Second part of LeaderShape vision: TEDxEducationCity

Now that I have TEDxYouth@Doha under my belt as my first TEDx event post-TEDGlobal 2011, my efforts and attention have now shifted to the grand plan that was the primary reason for my efforts – TEDxEducationCity.

It’s been 3 years since TEDx was launched as an experiment to open up the TED platform to people around the world. Everyone would want to attend a TED Conference, but it’s a challenge moving atleast 700 people from place to place (Trust me on this, as I went to TEDGlobal). Now, I’m able to channel my 1st hand experience of having freshly organized a TEDx event towards this one taking place in April 2012.

This is something that I had envisioned differently when I went to LeaderShape, but I waited for the right opportunity to make this happen. It’s quite a useful fact to know that the very 1st TEDx event was a University event – TEDxUSC on March 29, 2009 (Read here for more). It was a pilot even that set the precedant for 1000s more TEDx events around the world. As of current numbers, there are over 3,000+ TEDx events and 13,000+ TEDxTalks; this number is set to further grow as it spreads around to many communities.

TED has learned a lot from 3 years of the TEDx platform being out in the open; using the concept of auditions by individual TEDx events and channeling it to a global search for TED2013: ‘The Young, The Wise. The Undiscovered’. I thought… why not take this further, especially for a University type event? Continue reading

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First part of LeaderShape vision: TEDxYouth@Doha

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It’s been quite a while since I last posted something here. You could say that things got the better of me that I couldn’t even recollect and process all my thoughts into words.

Last time I left you open with my previous entry about how my LeaderShape vision now began to materialize into 2 separate and worthwhile TEDx events post-TEDGlobal 2011. What were they? TEDxYouth@Doha in November 19, 2011 and TEDxEducationCity in Q1 2012 (Check it here for a flashback).

I’ve been working with a team of 16 people including myself to pull-off the 1st TEDxYouthDay in Qatar as it joined more than 100+ other events around the globe to celebrate UN Universal Children’s Day. As it had to be held between November 19 – 21 to count as part of TEDxYouthDay, it was evident that 19th was the only option as it was a Saturday.

I had even taken part in a TED Conversation, and then I was quoted for my answers when they had put up a blog entry on their official TEDx blog (Check out the entry here). Just the significance of my contribution being featured further reinforced my commitment to making this event worthwhile for the youth.

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What was our biggest challenge?

How do we educate and inform the youth about TED and TEDx?

It seemed like insurmountable odds, and I predicted that more than 75% of them woul not even know about it. Compound this with trying to cover as many schools as possible, and that also under different education systems. Quite a feat to pull off, especially when I still recall the reasons on why I chose to make it happen; you could say that TED, the TEDx and TED team, and even people from Qatar were the source. Some were not open to such things as they haven’t kept pace with new educational breakthroughs, while others were keen on experimenting with it and dove in head first.

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Florent and Omer (pictured above, who are also LeaderShape graduates in Qatar) from Northwestern University supported me from the early days (which was from October 2010). Here’s another thing about these two: they also attended LeaderShape’s 25th anniversary celebration when they were studying abroad in Evanston, IL. They even jumped aboard for TEDxYouth@Doha since the very day I got my license approved. You won’t believe how long it took to get it. Any guesses? (Hint: it won’t be as long as you would normally think)

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Then began our efforts to build up our team to handle the potential influx of more than 300+ youth. We chose to set a benchmark for what should be done in Qatar; our event was bilingual with live translation, and we went out of our way to make our event fully accessible that would be all-inclusive. Nobody would be turned away if they had any disability, as we felt that everyone should have the opportunity of being part of a global conversation about the youth’s shared future. We even took it further to have it livestreamed for the world to see and enjoy. Continue reading

TEDxEducationCity and TEDxYouth@Doha

What you’re about to hear is something I had envisioned in a different perspective back in LeaderShape 2007 (first international campus session, and that was in Qatar) when I was still a Carnegie Mellon Qatar student. I know that it has taken this long for it to materialize as it went through much refinement, but I’m confident that these will be the first steps to making it happen. I’ve even had limited success on certain things, and I knew that I needed to push harder.   Rather than starting from scratch, it made sense to use some of the current groundwork and build upon it for others to utilize.

 

My fellow readers and those currently living in Qatar, I present to you…
TEDxEducationCity & TEDxYouth@Doha

 

I was granted the license for the former after June 25, before my journey to TEDGlobal 2011. The latter one came about after my return on July 24, when the seeds were planted early in Scotland and they just grew out of proportion when it became deeply rooted into my conscience. I wanted to wait until after Ramadan to unveil this, as that’s when people would be wanting to have their ears open with the bustling of work and classes. Onward to the details… Continue reading

Charting the Road to TEDGlobal 2011

*Dedicating this entry to 5 special people – which means you should read the whole entry to learn more about them*
By the time this post is published, it would be either of the following: I’m a day away before I board my flight to Edinburgh, or I’m already enroute to TEDGlobal 2011 with no net access. Before that, I’d like to share some good news with you. If you read my previous post, you may have seen a Storify link/embed view about my story on TEDTalks 5 years celebration (Catch it here). Well, here’s the surprise: 

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it was featured on the home page of Storify (Photo taken on June 30, 2011).
I thought I’d end up doing something like sightseeing around the outer city area on the Sunday before the conference program begins, but looks like I’ll be spending the day with at least 110 TEDx organizers. That will be a great time for me to learn more from others and for pointers on what I should be incorporating into my TEDx event. In addition, even planning out as to how I’ll be able to blog each day is kind of becoming a physics problem, but I decided to take preemptive action and have certain posts pre-typed with each day’s program in mind. That way, when I note down things as they unfold, I’m in the best position to arrange and type them up before being published. Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare will be my auxiliary sources that augment & supplement my accounts on my trusty Moleskine notebook.

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Just to give you some scope, I’m already imagining it to be back-to-back roller-coaster rides with the 24-style adrenaline-pumping cinematic induced action. Sounds magnanimous, but that shouldn’t deter my readers from keeping up with live updates. Meeting Bruno Guissani, Lara Stein, and Ronda Carnegie in person has fueled me up for one amazing adventure. Program schedule, pre-conference tour with Arup Tour on Hollistic Sustainability and dockyard building with a supercrane ‘Goliath’, TED workshops, movie screening + workshop with Google, and more that combines with my bucketlist (http://yasserk86.tumblr.com/post/6687990650/the-tedglobal-bucketlist). I guess I’m all set for the adventure. 

However, I’m taking this moment to thank a few people who have helped to make this journey a reality. When my acceptance came, it came at a time when I couldn’t come up with the necessary support and my window of opportunity was during the holidays when people were out of the country. I reached out to few friends whom I believe would contribute and support me in this endeavor, as I believe in them. It overlaps with Carnegie Mellon and LeaderShape, so these people have made it worthwhile. Continue reading

TED brains (Bruno Giussani & Lara Stein) in Doha

*Before I begin, let me say that this is one entry you should take the time to read. The days that much of this unfolded almost looked like I watch TED Talks 48 hours back-to-back, yet I thirst for more.*
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(Bruno Guissani)

Bruno Giussani (Curator of TEDGlobal and Director of TED European Operations) and Lara Stein (Director of TEDx Licensing) were in Doha on an invitation by the Doha Film Institute. I received an invite to attend a nice social dinner with them for June 16, 2011. That got me rocking with excitement. I met Lara Stein in October 2010 during TEDxDoha, so this would be my second. As for Bruno Giussani, I learned a lot about what he’s been planning for the inaugural Edinburgh chapter of TEDGlobal 2011 and following after. I had a red Moleskine notebook that I had exclusively reserved for my TED adventures in Scotland and beyond, but I realized that this was the best way to help kick-off by having them autograph it with their words. I thought of infusing that book with some of the TED aura, and I guess I know that I’ll look to those words to remind me of many things. 
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(Lara Stein)

Bruno was the one who would just guide you to speak and interview other exciting people than himself. Just the conversation that flowed around almost made it seem that he prefers to bring forth those voices to the centrestage, while he helps to curate the entire show. He’s already planning for TEDGlobal 2012, and openly mentioned that he has 10+ speakers already confirmed. He even gave me the inside scoop that Malcolm Gladwell is coming back to TEDGlobal 2011. I thought I didn’t see his profile when they initially unveiled the speakers, but I noticed it when I returned home. After I saw his TED 2004 talk on spaghetti sauce, I’m wondering what other variations of spaghetti sauce will he dish out. 

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/malcolm_gladwell_on_spaghetti_sauce.html

It was great meeting Lara Stein again after TEDxDoha. It was even great sharing some details and insights from TEDxCMUQatar, as I could recall as much from it. In addition, I shared details about my TEDx event and even told her that I’ve already submitted my application much early for her approval. Here’s hoping I get that ‘YES’ so that my plans take action when I return. 

I also had the privilege of meeting Ms. Ronda Carnegie (Head of TED Global Partnerships), who is the very person who started the TED projects at TEDActive 2011 (Have a brief read from my previous post http://yassermk86.posterous.com/anticipation-for-scotland-is-boiling if you want to know more about the projects). When I talked about the 3 projects that I thought would have the greatest scope here, Lara immediately pointed me to her for more details. Getting into a deeper conversation with Ronda, she helped to clear out many of the doubts I had regarding the projects. That sparked something for my TEDx event, and I mentioned it to her about what I wanted to achieve for the community here as I would want my event to be indirectly carried forward by these projects that would culminate towards the next TEDx event where we would showcase and share the results with people.
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 (L to R: Me, Bruno Guissani, and Bilal Randaree)

Talking with each one of them about TED and TEDx already ramped up the excitement for TEDGlobal. As a memento for their visit, I gave them TEDxCMUQatar badges. I’m not the only one who blogged about this, as my good friend Brian Wesolowski who works for ictQatar and also writes for Digital Qatar even put forth his perspective: http://www.digitalqatar.net/2011/06/20/ted-ideas-worth-spreading-in-doha/

The taste of TED didn’t stop right there… Continue reading

Preparations begin

I know that it's been more than a month since I posted another entry. Quite a lot has happened over the past weeks, as I was running between moving to a new home and living in an Internet blackout for 10 days, along with Graduation 2011 and getting my UK visa. Sounds like a mouthful, so I'll break it down as much as possible while sticking to the TED-related things.

1) So I managed to get my invitation letter from TED, while also making sure that I had all the supporting documents to substantiate my 10 day visit to Scotland. I'm accustomed to going to embassies for visa applications, but this was the first time I went to a UK Visa Application Centre (They take your application and documents, along with the payment) and then they take it to the UK embassy. I was unsure about which application to use as I also wanted to take a scenic holiday while also attending TED. Apparently, conferences would count towards a sub-category of the Business Visa (One of my other friends who went to a conference in London in December 2010 told me his experience) but looking at the application made me realize that it would be useless – many of the fields are irrelevant to me and would just be blank. I'd just be wasting the border control officer's time rather than being straight to the point.

So I chose to use the General application with Tourist as my category. I managed to submit it on April 28 before they transition to the electronic format beginning on May 1 (Embassy was closed to celebrate the Royal Wedding that happened on Friday). On May 2, I got bombarded with 2 SMS between 8AM and 3PM ; one for application being processed and another saying that processed visa application is ready for collection. Now the UK embassy doesn't even give you the message that you were either granted or rejected a visa, but May 2 was also a very important day for me (details in a later point). It was the morning of the next day that I went to collect my passport, hoping that I would expect success. When I got my envelope, I didn't even feel a roll of paper (That's how the UK Embassy conveys rejections). Opening my passport, there lay my 6-month UK visa. That's one big hurdle down.

2) As I previously mentioned that May 2 was a very important date for me, that's because it was day of Graduation 2011 (My graduation!) as I could just taste the diploma almost within my grasp. You don't even know how many Twitter mentions I got when I checked after the ceremony. You could say that the occasion was tied to helping me secure my UK visa. This wasn't the end…

May 3 was the Qatar Foundation Senior Convocation 2011 (The combined bequeathing of rings and the moment to finally end our time as students at Education City). You could say that I was fortunate to be in the front as they put people in the Arabic alphabet on first name. Talk about luck!

4) Even graduating after so long, I've been trying to find a source of full-time employment that would keep me in the country to make my TEDx event a reality. I've already made a promise to myself, but if circumstances don't go in my favor, it would throw all my plans down the drain. In addition, I'm still obligated to the 4 people who have helped to fund my trip to TEDGlobal (3 of whom are LeaderShape grads). I can't turn them down, but what can I do when the job market here always favors 5+ years of experience and scope for fresh graduates is not even on par with that of the U.S?

5) On another TED note, all the TEDGlobal attendees must have received an email about the opportunity for them to speak at TED U. Seeing that TED2011 set the motion for education (Though it's been primarily focused on young kids in school), I jumped at the opportunity to expand it by incorporating my experience as a student in the Middle East studying at an official branch campus of a U.S college. I believe that much can be said about this bold experiment that Qatar has undertaken for the past 15 years that has borne fruit and success. Let's wait and see if opportunity knocks again, so that Ic an share a fresh perspective on how education is truly transcending to new heights as industry and academia find common ground to prepare future generations.

Now it's all about waiting for my eventual departure to Scotland, while also making sure that I set my future here in Qatar to make my TEDx event a reality. Let's see what else develops before July 8. Now I wonder when will TED announce their roster of 50 speakers?

Only another 58 more days to go till TEDGlobal begins (Less than 2 months already?) 

TEDx event and TED speaker mashup

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Two things: First TEDx event in Education City and met a TED speaker.

It’s quite nice to see that TEDx fever is growing, especially when TED conferences keep on feeding us with their videos on their website. That didn’t stop one person from holding the first ever TEDx event in Education City, that also at Carnegie Mellon Qatar. The curator was none other than a CMUQ student, but it was nice to see the theme of “No Boundaries” on March 19, where I saw different spectrums of overcoming the boundaries erected by challenges. I could remember some as I try to list them:
  1. Fighting the notion of Arab women stereotypes through education courses, writings and research as said by Dr. Amal Al-Malki (First Qatari professor teaching in a American university, and she recently launched a book consisting of writings from her students involved in her classes).
  2. Bringing students together by channeling the power of mass collaboration by Abdalla Abdalla
  3. Empowering SMEs in the region with the right business intelligence that humanises data by Shams Hasan.
  4. Let’s not forget SPRITE from the activity (I can’t recall what each letter expanded the acronym, but it was insightful).

That was more than what I could recall, as my head was on the brink of imploding on all the talks presented. Those 6 hours really inspired me and helped to set the bar for what I want to host when I return after July 17 from TEDGlobal 2011. That’s where things will be taken to newer heights.

Already, I have thing planned out on paper for almost every excruciating detail as I want it to serve as a showcase of what Education City represents – for current students and alumni. You’ll have to wait post July 17 to hear more about this…

TEDxCMUQatar wasn’t the only thing, as I happened to have gotten another Continue reading