ideas for a talk about the benefits of conflict during the creative process. Like Murray, he’s a fairly recent convert to TED.

“It’s not about what you’re doing, but more about a concept,” says Syrett. “It’s a concept that everybody can glean onto no matter what industry you’re in, and use that concept to better what you’re doing, and to better the community.”

Phil Freelon’s wife, Nnenna Freelon, the Grammy-nominated jazz singer and longtime Durham resident, spoke about childhood education at last year’s TEDx. She, too, marvels at the beautiful, powerful simplicity of TED.

“The idea that ideas are important commodities – important things to pass around? And to pass them around for free? That’s pretty cool.”

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