On the 18th of March, a motivated group of future TEDxAmsterdam volunteers gathered online for our first meeting. The world had just turned upside down, but no one was letting this get in the way of their excitement. If anything, the Corona crisis created more urgency for the organisation and its mission to spread ‘Ideas Worth Doing’. While reflecting on the question ‘What can TEDxAmsterdam offer its community in these times?’, it was soon clear that we would have to go online. In doing so, we truly wanted to offer something new and special. Over the next few months, we worked hard on building our teams and developing a concept for our first Online Salon. One of the main aims was to bring the TEDx-magic from the physical world into our online space. This would not only involve great speakers, but also a great location and great entertainment, as well as a great production team to translate all of this to the screen. Another focus point was connecting with our audience. TEDxAmsterdam aspires to be both a talking and a listening organisation, offering a platform to all different voices in society. We want our community to connect people from different walks of life and to be a reflection of Amsterdam’s diverse and dynamic society. For this reason, we decided to include break-out sessions in our Online Salon, in which members of the audience would be able to reflect on the talks in smaller groups.


On the 26th of June, the day of our first Online Salon – titled ‘Act I – The Future of Work’ – was finally there. The speakers had been coached, the location fully prepared, and the production team had had a successful dry run the night before. Our online meeting room opened at 08:45, and slowly filled up with friends, family, and colleagues, who had been personally invited for this kick-off event. While some opened the conversation in the chat, everyone waited in anticipation for the programme to officially start. At 09:00, the screen cut to an impressive image of our host Salmaan, welcoming everyone to the Online Salon from an extravagant Canal House on the Keizersgracht. This location formed the stage for the entire event, during which the audience was taken through different rooms housing different speakers and entertainment. In 2,5 hours, we listened to TEDx Talks by Jovana Karanović and Melvin Tjoe Nij, an interview with Tanja Jadnanansing, and two beautiful performances by singer Katell Chevalier and pianist Ton Snijders.


“Have you ever been to a magic show?” This was the question with which Jovana Karanović, PhD researcher at the VU Amsterdam, opened her talk about ‘The Side of the Platform Economy You Haven’t Seen’. Maybe not an obvious link, but as she charismatically continued her talk the analogy became clear. Jovana discussed the downsides of existing platforms such as Uber and AirBnb, and introduced us to the fairer concept of ‘platform cooperatives’. These are often local, community-based initiatives in which the platform is owned by the workers, thus creating more economic equality and independence. However, cooperatives such as FairBnb are overshadowed by the big platforms that are dominating the market. Like the magician does during a magic trick, these platforms divert your attention to their businesses so that you no longer see what is happening elsewhere. In order to break this monopoly, and create a more equitable economy, Jovana urged the audience to keep paying attention and to actively look for fair alternatives.  


Large cities are multicultural, why is this not reflected in the top of corporations or government? Why do management teams, boards of directors, or advisory boards often consist exclusively of white men? These were not only questions that Melvin Tjoe Nij brought up during his talk, but they are issues that he is actively seeking to resolve. In fifteen minutes, Melvin took us through his own experiences with cultural differences and unconscious bias, and his work with Young Global People and The Other Network. Through the latter two organisations, which he founded, he aims to create more cultural diversity in the Dutch corporate landscape by coaching, connecting, and recruiting multicultural professionals. Currently, only 1 percent of top positions are filled by people with a multicultural background, despite the fact that 54 percent of the population in big cities is multicultural. In this light, Melvin provided the audience with a few tips, and left us with a challenge: Look at your own personal and business networks critically and see what you can actively do to create more cultural diversity. Together, let’s aim to increase our multicultural workforce by 15 to 20 percent, at all levels, in one to two years. Every journey begins with a first step, so what is yours?


Tanja Jadnanansing is the district chairperson of South-East Amsterdam (BIMS), and has been a mentor for many years. As a politician, she makes a conscious effort to not only work on policy, but also on community initiatives – especially concerning work and education. In a twenty-minute interview, Tanja – nicknamed “Lady Education” by the kids in her community – passionately shared her dreams and inspiration with regard to her work. On one of her first days as a chairperson, she introduced herself to a young boy at a community centre and asked him what she could do for him. His answer remains one of her biggest drives until this date: “Can you please stop people calling me poor? My parents have little money, but I am not poor. I am full of talent.” What this anecdote illustrates perfectly is that South-East needs a new narrative after having faced decades of stereotypes and bias. Its people are full of talent and ambition, but often simply lack the money or the resources to get the right opportunities. All they need is great education, some opportunities, and good role-models. At the end of the interview, Tanja called upon everyone in the audience to step into the platform and make things happen for this boy, his parents, and his community. Those feeling the urge to do something were (and still are!) invited to send her a personal email to explore a potential collaboration. After all, we are all in it together in the search for equality and equal opportunities.


In many respects, ‘ACT I’ reflected TEDxAmsterdam’s mission to respond to current issues and developments in society. The Corona crisis has challenged long standing economic structures and work culture, and the resurging Black Lives Matter movement has once again highlighted the issues of racism, unconscious bias, and the lack of diversity and representation at different levels of society. That these are topics of current relevance was also clear in the break-out sessions, during which members of the audience reflected on the talks in small groups led by a moderator. These were inspiring conversations, in which participants shared their own thoughts, struggles, and ideas. One thing that was shared across all groups was the urge for change – in our economic systems, in society, in our personal lives. The talks had provided some practical first steps to accomplish such change, and during the break-out sessions many other tips and ideas were shared (including ‘fair’ alternatives to our current providers and an extension that hides user names and profile pictures on LinkedIn to reduce bias when screening job applicants). The inspiring conversations showed the communal value of our Online Salon, as an event where people could connect, reflect, and be inspired to not just think but also act.


The great feedback we received to our Online Salon has confirmed the significance and value of TEDxAmsterdam as a platform and a community. We aim to keep exploring the ways in which we can provide a stage to great ideas and initiatives, and serve our community. Our team is working hard on future events, and in the meantime we will keep building our online community and provide you with inspiring content (including videos of our ACT I, which can all be watched here). We would love to invite you to join us by following our social media channels and subscribing to our newsletter. This way we’ll be able to stay in touch and notify you about new content, future events, and other developments in our community and organisation. We hope to see you very soon, and for now: Welcome (back) to Planet Act!