Unlocking the Power Of Us

Photograph courtesy of  Verity Milligan , photographer at TEDxBrum 2016.

Photograph courtesy of Verity Milligan, photographer at TEDxBrum 2016.

Unlocking the Power of Us.
A note from the curator: Immy Kaur

Since its early days, TEDxBrum was born out of a deep desire from citizens to be an active part of the city we call home. Inspired by Birmingham’s brilliance, history and character, and troubled by its challenges, each year TEDxBrum has grown in size, team, energy and momentum. So many ideas have been born out of the community created here; many of which we know, some we will never be able to track. This year we wanted to take this community and pool of ideas up a notch again, experimenting with what is possible and looking at how we continue to grow in confidence, resources and organise ourselves for action.

In year 2013, a small group of the TEDxBrum team embarked on a bold, intentional and courageous journey. Exploring ‘What if TEDxBrum was Everyday?’, we looked at how to convert the annual energy we saw around TEDxBrum and grow it into a movement to build a better Birmingham, asking ourselves lots of questions about how to make this happen. Fast forward 3 years, a huge #EpicBrum campaign and Impact Hub Birmingham was born - born in a time of rapid change, development and inspiring energy rippling across the city from places like Birmingham Open Media to the 10th Flatpack Film Festival. There are already large scale institutions in our city leading the way globally - from our universities and research, to health sector - but often we are all too humble about them. There is so much going on it’s hard to keep up, and it certainly feels like an incredible time to be in Brum.

However, it’s not all rosy, and so much potential in the city remains untapped. Birmingham has had some tough times in the last few years, many that have hit national media to widespread attention. Lots of challenges still need to be tackled, yet the local authority is squeezed more than ever. It is increasingly clear that a collective effort will be essential to face our entrenched social issues through an intentional and collaborative coordination of action of the public, private, third sector and citizens at large. Most of our social issues and macro challenges are interlinked, interdependent and cannot be faced one at a time, in isolation, by single points of intervention. Take the example of educational attainment in an neighbourhood: the solution isn't simply more funding for schools, more teachers or better buildings. This is some of the story, but it is necessary to intervene in multiple domains, e.g. prenatal nutrition, breakfast clubs, housing conditions, mentoring, parents association, peer support and technologies to name a few. Imagine this at a city scale when you seek outcomes for our city’s children, and recent revelations have alerted us once again of the urgency and collective effort required in that area. This is just one challenge of any number, and it is simply no longer feasible to imagine any one of us can face these wicked issues alone.

I am consistently inspired by movements globally that are reframing challenges beyond any one group or sector. Black Lives Matter, WEP, Edible Todmorden and more have been experimenting with new models of shared and collaborative action within wealth and change models. We’ve seen large private sector organisations openly curating public inquiries such as #VibrantEconomy as they rediscover their place in and with society, reminding me of the Cadbury family’s legacy around the conditions of their workers - not merely as philanthropists, but from a position of enlightened self interest where they understood their bottom line depended on a vibrant society and workforce.

It feels to me that we are beginning to discover this journey together in our own spaces, but a systems approach to our entrenched challenges is now paramount. We need to move towards institutions and citizens working together as a movement for change - sense making, understanding, designing, funding, delivering and evaluating together. By replacing closed systems with open missions - sharing outcomes and creating collective wealth - we can become more intelligent together and develop our collective progress at the core of a wider mission. This can result in a better Birmingham, powered by us.

This year, we thought deeply about how we can take the energy, inspiration, ideas and collective drive we discover during this time forward another step. With Impact Hub Birmingham, we have brought together City Camp Birmingham, an open festival wrapping around TEDxBrum and bringing together pioneering ideas from across the world. This year’s first ever #CityCampBrum explores the future of cities and gives us a chance to get up close and personal with the ideas, connections and visionaries from TEDxBrum 2016. It’s an open programme which anyone can contribute to, recognising we all have a role to play in feeding into the city’s dialogue, and all events we are hosting are free of charge. It’s curated by us, and by the city. It’s the perfect chance to get closer to those presenting ideas from the stage.

You can find out more at and check out our top 10 events to get more out of TEDxBrum.

It is just a start; it’s not enough and it needs us all. It need all of our contributions, questions and energy. There is a long way to go, there is a lot we don't know, or have the resources for, but what we do know is we need to be intentional, unapologetic, stay humble, keep experimenting, keep the energy high year on year, be critical, be kind, and build a movement together - the magic moments will come. We are a long way off this being something that is everyone can be part of, but we are absolutely committed to bringing the price down, increasing our partners, building resources and working hard to build platforms that truly reflect our city, and are for the many not just for the few.

As you walk up to the Town Hall next Saturday, you will see cranes, demolition and new plans all around you. Development and transition is here - it’s now up to us to define if it happens to us, or with us. I do truly believe there is still a window of time for how we might organise ourselves, raise our voices and come together across our boundaries in order to deeply demonstrate that there is no us and them anymore, it’s just us.

We look forward to welcoming you to TEDxBrum 2016 on Saturday, our chance to discover how we build a better Birmingham, together. Watch your emails for a logistics update coming this week, and we'll see you all soon! The final tickets are available here.


Curator - TEDxBrum 2016 #PowerofUs