Personal take: Being part of TedX Kassel
People and culture have always intrigued me. And this was one massively innovative event with a bunch inspiring people that I got to be a part of earlier this month. Thanks to just one call with Julian which had so much warmth and so many passionate ideas that I decided to be in Kassel in the first weekend of September 2019 as a part of the volunteering team of the TedX conference there. I was officially here as one of the candid photographers covering the event, but ended up being a part of the volunteering team and of-course in the process having the opportunity to meet some incredible people from the local community.
TedX events are definitely not easy to organize. Especially the ones where you are ambitious enough to bring together the community and have a real impact & motivation. This was one such event. Having said that, it was astonishing to find out during the weekend how the team has worked for almost 1.5yrs to make this a grand success. Founded by Julian and Hai, TedX Kassel took place on 1st September, 2019, loaded with a dozen of powerful motivational speakers. The core founding team can be found here. I will jump into the theme and speaker details later in the article.
On Saturday we had the dress rehearsal. I had arrived at the Staatstheater Kassel (Kassel State Theatre) on a Saturday afternoon having known just one person in the crowd. My German is pretty broken causing me to be apprehensive and not as outgoing at the beginning as I usually am. But the theatre was filled with young and vibrant volunteers who would switch to English anytime and appreciate my German speaking attempts. More importantly, the extreme level of being open and passion for the work was just out of the world. I can’t explain enough how warm & welcoming the volunteering team was to me.
Coming back to the major event, this first chapter of TEdX Kassel was themed with Tales of Tomorrow, which is a reference to the Grimm brothers who are an important part of the cultural heritage of the region of North Hesse. They believed in the great power of storytelling and so did we. Stories materialize otherwise intangible ideas and thus enable them to be shared.
Tales of Tomorrow aimed to spread visions of how we imagine human life and our planet in the future. TedX Kassel united diverse speakers with this theme to think daringly and critically at the same time about the development of our society, the interactions between disciplines and the planet as a whole.
On Sunday we had our kick off at 10am. By 11am, there were ~150-200 people in the audience who poured in.
Of-course this wasn’t possible without the backing up of University of Kassel and the support from the incredible sponsors. And most importantly the persevering volunteers working relentlessly through the time. I feel lucky to have been able to be a part of this amazing volunteering team to be honest!
Today in this digital era, we face a crisis which threatens all of us. A challenge unprecedented in size and exacerbated through social divide. Yet, there still is hope. Bright minds are envisioning an inclusive future, where everyone can contribute to make a difference.
TEDxKassel shared these brilliant ideas with the audience during the course of the day. People got inspired by amazing talks on how we can become future proof, delivered by change makers from Germany, India, South Africa and Indonesia, with topics as diverse as the future of mobility, a human centred digitalization, how art can spark change, creating a currency which benefits the society, rethinking our educational system and many more.
The networking sessions connected people around by exchanging brilliant ideas with decision makers and other extraordinary minds attending the event. There were some really good hands-on workshops for the audience to participate on how to create real impact offered by innovative businesses from the region and speakers.
I had the opportunity to meet and talk to some amazing people from the speakers, volunteers as well as the audience! Among the speakers I had the chance to personally talk to Wladimir Nikoluk who had his startup building machine learning algorithms for predicting the needs of unprivileged. Having similar background myself we spoke on data science and social topics for a quite a while, and I ended up getting some incredible insights about how data science can be put to use for humanity.
During the two days, I had very long talks with Amitabh Thakur, one of the speakers. Apart from being a consultant and teacher, he is the founder of Project Gamcha which makes handwoven silk scarves in Bhagalpur, India and is founded on humanist principles that place the dignity of the people and care for the environment at the core of their values. He seemed to be amazingly social and wise guy with tons of experience. We spoke about life journeys, the world around us, and different ideas in a very wide range. It was impressive how even his teenage daughter, Anvita was so enthusiastically involved in volunteering!
The founders, both Julian and Hai had been a constant humble support to me through the busy days. It was incredible to soon find out that Hansi Rödig, with whom I had been always consulting photography was actually Julian’s father. The catering arrangement was led by Frau Corj, who is his mother. And then soon I found out Mihaela who was handling the press-release and backstage seamlessly, was actually Julian’s sister. What an amazing family composition working so professionally as a successful team!
I had not met or spoken Hai before the event. It was interesting to know more about him during the exchanges in the event. With his level of passion and warmth, the only thing I could conclude from his approach is that: Humbleness wins it over!
Among the volunteers, it was great to know and connect with Giulia, Lidia, Laura, Gamus, Sebastian, and so many other people from different backgrounds. I had an amazing time talking to Maria and Martin. We spoke for like hours on different aspects of the society. It was interesting to meet Joanna, who calls herself a cross-pollinator and strategic connector for fostering integration in the worlds of politics, arts & culture. I even came across an interesting musician, Sami! So so many other interesting personalities around under one roof on this one Sunday.
At TedX Kassel I not only had the chance to capture candids through the day, but also have this opportunity of people-connect from all kinds of background with a common goal in mind of wanting to look to the future: How can a sustainable tomorrow look like?
Viola Gerlach, founder of UnitedUnique and researcher of risk awareness & communication motivated the audience with her talk on the power of taking risks that matter!Carsten Waldeck, founder of shift GmbH discussed the topic: How shift happens about social business, letting go and coming home.Sandra Claasen, founder of Elela Africa motivated the animal lovers by exploring about Purpose-driven Safaris.
Pierre-Pascal Urbon, Board of Directors of Tigo Energy, Inc. discussed the great energy transition from crude oil to renewables in two decades; pipedream or reality?Silja Graupe, co-founder of Cusanus University, and Professor of Economics and Philosophy gave a talk titled: It‘s the people, stupid! Tales of a thriving economy.Christian Gelleri, initiator of the regional currency “Chiemgauer”, discussed in pictorially how to change our monetary system, that is serves us and not the other way around.
Rani Sahay, an environmental activist and geographer threw light on building a sustainable community around dirt.Joerg Esser, co-founder & manager of Think: Act HUB, spoke about how to build smart networks! Amitabh Thakur, a consultant, eeacher, entrepreneur, and co-founder of Project Gamchha gave a talk titled: Technology won’t save the world – citizens will.
Wladimir Nikoluk, CEO of ImmerLearn, Inc. had an interesting take on Machine Learning for Human Flourishing.Oliver Gerstheimer, founder & design director of chilli-mind delivered a talk titled: Good “DENK-HAND-WERK” Makes You Happy.Farid Rakun, member of Art Collective Ruangrupa, and Curator documenta 15 spoke on the topic Why collective?
Honestly, I have not been to an event in Germany before where it was this uniquely open & collaborative filled with warmth & passion. Over-all, an experience worth it. As we say here: The future doesn’t wait! Thank you Tales of Tomorrow, TedX Kassel !!!
Note that it is on purpose that none of the official photographs/ videos from the TedX podium have been shared in this blog. They will be processed and posted by the official TedX community in a couple of months.