TEDxBeirut brings together thinkers, innovators

TEDx Beirut also saw a performance from the a cappella group Beirut Vocal Point.

BEIRUT: Built around the theme of “All we need is ____” this weekend’s TEDx event, held at UNESCO, gathered 20 innovative minds – from mountaineers, architects and environmentalists – to share their ideas for how to change the world for the better.

The event, which lasted all day Saturday, attracted around 1,200 attendants, and follows last year’s first full-day TEDx event in Beirut, an independently organized TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference. TEDx events began in California in 1984, based on the premise of sharing “ideas worth spreading.”

All Lebanese, or Lebanon-based, the diverse group of speakers each had up to 18 minutes to discuss their field of expertise, and included Suzanne Talhouk, the founder of Feil Amer, which works to preserve the Arabic language in Lebanon, and Peter Mouracade, a founding member of TEAM LEBANON, which aims to be the first all-Lebanese group to conquer the world’s seven summits.

But perhaps Saturday’s most high-profile speaker was Charles Elachi, who directs the Mars Curiosity Rover team (who, incidentally, answered that “All we need is curiosity”), and who spoke about his work with NASA.

Sara Sibai, one of the organizers of the event, and who was working with the speakers team, was very happy with how the event went, and said it represented an evolution from last year’s premiere Beirut conference.

“I know I’m biased, but I think it was amazing, it went really well. The level of the content of the talks and the speakers had really gone up, and it was on a different plain from last year.”

Of Elachi, Sibai said she was particularly excited to have him on board.

“We were really happy to have him, and he’s very humble, and very easy to talk and communicate with.”

“That’s the kind of people we want to see, not just high profile, but highly accessible and approachable people,” Sibai added.

Sibai has been working with the speakers for months now, helping them develop their talks, since they were selected in August.

“When you come up with a talk, and it’s short, you have to really think what you want to communicate to the world,” she said, adding that speakers often take for granted the worth of what they have to say, so some need guidance.

During the day there were also live performances from the Walkabout Drum Circle and the a cappella group Beirut Vocal Point.

“The talks can be very one-sided, so we wanted an interactive part as well. It’s about engaging: mingling, creating and being inspired,” Sibai added.

There were also graffiti installations by Tripoli artist Abdelkader Wawi, and work by Painting Up Beirut, who have been behind all those steps in Beirut turning colorful over night.

Hackerspaces – community collectives which allow people to come together to share ideas and collaborate – Lamda Labs and Alt City were also present at the event, displaying their work and communicating their ideas.

All of Saturday’s talks will be online in a month’s time. And after that, the long process of organizing next year’s event begins again.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 19, 2012, on page 4.




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