Somerville is home to creative thinkers of all stripes and this year’s TEDxSomerville is tapping into those diverse resources to put on an event that showcases much of what makes our city such a vibrant place to live.
“Somerville has a lot of micro communities. There’s an amazing mix of people,” said C. Todd Lombardo, the organizer of TEDxSomerville. He says the goal of TEDxSomerville is to “pull people from different places that may have never been in the same spot.”
And this year that spot will be Brooklyn Boulders Somerville (12A Tyler St.), which will play host to TEDxSomerville on Sunday, March 30. Lombardo heard about Brooklyn Boulders about a year ago and went to the opening last summer to see the completely revamped space.
“I was so inspired by being there,” Lombardo said. TEDxSomerville was previously held at the Armory, but capacity constraints led the organizers to look elsewhere for this year’s event location. “We want to get more people in that space and stimulating conversation.”
While Lombardo has lived in a Brickbottom loft since 2004, his start with TEDx is firmly planted across the ocean in Spain. Lombardo was already a fan of TED, which hosts two big conferences a year (and whose videos you’ve likely seen online) under the mantra “Ideas Worth Spreading,” when it announced the TEDx spin-off.
People interested in hosting a TEDx event can apply to TED for a license and if they’ve previously attended a TED conference, are able to host as many people as they wish. Lombardo went to TED in 2011, so TEDxSomerville can theoretically be for as many people as the venue can handle. Lombardo expects about 400 to attend.
The idea behind TEDx was, “let’s open this up to anybody to take and run. It’s a local, grassroots driven version of TED,” Lombardo said.
When the TEDx program was announced in 2009 Lombardo was on his way to live in Madrid for 18 months. He then planned and hosted the first TEDx in all of Spain that fall and after a learning a lot, took another stab at the event in 2010.
“We had more resources,” Lombardo said of the success of the 2010 event. “Part of it was just an uphill battle in educating people in what is TED. People had gotten more warm to the idea to what is TED. We had a much easier time in 2010 getting the traction.”
Lombardo moved back to Somerville in late 2010 and after meeting with the organizers of TEDxBoston, decided his city needed an event of its own.
“There needs to be a TEDxSomerville because it’s awesome and has its own unique character,” Lombardo said. “Nobody’s done this yet, so I’m going to put my flag in the sand. The first one in Somerville was in March 2012. I think the community really enjoyed it.”
TEDxSomerville is an all-volunteer operation that Lombardo runs with a core group of about 12 to 14 others that will expand to 70 volunteers during the actual event.
“You do this because you love it,” Lombardo said. “You spend thousands of hours on it. We’re passionate about it and we care about our community.”
The March 30 TEDxSomerville event features speakers with a variety of backgrounds that will all address this year’s theme: Movement. The actual talks will run about six to 15 minutes each with plenty of down time in between for attendees to digest what they heard and discuss it among themselves.
“There are so many ways it can be interpreted. We’ve taken that in a number of different directions purposefully,” Lombardo said of the theme. “We want people to talk to each other, to make those connections.”
Because TEDxSomerville is an all-volunteer operation and TED forbids the organizers from profitting from the event, there’s a ticket fee of $49. But Lombardo has set aside 10% of the tickets (about 40) for those who may not be able to afford to attend. Those scholarship tickets are subsidized by people who pay $98 to help offset the cost of the event.
“If I had my way I would love to have enough sponsorship to cover it, but it’s just not economically feasible,” Lombardo said. “We did this last time and it worked well. If someone can afford to pay $98, then someone can go for free.”
Sunday, March 30, noon-6 p.m.
Brooklyn Boulders Somerville, 12A Tyler St.
Tickets: $49 or $98
Images courtesy of TEDxSomerville.