TED: The Desire of Exclusivity and Inclusion
Exclusivity. Deep down we all seek it. Think back to high school or earlier, where being a part of the cool kids group meant everything. Fraternities at major universities operate, and thrive on this principal of perceived ‘coolness.’
TED, the online video lecture series built a global brand on exclusivity, but in an ironic twist has managed to turn into one of the web’s most inclusive communities.
The TED conference, held each year, costs around $6,000 and features a line up of the brightest minds on the planet. TED started as a series of simple dinner party lectures at the home of founder Richard Saul Wurman and has grown to become a global phenomenon. A visit to TED.com can provide access to lectures on a dizzying array of topics from the best thinkers of today. Talks last no more than 18 minutes and can be on any topic so long as it relates back to the larger TED theme and mission, which is ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ – Last year the TED conference had 1,500 attendees.
At first, this all sounds incredibly exclusive, and it is. Not many people can afford to spend $6,000 on a 4-day event listening to academics and industry professionals expound on their latest and greatest ideas. Luckily, TED realized the best way to balance the desire for their content while remaining exclusive was to offer the talks, for free no less, online via their website. Using this channel, they distribute the talks given at TED to anyone who is eager to learn about some of our world’s most fascinating concepts.
Yet, TED has managed to remain exclusive while becoming even more open for people to appreciate.
To be a speaker at TED is quite an honor. In response to the growing desire to participate in TED events, they launched TEDx. TEDx events are independently organized TED like events which are run and operated by community members all across the world. They operate under the guidance and guidelines of the TED brand but are steered by the vision of volunteers and community members. TED took the exclusive attraction of their model and decided to share it with the masses, while still retaining the shine of the organization’s original attraction.
The creation of TEDx has accomplished several important things. First, it has cemented TED as an organization that works at both the global and local level in the sharing of information. TED began as a small group of thinkers that grew into a large one. But it was still an elite class of people, hand-picked by a small group. It chose who could participate and share, and the fans of TED could not share back. TEDx makes it able to continue to do that while also offering the community the power to share in return what it values, while still maintaining and upholding the TED brand.
Secondly, it has enabled communities to disseminate essential information to the world at large. 750 TEDx events have occurred in over 60 countries. The themes have been as varied as the response to the oil spill disaster in the Gulf Coast to TEDx Dubai, which was the largest of its kind in the Middle East. This format allows speakers and thinkers to share information we may never have heard of before. It enables local communities to become more involved in the exploration of the critical thought required to change the world in which we live. In addition to TEDx, the organization has also launched TED fellows, a sponsorship program of young people – primarily from developing regions, who are accomplishing great things.
TED itself is still an exclusive event, but the organization has done an incredible job of creating an inclusive community through their auxiliary programs TEDx and TED fellows. They used the desire to be a part of an exclusive community to help build a more inclusive- and participatory one.