Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Ideas into action: Knight helps TED develop engagement platform

Feb. 25, 2013, 9:43 p.m., Posted by Damian Thorman, J.D.

MIT's Ethan Zuckerman recalls that when he was selected to be a TED speaker, he received a stone tablet with “The TED Commandments.” Among them: “Prepare for impact.”

Instead, he said, it should have been “Prepare for attention.” In his case, at least, he got lots of attention from his 18-minute TED talk, but he didn’t know how much impact it had.

TED, with support from Knight Foundation, is trying to make sure great ideas have measurable impact. Knight is investing $985,000 in part to help TED build a platform where members of the TED community can engage and turn ideas into action, and which can be used to measure the impact of those ideas.

It’s part of a partnership that is aimed to advance Knight’s Tech for Engagement initiative, which funds ideas that help communities connect for action. (The TED grant was part of a package of three totaling $9 million announced on Monday.) 

TED, in response to its community, is already working on using technology to produce action from ideas. On Monday, Executive Producer of TED Media June Cohen gave TED attendees an early look at the next iteration of TED.com, that can include action items, proposed by the speaker, with a TED talk video. She said it would roll out in a few months.

But TED – and Knight’s – vision extends much farther. To map out the potential development path for TED.com, Knight sponsored a workshop on Sunday that brought together close to 20 people with expertise in online engagement from the business, tech, academic and non-profit sectors to brainstorm the guiding principles and key tactics for the development of TED.com as an action platform, and identify people willing to provide deeper expertise.

The Knight grant will support the development and evolution of that platform.  It will also support two TED fellows dedicated to Tech for Engagement projects.

Knight’s Tech for Engagement initiative is aimed to develop the potential of technology to engage communities, amplify citizenship, and ultimately revitalize democracy. Knight believes the development of the TED.com platform will help advance the field, and the partnership will help attract potential grantees in the civic technology space.

Also as part of the partnership, Knight is hosting several “TED Challenges” – face-to-face exercises in collective problem-solving – in a social space at TED2013.

- Damian Thorman,  national program director

Previously: Knight doubles down on tech's potential to connect communities for action