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MEDP Spark - TEDxMcMinnville: Big Ideas and a Connected Community

Feb 14, 2019

MEDP Spark Volume 4, Issue 2 ~ February 2019

A large X outside of Linfield College

On January 26, 2019, the community of McMinnville came together to engage with ideas, dialogue, and one another. TEDxMcMinnville was a first-ever event for our community and one that seemed to come at a time of McMinnville being on the crest of something big. McMinnville as a community has been growing recently, and within economic development, we’ve seen an increase in inquiries, business optimism, and local entrepreneurship. As the town continues to grow due to tourism, population, and a desire to live in our beautiful environment, TEDxMcMinnville seemed to give everyone a breath of intention.

TED is a non-profit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Started as a four-day conference in California 30 years ago, TED has grown to support its mission with multiple initiatives. One of these initiatives is TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talk videos and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. TEDx events are self-organized.

TEDxMcMinnville was brought to town by a group of people who were interested in creating a dialogue within the community. The inaugural event was held at Linfield College and was themed “under the microscope.” The theme was created because “when we, as communities, organizations, or individuals, take the initiative to look below the surface, there is much to discover about the history and nature of people, things, and big ideas.”

TEDx speaker Dave Sumner going over notes during the break
TEDx speaker Dave Sumner going over notes during the break

The first ever TEDxMcMinnville was a half-day event with eight speakers covering a range of topics. Five of the speakers are from or live in McMinnville while the three other speakers live within the Pacific Northwest. The community seemed engaged and excited from the beginning with tickets selling out more than a month in advance of the event. At the event, guests were asked to participate by writing their intentions for the event, their year, and life while Linfield students invited guests to look through literal microscopes. Altogether there were over 350 attendees with 20% of the audience made up of students. Many leaders within McMinnville were present including the Chief of Police, the City of McMinnville Planning Director, and more.

Having an award-winning liberal arts college in our community creates a unique opportunity. In any given month, local community members are able to attend a plethora of events open to the general public. In February alone there are eight events on a variety of topics that anyone can attend from a wine lecture by Sandra Taylor, author of The Business of Sustainable Wine, to a Linfield alumnus discussing his master’s research on computational physics. Holding TEDxMcMinnville at Linfield gave many community members a chance to interact with the beautiful campus and become more acquainted with local students.

TEDxMcMinnville Intention Wall
TEDxMcMinnville Intention Wall

Within the event, two speakers were from Linfield College. Professor David Sumner spoke on how to disagree productively while Linfield’s Assistant Dean for Diversity and Community Partnerships, Gerardo Ochoa, spoke on the impact of mispronouncing a name. Also speaking at the event was the Urbanism Next Program Director, Becky Steckler, who spoke on the impact of emerging technologies on cities, particularly rural cities like McMinnville. The rest of the speakers included Amy Fleckenstein who talked on finding purpose within pain, Kathy Beckwith who argued it’s time to abandon war as a means of resolving conflict, Pat Crowley on building zero-waster, solar-powered insect farms, Jess K. Smith on theatre of the place, and finally Deven Paolo on the changing definitions of a successful career path.

Deven Paolo is someone we talk about and lean on a lot here at the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership and his talk spoke to something we at MEDP have been looking at more closely. Deven is a co-owner of Solid Form, a metal fabrication company that produces customized pieces for a variety of clients. His talk focused on our need as a society to encourage students to find the right career path for them. He argued that not every student needs to attend a traditional four-year college and there are well paying, rewarding jobs within the trades. His talk asked community members to think differently about how we encourage students, allow them to explore career options, and how we speak about careers today. The talk resonated with MEDP as we look to more work-experience opportunities for our local high school students.

After the event, attendees were asked to attend an after-party where audience members could talk to speakers and performers about their ideas. The after party seemed to represent an essential idea. It was important for McMinnville to hear these ideas, but even more so it’s important for McMinnville to continue these conversations going forward. What TEDxMcMinnville showed us is that a variety of people are looking to have meaningful conversations from this community. The event piqued the interest of people of all ages and in all stages in life, and having conversations together can only make our community better.

Presented on the TEDx stage were many ideas that we can both keep in mind and utilize going forward. From mediation, to mindfulness, to rhetoric, and more the most meaningful thing we as audience members can do after this event is to utilize the lessons learned in these talks and performances. One performance in particular from Crystal Starr Szczepanski taught the audience about the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and taught the audience some words in their native language, Chinuk Wawa. Continuing forward and taking the initiative to learn more will be important as we grow even more as a community.

Crystal Starr Szczepanski teaching the audience Chinuk Wawa

Videos of all of the talks will be available in the coming months and we encourage everyone to watch, share, and continue the conversation. Attending the first TEDxMcMinnville event has us excited for the future. It truly shows that this community is ready to tackle big ideas, difficult subjects, and to grow. We plan to do so intentionally and authentically.

Want to continue to grow with us? Give us a call today - 503.474.6814

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MEDP's monthly newsletter, The MEDP Spark, received a Silver Award from the International Economic Development Council in 2017.

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