Santa Cruz Tech Beat


TEDXSantaCruz brings local flavor to March 8 ACTIVATE event

by Sara Isenberg
Publisher, Santa Cruz Tech Beat

TEDxSantaCruz organizers are closing in on the final speaker lineup for ACTIVATE 2014, a live all day event to be held on March 8, 9 am – 5pm at Hotel Paradox. The organizing team includes Santa Cruz locals Irene Tsouprake, Kirsti Scott, David Warren, Jon Luini and Nada Miljkovic.  According to organizers, the curating process is 90% method and 10% madness.

TEDxSantaCruz 2014 organizers

TEDxSantaCruz 2014 organizers

“We receive a couple hundred applications that we curate down to 12-14 speakers,” said Tsouprake. “Then we look at the balance in terms of gender, age, discipline, tenor of the talk—for instance technology, environment, social justice. Then we always leave a few spots open to reach out and “hand curate” the last few openings. And we include poetry, dance, music—we’ve found people’s brains need a breather because the talks are so meaty—the brain needs room to dance with these ideas.”

The TEDXSantaCruz event brings local flavor and a regional perspective to the TED format, providing a platform that acts as a slingshot for good ideas.

After speaking at TEDxSantaCruz 2011 about his algae to energy project, NASA Biochemist Jonathan Trent was invited to speak at TEDGlobal in Edinburgh.

“We watched the livestream together as a team,” marvels Tsouprake. “I can’t think of a better, more direct way to get great ideas and inventions and movements launched. I mean, TED’s Chris Anderson walks on stage after his talk and asks in front of the whole world: Are you looking for venture capital money? And to his enormous credit, Jonathan says: No—we’re giving it away for free!” she laughs. “Chills…” she says, “I had chills.”

Organizers say this year’s theme marks the third leg of curating a three-year arc following the initial TEDxSantaCruz 2011 Engage, and the second event, 2012 OPEN.

ACTIVATE will highlight speakers including Navy Captain Wayne Porter. Organizer David Warren says Porter’s talk will set the stage for many of the other talks featured. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and Admiral John Mullen tasked Porter with developing and writing a National Strategic Narrative that in many ways, challenges the current paradigm or definition of security.

“Porter personally defines security as a lack of anxiety,” says Warren. “What kind of plan will it take to eliminate anxiety in America? The Narrative tells the story we want to live into. It might surprise you, what this guy in a military uniform with expertise in complexity theory came up with after 2 years of working on it.”

The day will address a plethora of topics; one of them is social justice and mass incarceration in America.  Attendees will hear from Santa Clara Public Defender Jessica Delgado who, working with the Stanford Three Strikes Project, has already helped free 18 men and women serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes. Joining her onstage will be Dave Gomez and Bilal Chatman, both freed through Delgado’s advocacy, a format that will challenge preconceived notions about what constitutes justice.

Other local speakers include Marine Biologist J Nichols who will talk about his work around the neuroscience of BlueMind–your brain on the ocean, and Katie Reid, a biochemist and mother who will talk about the human microbiome and its relationship to health and wellbeing. Her personal experience in dealing with autism addresses her take on the single most important thing we can do to impact our health.

TEDxSantaCruz is a nonprofit, all volunteer organization, and a labor of love according to Tsouprake.

“Look, everyone on the organizing team has a day job,” she sighs. “We curate, create and produce and secure sponsorships to pay for TEDx events, “ she says. “We’re so grateful for the way businesses and individuals in our community step up to help us bring attention to the incredible innovators in this county. At the end of the day, this team keeps doing it because there just is nothing like it—a highly curated day that engages your mind, opens your eyes and heart and makes you want to get up and do something to make the world and our community a better place—yep—Activate—where else are you going to find all of that? “


Sara Isenberg publishes Santa Cruz Tech Beat for the benefit of the extended business and technology community. When she is not volunteering her time for the tech scene, Sara makes her living by managing software projects, web strategy planning, and providing development team services (including account management, vendor management, strategic partner management, beta project management, referrals to qualified technical team members, and more). Please visit her website: Sara Isenberg Web Consulting & Project Management, or contact Sara by email if you have any project management, account management, or Development Team leadership or service needs.

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