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Wednesday, April 3 Melinda Gates will present TEDxChange live from Seattle, Washington. Themed Positive Disruption, TEDxChange 2013 speakers will challenge preconceived ideas, spark discussion, engage leaders and shed light on new perspectives.

Join the TEDxColumbus community to watch the livestream of this thought-provoking event at resource from Noon- 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 3. To register to attend, click here. For more information on TEDxChange, click here. says:

Disruption is usually unwelcome. It represents conflict, chaos, and potential danger. We discourage disruptive behavior in our homes and our societies, often favoring passivity and compliance.

But disruption can be a positive – sometimes vital – catalyst for change. It can challenge old assumptions, ignite conversations, activate authorities and expose new possibilities. Disruption can shed a unique light on difficult issues, giving a fresh urgency and perspective to the challenges of our global community.

To solve the most intractable challenges in health and development, we need positive disruption. It is the path to true progress.





Follow This, TEDTalks, TEDxColumbus


[by Kendra Hovey]

It’s TED week, when those both interested and able gather in Long Beach and Palm Springs to hear the latest “ideas worth spreading.” One early highlight from this year’s conference is the appearance of TEDxColumbus on the TED stage. On Monday, as part of the Inside TED session, our own Ruth Milligan, along with five other TEDx organizers, spoke about the growing phenomenon that is TEDx. The presentation to 1,500 TEDsters got a standing ovation.

“While the brief session was highly orchestrated,” Ruth reports from Long Beach, “it revealed the insight that organizers have: TEDx is a powerful medium to ignite conversation and spur inspiration in any community, school, prison or slum. For me, it was about having Columbus be on the global map. I was honored to be there.”

Joining Ruth on the stage were organizers from Baghdad, Iraq; Kibera, Kenya; Madrid, Spain; and Sydney, Australia, as well as another organizer from Columbus, Jordan Edelheit, a Junior at Ohio State University who is representing TEDxMarionCorrectional, the first TEDx inside an adult prison. As a group, the six demonstrate the reach and relevance of TED across continents and populations. Columbus, as you may have noticed, is the sole city from the Americas, both North and South. It’s a nice recognition, but perhaps you’re wondering—Why?

One explanation is that TEDxColumbus and TEDx basically grew up together.

When TED announced the new initiative in 2009, Ruth Milligan applied for a license soon after. In a few short months she and co-organizer Nancy Kramer pulled together the first event. With eight speakers and an audience of 300, it was, Ruth estimates, the 35th ever TEDx. That number has now grown to over 6,000. TEDxColumbus returned in 2010, and every year since. It is one of only a handful of TEDx events that, like TEDx itself, will turn five this year.

Still, TEDxColumbus is not the only successful and long-running TEDx. It is, though, the only one organized by Ruth Milligan. Let’s just be honest: Ruth is good at this. TED knows it. And that’s why she’s presenting.

The TEDx manual runs about a hundred pages, but that first year, it was closer to four. When other TEDx organizers needed advice, they were sent to Ruth. She became a go-to mentor for TEDx, eventually working with TED to develop a series of learning tools. You can hear her voice on seven or so TEDx Webinars, including a Q&A with TED curator Chris Anderson (shown above, giving the TEDx presentation a standing ovation). More recently, she was commissioned to do a how-to video. She’s led workshops at TEDActive, and was brought in as a consultant for TEDxSanDiego. Add it all up and that’s a whole lot of TEDCred.

8,980 to be exact.

No, I did not make that up. Yes, there is something called TEDCred. As a comparison, TED Head Chris Anderson has a TEDCred of 815.

For the record, Ruth was utterly unaware of her score. When I told her, she was visibly shocked, but still she shrugged it off: “Maybe it’ll make up for all the A’s I didn’t get in college,” she said.

If nothing else, “8,980” reflects a big chunk of Ruth Milligan’s time and energy. TED-style organizing is a lot of work, but no way will she be stopping anytime soon. It’s her thing, her passion, what Sir Ken Robinson might call her element; it’s her “KitKat,” as Ruth herself will say, drawing on the name of her father’s old (and frustratingly) all-male speech club (The KitKat Club) where, as an occasional young tagalong, she first got hooked.

Ruth Milligan, you see, is a speech junkie.

In the days before the internet she was known to troll c-span looking for a fix, and still, every year, she happily anticipates the arrival of Spring and with it a whole new crop of graduation speeches. Helping people find, craft and share their message is something she enjoys. Along the way, she says, there is almost always emotion and connection, and sometimes action and change.

One constant from the first year to the next, she says, is that “TED continually inspires conversations I never knew were possible.” [Her insights into the process are shared on the TED Blog. It’s a concise, thoughtful and highly recommended read.]

As far as contrasts, “the biggest change from year-one,” she says, “I no longer have to explain TED or defend it anymore.” Nor does she need to push ticket sales. In 2009, the first 50 sold “out of the gate” to TED fans. Speaker connections and the community around the Wexner Center and OSU accounted for the next 100. So, how’d she sell the remaining 150? In her own words, “I worked my ass off,” she says.

Another change is that speakers are now finding her (or in some cases their PR agent). By the same token, she and the curatorial team have honed their process. “I’ll listen to anyone,” she says, “but we don’t make the mistake anymore of accepting a speaker for the wrong reason.” She’s also learned to be blunt. “This will take 30…40…50 hours,” she now tells speakers, “It won’t be easy. It will be messy.”

Being on stage at TED was a high point for Ruth Milligan and, as always, she would love to see a TEDxColumbus speaker at TED or featured on But, “far more important now,” she says, is what’s happening here: “I see the power of people sharing even if no one else outside of our community hears them.” It builds community. It can lead to action, whether for just one person or on a larger scale. Columbus, as a “smart and open city” needs an elevated dialogue, and TEDxColumbus is a platform, Ruth says, for turning up that dialogue. “People trust it and consider it part of the cultural fabric,” and that, for her, is the most gratifying part of all.

There’s one last question I had to ask Ruth the Speech Coach:



She put herself through the same paces she would her clients. But, honestly, she’s an easy client: “For whatever reason this is not my challenge…Figuring out how to dry my hair well…That’s my challenge.”


Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at

Featured photo courtesy of Nancy Kramer; all others courtesy of TED


Follow This, TEDxColumbus

[by Kendra Hovey]

Does the goateed man behind the medical “dummy” in this photograph from the Sunday Columbus Dispatch look familiar?

Yes, that is Reade Harpham.

The industrial designer who leads the human-centric design team at Battelle was also on the first ever roster of TEDxColumbus speakers.

That was in 2009.

In 2011, TEDxColumbus presenter Alex Bandar reminded us of Harpham’s inventiveness in his own talk, “The Need to Make.”

Not only Harpham, other “alumni” recently in the media glow (traditional, social or otherwise) include Theresa Flores, Barbara Fant and Michael Wilkos.

In an occasional series, of which this is the first, FOLLOW THIS will collect and share newsworthy moments in the lives of TEDxColumbus community members.

• For Harpham, the recent Dispatch article highlights his work for Battelle testing medical devices in “the wild,” so to speak, scrutinizing their functionality when in the hands of real people (end-users) in real world situations (end-use). An excerpt from the article:

“You should know what the users are going to do, you should know what the errors could be, what the misuse should be, and (you) should have designed that out of the system as you go,” Harpham said.

• Publicity is part of Theresa Flores’ mission to bring awareness (and an end) to human trafficking. She’s told her story over and over again on stages and in front of cameras (and at TEDxColumbus 2011) but earlier this year it was Ohio Governor John Kasich who shared her story as part of his State of the State speech, then presented her with one of the first ever Courage Awards:

Gov Kasich- The Governor’s Courage Awards Clip from TEDxColumbus on Vimeo.

A few months later, Flores was again with Kasich, this time in the Governor’s Office, as he signed the executive order creating the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force:

Gov Kasich-Fighting Human Trafficking in Ohio Clip from TEDxColumbus on Vimeo.

• If you saw Michael Wilkos’ 2010 TEDxTalk or if you read about him here you know that his enthusiasm for the city of Columbus tends a bit towards the unbridled. Imagine, then, how he must have felt last month when presented with an award with the following inscription:

This award is presented to Michael in recognition of his efforts advancing the mission of the Neighborhood Design Center and his unending demonstration of citizenship to Columbus. We thank him for his dedication to our organization and his selfless contributions to our community’s neighborhoods.

Al Berthold Executive Director of The Neighborhood Design Center presented the Busser Award to Wilkos on August 6, 2012 (looking on is past NDC President Ruth Gless).

• Barbara Fant, who we featured in this post back in April, received a nice surprise last month. Invited to The Columbus Foundation on the 9th of August, she walked into Davis Hall to see her own words etched onto the wall. Next to the delightfully surprised Fant is Foundation President and CEO Doug Kridler.



The excerpt is from her poem “Today Beginning Again”—commissioned by The Foundation and shared at the Columbus Bicentennial. You can watch it here:

Photo of Reade Harpham by Tom Dodge, Columbus Dispatch; Photos of Michael Wilkos and Barbara Fant by Nick George, The Columbus Foundation

Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at


Follow This

[by Kendra Hovey]

At the TEDGlobal live viewing event earlier this summer, I learned that product piracy is cheap market research; amazing technology and glitches are a paired set (i.e., live streams will be interrupted); the First Minister of Scotland is a likeable guy; and Loth’s meeting room chairs are really quite comfortable. I also picked up stuff on “System D” (aka, the informal economy) and Scottish inventiveness, as well as the ingredient list for making a high-performing school. But before getting deeper into any of this, I’d first like to share some advice about these TED viewing events—for the benefit of my future self, if no one else.

Helpful Piece of Advice #1: Clear your schedule. Unless you shell out the $6,000 admission fee or $995 for a TED Live membership, these live viewing events (free, with snacks!) are the only way to see the TED Conferences. From TED.comFAQ: “While some of the Talks do end up online, many of them don’t. Moreover, the timing of the talks coming online are not pre-determined, so some Talks may go online but not for a few months to a year.” In other words, if, like me, you have to leave early, don’t think, “Oh, I’ll just watch it online,” because you will be disappointed.

Helpful Piece of Advice #2: Clear your head. To maximize the experience, schedule in a post-event buffer. Don’t, for instance, step out of Loth straight into the tyranny of the day’s errands and emails, helpless as the swirl of thoughts, ideas and energy are shoved further and further to the back recesses of the mind where, you can only hope, they’ll be able to find enough nutrients to someday regrow.

And if from this helpful advice you have extrapolated that everything I have to say is based on only about 10 talks (total=75) and also filtered by a trip to the grocery store, 300+ emails, a chat with my mother-in-law, the movie Chimpanzee, and a post-blackout refrigerator cleanout, then you would be correct.

So then, some thoughts:

Open Season. Overall, TED organizers should be pretty happy: their speakers were good about sticking to the event’s theme—“Radical Openness”—both rooting out and dreaming big about what it is to be living in this increasingly open and ultra-connected world, generating reactions that range from unbridled excitement to panic now.

On the unbridled side, there is futurist Dan Tapscott who says openness is not up for debate. The information leak is sprung; it will not be plugged. And this has unleashed an opportunity for empowerment and freedom, bar none. It’s also gonna make us way, way smarter. Why? Because of “networked intelligence.” Although, a bunch of brains working to solve a problem will require a few things: collaboration, sharing, transparency and integrity. Checks on the latter are, Tapscott suggests, built into the open world: “You need to have integrity as part of your bones and your DNA as an organization, because if you don’t, you’ll be unable to build trust, and trust is a sine qua non of this new network world.”

More on the alarm bell side of things is public intellectual Ivan Krastev from Bulgaria—also known as “the most pessimistic country” on earth (Krastev quotes a study titled, “The Happy, the Happy and the Bulgarians”). What went right in recent history, says Krastev, is also what went wrong. 1960s-era human rights allowed for a culture of dissent and non-conformity (+), but left us without a collective purpose (–). The 1980s market revolution and spread of democracy (+) coincided with a huge increase in inequality (–). Krastev repeats the call for transparency, though he strips the word of all its bright, happy sheen, defining it as, essentially, “the management of mistrust.” And where the optimistic Tapscott says, “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” the Bulgarian leaves us with this parting thought: “There is a big shadow where there is much light.”

Makers Mark. With openness comes alternatives and innovations, as well as fun toys and celebrity muting devices. “You don’t need anyone’s permission to make something great,” says Massimo Banzi, who in his talk shares some of what the “turbo-charged” DIY maker movement can, well, make (and, if you’re thinking pencil caddy, think harder).

Not just objects, this also applies to systems, suggests, Robert Neuwirth who talks about the workings, currencies and values of “System D”—the informal economy of flea markets, pirated products, corner kiosks, etc.—reminding us that even the most monolithic seeming institution is an option, to which there are alternatives.

Data Stream. Whether it was questions, examples or warnings, the topic of data access, ownership and use was ever-present. There was Malte Spitz who asked, then sued, for all the personal data his mobile company had on him. A settlement yielded 35,800 lines of data, or 6 months of his life, which you can relive here. It’s kinda cool, but it tells Spitz that “you have to fight for self-determination in the digital age.”

Andreas Schleicher’s work demonstrates what data can accomplish when you have a meaningful measure. First, his team tested students worldwide for the ability to extrapolate and apply existing knowledge to a new situation; then they examined the school systems that educated the students. Correlating the two sets of results, they asked what qualities tend to churn out thinking students and then they shared this list of qualities with the world, for folks to do with it what they will. The qualities include: a learner-centered rather than curriculum-centered approach; an embracing of diversity; high-quality teachers that are supported; high standards combined with teacher autonomy to best decide how to help students get there; and a bunch more.

Cool Stuff. What’s TED without gadgets? At this TED there was the “eyeborg.” The device (part of which is embedded in the skull) allows Neil Harbisson, born with total color blindness, to hear color. What’s interesting is not just what he can do (such as, create songs out of the color landscape on a dinner plate, “so…we can have, like, Lady Gaga salads”) but how it changes how he thinks (what is beauty when someone looks attractive and sounds ugly?). This one is short, fun and online, but beware it might make you want to cyborg yourself.


Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at


Follow This


Ruth Milligan posed the following questions to David Staley to catch up on his idea of Universitas, an idea that  he brought to life after TEDxColumbus: What’s Next? in 2010.


Has Universitas met or exceeded your expectations?  If so, how?

Very much exceeded. My TEDx talk was an idea, a vision for the city of Columbus. You, Ruth, suggested I end my talk with a call to action, to urge the audience to join me in “connecting the creatives and innovators of the city.” I was gratified that 75 people at that event signed up and nearly 200 in total have wanted to be a part of this movement. Still amazed that, almost two years later, people still wish to gather…


Have you seen any ideas transformed out of a Universitas gathering?

Not as many as I’d like. I think individuals benefit, but no identifiable collective creativity has occurred.  Though, Kim Kiehl [COSI Senior Vice President & Chief Operating and Strategy Officer] recently told me that it’s the highlight of her month.

Of course, at Reader’s Roundtable Kim Kiehl did mention that COSI’s recent Art & Science Day was inspired by Universitas…. In any case, any insights into what it might take to make “identifiable collective creativity” happen?

I have joked that Universitas is the opposite of eHarmony, by which I mean that we do not wish to connect those who are compatible, we seek to connect those who are…well, contracompatible is the term we have been using. I have also been using the example of “Steve Jobs’ bathrooms” as another analogy. At Pixar, Jobs designed the space with only one set of bathrooms. He did this to assure that everyone in the company would at some stage have to congregate in the same location—the engineers and computer programmers and the artists and the animators would all be forced together. New and unexpected ideas emerge when these the contracompatible are connected. Universitas is an attempt to architect such a contracompatible space.
What has been one of your favorite Universitas moments?

In September 2011, Chef Bryan Loveless brought in 20 ingredients and, without the benefit of a set recipe, invited the Universitas group to “make something special to eat.”  We could only use the ingredients at hand and whatever dish we created had to have an emotional theme attached to it. The evening was the brainchild of Chef Loveless and Rob Sullivan, from PNC bank. I loved the idea of a collaboration between a chef and a banker; that is the essence of Universitas, I think.  The evening was an unqualified success: a room full of artists, designers, entrepreneurs, and educators connected together to become chefs. And ev

erything we made that evening was delicious.

Where do you see Universitas headed next?  I’d love to replicate that idea each month:  I would want to bring together two very different people, from different backgrounds or occupations or outlooks on life and have them co-curate an event. The essence of Universitas is serendipitous connections, connecting people who wouldn’t ordinarily be connected, to see what kind of new ideas happen.


How can someone keep up with what is happening with Universitas?

Join our email list for sure. (Send David a note at: Also, were on Twitter:


In looking back now, would you give the same TEDxColumbus talk today that you gave in 2010?

Absolutely, yes.  In fact, I am more committed than ever to the idea of curating environments that foster creativity and innovation. Cities the size and density of Columbus make for an especially fertile environment.




Follow This

by Kendra Hovey

“You’re never too old” is one of those uplifting sayings you don’t want to think too much about. Earning Olympic gold in gymnastics…winning the Fields Medal in mathematics…playing in COSI’s little kidspace…oh, to live on Sugar Mountain…to do any of these, a great number of us are, indisputably, too old.

But according to new research out of Ohio State if major scientific breakthrough is on your life list, you may in fact never be too old (for the under 30s, though, chances are good that, at least right now, you are too young).

Lingering within the walls of math and science is a long-harbored belief that the brilliant show themselves early. OSU economics professor Bruce Weinberg and his research partner Benjamin Jones of Northwestern decided to test this assumption. By collecting data on 500+ Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry and medicine from 1901 to 2008, they found that this notion of the brilliant young scientist was not so off-base—a century ago. Until 1905, about two-thirds of Nobel winners did their prize-winning work before age 40 (and about 20 percent did it before age 30).

In chemistry and medicine, though, those numbers decreased steadily over time. In physics, young achievement peaked later—in 1934—but in all three disciplines, by the year 2000, winners under the age 40 were rare, and those under 30, almost extinct. According to Weinberg: “Today, the average age at which physicists do their Nobel Prize winning work is 48. Very little breakthrough work is done by physicists under 30.”

Weinberg’s theory to explain this: In the early 1900s, quantum mechanics blew the lid off traditional science. It reset the rules and, in some ways, leveled the playing field. Says Weinberg: “It may be that young scientists did better, in part, because they never learned the older ways of thinking and could think in new ways.”

Today the situation is greatly changed. Scientists are spending much longer in graduate school and their research cites a greater breadth of work over time—a hundred years ago, citations were more often contemporaneous. “Because of their depth of knowledge,” says Weinberg, “older scientists may have an advantage.”

The findings bode well in light of demographics that show an increasingly older research workforce. “If you take the view that science is a young person’s game, then this aging trend is alarming,” Weinberg says. “But if scientists can be productive as they get older, as this study suggests, there may be less of a problem.”

To extrapolate a bit, this research may also have something to say about ideas and innovation in general, suggesting perhaps that:

  • knowing more and knowing less can both be key to breakthrough thinking
  • even in the most evidence-based fields, outdated assumptions are hard to shake
  • though we tend to rarefy what we can’t conceive, even the most abstract knowledge occurs within a material and historical context.

[And what about math? Perhaps more than any other discipline mathematics is thought to be “a young person’s game” (actually, a “young man’s game” but that’s a whole another bias). This was not discounted or verified by the OSU study because there is no Nobel in Math. The rumored reason—utterly unverified, but prevailing only because others dull in comparison—is that Nobel’s girlfriend had an affair with a mathematician. The stand-in Nobel in Math is the Fields Medal. Also not studied because it is only for those under age 40 and it is awarded every four years—one more way in which mathematicians have to get their numbers right.]

lllustration by Greg Bonnell 

Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at


Follow This, Readers' Roundtable


[by Kendra Hovey]

“Liking the book is not the point. The conversation that follows is.”

This is what Catalina Gorla would like you to know about Readers’ Roundtable. She’d also like you to know, chances are, that conversation will be “quality,” “organic” and “rich.”

If you haven’t heard, Readers’ Roundtable is the new TEDxColumbus-inspired book club (of sorts). Here’s how it works: a past TEDxColumbus speaker chooses a book, any book (or sometimes a film), and interested people read it (or view it) then gather to eat, meet and discuss. The speaker facilitates, participants are limited to 20 (“to preserve intimacy”), and, technically, it is free—$15 or $20 goes to the cost of a meal. Sessions repeat monthly, each time with a new title, new speaker and new group (the first 20 to sign up).

It is not a lecture, nor a round-robin discussion. It is a conversation, and one that doesn’t typically take much to get going. “We are empowered by information,” says Gorla, “people who read the book find they have something to say.”

And who is Gorla? She is the catalyst and engineer behind the event. She’s also an economist at Nationwide, with a degree in art history and an interest in books, community and entrepreneurship. Born in Romania, when still young she immigrated to the U.S. with her family. Their landing point was Idaho. From there, she went to New Hampshire and in 2009 moved to Columbus, which is where she was when she picked up The Brothers Karamazov.

The book made her feel lonely. Though, no fault of Dostoevsky: “I really wanted to share it and talk about it,” she explains. It was from this want that Gorla developed a new model for a book club—new, because the standard model gravitates towards contemporary fiction and titles are often picked randomly. Gorla thought that if everyone was going to commit to read a book, at least one person should be passionate about it and eager to discuss it. More than anything, though, she wanted diversity. “Not just women my age and my friends,” she says, “I wanted different people with different experiences.”

Gorla did not say what you might be thinking—that books are often tangential to book clubs real purpose: wine and friends. She doesn’t say this because for her, too, the purpose is social. The book is the “glue,” she says, so people can come together to share and listen and build community.

Her affinity-based, open (based on sign-up), and facilitated model, Gorla calls “Our Books.” She tried it out at Nationwide. It is now in its second year (read more about it here). Our Books provides the framework for Readers’ Roundtable and Gorla plans to operationalize the model for use within different organizations. And why would organizations be interested? Focused dialogue is a good in itself, but Gorla believes that with it can come a whole host of good things: community-building, problem-solving, empowerment, understanding, enjoyment, and, of particular importance, communication. “We don’t have to agree to communicate,” she says. The idea is not to reach some crystallized endpoint. Instead, she says, “we can learn how to listen and we can soften the blow of differences of opinion by putting it into dialogue.”

The Readers’ Roundtable schedule can be found here. Claudia Kirsch launched the series in March with a discussion on fixed and growth mindsets. The April dialogue with David Burns focused on the whys of the financial crisis and deepened understanding of the many ways it reverberated through individual lives. Last week, with 2010 speaker David Staley, the dialogue centered on three questions. Given that discipline-jumping and expertise-mashing sparks innovation and creativity, do we:

  1. find similar crossover within ourselves? —The answer: yes, no and sometimes
  2. see it supported and nurtured in institutions and organizations? —Hardly, and it can be challenging to initiate
  3. have ideas to help nurture it within our own sphere of existence? —Yeah, lots, including emptying a room (removing it of embedded routine) and also filling a room (but with two seemingly disparate elements—a math teacher and art teacher, say).

Coincidentally, next month’s Readers’ Roundtable (June 8 at the Main Librarymixes things up a bit. The book this time is a film (“Finding Joe“). The speaker/facilitator is Jason Barger. And this time, instead of dinner, the conversation will be held over lunch (11:30–1pm).


Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at




Follow This


[by Kendra Hovey]

If you were at the last TEDxColumbus, you might remember Alex Bandar, the “visionary, metallurgist, connector” in the black jumpsuit determined to revive the lost art of making. In his talk, Bandar shared the big idea of the Columbus Idea Foundry (CIF) and his big dream to put it on wheels, park it at a high school and begin to transform American education and, along the way, American thinking, industry and innovation.

But the Idea Foundry is about more than a big idea. As the name suggests, lots of ideas come out of CIF, and in all sorts of sizes. One that Bandar had been bandying about—along with cohorts David and Carrie Chew—became a reality last March. A new conversation community with follow-up built-in, Convergence, as the realized idea is called, is a touch TEDx, but a bit more Kickstarter meets American Idol meets Royal Society of London (minus the wigs…sadly). The event is open to the public and due to repeat every three months or so. The purpose is to converge to examine “theories, struggles, and possibilities” for projects and then make those projects financially doable (by actually laying money on the table) and accountable, as well as, potentially continually supported (by following-up at the next Convergence).

There are some guidelines: The project must be “deemed bigger than a single person”; it should be “group-oriented so that members and potential members can learn beyond their expertise”; and the winner must report back on “how the project went, what worked, what didn’t, and what can be learned.”

The very first Convergence was held on March 1st at the Foundry—just off 5th Ave., where Corrugated Way meets Mobility. With the support of Turnstone and TEDxColumbus, the evening started and ended with tours, presentations, food and general socializing. In the middle, three Foundry members shared their projects. Then, the 100 or so in attendance had the opportunity to vote with their dollars. On the table that night: about $700 (an additional $600 or so was raised for the Cougar Robotics Team, a local high school robotics club).

 Of the three projects presented…

  1. A plan by steam-engine enthusiast Chip Rosenblum to build a dual-gauge train track.
  2. A LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) upgrade for Ethan Dicks’ “tourbot” (a remote-controlled camera, microphone and monitor).
  3. And, from event co-founder and co-organizer David Chew, a kinetic blue tree sculpture to be made of various sized pipes, possibly with “flame effects,” and to be outfitted with tree-dwelling creatures that could be controlled with switches and bellows by the audience.

…the win goes to…the kinetic blue tree sculpture.


Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at


Follow This

[by Kendra Hovey]

Meditate, laugh, spend time with friends, eat salmon, sit less, and get your Vitamin D. This prescription doesn’t sound so bad; it might even be fun. Yet, many of us struggle to follow even simple health habits. But what if doctor’s orders are not so fun—what if they’re, in fact, a big fat drag? And what if you’re a teenager, your friends aren’t having to do it, and slacking off may not get you into real trouble until the ancient age of 30?

For those who live with it, “#diabetes sucks.” At the very least, the lifelong daily regimen to stay healthy is challenging. Denial is tempting, more so for teenagers. Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Jen Shine Dyer gets this. She also gets the very real consequences—disability, early death. So to help her patients follow doctor’s orders, she “met them where they’re at”—she texted them. And it worked.

Dyer shared her texting experiment at the 2010 TEDxColumbus, where she also unveiled her prototype EndoGoddess app that would enable other doctors to offer similar automated, yet personal, patient support with presumably similar positive results.

So a year and a half later, is her hypothesis true, “is texting good health?” The answer seems to be yes…and no. Dr. Dyer has learned a lot since then. Her idea has evolved. So has she.

So what has she learned? Small personal bursts of physician support get powerful results, but that power begins to dim after about three months. The text and the personal relationship behind it was a trigger, but for a sustained effect, two more things were needed: motivation and literacy. Her evolved version of the EndoGoddess app has all three. When users check blood sugar levels regularly, they get points (eventually to be used as credit at the iTunes Store). Along with this “gamefication” motivation, the app also includes educational and inspirational information and it connects users to online diabetes communities—an increasingly essential source of social support and “real-time empathy.”

Another change: this app is for the patient, not the doctor. “The patients are already looking,” she says, “they are ready for change.” The switch did come with a compromise. Instead of just being texting-capable, users now need a smartphone, or an iPod Touch—a popular device among teens.

Dyer’s original inspiration is not exactly lost; it just comes through the backdoor. Because it can be used to log every blood sugar check, the app functions as a manifest of the often unseen but difficult day-to-day work diabetes demands. This can be enlightening to family and friends, who then may become more supportive. Also as family and friends contribute to the user’s iTunes account, they can become more invested, connected and educated. Or, as Dyer puts it, “When Grandma puts in $5, she might be more likely to say ‘I’m proud of you.’”

Immediately following TEDxColumbus, Dyer was inundated with offers to develop the app. She ignored every one, but then, after six months, decided to partner with the Columbus start-up Duet Health. “We’re on the same page,” she says. Released last fall, the 99-cent app has been downloaded over 500 times, and has a 4+ rating.

And why, exactly, is it called the EndoGoddess? Patients typically refer to their endocrinologists as “my Endo.” One of Dyer’s, a young girl who approved of her doctor’s fashion sense, took to calling Dyer “my EndoGoddess.” The nickname is also Dyer’s online identity.

Asked if the name might be a barrier for some, Dyer shares that half of all users are male. Though she makes the point that they are, like her, early adopters: “As a group, we’re not the most usual bunch of people.”

The next major evolution for the EndoGoddess app will be the integration of a medical device—the glucometer. Likely, this won’t be available until 2013, as it will need FDA approval. For now, Dyer has a clinical trial to run. “I’m a numbers person,” she says, “the field of mobile health is exciting, but as a doctor what I care about is that it improves health care, and we need to have a measure of that.” The 3-month self-funded trial is set to begin this month. She hopes to also run a longer trial, but has bumped into the problem that perplexes many providers of mobile and online content: funding.

On hiatus from practicing medicine, Dyer’s been doing a lot of travelling and talking. At SXSW in March and a D.C. conference in April, in late May she is off to Paris to present at Doctors 2.0 (over the winter there was even a TV audition). A doctor when she spoke at TEDxColumbus, Dyer is now also a tech entrepreneur and mHealth pioneer. As such, she has a frontline perspective on new mobile health solutions. Follow This will continue to follow her, especially as new policies and patient-centered incentives are due to go into effect. It’s going to get interesting, she predicts, and exciting and, she says, “good for patients.”

Kendra Hovey is editor and head writer at Follow This. On Twitter @KendraHovey, she blogs at


In the last month, we’ve hosted a myriad of TEDx events in Columbus. Here’s a quick re-cap to summarize them – and showing what a vibrant, curious, inspired city we have that is supporting and growing each one.

Our signature event, TEDxColumbus, featured 18 speakers and performers (above: Susan Willeke, Jamie Greene and Rose Smith) on stage at COSI on 11.11.11.  You can watch all of the speaker’s videos here, or get a glimpse of the full day from still images here.  They all celebrated a “Moment in Time,” and did so beautifully.

We had a record turnout of nearly 600 attendees, that’s double where we started two years ago when we hosted the first event at the Wexner center with 300 attendees.  Check out this dynamic gallery at COSI!

We were supported these amazing corporate and community partners: resource interactive, The Columbus Foundation, Barnes and Thornburg, The Limited Brands, Alliance Data, The Ohio State University, and GSW Worldwide. Support from WOSU, COSI and a host of other in-kind donations made the event possible.










We had a unique and very special partnership with LOTH/ STEELCASE / TURNSTONE to outfit the event gallery for our two days of events (see TEDxYouth below). The feedback on our event was so spectacular in part thanks to the great furniture and environment they helped to build for us. We were delighted they could carry through our dream!

The day before TEDxColumbus, we hosted TEDxYouth@Columbus also at COSI, where 18 speakers and performers also took the stage and inspired an audience of nearly 150 high schoolers. Curators Andy Aichele and Christian Long were aided by community volunteers who were also mentors in the afternoon, the day-long event turned out to be a needed and inspired addition to our TEDx line-up. And the kids had a blast, too.


After we cleaned up from TEDxColumbus and TEDxYouth@Columbus, on December 1, for the second year in a row, The Columbus Foundation hosted a livestream of TEDxWomen, a national TEDx event that was broadcast from LA and NY. Over 60 women joined us for the viewing and lots of great conversation between riveting talks. See an additional story here from our live speakers Maryanna Klatt and Theresa Flores who joined us with their TEDxColumbus talks at lunch.

And for us, we closed out the month with a webinar featuring our own InsideOut Project along side TEDx organizers from Aviero, Portgual, Manchester, NH and Athens, Greece. I have been hosting  some of these  webinars for two years now – bringing together knowledge and experience for TEDx organizers around the world. This one was pretty special as we had JR, the artist and recipient of the TED Prize and Amy Novogratz, join us to discuss InsideOut. The webinar will be linked here when it’s live.


All in all, the community has had an exhilarating month – thanks to everyone who’s helped to make these great moments possible!