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Follow This, TEDxColumbus

JW featured

by Kendra Hovey

When I first met Jim White, his TED Talk about racism and his conviction to end it and how—“educate, unveil, and eradicate”—had just hit one million views (now: 1,094,362). Titled “A Little Problem I Had Renting a House,” the talk beckons with the promise of a story, even as the reference is immediate: This is not a little problem; it’s big, persistent, and it’s killing people.

It’s also what Jim White and I have come to this coffee shop to talk about. And if a conversation about racism between an African American and a white American sounds more fraught than fun, you really should get to know Jim White.

I hadn’t come to this conversation expecting a policy solution. That’s not what Jim White does (though he should be training those who do). White is a management and performance consultant and co-author of A Better World. His solutions are personal and organizational, and necessarily so: How we function around race is connected to our values and beliefs, many absorbed more than chosen, based on experiences, culture, and media. For many, they are also intensely felt and come with all sorts of triggers and buttons. 

“Don’t think because someone buys a cup of coffee you can sit down at the table and talk about race,” says White, referencing Starbucks recent misstep, “because there might just be coffee thrown all over the place.”

Racism and the threats to African American safety are urgent and demand action. But one message from Jim White is that we act with cultural competence. Another message, a very important message: cultural competence, itself, changes behavior, enables productive dialogue, and can bring clarity to actions that will better affect change.

So to increase our cultural competence we need to take stock of our personal beliefs, assumptions, and values, including our biases and cultural blinders. It’s what White calls our personal operating system (POS). We also acknowledge and try to be open to the POS of others. Being open does not mean adopting or agreeing or abandoning our own POS, it means: being open. Should other perspectives and histories add to our knowledge, we then update our POS, as needed.

For a good demonstration of cultural competency see Jim White’s talk. Pay particular attention to how he portrays the landlord and hotel clerk that turn him away, the Major who thinks he’s being helpful, but isn’t. These people are not caricatured or condemned. White shares their words and actions without ascribing intent, belief, ridicule, or judgment. They remain fully human, even as their actions are fully harmful.

“It’s not me, I like you people,” says the manager as he nonetheless denies Jim White a space in his trailer park. “We already have a negro family,” he explains, “and if I let you in, other tenants will move out.” As much as this may offend and reek of an excuse, the man’s actions are a direct result of legislation by the U.S. government. This historical fact is not contested, just forgotten.

Jim White at TEDxcolumbus 2014

 

We’ve done a “very, very poor job with our history,” says White, “had we really talked about slavery and its impact, we probably wouldn’t be having the discussion we are having today.” Education—knowledge of and empathy regarding the historical struggles of other cultures—is essential to cultural competency and to ending racism.

And, if we really understood the history, we could talk about race without “coffee thrown all over the place.” At his training sessions White always says, “There should be no blame, shame or guilt in this room.” None of us created the conditions under which we are living, he says, “we inherited this.”

He also says: “But if we’re going to move past it, were going to have to acknowledge it. If not, you will perpetuate it.”

The lived-history is in White’s talk. If you’d also like the facts: Legislative action severely limited African Americans’ access to the prime movers that propelled many other Americans into the middle class—the GI bill, education, housing.

  • “Of the billions of dollars in the GI Bill for housing and education, less than 2% went to minorities”
  • “We have black educational institutions, because most colleges excluded black folks. And companies like IBM and Xerox were not going to black colleges to find their employees and future CEOs.”
  • “Redlining [a practice of the U.S. government] and blockbusting [tolerated by the U.S. legal system until the 1980s] meant that blacks could buy houses in the inner city, but were limited in suburbia.”

Our inner cities, our disproportionate poverty and levels of education were legislated into existence. Consider the impact of this today: After WWII, the average house in urban and suburban Detroit went for about $30,000, says White, “today, inner city Detroit is worth $20,000 maybe; Suburban: $300,000.”

The harm is not just economic. “Slavery, reconstruction, KKK, Jim Crow, civil rights, job discrimination, mass incarceration, black kids being shot by police: trauma has been continuous,” White explains, “black folks have never been able to get away from it.”

Understanding this is essential, not to explain or excuse, White says, but so people can do whatever healing they need: “You can’t deal with the trauma, until you understand what the trauma is.”

And, if this is not your own history, you don’t respond with guilt or denial or begin searching your own history for your own trauma—not now. Because to eradicate racism, to improve your cultural competency, you are listening respectfully, perhaps with empathy, allowing yourself to feel the impact of this history on others.

“Feeling this impact” enlarges understanding, but it can also make you angry. In his talk, White says he doesn’t have the luxury of anger. When I asked him more about this, he said that he has his triggers, but he knows how to recognize them. He doesn’t deny his anger; he corrals it, and “keeps stepping forward.” The challenge is to be angry:

  • with the right person
  • at the right time
  • for the right purpose
  • to the right extent
  • in the right way

Something else about cultural competence, it’s not an end-point. It’s a process, and we don’t do it in isolation. In other words, if we don’t want to talk about race, but we do want to eradicate racism, we’ve got to talk about race. “We all come to the party with biases,” says White, “and as a result of my bias I know I don’t have all the data. If I want to know if something is true, I have to get it outside of me. And the best way to do that is with someone you trust.”

Trust can come from a trained facilitator, of any race, White says, who is comfortable dealing with race, who is aware of their own triggers, and who has the expertise to manage the discussion and keep everyone safe. Trust can also come from someone you know and value. And, it’ll go best if you enter into these conversations aware that questions come from a desire to understand, not offend, and with a willingness to, as White says, throw your own competence out the window: “When I tick you off, no matter how much I think I know, I am willing to say ‘I don’t know what it was that I said that caused you some anxiety and stress but I’m willing to shut up long enough so that you can educate me.’ ” [Another tip: in a group, don’t make one person representative of an entire race, gender, or ethnic group.]

You can also have these conversations without trust, says White, but you need to understand there is risk. His advice: “One thing I say to people is, ‘Have I earned the right to talk to you about this topic?’ Framing it this way makes you stop and think about it differently, and I find in most cases people care when you care about them. Most people are willing to have those discussions with you.”

This doesn’t mean they will agree with you: “Before you explained to me all these details, I didn’t think I agreed with you. But now that you’ve given me the facts, I know that I don’t agree with you. Sometimes,” as White says, “we just aren’t going to agree.”

But when we dynamically engage with one another “we can express those thoughts and ask those questions and then we’re dealing with the truth as opposed to some of our fears and we’re less likely to MSU (Make Stuff Up) and that’s a way,” he says, “to start to move things forward.”

In our world, diversity is a fact. So is connectivity. Discrimination against some has consequences for everyone. It’s time to get a little (or a lot) more comfortable with difference. White has tools to help people get there, but he’s not interested in dictating behavior. One question I had for Jim White, “What can I do?” I never asked. Instead, I shared with him ideas that came to me, and felt right to me, over the course of our (3 hour!) conversation. For everyone, behavior is an expression of values and beliefs, abilities and strengths, etc. Be aware of your own, while also building cultural competence, and the question “What can I do?” begins to answer itself.

Kendra Hovey is editor at TEDxColumbus: Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at kendrahovey.com, more of her writings are on Medium.  

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Follow This, TEDxAdventure, TEDxColumbus, TEDxExperiences

TEDxADventure TEDxColumbus car2goby Kendra Hovey

It’s 8:59am. You’ve got a car2go, a cohort, a clue, complimentary coffee and glazed crullers, and this challenge: Find six spots. Perform six tasks. Return. You’ve got 2 hours. Okay . . . ready . . . set . . . wave and say cheese to the hovering drone . . . and GO.

This is how the day began for 12 TEDxColumbus attendees who answered YES to a call for “fun-seeking volunteers” and met the following three requirements: (1) be available the morning of the event (2) be a licensed driver (3) don’t ask questions.

TEDx is evolving, and this morning adventure is part of a rank-and-file movement to extend TED’s engagement, curiosity, and public-spiritedness beyond the red-dotted stage and into the community. Acting independently but beginning to cohere under the title TEDxExperiences, TEDxes are bringing action, hands-on learning and a bit of elbow grease to their events. At Friday’s TEDxColumbus (11/7) there was the Morning of Action (which you can read about here) and this scavenger hunt/amazing race with a higher purpose TEDxAdventure.

CIFFrom an idea sparked by organizer Ruth Milligan, this adventure was made a reality by Columbus Idea Foundry CEO Alex Bandar—implementing, yet again, the aspiration of his own TEDx talk to “narrow the chasm between concept and execution.” Though he wasn’t thinking “scavenger hunt” when he spoke in 2011, now it’s just one more invention he’s happy to add to the prodigious and growing yield of the world’s largest MakerSpace.

I should share that after a thorough and careful review of all available evidence, I have determined that Alex Bandar is unstoppable. He may in fact live in a separate time dimension all together. Heeding the entrepreneurial credo “Say yes before you are ready,” Bandar jumped into this project on Monday. By Friday morning, all’s good to go. Sleepless, swift, bullhorn in-hand, Bandar explains the logistics of the adventure and it’s purpose to metaphorically experience the “start-up” mentality by facing six literal challenges that mirror a “start-up” feeling, behavior or demand, and to do this inside a neighborhood that is itself a start-up. Roll it all together, and the game becomes a lived and often comical story about start-up culture, as well as, the neighborhood of Franklinton. East Franklinton, to be precise, an area once made stagnant by a combination of nature and building codes until the floodwall, community leaders, artists, and young businesses began to start it up again and anew.

Now back to the drone overhead, the smiles, the waves and the word GO…

Our twelve fun-seekers, having divided into six teams—two couples, one mom and daughter, one pair of co-workers, and two pairs of “strangers”—get into six car2gos. Five start up, and cutely scamper along the streets of Franklinton. Six can’t remember their PIN.

TEDxADventure TEdxColumbus car2gos

Steered by the clue This Grandview glass arts center just relocated to Franklinton one car2go pulls in front of a Town Street building where in order to demonstrate Talent the team of two make something. In this case, a glass bead. Even better, a nice glass bead. But do it in five minutes. From here (Glass Axis—did you guess right?) it’s on to clue #2: Columbus’ wallscape pioneer.

 

GA and OB


I’ll just tell you, it’s Orange Barrel Media, or the construction site that will soon be the new home of Orange Barrel Media. And because, in reality, talent only speaks for itself after its been spoken
about, the task here is Creativity in Marketing. Teams are given a new product and must create a logo, slogan and quick video pitch—in ten minutes or less (don’t worry about that crane behind you and sorry about the noise). When given a product described as an “inner-ear language translation module,” one team turned it into The LangoThe World is Hear! And for the new concept product “a webcam-equipped crock-pot,” another team gives us THE WEBBY CROCKER: If you have OCD this is the webcam slow cooker for you!

 

TEDxCbus TEDxAdventure startup Lifestyle challenge


Next, it’s off to the
Lifestyle challenge at The brewery named after the type of institution that the Ohio State University is. Now that his one-time hobby has exploded into a huge start-up business, Alex Bandar has a lot to draw on for this challenge. These days a more accurate tagline for the Idea Foundry is not the current Knowledge, Talent, Mischief, but rather, as Bandar quips, An Unbroken Vista of Ceaseless Toil. The challenge at Land Grant Brewery is to eat and sleep: make and consume a PB&J, catch some shut-eye, and, because every moment is an opportunity for brand engagement, take a selfie. All in 60 seconds. No one did it in 60 seconds.

With the clue Its acronym sounds like the Food and Drug Administration, next stop is the Franklinton Development Association, where with $1 of capital, teams test their Financial acuity on THE WHEEL OF (MIS)FORTUNE. Each decision to spin invites success and setback:

TEDxCbus TEDxAdventure Startup financial management challenge on the Wheel of Misfortune

 

  • Your product is discovered to cause epilepsy in snails.
    Lose 15 cents.
  • Best employee quit and also hates your guts.
    Lose 25 cents
  • Oprah loves your product! Win at Life.
    Get $10


Before their first spin, one team demonstrated a talent for divergent thinking when they asked if there is “any other way to use our money right now—
besides a spin?” Later when faced with a hard decision, they tried their hand at networking: “Any hints for us?” After a string of good fortune, they did a quick assessment: “Okay, were in rapid accelerator mode, we grow too fast we could get in trouble.” Nodding, they both stood up and saying something about “good responsible business decisions,” they walked away. At $1.55, they increased their seed capital by half. All but one other team lost it all.

TEDxCbus TEDxAdventure Startup challenge


Oddly, the one clue that had an address—
the bar at 400 West Rich—proved most challenging to find. While Strongwater is inside the city-block-long arts complex 400 Rich, the entrance is on Town. Here, one half of the team gets an image. The other a drawing tool. Tasked with the challenge of getting one’s own vision into the head of someone else (also called Management), the “manager,” using only verbal direction, tries to get the drawer to reproduce the image only s/he sees (accurately and to scale). To do this, teams employed a wide-variety of sophisticated communication strategies, including foot-stomping, yelling (“No Mom! This is a happy elephant!”), positive reinforcement (“That’s freakin’ beautiful”) and incentivizing (“You are about to earn yourself a promotion”). One husband and wife team demonstrated an obvious talent for collaboration, as is obvious in this exchange:  

“It’s like a couch. A couch for one person. What do you call that?”
“Um…a chair.”

Later, when this drawer inquired if he could “put a heart on it,” the manager displayed her ability to define and maintain clear project parameters when she yelled, “Listen! And don’t you start making things up YET!” Effective communication clearly key to this challenge, the top finisher was a team of randomly paired strangers.

 

TEDxColumbus TEDxAdventure Startup management challenge

 

TEDxCbus TEDxAdventureThe final clue, The largest makerspace in the world, and final challenge, Risk Management, brings us to the Idea Foundry, where teams symbolically navigate the bumpy waters of startup life by actually navigating a quadcopter:

  • Two minutes to practice flying the 68-gram remote-control copter.
  • Five minutes to complete the flight path.
  • One point per checkpoint.
  • Three for a proper landing.
  • No points for flying the drone into your own face (“I can sue for that, right?”) or into the rafters (“Uh..ladder anyone?”).
  • But no points off either.

So who showed creativity and talent, and ably managed risk, sleep, sustenance, people and finances?  Does it matter? Failure is the new success, after all. In fact, there is a prize for best failure, as well as for most persistent and “team who turned our thinking upside down.” Judges are still deliberating. But in case it’s still true that America loves a winner, Congratulations to Michael Brown and Casey Brown, first-finishers and future magnates of the Webby Crocker Empire.

*And, yes, we do mean “Blasty”: 

Blasty

Kendra Hovey is editor at TEDxColumbus: Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at kendrahovey.com

This TEDxAdventure would not have been possible without the amazing willingness and creative help of car2go, a great group of volunteers and these fabulous partners:

Slide24

 

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Follow This, TEDxColumbus

TEDxColumbus 2014 Steam on twitter

by Rashmi Nemade

This was my first time attending a TEDx event. Sure, I have watched TED Talks online, but being at an event is a wholly different experience. It was electric; the buzz and anticipation were palpable. People meeting for the first time, seeing others after a long time, and many asking if this was their first TEDx. An impressive 900 people were in attendance—a sold out event.

The day began at noon with lunch, after which we were welcomed into the theater, music booming. I found a seat, introduced myself to the people around me, chitchatted. Honestly, I hardly felt like I was there to watch ‘talks’; It felt like a show, and once the organizers took the stage that’s exactly what they called it—a show. This one with talks, dance and music, all interesting and engaging. There were three sessions and between each a break, with the hosts encouraging us to change seats to meet more new people. It’s a fantastic way to get different vantage points in the theater as well, but if you’re a note-taker like me, avoid the last row at the Riffe. It can get surprisingly dark up there.

The first session inspired action. It was bursting with the energy of opening the event and included talks on education, art and math, and a performance by Transit Arts of poetry, dance and music. Feet were moving and hands clapping.

And fingers were tapping out tweets. Here’s a few from the first session:

Foley D DehoffFoley Mary KFowley K WolffFowler ChuTA Escusa

Transit S Fisher

Prince S Hughes

Rinaldo K Coholich

First jeff

Then came the first break: snacks and, for many of us women, a long bathroom line (and a little bit of worry that we’d make it back in time). The second session focused on what’s percolating beneath the surface with talks on fracking, nanotechnology, psychology and racism. I’m a science person, so it was a nice lesson for me to see two speakers, Jessica Winter (nanotechnology) and James White (bias/racism), actually enlarge and deepen their topics by including their own personal stories.

Mishra B LoeschWinter b longBushman HJTwhite k marty

Another break brought out irresistible pastries and sweet treats. Some, I recognized from a local high-end bakery. As I reflected on the lunch and two breaks, I have to say, I was pleasantly impressed at the quality of food at this event. The lunch had great options for any dietary preferences and the snacks were ample and filling.

The third session ignited the flame and started with music from Damn the Witch Siren. It was hip. It was cool. It was as if they had titled their piece “Sensory Overload,” and it reminded me that I am old. It was also, I suppose, a good segue into the first talk which compared the Columbus punk rock startup of the 90s that fizzled with the Columbus tech startup of today that the speaker Jay Donovan argues (based on a 4-part model) will soar. This session also included three so-called “passion” talks that are short and more personal. The passions are trains, teen parents, and thrift store photography (I’m being brief, but at 5 minutes long, why not just watch them?) The most memorable, for me, was the last talk by Chad Bouton whose visionary research has given the freedom and independence of movement to a paraplegic student. The talk was personal, touching, grounded in science, and when the student came out on stage—emotional.

Dthe Witch siren M Brown

Session two  j glavic

CIFRail O carroll

Bouton thanson

Whew! After three sessions, I found myself in a strange paradoxical space—both invigorated and exhausted! I’m an extrovert, so being in the TEDx environment is energizing for me, but at the end of this day, I couldn’t possibly mingle and meet more people during the happy hour. There was so much to think about, process and explore, that I just wanted to get back to some place quiet with my own thoughts. Luckily, for an extrovert it doesn’t take that long. The walk to my car and drive home was all I needed. I walked in the door and was off processing all that I had learned by sharing the day with my family!

M RobinsonzainabR Frantz

 

Rashmi Nemade is principal at BioMedText, Inc.

Editor’s Note: The logic behind tweet selection is there’s no real logic. Searching by #tedxcbus and tedxcolumbus, we tried to cover the variety of talks and performances, and include a variety of voices on twitter. We did not avoid negative tweets. We didn’t find any. Perhaps Columbus critics were just nice enough to  leave off the hashtag.

 

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Events, Follow This, TEDxColumbus, TEDxExperiences

TEDxExperiences TEDxCbus Broad Street Food Pantryby Taylor Swope

I’m new to the world of TEDxColumbus, and after having the opportunity to participate in the day’s events on November 7th, I wish I weren’t just catching on now.

When I signed up to attend TEDxColumbus through my company Ologie, I knew (sort of, but not really) what I was getting into. I’ve never been one to seek out a TED Talk but I’ll always watch if one goes viral on my Facebook or Twitter feeds. It’s never been something I’ve put much time into investigating. (This blog is a funny place to admit such a truth, I know.)

I went into the day with some assumptions: I’d hear people talk about some cool stuff, maybe some weird stuff, and definitely some stuff I didn’t understand. I expected to receive random morsels of information that I’d either digest or ignore.

What I realize now is that TEDxColumbus is about creativity and community, and making each a tangible part of our day. Pre-event happenings like the Morning of Action give people even more opportunity to  get creative while creating community—with strangers.

TEDxExperiences TEDxCbus

I had the opportunity to attend the Morning of Action, which like me is a newbie, added to the TEDxColumbus experience just this year. Event organizers partnered with Besa, a local nonprofit that helps people and companies match volunteer opportunities with their interests and skill sets. Volunteers met at the Columbus Commons to receive assignments and then dispersed via carpool, car2go, or Uber. (My group rode in style in Ologie’s minivan.)

TaylorWe arrived at St. Stephen’s Community House and met Charlene, the volunteer coordinator and possibly the sweetest woman you’ll ever meet. (She’s a retired math teacher and accepted a position with the nonprofit after serving as a volunteer.) St. Stephen’s is dedicated to helping community members find resources while promoting self-sufficiency. They offer programs such as childcare, tutoring, and senior services, and they are always looking for volunteer assistance.

Charlene divided our group into different tasks: childcare, cleaning and donation-sorting. I washed folding chairs and assembled plastic wine glasses for an upcoming fundraiser in December. Other tasks finished before mine, and volunteers who I had just met that morning came looking for me to see if they could assist me with my work. Our minivan full of strangers created our own community that morning in the spirit of service.

Along with St Stephens, volunteers fanned out to the Broad Street Food Pantry, LifeCare Alliance, Community Computer Alliance, and Dress for Success, where, with a nice tie-in to this year’s TEDxColumbus theme, volunteers organized merchandise, assisted clients, and literally helped STEAM donated clothing.TEDxExperiences TEDxCbus STEAM

In preparation for a day of learning through speaker passion, Morning of Action participants had the opportunity to learn about the important work being done in the community, and how through creative solutions to civic issues, lives are being impacted every day. Creativity combined with passion matters, and it’s alive and well in Columbus. 

St stephens

Taylor Swope is a freelance writer and digital project manager at Ologie, a branding and digital agency in Columbus.
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