TED’s City? The Year of the Collaborative Idea



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Many weren’t too surprised to see TIME select the anonymous protester as the Person of the Year. It’s been a year of revolution- and protests have shaken many a nation. But when TED awarded their annual- and prestigious- award to the City 2.0, it created buzz.

Why? Well, it was the first time in the eight year history of TED Prizes that the award went not to a person, but to an idea. A bit of background for those that aren’t too familiar with TED. The TED Prize is awarded annually to an exceptional individual. The prize is partially money- $100,000- but is largely the platform of TED. The recipient receives “One Wish to Change the World.” With that wish, TED activates its global community of talent and resources, facilitating collaboration geared to accomplishing this wish. In the past, this has included Bono’s wish for aid to Africa in various ways but particularly by connecting every hospital, health clinic, and school in one country, Ethiopia, to the Internet. And Bill Clinton asking to create a better future for Rwanda by working with the Clinton Global Initiative and the Rwandan Government to build a sustainable, high quality rural health system for the entire country. And Jamie Oliver’s wish of a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook, and empower people globally to fight obesity.

So, why has TED now decided to go with the idea of the city? Because as they state, the planet just may depend on it.

Very powerful words. And the thinking behind is even more inspiring.

Because basically- ideas inspire. People collaborate around ideas and ideas activate us to action.

And the City 2.0 tackles a big issue- urbanization. The global population hit 7 billion this year. And in the next 90 years, we’ll have built more urban living space than all other years- combined. This means that the City 2.0 must be sustainable. And promote stronger innovation and collaboration. Cities can reduce our rapidly growing population, help us protect rural areas, and become strong centers of economic, cultural and educational opportunity.

With the issue so large- and having a global idea- everyone can combine their efforts to make something larger much more possible. And in the words of TED, “Everyone in the TED Community can embrace radical collaboration on one of the most pressing issues we face.”

So, TED will be bringing together some of the world’s leading scientists, architects, mayors, urban planners and visionaries to collectively draft the wish of the City 2.0. And the prize money will be seeded toward initial actions toward that wish. By gathering behind an idea, TED can mobilize us all to think bigger about how we can use our urban spaces for the greater good and in new ways. It’s a risky move because it has no face or set leader driving the force, but it could be bigger than anything in the past. And that’s something that lines up with the core of Social Media Week 2012- Empowering Change through Collaboration.

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