Over 800 global innovators, business executives, scientists, policymakers, next-generation leaders, artists, activists, and more will convene in Detroit next week to create a better future for our planet. This invite-only, four-day event is the second TED Countdown Summit.
Its predecessor – the first Ted Countdown Summit – was held in 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland where over 700 leaders shared a blueprint for a net-zero future ahead of COP26.
DII had the opportunity to sit down with the head of partnerships and impact for TED, Lindsay Levin, to get her insights on the desired outcomes of the Summit and the reasons Detroit was chosen to host it.
How did the TED Countdown Summit come to be?
The idea for the TED Countdown Summit originated in 2020. We began thinking, why not take the power of the TED media platform, reach, ability to tell stories, ability to convene thought leaders, and – I always say – the ability to give wings to new and brilliant ideas and apply all of that to the climate crisis.
The idea is to amplify stories and solutions that help forge a better way forward.
We believe we can only solve complicated issues through collaboration So, over 800 leaders from sixty countries will convene in Detroit to talk about how we can change the story about our future and what is possible. At the same time, we will be able to share the recorded TED Talks from this event with the world.
Why Detroit for 2023?
With Detroit’s history of industrialization and manufacturing, and also the many challenges and transitions it has faced, the city is a strong example of forging a path into the future.
Here is a city that has been at the heart of mobility that is now reinventing its thinking, technology, design, and ultimately its products to help solve the climate crisis.
Also, Detroit has diversity and character. It is a city with a lot of entrepreneurial energy and creativity. It has a long history of resilience, and when we think about the climate crisis, we have to develop resilience, we have to adapt. Detroit is a city that is a true role model for that.
This is a city and state that has a tremendous spirit. There is a real warmth to the people, the city of Detroit, and the state of Michigan.
We think there are a lot of proud examples in Detroit that can serve as lessons and we are proud to introduce these to international visitors. A large focus of this Summit is going out into the city on Quest Visits to tell that story.
So, we made a very conscious choice to go to a place we feel welcome and where people are doing great things. It is a brilliant city to come to for this event.
What are some examples of the Quest Visits?
From a food standpoint, we will be visiting Keep Growing Detroit. We will visit Samaratis, who is working with displaced refugees. We are going to Ann Arbor to speak with policy leaders there. Participants will go and see local street art and art spaces with Chazz Miller. Dunamis Clean Energy Partners and Our Next Energy and Ford Motor Company are also destinations.
These are just to name a few. There are 30 Quest Visits in total.
What do you think the choice to have the Summit in Detroit says about the city’s importance on the map when it comes to sustainability?
I would say two things.
First, a lot is happening in Detroit related to sustainability. Some of it is very visible and some is invisible but important, so we want to shine a light on all of it.
Second, I see it as an opportunity to inspire more people here to take action. We need many more people to be part of this journey to help make this planet we all share a place that is fit to live for us, our kids, and our grandkids.
How is this Countdown Summit different from other TED conferences and talks?
I think it’s a mix of the best of TED and also a place to pioneer.
The best of TED is the TED talks, which are planned for this Summit.
On the other hand, we are doing a lot of things differently for this event. For example, the Quest Visits are new. We are also using two venues – the Filmore and Michigan Central. These are both iconic spaces that represent the city’s history and future. The annual TED Conference is held at the Vancouver Convention Centre, which is an expansive and beautiful building. But for Detroit, we decided the whole city would be our venue.
What are the desired outcomes of the Summit?
There are three.
The first is to change the story – the narrative around the crisis. This is a subject that many people feel hopeless about. People feel unempowered as if there is nothing individuals can do. This is not true. We all have the power to make change, we want to give people agency to work together to create a positive path forward.
Another hope is that the individual TED talks accelerate ideas, reach millions, take hold, and take off.
The third is to spark collaboration between people who may not have met otherwise and who may find partnerships or ways to work together to create change.
As always, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on all things Detroit.