At conference, meeting of modern minds

    Local innovative thinkers from a bunch of different sectors gathered in Center City Thursday for Philadelphia’s own TEDx Conference. 

    The annual TED conference is a sort of international brainstorming session, and TEDx tries to mimic that on a local scale.

    Topics at TED conferences can range from new software innovations to new models for community planning to new kinds of beer.  Most anything new is welcome – as long as it falls under the general heading of “Ideas Worth Spreading.”

    The audience expected a show from each 18-minute presentation.  And they made no exception for Jay Coen Gilbert, the co-founder of B Corporation.  But Gilbert eschewed a flashy presentation in favor of an all text power point that focused on an equally unflashy topic: corporate law and responsibility.  While he spoke, an artist created a visual rendering of the topic.

    Gilbert went on to discuss his new model for “Certified B Corporations,” which would be evaluated according to standards similar to LEED-certified buildings or certified organic food products.  Corporations would qualify as B Corp Certified by throwing out the traditional model of maximizing shareholder value, and instead striking a balance between value for shareholders, workers, the community, and the environment.  Despite the potentially tranquilizing effect of such a topic, the audience was spellbound.

    During a subsequent break, featuring live music, TEDx attendees explained why these seemingly ordinary presentations create such an energetic atmosphere.  Isaac Ramos works at La Colombe Coffee, a locally based fair trade organic coffee company.

    “You know, they presuppose that the audience is smart people and that they can stay up to pace with it, and they’re not worried that somebody is going to fall out, or if they do, they don’t care,” said Ramos.  “You know, I like that they don’t worry that they need to talk to everybody and a wide array.  It’s not like church or something.”

    But make no mistake, this isn’t a trade show or professional development session.  If it were, Temple student Crystal Pickett almost certainly would not be here.

    “I actually had to eat ramen for days to pay for my ticket,” said Pickett.

    Pickett is an architecture student, and while she says she’s interested in socially responsible business, she’s really here to see people talk about all new ideas in an energizing, accessible way.

    “You know, they know they’re not speaking to lawyers or farmers or whatever, and so they’re presenting it in a way that we can understand, and we have open minds to hear it,” she said.

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