Little did TEDxJardins / TEDxSaoPaulo organizer Elena Crescia know that years after holding her first TEDx event she’d be taking a month off of work to travel the world and spend time with TEDx organizers. Founder of Brazilian-based non-profit Portfolia, a group for women in social business, Crescia is the only TEDx organizer to attend both TEDxWeekends, a series of worldwide gatherings designed to bring TEDx’ers together for knowledge sharing, cultural activities and fun.
Crescia graduated from Columbia University with a Masters of International Affairs twenty years ago, but it wasn’t until she started organizing TEDx events that she truly understood her education, she says. As a new TEDx organizer, organizing an event in Sao Paulo and working as a volunteer translator for TED’s Open Translation Project, she traveled to Scotland from Brazil to attend TEDGlobal2012.
“I loved everything about it,” she says. “The total TED immersion, getting to know fellow volunteer translators, TEDx organizers, speakers and the TED staff. I was hooked. I knew that I would try to repeat the experience one way or another.”
During her trip, Crescia had a moment of revelation: this connecting between cultures was her calling. “I saw an engraved stone that read: ‘Bridge-Building is my vocation,’” she says. “It was a powerful moment. I realized that bridge-building was my vocation as well … My diploma suddenly made complete sense, I would put it to use as a different type of diplomat. As an ambassador of good ideas. As a connector between people and ideas worth spreading.”
She fed that desire to connect with more TED and TEDx events, attending two TEDActive conferences, another TEDGlobal event and more. When she had to miss TEDActive 2015 after making so many connections over the years, she vowed to “participate in any other opportunity to meet other TEDx organizers.” What happened once she decided this, she says, was amazing. She heard about the two upcoming TEDxWeekends — one In Vienna, another in Singapore, in June and July — geographically distant, but close on the calendar.
Crescia knew that she wanted to attend both weekends, but — at first — she wasn’t sure if it’d be possible. “[The gatherings] were only three weeks apart,” she says. “It was a crazy idea, but somehow it made sense to me.”
She took a month off from work and planned a trip to both weekends, with other destinations in between. “It was the first time I took a whole month traveling solo in 20 years,” she says.
In Vienna, Crescia and other organizers listened to talks, participated in workshops, activities and tours, including bike rides by the Danube, Apfelstrudel-making lessons, a giant picnic and a mix of TEDx-related deep dives. In Singapore, they ate at the famous Maxwell Road Hawker Center; walked through gardens, local companies and museums; and discussed everything from budget planning to venue discovery.
“Needless to say it was an incredible experience, and I have our TEDx community to thank for it,” Crescia says.
“I learned a lot from fellow organizers — listening to their stories about how they build their communities around TEDx, and how they handle the different challenges of organizing a TEDx event. Participating in TEDxWeekends gave me ideas to use at our events in Sao Paulo. I know I will use these ideas next time I help organize a TEDx organizers’ workshop, and next time we host visitors from other cities who come to Sao Paulo to attend our TEDx event.
“The weekends were different,” she says, “but both weekends had lots of opportunities to learn from each other, build a sense of community, build friendships, share tips, share experiences. The TEDx spirit of love for ideas and spreading them around was present in both of them.
“I feel extremely privileged and grateful for all the wisdom and inspiration I get from TED and TEDx community.”