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TEDxMileHigh Seeks to Inspire Denver

Bara'h Odeh talks about opportunities to empower Palenstinian women at TEDxMileHigh talks in 2013.

An attentive audience at Newman Center for TEDxMileHigh talks in 2013.

Eighteen-year-old Sara Volz speaks on methods to make algae biofuels at TEDxMileHigh talks in 2013.

The WaterGirls perform at TEDxMileHigh talks in 2013.

Crowds mingling at the Newman Center before the TEDxMileHigh talks in 2013.

Now in its fourth year of events, TEDxMileHigh and its illustrious roster of speakers have shared plenty of great ideas with Denver, inspiring the city's residents to think differently. The organization's momentum continues to increase in 2014, says Founder Jeremy Duhon. 
"Ideas worth sharing."
It's the mantra of TED, a nonprofit with a global reach that has generated buzz amongst the intellectual elite since 1984 and, with the advent of the Internet, has become a digital mecca of sparking ideas and inspiring many.
Currently, the organization holds two international conferences: the TED Conference, which is held annually in North America on the West Coast, and TEDGlobal, which rotates to cities across the continents. People can also consume Ted Talks, ranging in a variety of topics, on broadband from their own homes, offices or even on the go with the Ted Talks app. 
2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the idea-spreading vehicle, a significant benchmark for a concept that started as an initiative to bring together individuals from the technology, entertainment and design worlds. Yet, Denverites need not travel to the West Coast or overseas to experience this type of engagement in the flesh. Ideas of this magnitude and the desire to share them exist within range of the Rocky Mountains. 
TEDxMileHigh, a TED-licensed, locally run organization, shapes its mission around giving the movers and shakers of Colorado a platform to share their big ideas.
'TEDx = independently organized events'
In 2009, TED launched the TEDx program, which was created to enable and encourage communities across the nation to begin their own conversations in the same vain as Ted Talks.
Jeremy Duhon, Curator and Founder of TEDxMileHigh, says the timing surrounding the inception of TEDx aligned nicely with dialogue that was already happening on the Front Range. A Pueblo native who moved to Denver about 10 years ago, he says around 2009 he was starting to convene with friends and community leaders, talking about organizing a local conference "focused on innovation, creativity and leadership with the ultimate goal being community acts."
Noting that interesting conversations were already going on within certain groups, Duhon says he and his friends wanted to bring these people into the same room and cultivate a more community-inclusive dialogue. After researching to see what other types of conferences existed in Denver to determine if they should give support to someone else or start something new, Duhon says he heard about the launch of TEDx, and knew it was a fit.
"It aligned beautifully with what we were hoping to do," he says. "It was a wonderful community and platform to be a part of."
TEDx meets Mile HighBara'h Odeh talks about opportunities to empower Palenstinian women at TEDxMileHigh talks in 2013.
After becoming a TED licensee, Duhon says he and his colleagues hit the ground running in 2010, with the official inauguration of TEDxMileHigh, and began planning what the first conference would look and sound like. "Our broad initiative started out to showcase brilliant speakers and accomplished doers, as a means to promote innovation and impact," he says of the original goals.
He adds that they wanted to focus on Colorado, based on the thought that one doesn't have to travel to the coasts to "discover extraordinary people, ideas and organizations."
In April 2011, TEDxMileHigh held its first event in front of a house of 1,800 energetic attendees. Wanting to build on this momentum, the organization did a smaller event at RedLine in January 2012 and continued to plug away from there. 
Now, the organization offers a variety of programming, including the main event as well as TEDxYouth@MileHigh, a free youth event geared towards middle and high school students, and TEDxMileHigh Adventures, which invites people to connect with speakers and organizations beyond the talks.  
'Diversity of thought'
Building on the original concept of bringing groups together, Duhon says all of the TEDx events and programs highlight "diversity of thought for a better outcome." He adds, "Any time you don't have diversity of thought, you're going to miss opportunities."
So, as Curator, Duhon works with his fellow TEDx colleagues, all of who volunteer their time, to seek out a roster of speakers with varied backgrounds, perspectives and ideas. After brainstorming a theme for the year, the TEDxMileHigh team talks to as many potential speakers as they can to discover their individual values and passions.
In addition to complementing the theme, Duhon says he is also looking at how the speakers will complement each other. "In a sense, there is a bit of a cadence to the program and emotional swings," he says. 
And, with the bold, entrepreneurial spirit so prevalent in Colorado, he says he has come across many incredible and unexpected individuals over the past four years. "It's extraordinary," he says. "That's one of the biggest takeaways. Our community is full of amazing people."
Duhon adds, "Our hope is that every speaker really presents something that's a bold new idea -- so, it's less of being against something and more being pro-something."
Empowering, engaging communityEighteen-year-old Sara Volz speaks on methods to make algae biofuels at TEDxMileHigh talks in 2013.
The words that come up often when Duhon talks about TEDx are community and social impact.
"On a more tangible level, we hope that people make connections at our events," he says. "And, to some of the non-event programing we do, we hope that we're able to have a more direct community impact."
So, what's on the docket in 2014?
Plenty, says Duhon.
In celebration of TED's 30th anniversary, TEDxMileHigh is hosting a live-stream of the main TED Conference in Vancouver, Canada, on March 18. While the Denver location remains to be determined, Duhon says it is intended to be a social, half-day event that gives like-minded Coloradans the chance to mingle and experience TED.
The next TEDxYouth@MileHigh is April 16 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The vision for the youth event is a half-day "high-impact, educational and cultural experience," says Duhon, with the goal to help youth realize their potential to impart social change.
TEDxMileHigh's main event kicks off June 14, also at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House and,Duhon says the organization is looking at holding another event in November or December for influential Colorado women.
"People have a lot of different takes on what TED is," says Duhon. "To me, TED is high-level positive media, and the deeper level is the community we are trying to build."
For more information about the organization and events, visit TEDxMileHigh.com

Read more articles by Stephanie Wolf.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Stephanie has spent the past 12 years living out her dreams as a professional ballet dancer. In conjunction with her performing career, she's developed a varied writing portfolio.
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