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TEDGlobal Spotlight: The TEDx Phenomenon

Text by Maria Popova; artwork by Len Kendall

In March 2009, a couple hundred people gathered in an auditorium at the University of Southern California to hear visionary scientists, artists, multimedia designers, writers, anad adventurers deliver mind-shifting ideas, 18 minutes at a time. Though the format may sound familiar, this wasn't a TED conference—at least not exactly. Conceived by a small crew of TED staffers and USC faculty, the gathering drew a dramatic response, with speakers bringing a level of quality and passion that embodied the spirit of TED, while being distinct. This gave the organizers pause as they wondered, If a single university campus could spawn this much TED-like inspiration, what else was out there in the world?

And so the TEDx program began. This experiment-turned-global-phenomenon allows communities around the world to hold their own independently organized, self-initiated TED-like events. Here's how it works: Someone with an idea for an event submits an application to TEDx. Upon approval, they are issued a license and some basic guidelines. From there, the legwork, content curation, and event logistics come from these dedicated TEDxers. The very best TEDx talks have the privilege of being featured on, where they share the attention of the site's 5 million visitors per month. And the benefits go both ways: Over the past year, TED has sourced speakers, production ideas, and insight from these grassroots TEDx events.


The TEDx program has been among TED's furthest-reaching successes in the past few years. It leverages the power of ideas, the passion of community and a true open-source approach to deliver a new kind of platform for education and self-improvement. Since those humble beginnings in March of 2009, nearly 1,000 TEDx events have been held or planned in over 80 countries in more than 25 languages.

"TEDx has exceeded TED's expectations," says TED's Lara Stein, who masterminded the program. "The numbers tell only part of the story. The true power is in the amazing community of organizers and volunteers around the globe."

To join the TEDx movement, find a TEDx event near you, or get your grassroots gears rolling and apply for a license to hold one of your own.

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of miscellaneous interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, Big Think and Huffington Post, and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.

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