TED is moving to my hometown Vancouver in 2014. That is pretty cool, but why Vancouver?
One of my favorite memories of the first Interesting Vancouver was meeting the artist David Young when planning the event. He had recently moved to Vancouver from the US and remains absolutely convinced Vancouver today has the right ingredients to become the world's next great creative hub.
As a born and raised self-loathing Vancouverite it seemed equally ridiculous and addictive this provocation of his.
"Why not us?" he challenged me.
In his Interesting Vancouver 2008 talk he dissects the great cities and creative eras of human history to build his argument why the present generation's Vancouver is potentially the next great creative culture.
I fully agree with David and part of my reverse migration to Europe is to experience and study more closely how other cultures - be they local, national, regional or global - operate with success, mediocrity or failure.
Having left Vancouver, I increasingly identify the reasons why Vancouver already is one of the planet's leading thinking hubs of the moment.
1. Hard Natural Resources - wealth of the land is helpful. Traditionally hard natural resources timber, minerals, agriculture and fishing have provided the wealth of the region and a financial backbone of a community.
2.Soft Natural Resources - have created new opportunity and financial resource - such as near perfect natural light conditions to create the largest film production centre outside L.A. and NY. Technical knowledge from logging built one of the most technically advanced rigging expertise centers for big budget action films (eg. the X-men films) or early computer pioneers driven by an economy that only knows technical progress (and a bit of local sci-fi rebel rousing from William Gibson types.) These are soft resources developed in one area that then jump laterally to areas like video games with EA who develops most of their sporting titles in Vancouver.
3. Collaborative - while a big city it is not so big that individual business sectors never cross over. Each sector has a handful of players (take advertising where there are maybe 5 meaningful agencies today) such that they naturally cross paths with many other areas. Likewise, two large but excellent universities and the top notch Emily Carr art school who have departments but never the entrenched silos of old world institutions.
4. Curiosity - Vancouverites tend to be more introverted than elsewhere but certainly are curious types seeking stimulus from all sources. It is one of the world's few genuinely multi-cultural cities. Many great cities like London or Paris are international but their government and self-image remains caucasian male with barely a handful of exceptions despite the factual demographics and thriving ethnic communities. A strong world life balance mantra of work hard play hard also keeps people fired up and full of interests fueling curiosity.
5. Pioneer spirit - over 90% of the population moved within at most two generation to the region in pursuit of a better life. It is hard wired to think that however something is done today it can be done better tomorrow - change is always better than not changing. A few quick examples being Greenpeace for the environmental movement, Lululemon for modern sportswear and Vancouverism to embrace a new model of mixed use urban planning transforming downtown over two decades.
David, who attended TED before the Chris Anderson buyout and subsequent commercialization noted that Interesting Vancouver felt very much like the free exchange of the early TEDs.
TED has become something completely different, and very bloody good at what it is. But why bring it to Vancouver?
Now, is there still room for Interesting Vancouver? Or course, they are brothers of the same mother after all, just growing up to be very distinct people contributing each in their own way to the world.