TEDxUW is a key player in the global TED movement, which aims to share ‘ideas wo

TEDxUW is a key player in the global TED movement, which aims to share ‘ideas worth spreading’, for free, across the world. 

For as long as he could remember, Michael Murphy’s dad would spend each year scraping off the weathered down paint on his house and repainting the exposed bits with fresh new paint. It was more of a catharsis than a restoration. One day Murphy got a call and was told that his father had terminal cancer and had only 3 weeks to live. Murphy packed his bags and moved to his hometown to be with his father and decided to take up restoring the house. Three weeks passed and Murphy’s father was still alive. After three months, his dad joined him, and after 18 months they refurbished the windows and replaced the rotting porch. It was then that his father said, "You know, Michael, this house saved my life."

After deciding to go to architecture school and working on numerous projects in Africa and the U.S, Murphy realized that there was more to buildings than the novel, ecologically driven designs: the work that people do together to create can not only heal a person, but an entire community.

“When you go outside today and you look at your built world,” says Michael Murphy in his TED talk, “ask not only: ‘What is the environmental footprint?’ -- an important question -- but what if we also asked, ‘What is the human handprint of those who made it?’"

Interconnectedness can be an elusive topic. In fact, this was the topic of this years’ TEDxUW at the University of Waterloo, and where I watched Murphy’s intriguing TED talk video. TED: Ideas Worth Spreading is a non-profit organization devoted to sharing a diverse array of ideas through short talks. TED supports numerous TEDx events (such as TEDxUW), each run by independent organizers all over the world who want to create a TED-like event in their community.

Stories are a fascinating tool to be able to see the underlying connections in issues both small and large.

Murphy’s story is one that explores the human ingenuity associated with architecture but also of exploring the connections between communities working together and their collective healing.

In each TED talk, story and personal experience were used in order to show the underlying connections between a variety of diverse topics.

The importance of Intergenerational connectedness

Ilona Doughtry

At 14 years old Ilona Doughtry attended her first national conference.

“I was disoriented, lost, and lonely,” Doughtry said in her talk. She was 100% potential, 0% accomplishment. A woman saw her and encouraged her to sit down, which sparked a conversation that changed Doughtry’s life. “It gave me the opportunity to see the value that I have, and she also showed me that I have potential that I could turn into impact… By the end of that conversation, she had offered to help me get involved in the leadership of the organization that was running the conference.”

“Three years later” she said,  “I would be sitting at the United Nations in New York City, an official Canadian delegate to the UN conference at 17 years old.”

It was the beginning of a life long quest to make sure that other young people had the encouragement, support and opportunity to make their voices heard.

Doughtry is now the Managing Director of the Youth and Innovation Research Project at the University of Waterloo, as well as the founder of Apathy is Boring, an organization that educates youth on democracy and encourages them to vote. In her talk she argues that we need intergenerational partnerships to be more connected to a sense of purpose and making an impact.

“When we believe in young people and give them the opportunity to fulfill their potential,” she says in an interview, “they most often surprise us by stepping up to the challenge.”

Her story let her discover the power of intergenerational partnerships: when we realize that each generation offers a unique set of skills, we can work across generations to magnify our impact.

An Organic Model of Leadership

Kurtis McBridge

Interconnectedness can also be chaotic. In his talk, Kurtis McBridge explores the troubles of hierarchy of leadership in his company and how a hierarchical model nearly destroyed it.

What drives people to be engaged? Each individual can be looked at as having passion, a skill, and a business need. If each of these areas of an individual are met then the person can be the most engaged in the company. Leaders also have three important qualities, which are coaching, strategy making, and execution. Leaders are usually born with one, have learned a second, and struggle with a third. In a hierarchical leadership model, McBridge explains, leaders usually hire people who are good at the things they are not, and as you build the hierarchy there is a “dilution” of those three qualities, resulting in people on the bottom who have no idea what to do.

In McBridge’s situation, he used the idea of interconnectedness to solve the underlying problem of inequality in the hierarchical model, and turned his company into an organic and adaptable web of people that learned from each other and knew what to do.

In his new model, McBridge explains that the “leaders job is now to support the individuals, rather than be their boss. Each of the individuals has a relationship with each of the three types of leaders, and the leaders work on the type of work on based on their passions and skills.”

From implementing these changes into his company, McBridge has found that this model encourages workers to be most engaged and efficient in their work, with results in a more connected company.


From three vastly different topics, Michael Murphy, Ilona Doughtry and Kurtis McBridge each discovered how interconnectedness played a role in their lives and the world at large.

These talks represent only a pinch of the insights gleamed from the speakers at TEDxUW. Interconnectedness can be difficult to grasp yet if we know where to look, it is all around us.

To watch the talks done at TEDxUW 2016, go to: http://tedxuw.com/index.html



Veronika Szostak is a student at the University of Waterloo in the Environment and Resource Studies program. She is a volunteer at A/J and aspires to become a journalist, artist, and environmentalist.

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