Realign The Paradigm

Manuel Mejia from The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii discussing restoring the land and ocean at a past TEDxHonolulu conference

Manuel Mejia from The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii discussing restoring the land and ocean at a past TEDxHonolulu conference. Photo courtesy Tedxhonolulu

As a social worker, Tara Buckley often ends up in rooms full of other social workers. Conferences. Lunches. Pau hanas. Whatever it is, it’s full of social workers. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but working in a silo, she feels, can sometimes be a bit limiting.

Education researcher Genesis Leong feels the same: “In different industries, we are kind of stuck in what I call our ‘bubbles.’ And sometimes, these bubbles don’t pop.”

As two of the volunteer organizers for TEDxHonolulu, Buckley and Leong are looking to pop those bubbles. Modeled after the popular — and often viral — TED Talks, TEDx events are localized conferences hosted in communities throughout the world.

TEDxHonolulu hosts its 2015 conference, “Paradigm Shift,” from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. March 28 at University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Campus Center. Featuring 12 speakers from fields that span agriculture, technology, energy and more, Paradigm Shift focuses on “ideas and experiences that sparked radical new directions in our world views.”

The main TED hosted its first conference in 1984, targeting the technology, entertainment and design fields. As it states on its website, TED believes “passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.” Today, TED Talks incorporate speakers from all fields, and popular speeches have included “The Surprising Science of Happiness” and “How Schools Kill Creativity.”

Like TED, the independently organized TEDx events feature speakers who represent a range of industries discussing a breadth of topics — only they’re all based within that particular community.


Although TED Talks have been around for more than 30 years, they seem to have gained particular traction thanks to the Internet and, more so, social media, where these videos are widely shared. also keeps an archive of past talks — and even has them organized into categories such as “11 Must-See TED Talks” or “Talks To Help You Forget That You’re Doing Chores” to ease your search. Anybody with an Internet connection instantly can access hundreds of talks on pretty much any subject they can think of — and watch them while curled up in bed with a laptop.

So why have TEDx events?

For Buckley and Leong, the answer goes back to breaking down barriers between industries.

“It is about bringing all of these people from all these different experiences, jobs and agencies together in the room,” Buckley says. “So when you are sitting next to someone you don’t know and you start talking about what you do and what they do, all of a sudden you realize you should do that together.

“It can start these crazy, amazing conversations and start these collaborations that people normally wouldn’t have started because they normally wouldn’t be in a room together,” she adds.

Other than networking opportunities, these events also are simply about experiencing these talks as a unified audience.

“It’s similar to when you go to a movie: There is something about it when you are in there and you are laughing with someone next to you, or you are crying with someone next to you,” Leong says. “There is something really powerful about sharing those experiences with other people.”

Founded in 2009, TEDx Honolulu is run by a group of nearly 100 volunteers and hosts events throughout the year — a series of smaller talks as well as its larger annual conference.


While attending college in Oregon, Hayden Atkins played in a reggae band. They’d always wanted to play shows along the river, but there were all those logistics — like hooking up power cords. Then, a friend introduced him to bicycle power and showed him how they could power their concerts using energy harnessed from pedaling. When he returned to the Islands, he launched Pedal Power Hawaii.

As a speaker at Paradigm Shift, Atkins, a program coordinator at environmental nonprofit Kupu Hawaii, will discuss his discovery — and how it could impact the way we use energy as a whole.

“You look at Oahu now, and it is totally not sustainable — we have a finite amount of resources,” Atkins says.

Atkins hopes that his work, and his talk at TEDx, can help influence Hawaii residents to be more conscious about energy, and ultimately live more sustainably.

It’s those types of changes in perspective — or “aha moments,” as Leong likes to say — that Paradigm Shift zeros in on. From giving a voice to women who have been incarcerated to using technology to propel sustainability, Paradigm Shift hosts a wide range of innovative thinkers to share their ideas.

TEDxHonolulu also is going through a shift of its own with this conference: It’s becoming one of several TEDxs throughout the world to participate in the new TEDx Artist in Residence Program. Its inaugural artist is Maui-based abstract painter and photographer Shane Robinson, who will speak about how his own aha moment led him to abstract photography. Robinson’s work also will serve as the backdrop for Paradigm Shift — and will be dispersed throughout the community to be displayed in public spaces after the conference.

“The speakers are pretty diverse, they are talking about all kinds of different things, and yet everything has a paradigm shift theme — it is looking at something in the community in a new way,” Buckley says. “And then, hopefully, that can inspire people to take those speakers’ ideas and come up with their own ideas and shift some paradigms in the community and make the community better.”

For more information and to register for Paradigm Shift, visit or To stay connected, find TEDxHonolulu on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

TEDxHonolulu’s 2015 conference, Paradigm Shift, features 12 speakers.
Here’s a brief rundown of who will take the mic March 28.

STEVEN CHIANG, the director of the Agribusiness Incubator Program at University of Hawaii and founder of GoFarm Hawaii, will discuss his work in supporting aspiring farmers.

Metro-031815-Feature-TED-4JENNIFER DOTSON, the CEO of Network Enterprises, and VICKI JOHNSON discuss the benefits of increasing the accessibility of jobs to people with diverse skills and abilities.
Metro-031815-Feature-TED-5HAYDEN ATKINS, founder of Pedal Power Hawaii, discusses how bicycle-generated power can be used as a tool to promote responsible energy consumption.

DAWN LIPPERT, co-founder and director of Energy Excelerator, talks about tackling our biggest energy issues.

BRANDON HAYASHI of OpTerra Energy Services details how electric light can benefit our brains and bodies.

VOICES FROM THE INSIDE, which was formed from a creative writing class at the Women’s Community Correctional Center, shares stories from ex-inmates.

IAN MONROE, founder of green app Oroeco, discusses how information technology can empower people to make societal changes.

CHEYNE GALLARDE, a photographer, discusses the power of nostalgia.

Metro-031815-Feature-TED-6PATRICK SULLIVAN, founder of Oceanit, details what he describes as “intellectual anarchy” and how this creative approach to work can lead to innovation.

GABRIEL YANAGIHARA, a video game programming teacher, talks about empowering students through video games.

ANDREA ANDERSON, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Hawaii, covers the importance of having open, honest conversations about sexuality and sexual health.

Metro-031815-Feature-TED-7SHANE ROBINSON, this year’s artist in residence, discusses the value of living in the present moment and how it applies to his work as an abstract painter and photographer.