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TEDxDirigo: RISE State Theatre, Portland, Maine



  • Meet Charlie!

    We’re stoked to introduce Charlie Tall, Treehouse’s first intern! We are kind of goofy excited, like new puppy excited. Charlie is going to rock some organizing for our TEDxDirigoYouth programs this year including outreach for TEDxDirigo on November 7, and hosting a standalone event on November 14.

    Get to know Charlie a bit more below! You’ll hear from him as his work progresses this summer and fall.


    Tell us about yourself! What are you up to in general? What do you love to do? What’s your vision for your life? The world?

    I just graduated high school and I have decided to take a gap year so I can learn more about myself before choosing a college and major that may decide what the rest of my life looks like.  Other than that, I am spending this summer enjoying the company of the rest of my friends before they head off to college.  My biggest passion in life is performing or creating some form of entertainment.  I have been drumming professionally since I was eleven in bars and clubs in Fort Worth, TX and continue to do so around Portland and Cape Elizabeth, ME.  I also enjoy comedy and was in my school’s improv comedy group.  As of now, I can’t even imagine what my future will look like, but my ideal life would entail traveling the world, preferably in a touring band.  And as for my vision for the world, I just hope we can develop different forms of energy that we can use to stop pollution and climate change.


    Why Treehouse? What are you hoping to achieve during your time with us? What are you most curious about as you start your internship?

    I chose Treehouse because I was a member of the steering committee for the TEDxYouth@CEHS event and loved every second of it.  Being a part of creating such a successful and inspiring event helped me understand the power of a team working together and how a short speech can resonate with so many people and change lives.  During my time with Treehouse, I am hoping to gain real world experience with working as part of a team and being a valued member of the community.  I hope to gain connections with interesting people that I otherwise would not get to meet.  And lastly, I hope to understand what it takes to create an inspiring event outside of the comfort of my school.  Since I am going into this internship with only the knowledge that I gained from the TEDxYouth@CEHS event, I don’t even know what I don’t know.  So what I am most curious about is what knowledge am I missing.


    What does the Treehouse Institute represent to you?

    The Treehouse Institute represents a network of people all with the common goal of making Maine, and the world, a better, smarter, and happier place.  I almost imagine Treehouse as the inner workings of an ant-hill, with all of these people working together to feed and nurture the queen ant (Maine and the world).


    Do you have any experiences with actual Treehouses you’d like to share?

    A childhood friend of mine had two treehouses in his backyard connected by a bridge, but I moved out of state before I was old enough to be allowed up there.


    What’s your favorite TED or TEDx talk?

    It is hard to pick just one favorite talk, because there are three that resonate with me in very different ways.  For example, I can related to “How school kills creativity” by Ken Robinson because my passion has always been drumming, but music and the arts are not the focus of school.  Because of this, I wasted a lot of time planning on and working towards going to college for engineering, until I realized that I just wouldn’t be happy doing that.  Education convinced me to not pursue my passion because it isn’t a reliable future.  Jon Ronson’s “Strange answers to a psychopath test” is another favorite of mine, but for a different reason.  It was entertaining because it was told in a story format, but most of all it makes you think about our personalities and judgements on a different level.  And lastly, my final favorite talk is Hunter Kent’s “Conquering Depression – How I became my own hero” because since then, Hunter has become a great friend of mine and I have had the chance to see her grow as a person.  She has become one of my greatest friends, and that never would have happened had she not given that talk.


    Where do you find inspiration?

    There are two main sources of inspiration for me.  Some of my inspiration comes from watching movies.  I tend to watch about seven or eight movies a week.  There are so many different aspects of making a movie that in the end create a masterpiece.  The lighting, the actors, the setting, and especially the music.  But these parts are all planned separately, and then put together in the end.  If one of these things were to be changed in a film, it would change the viewer’s perception of it.  This has always made me think about projects or musics as a parts first, before putting them all together to create the final product.  My other source of inspiration comes from magic.  I have been doing magic, particularly focusing on card magic, since I was about eight.  In magic, there can be a million different ways to achieve the same effect.  If the magician wants to change one card to another, that alone can be done in an infinite amount of ways.  The magician’s job is to choose the best method for that situation.  People have a tendency to over complicate scenarios.  By choosing the best method for the job, the magician learns to realize that sometimes the best method is simplest one; the one that seems the most obvious to the magician, might be the most magical thing for the spectator.


    At Treehouse we talk about our methodology for innovation being – go outside, play, make stuff, and share stories. Where do you like to go outside? How do you let loose and play? What do you make? Any favorite stories about anything at all you’d like to share?

    My go-to place is typically Portland.  My friends and I bring our instruments out and play in the streets, and it is the most freeing feeling there is.  When we play music together, we don’t care if people throw money in our guitar case, all we care about is feeling the groove and entertaining the people that walk by.  Sometimes we make up songs on the spot, and sometimes we play songs that we have been playing for over a year.  All we care about is playing.  One of my fondest memories of playing in Portland happened way past my bedtime in the late fall of 2013, when the nights were already starting to become unbearably cold.  When it was just my friend Robert, who plays guitar, and I, we began playing the song Wagon Wheel.  At this point we had played that song so many times that we were getting bored of it.  But just as we were about to end the song, an elderly couple walked by and stopped.  The wife got really excited and turned to her husband and said, “honey, this is my favorite song.  Dance with me.”  Robert and I continued to play the song as the couple walked into the middle of the abandoned street and just danced.  Those are the moments that we live for.  No amount of money will ever make me feel as successful as I did that night.


  • How Do We Select Our Speakers?

    This is the question we get asked the most and is one we think a lot about. When we started TEDxDirigo in 2010 we were almost singularly focused on people with a “Maine idea worth spreading.” What does that mean? Then it meant someone with a significant connection to Maine (lives here, works here, etc.) that had an idea that was separable from a business, organization, or product, that had positive impact in the world, was provocative, and/or bringing something new into the world.

    That remains core to our process, and through experience, debate, and peer learning in the TEDx network we have expanded our conversation to consider other things.

    For example, at our first TEDxDirigo two out of 12 speakers were women. Our friend, Jess Esch, called us out on twitter right away about this. When we reflected on this we developed some interesting insights. Our organizing committee was basically 50/50 men and women, if not more women than men. It was difficult to attribute the gender imbalance in the program to gender imbalance on the team. In fact, the women in the program were nominated by men on the team. When we looked at our nominations, we did find that there were more men nominated then women. We shared stories internally of our experiences asking for nominations and witnessing people struggle to come up with names other than white men. We also realized that when asked if they would speak, women were more hesitant and less confident than men about the opportunity.

    With these insights in hand we came to understand that we were part of a system of bias. As a society, white men more often occupy positions of influence and prestige than others. This has a positive feedback loop for white men and a negative one for anyone else.

    As a platform for innovation and disruption, we could not be complacent in this trend. Since that first event we have paid close attention to the gender, race, and ethnicity of our nominees and selection. In particular, we work to self monitor our blind spots. “Our” being our team’s as well as the community at large.

    In regards to gender, our speaker composition has been close to 50/50 since 2011. Our last event in 2014 was 25/75 men/women.

    That said we are strongly opposed to tokenism, the practice of selecting someone solely based on their gender, race, or ethnicity. Everyone asked to speak at TEDxDirigo have been vetted for authenticity of authorship and we ask ourselves honestly “is this an idea worth spreading?” “Is this something new, worth considering, debating, etc.?” We also ask if someone already has a large platform for sharing their views or not. If they do, do they have something new to share with the world via TEDxDirigo?

    Other considerations for us include a diversity of fields and topics. TED originally stood for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. These were selected in 1984 because the founder of TED, Richard Saul Wurman, felt that they were the three fields most dramatically shaping our world. Both this idea of multiple fields, and ideas that are shaping our world remain intact in our process of curation. We go beyond those fields into the sciences, education, and more. And like TED, we look for personal stories of profound insight as well.

    We have also expanded our view to beyond “Maine ideas worth spreading.” When we started TEDxDirigo, we wanted to build a community of creative confidence in the state and to share with the world stories of Mainers beyond lighthouses and lobsters. In these regards, we think we have been very successful. Now we think of TEDxDirigo as a platform to connect Maine with the world’s best ideas, and share Maine ideas worth spreading with the world. We have begun to invite people to speak at the event simply because their insights are hyper relevant to our theme or a challenge or opportunity we are facing.

    The last thing we like people to know is that every year, we are selecting 15-20 speakers from a list of upwards of 200 viable nominations. Often times, we just have to make hard decisions based on the amount of event time we have to work with. Often someone has a great idea and for one reason (like the event theme) or another (like their field of work already being in the program) it is just not the time for them to be in the program. We have had speakers on our list for years, sometimes, before everything comes together for them to be part of the program.

    We always welcome feedback and like Jess Esch’s back in 2010, we always listen, look at ourselves, and if appropriate take action.

  • The 5 Most Viewed TEDxDirigo Talks

    With over 100 TEDxDirigo talks shared to date, you could spend almost a whole week of vacation watching them. As a place to get started, here are the five that have been viewed the most times on TED.com and YouTube. You can view all our talks here.

    Roger Doiron – A Subversive Plot: How to Grow a Revolution in Your Own Backyard

    Zoe Weil – The World Becomes What You Teach

    Dr. Conor Quinn – Hacking Language Learning


    Raphael DiLuzio – 7 Steps of Creative Thinking

    Phuc Tran – Grammar, Identity, and the Dark Side of the Subjunctive