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TEDxBuffalo: Immediate Impressions

I had the good fortune to attend the first ever TEDx in Buffalo. The event took place on October 11, 2011 at the Montante Cultural Center on the Canisius College campus in Buffalo, NY.

During TEDxBuffalo, over a dozen speakers took the stage to tell stories and engage the audience. There was no overarching theme that I could detect, although many of the speakers talked about ideas or innovations that took root or have been developed in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding area.

My purpose with this post is to provide brief summaries of all the speakers and links to additional information. I know many people in Buffalo were very excited about this event, and I hope this will provide a sense of the talks for those who were unable to attend.


Ethan Cox

Community Beer Works
Twitter: @EthanBFLO

Ethan Cox led off TEDxBuffalo in fine fashion with an interesting story about beer and why it serves as a modern day community builder via the third places where it's made and served, such as breweries and bars.

Dr. Barbara Seals-Nevergold and Dr. Peggy Brooks-Bertram
Uncrowned Community Builders
: @uncrownedqueens @peggybertram

Think of a resource like Wikipedia, but geared toward collecting and preserving the vast histories of African American men and women, and you have the vision of
Uncrowned Community Builders. Barbara Seals-Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram talked about the project at TEDxBuffalo: how they established the project initially to gather records from the Women's Pavilion Pan Am 2001, how it eventually expanded to include African American men, and how they aspire to make the technopedia the best resource of its kind and an enduring part of Buffalo -- where it originated.

Remy DeCausemaker
Research Associate
Twitter: @remy_d

Remy DeCausemaker (who might have emerged right out of a Neil Stephenson novel) spoke passionately about open source and open data, and the importance of benevolent hacking to bypass proprietary, inflexible systems in favor of efficient, open approaches.

Patrick Lango
White Cow Dairy

In the tradition of Joel Salatin,
Patrick Lango spoke honestly about the challenges of operating a small dairy farm and the success he achieved when he began producing yogurt and bringing the product directly to customers.

John Bordynuik

I'm hoping one day I can tell people I was in the room with
John Bordynuik before he was famous. Because Plastic2Oil sure sounds like a game changer. Employing a new technology, Plastic2Oil has developed a process to transform unsorted, unwashed waste plastic into ultra-clean, ultra-low sulphur fuel.

Eric Walker
PUSH Buffalo

Eric Walker compared the modern city to a living organism, and he noted how many cities like Buffalo are sick. Fortunately, he has been moved to community activism, and his TEDxBuffalo talk focused on his efforts to bring solutions to Buffalo.

Brandon Kessler

Twitter: @challengepost, @ChallengeGov, @bkessler

ChallengePost and
both use social networking with collaboration tools to solve problems. As Brandon Kessler explained, the sites enable people to challenge the public to solve problems and accomplish goals collectively. Challenges are issued to increase awareness, foster participation and action, and generate innovation.

Stacey Watson
Drop-In Nation

Twitter: @StaceyWatson716

Stacey Watson looks and sounds very much like the tough, committed educator played by Michelle Pfeiffer in the film Dangerous Minds. Except
Stacey Watson is the real deal. Moved to action by the high school dropout rate in Buffalo schools, Stacey developed a curriculum specifically for dropouts. She detailed why her program works in her TEDxBuffalo talk.

Patrick Finan
Block Club
Twitter: @BlockClub

Patrick Finan was the only TEDxBuffalo speaker who asked people to do less instead of more. Actually, he challenged the audience to reflect on their lives and consider making do with less -- for example, a smaller house and a more modest lifestyle. Because smaller, Patrick continued, makes for a richer, calmer, and more satisfying life.

Chuck Banas
Buffalo SmartCode Committee

Twitter: @newbuffalocode

Chuck Banas
probably pulled off the most difficult feat at TEDxBuffalo. He made the subject of zoning interesting. In essence, he elaborated the problems with Buffalo's current zoning codes (which are too restrictive and lead to sprawl and parking lots) and demonstrated why the forthcoming Buffalo Green Code will implement smart growth standards that enhance the quality of life for city residents.

Karen Armstrong
Future Cities


Another innovator committed to improving student performance in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), Karen talked about her involvement with The Future City Competition, a national, project-based learning experience where students imagine, design, and build cities of the future.

Drew Kahn

The Anne Frank Project

The original TED is rightfully famous for riveting talks and "ideas worth spreading". Drew Kahn's talk to close out TEDxBuffalo was as moving and inspiring as any TED talk. Drew's story was ostensibly about an Anne Frank play that he ended up tweaking to incorporate elements and characters from Rwanda and the genocide in that country. But the broader theme of the talk was our shared humanity and accepting the fundamental truth: we all share 99.9% of our DNA and we're all in this together.

Muraho, TEDxBuffalo!


TEDxBuffalo would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of many committed people. Thank you to Kevin Purdy and the rest of the TEDxBuffalo team.


TEDxBuffalo website

TEDxBuffalo on Twitter


#TEDxBuffalo Stream on Twitter



The Report from TEDx Buffalo
by Brian Castner


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