The 2023 #tedcountdown summit was nothing short of PHENOMENAL. From the choice of the host city, through the extraordinary array of speakers, breakthrough sessions, and quest experiences to the incredible people who were invited from all over the world – it was true beauty in manifestation.
About the host city
Detroit, Michigan is the birthplace of the automobile and the home of the “Big 3” – General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. The beautiful city with its picturesque architecture is located in southeast Michigan on the Detroit River between Lake Huron and Lake Erie and it is the largest city in Michigan and the tenth-largest city in the United States. (https://www.citytowninfo.com/places/michigan/detroit)
I had the opportunity to stay at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center which is located in a 7-building, 73-story office and hotel complex with restaurants, shops, and great views of the lakes. One of my fondest memories of the place is waking up each morning to run along the lake with the chill morning breeze in my face and other runners giving you the warm Detroit “Whaddup Doe” greeting meaning “hello” when they run past you.
The Phenomenal TED Countdown Experience
Monique Ruff-Bell (Head of Events, TED) puts it accurately when she said “A TED experience is a very unique experience. It’s not a transactional conference. It’s not necessarily a place where business gets done. You come because you yearn for a playground for the curious. You come because you want to be inspired and activated to make change. You come because you want to access things you would have never seen or hear the latest and greatest on information not usually shared. You come because you want to find hope and solutions in things that seem unsolvable. You come for community. This audience is so engaged, awed, and inspired. It’s truly time for TED!”
And that is exactly what my TED #countdown experience was. The powerful speaker sessions drew me in so wholly and ignited in me such deep hope for a better world. As a very optimistic and energetic person working in Ghana and Africa to transform public sector leadership and youth development through the work, I do with Emerging Public Leaders, keeping hope alive makes all the difference between progress and succumbing to the doom and gloom that oftentimes clouds our atmosphere.
I drew one key lesson that resonated deeply with me from each speaker I heard over the summit, however, the speakers highlighted below made a huge imprint in my heart and mind with the incredible courage, honesty, and humility they demonstrated in the way they showcased the impact of the work they do in the face of glaring challenges.
Hong Hoang, Environmentalist: Hong did not make it to the summit because she was detained in Vietnam yet, the video played of her speaking briefly about the work she does and the speech she was hoping to deliver oozed so much courage in the face of fire that I was deeply energized by her spirit.
Susan Lozier, Oceanographer: It was her gentle spirit and serene voice packed with so much influence that it draws you in that really hit me. I realized that sometimes, it is not just the loudest in the space that makes the impact, sometimes it’s that gentle and soothing voice of hope and resilience that really carries us on.
David Lammy and Justin J. Pearson, Politicians/Public Sector Leaders: It was not so much the talk as it was the symbolism and import that these 2 incredible professionals represented for me on the TED stage. Their contribution affirmed a core belief that I hold, which is; public sector leadership is critical in the collaborative efforts we are making to preserve our world and foster shared prosperity for all that live in it. Policies must support the work that citizens and businesses are doing towards achieving a sustainable world and if we do not have the right people in the places that matter like policy making and implementation, then progress will be slowed.
Amir Nizar Zuabi, Artistic Director: Amir’s work with “The Walk” is so profound. It immediately deepened my appreciation for how we can reach the heart of people and unite for a common cause regardless of the many ways that we may be different, be it geographic, social, political, etc.
Ramón Mendez Galain, Uruguay Secretary of Energy: Ramon mentioned something profound which underpinned the progress that Uruguay has made in transitioning to 98% renewable energy sources; that is the importance of getting all political actors to acknowledge and accept the proposal to move to renewable sources which ensured project continuity even when governments changed.
Al Gore, Former Vice-President of the United States: Simply electrifying, brutally honest, and downright courageous! I was IGNITED!
After each day’s speaker sessions, there was an array of Breakthrough Sessions, Beautiful Quest Experiences, and joyous Dinner Talks. Breakthrough Sessions are focused group conversations on selected topics where each attendee contributes their thoughts and expertise on the subject matter while learning from others. Quests are like immersion trips to different sector players of the city where attendees get to experience the inner workings of the many fibres of the city’s ecosystem. Dinner Talks are exactly that: joyous and directed conversations on specific subjects over delicious meals.
I chose 2 Breakthrough Sessions, 1 Quest Experience, and 1 Dinner Talk for my week’s experience.
I chose the Quest experience with Keep Growing Detroit (KGD), a 1.38-acre farm in the heart of the city whose mission is to cultivate a food-sovereign city where the majority of fruits and vegetables consumed by Detroiters are grown by residents within the city’s limits. Tee and Rosebud spent some time sharing with us the story of KGD and the spiritual and historical essence of the work they do at KGD. Right after, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work! Pulling our weeds from the onion beds and helping pack seeds into bags for KGD’s next seed distribution all the while engaging in animated conversations along the lines of politics, culture, and heritage, and just pure joyous camaraderie. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
Dinner Talk – “Clear-eyed Optimism”
Later that evening, I joined the amazing dinner talk on “Clear-eyed Optimism” where I met the most incredible people who have become an important part of my global family and network. Anastasia Samoylova, Lisa Conway, Ines Sagrario Philippe Birker and Maria Mercedes Galarza NCARB. We had the most animated discussion on how we can make positivism mainstream instead of all the many negativities we hear of every day.
I participated in 2 Breakthrough Sessions: “Leveraging Talent to Accelerate Action” and “Replenishing Ourselves to Heal the World”. I chose these sessions because the first one relates to my work as head of programs at Emerging Public Leaders of Ghana where I lead a cross-functional team to recruit and train young, passionate, and ambitious young Ghanaians for careers within Ghana’s public sector. The second relates to a personal commitment to health, fitness, and well-being because often times changemakers and leaders do not pay enough attention to healing and replenishing themselves in order to continue to be of immense benefit to the world.
There were many beautiful exhibitions and one that resonated deeply with me was the DearTomorrow exhibition. It featured passionate letters written by loved ones from all over the world about the fears and anxiety they feel about our world and the hopes that inspire actions from them to create a better world for their children and their children. It was deeply moving to enter the energy-filled room and read all the heartfelt messages and write my own letter to my 60-year-old self.
The Incredible Connections
I can never complete this piece without speaking of the extraordinary individuals I had the privilege of meeting and now call comrades. To Anastasia Samoylova, Teya Sepinuck, Lisa Conway Maria Mercedes Galarza NCARB, Ines Sagrario, Philippe Birker, DeAndrea Salvador, Diamond Spratling. Thank you for being such awesome people. I am incredibly blessed to have met you and connected with you in such a phenomenal way. Thank you for backing me up with such incredible energy. Y’all are stars and I am cheering you on. Let’s do more amazing things!
About TED and Countdown
TED Conferences is owned by the TED Foundation. The goal of the TED Foundation is to foster the spread of great ideas. It aims to provide a platform for thinkers, visionaries, and teachers so that people around the globe can gain a better understanding of the biggest issues faced by the world and feed a desire to help create a better future. Core to this goal is a belief that there is no greater force for changing the world than a powerful idea. (https://www.ted.com/about/our-organization/how-ted-works)
#tedcountdown is a global initiative, powered by TED and Future Stewards, to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. The goal: to build a better future by cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 towards reaching net zero by 2050. (https://www.ted.com/series/countdown)
Elizabeth Ofori – Growing Global Leader on Development, Equity and Social Justice Solutions in Africa