A week of social at TEDActive

Kristin: Last week, I had the privilege of attending TEDActive, the livestreamed sister of conference of TED. Amidst the talks, the conversations and the workshops for TEDx organisers, I participated in one of the TEDActive projects – Social Networks (or #TEDActiveSOC). The purpose of our project was explore how we might use our social networks to turn inspiration into action.

Monday. We meet for the first time as a group at the Living Desert zoo. 20-30 people with varied experience across different social networks, not just platforms, and with roles from journalists, to writers and artists, through to change agents and connectors. The experience and expertise of the people within the group is astonishing, made more so by each of us introducing ourselves with the “superpower” that we bring to the group. My “superpower” is finding the magic emerge from chaos, so as the conversation starts, I draw the connections on the whiteboard and look for themes. As the discussion unfolds, we realise we have surfaced a number of questions to explore with the wider TEDActive audience. These questions are:

  • How might you find what matters to you through your social networks?
  • How do you discover what you can do about the thing(s) that matter to you?
  • How might you tip inspiration into action?How might we tackle big things with human-sized action?
  • How might we you nurture your social aura (effectivess, reputation)?
  • How might social networks make you more courageous?
  • How might you move from tweet to street?

Tuesday. I find myself in a random group of six people so we can share the picnic basket provided for lunch. After initial introductions (where are you from, what do you do, how are you finding it?), the conversation falls silent. I say I’m really enjoying being a part of the project team and that we’re exploring questions. “What questions?”, someone asks. Questions like “Do social networks make you more courageous?”. The conversation kicks into gear as the idea is discussed over salads, wraps and then ice-blocks. And I realise that while the projects useful for having a focus and meeting a group during an overwhelming week, they also encourage deeper conversations.

We hear that a project meeting has been called for 10pm around the firepit. What?! Who calls a meeting at 10pm after a pool party?

Wednesday: We set about putting an experiment into place, congregating at Lucille Ball’s house to share outcomes and prepare for the presentation. The most difficult part of the project has been finding a way to capture our different passions. We all use social media differently; we all have different things that matter to us. We’d been charged to develop a set of “micro-actions” on how we might better transform inspiration to action, but how do you find a way to draw those differences together in a meaningful way?

Thursday: One minute. TEDActive Stage. Our Story.

When I woke this mornng and checked my messages, I had a link to a video. The video was made by two Year 12 students, Nile and Hannah from Huntington School in York in the UK. And they made the video to explain why they’re excited to hear about the TEDED program.

They found TEDED through their teacher, who was sent the link by his head of school. The Head of School found out through Sir Ken Robinson who sent out a tweet asking people to support this initiative. Sir Ken sent the tweet because he was messaged by Marcus, a member of our group for whom Sir Ken is a mentor, a personal connection. In a single day, with 9 targeted messages, our group got the TEDED link into 6017 schools across the US, the UK and Australia.

We spread the word of TEDED as an experiment to show that if we consciously considered the skills and passions of the people in our networks, if we thought about the best platform to find them,whether that beTwitter, FB, email, sms or face to face, and if we asked them in a way that appealed to them, we could get them to turn inspiration into the action of connecting with a school.

David Brooks said that Reason is weak, sentiments are strong and trustworthy, it’s the sentiments that allow us to thrive as groups. Social networks are all about the social.

At TEDYou, Luis said that technology without emotion is inefficient, we say social networks without emotion is ineffective.

You will have heard many things this week that inspire you that you want to share.

Rather than proposing a specific micro action, we are proposing a new micro philosophy. Know the power of the people in your network, know the way to reach them, and know to ask them to act in a way that matters. Whether it’s showing support for the middle east, participating in JR’s global art project, or spreading TEDED we’re asking you to be deliberate in your social networks. When you share your ideas from this week, we’re asking you to be the signal, not the noise.

Friday and beyond. Not micro-actions but a micro-philosophy. Amanda Rose summed it up best in her interview on TEDActiveSOC in the Huffington Post:

  1. Be yourself. People will respond best to those with an authentic social media voice.
  2. Listen and give back to your community. Others will remember your contribution.
  3. Chose the right social media channel for your message. Consider the audience.
  4. Clearly define what it is you are asking. The more specific, the better result.
  5. Be passionate. Show people how they can be part of something bigger.
  6. Report back. People want to feel valued and hear about the impact or results.

The outcome of the TEDActiveSOC project is to ask you take on this micro-philosophy of using your networks more deliberately to create change that matters. And I for one am grateful for the new networks of people and the sharing of ideas after such a week.

Photos: Credit: Michael Brands / TED via Flickr


  1. Interesting ideas and the six points seem relevant across a range of comms activities. I may need to work on my “social aura” though 🙂

  2. I’m afraid my tardiness in replying to you has done nothing for enhancing my social aura 😉

    I agree – I think one of the things that came out strongly, especially in the first session, was how to translate ideas into action, not just online, but offline too. Despite all the different technology platforms, good communication is still good communication.


  1. […] As I’ve previously described, the project brought 20-30 people together during the course of TEDActive to explore questions around social networks. We managed to spread the work of the TEDED initiative as an experiment to show how knowing the people within your networks and using them wisely could be effective in turning inspiration into action. […]

  2. […] Kristin was also the lead of the TEDActiveSOC action project. Here are some excerpts from her blog post describing the project: […]

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