Calling All Creatives: TEDxCLE

For the latest installment of Calling All Creatives, I had to overcome some obstacles before I could write this post: a possible closed event and a snowstorm. TEDxCLE is an independently sponsored TED event which promised to bring together some of the most creative thinkers in the Cleveland-area on a late February day during a notoriously snowy winter here in Ohio.

When I first heard about the event, from where exactly I can’t remember, I knew wanted to write about it for Calling All Creatives. Well, that was the easy part. I then had the difficult task of getting a ticket to an event that was taking applications for attendees. Yes, you read that right. There was an online application form that needed to be filled out to see if you qualified for a ticket first. This puzzled me for months, because it did not include the time and/or price. Would I want to be accepted to something I could not attend nor afford?

Luckily, about a month before the event, I started following TEDxCLE on Twitter, where it was revealed that tickets would be going on sale to the general public. And guess what? The price was extremely reasonable and the time fit into my schedule.

Immediately after the announced ticket sale date and time, I bought my ticket. Lucky for me that I did, because the next day or so the event sold out. So with ticket in hand, I was ready for my TED experience.

Or so I thought. The morning of the event a snowstorm shut the city and every public school down in the area. I anxiously checked Twitter and to my surprise the event was still on. Now, I had to decide if I wanted to risk the icy roads and if the TED event was worth it. In the end, I made the last minute decision to go and haven’t regretted it since!

The event was held in a wonderfully restored theater. And the throngs of people proved that a little snow doesn’t scare Clevelanders away from a revolutionary event like TED.

Some of my favorite moments from the event included a presentation from Terry Schwartz of Pop Up City explaining how broken cities are like broken ceramics and the way to fix them involves making small repairs, which can be noticeable, since we will never fully restore them completely to their original state.

Also, Aaron LeMieux of Tremont Electric talking about alternative energy and his discovery of using kinetic energy as power was another highlight for me. He described how his idea was born during a hike on the Appalachian Trail, while he was still in college. He also discussed how it took him almost 10 years of creating prototypes to finally discover the best solution.

Finally, and probably my favorite presentation was by Danielle DeBoe the owner the boutique ROOM SERVICE and creator of Made in the 216, an event featuring local artisans. She highlighted the path to living a passionate life by demonstrating all the creative twists and turns she took along her own personal journey.

Please check out the rest of the presentations here. I promise you won’t be sorry and you’ll definitely feel inspired afterward.

Calling All Creatives: Social Entrepreneurs and Social Innovation

In my last post, I explored the concept of using creativity as an agent of social change and highlighted a program in Cleveland that was doing just that. I also asked readers to share their own examples of creativity and community building.

One reader, Isobel, left a comment praising the organization Ashoka and the partnership between IDEO and the Gates Foundation. I decided to check out her suggestions and was thoroughly impressed.

Ashoka is a leader in the social entrepreneur movement supporting some 2,000 fellows in 60 different countries with projects ranging from sanitation to establishing schools. Ashoka has created a global network of innovation and creativity empowering regular citizens to become change makers.

Similarly, IDEO, not only has an alliance with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support projects on health but with several other well-known global foundations. At IDEO, it is not just about innovation but social innovation as defined by using design-thinking principles to better serve underprivileged areas and communities. Recent examples of projects have included the Human Centered Design Project providing a tool kit for innovation and the universal ear, an affordable hearing aid both created for developing nations.

Finally, have you heard about the Pepsi Refresh Project? I kept seeing and hearing the ads for this new idea generating initiative sponsored by Pepsi, while my mind was still percolating ideas for this post. Anyway, Pepsi is providing various sums of money to those individuals and organizations that come up with ideas that have a positive impact on a community.

Unfortunately the limited number of applications for this grant cycle has been filled, but you can still enter your idea for future funding cycles in the following categories: health, arts & culture, food & shelter, the planet, neighborhoods and educations. I’ve had fun looking through the art submissions. Vote for your favorite ideas or submit your own next month and make a change in your neighborhood!

Calling All Creatives: From Vacant Lots to Vineyards

What is the role of creativity? We all know the function that creativity plays in art and innovation, but what is the purpose of using creativity to build and enhance our communities? I’d like to look at using creativity as an agent of change and encourage you to think more creatively about your community.

I first encountered the idea of creativity for change while an undergraduate studying art history. This is where I first learned about art movements, primarily in the late 20th Century, using creativity for social change. Years later while working in museums in Washington, DC, I encountered another way that the arts affect change through my personal interactions with inner city school children. For them art was a way to escape, but not change their social situation.

Now, I’d like to explore how the ideas behind the art (aka creativity) can generate community. But I am not talking about Richard Florida’s concept of the Creative Class, which while a wonderful theory only takes into account the people that use creativity for their profession. What I’d like to see more of is everyone, not just professional creatives, using their ideas to improve the quality of their cities and neighborhoods.

To begin this quest, I looked no further than my own (figurative) backyard – the city of Cleveland. Late last year, the results of an exciting new program were announced, and it could just be the idea that transforms a depressed Rust Belt city into a sustainability success story. Fast Company even selected Cleveland as one their 13 Most Creative Cities in the World last year based on this program.

The Re-Imagining Cleveland Grant Program gives residents the power to redesign their own city. The program sought out submissions from local residents on how to reuse the plethora of vacant lots in Cleveland. Instead of relying on a development corporation, the program encourages residents to come up with their own sustainable ideas.

And did they ever come up with ideas. Out of 103 proposals 58 proposals were chosen with ideas ranging from a vineyard, market garden and even a garden tended by a group of African refugees struggling to get by on food stamps. The creativity and innovation on the part of the citizens was simply remarkable.

Later in the year, I plan to report about the successful implementation of these ideas. But in the meantime, do you know of everyday citizens who are transforming their communities through creativity or using creative thinking to solve problems like they did in Cleveland? I’d like to feature them in a later post.

Please leave me a comment and let know who they are.