TEDx comes to Toronto

Find out what TEDxTO was all about

The spirit of TED came to Toronto yesterday through an independently organized local event, TEDx Toronto. A group of hand-picked delegates came together at the Theatre Passe Muraille, along with a webcast audience at multiple locations across Canada (including the MaRS Centre), to see 13 speakers speak on the topic of “What’s Next”.  Answers ranged from cleantech to love.

TED talks get passed around often at MaRS and we are inspired by the big thinking and innovation coming out of these conferences, so this event got a lot of attention at the MaRS Centre. A highlight for us was having our very own Tom Rand speak on cleantech and his project, Planet Traveler, the greenest hotel in North America. Tom cited data proving that investment in clean technologies can actually return greater profits than technologies conventionally used in buildings. He cited numbers from his project that showed using geothermal heating and cooling, solar power and efficient lighting were more cost effective than traditional energies. Tom finished by putting a call out to policy makers to force the hand of big banks to offer low-interest loans to people investing in clean technologies. Details of the other 12 speakers can be found on the TEDxTO website.

Perhaps the greatest outcome of yesterday’s event is the growing confidence that Canadians can be leaders in various industries and that we do have something to say when it comes to big ideas and innovation.

One of the original TED talks showcased yesterday was from Allison Hunt, a Canadian who shared her story about getting to the front of the line for a surgery that normally has an 18-month waiting list. Regardless of her approach, she categorized Canadian culture as “Please, after you”  — and it rings very true.

There is a challenging balance between the competition in the world of commercialization and the Canadian nature that makes us a people respected throughout the world. An easy solution to that problem can be found in the world of social innovation, where the focus goes beyond profit as the bottom-line, adding an additional bottom-line of social or environmental benefit. The community of social innovators are very supportive of ethical business practices and it’s easy to see why social entrepreneurship is booming in Canada. It reminds me of a quote from Ryan Taylor, founder of the Fair Trade Jewellery Comany, a company that makes ethically and environmentally sensitive bridal and engagement jewelery. When Ryan found out that he was a social entrepreneur, his response was, “I thought I was just being Canadian.”

Also very promising is the new energy that’s coming out of every sector right now. At the MaRS Centre we’re exposed to many bright minds like the ones showcased at yesterdays TEDx event and it’s obvious to see that people are thinking bigger than ever before. It is a time to challenge the things we’ve forgotten that we accept, to radically assess how we’ve designed our world, to come up with new models that challenge the status quo — and not at the expense of our communities, our planet or ourselves.

TEDxTO did an excellent job of building on the momentum and giving us all even more reason to believe that we are capable of being on the world stage when it comes to spreading big ideas.

Here’s to the crazy ones.