takeaways from tedxrainier 2013

takeaways from tedxrainier 2013

Amy, Melissa and I attended the fourth-annual TEDxRainier event, held in the historic and stunning 5th Avenue Theater in downtown Seattle. Focused on a theme of “Rethink,” the day was filled with unique, thought-provoking talks covering topics like the intelligence of crows, using human bodies as a canvas, and technology that can connect two brains.

After the event, we discussed our favorite talks and the presentations that led us to rethink our own perspectives.

What was your favorite part of the event?

Amy: Dani Cone’s presentation—which focused on her Grandma Molly’s mantra, “Be good. Do well”—struck a chord. It was 2008, and Dani had opened three Fuel Coffee shops and was responsible for 21 employees. As the recession hit, she searched for ideas that would keep people coming in the door. She wanted to create comfort in not-so-comfortable times. She thought about how “people come together over pie” and decided to open High 5 Pie. She said realized that “be good” wasn’t necessarily about doing what you’re good at—it was about creating good.

I was a beneficiary of the comforting food and setting that Dani created. When I first moved to Seattle in 2009, I spent many days in Wallingford’s Fuel Coffee doing homework for grad school and freelancing. The baristas were friendly and warm, dispelling notions of the dreaded “Seattle Freeze.” It provided me comfort in not-so-comfortable times, as Dani set out to do. I appreciated Dani’s ability to tell a great story—she captivated the audience with her honest, compelling and succinct talk.

Barbara: I felt really connected to the message of Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author and naturalist. Lyanda spoke of the importance of embracing the wildlife that exists in our cities and throwing away the notion that humans and wildlife should be separated and only encounter each other in the wild. I take every opportunity to get to the mountains and forests to hike, camp, and enjoy nature and wildlife away from the crowded city streets. However, I can also be found admiring the squirrel lounging on the park bench, the crow perched on the roof of my house happily harassing my dogs, or the random raccoon seen ambling slowly back to his home after a night of raiding the neighbor’s vegetable garden. Urban wildlife might sometimes be seen as a burden, but I truly enjoy sharing the city with them.

Melissa: My favorite part of the event was also my favorite presentation. I loved hearing from Art Wolfe about his inspirations and the evolution of his work as an artist. His newest project, Human Canvas, is breathtaking. Learning about the progression of his work with tribal communities, landscapes and animals, and how this helped mold Human Canvas, helped me appreciate his work even more.

Which presentation forced you to see something from a new perspective? 

Amy: Wildlife scientist John Marzluff gave an intriguing talk about crows’ brain power and said he was determined to convince us to use “birdbrain” as a compliment. Several crows seem to call my deck home. Much to my dismay, they bring their dinner up there and gorge themselves. After learning about their intuitive abilities and calculated risk-taking, I see my crow neighbors in a new light. They are smart and determined—and it’s probably time to befriend them.

Barbara: I enjoyed hearing from Teri Hein, executive director of 826 Seattle and former teacher with The Hutch School. Teri spoke about refusing to “hope for the best” in people, and instead assuming the best in people. By assuming the best in people, and especially children, we give them the opportunity and confidence to be open and curious. This can lead to better understanding of people and cultures that are different from your own, and hopefully, lead to a more accepting community. I love that Teri encourages not only teaching the curriculum but also using her position as a teacher to reach out to children, help them stay open-minded, and mold them into better human beings.

Melissa: Ramez Naam‘s presentation showcasing the reality of technology that is considered “sci-fi” was great. The innovations he shared were mind blowing, especially the glasses that can potentially help the blind restore partial sight. Since I don’t normally focus on this community I hadn’t realized this seemingly futuristic research is currently happening.

What did you enjoy most about attending TEDxRainier? 

Amy: Events like TEDxRainier help me learn about new organizations and projects. From Peter Speyer of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, I learned more about its Global Burden of Disease (GBD) report and online visualization tools, as well as the Roux Prize, a new $100,000 award for using GBD data to take action that makes people healthier. From physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston, I learned about her work to use documentaries to inspire compassion around mental illness and the film she made about her relationship with her father and his battle with schizophrenia. 

Barbara: I appreciated the variety found in the talks. Although I enjoyed the talks focusing on topics with which I connect, I also valued the opportunity to hear from people outside of my focus areas, expanding my awareness of research and projects happening right in my backyard. 

Melissa: I appreciated the effort put into the event, and am grateful for my increased awareness of local entrepreneurs and organizations.

To find out more about TEDxRainier and view the video of the event, check out their website.  You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

we always lie to strangers – sxsw special jury prize

we always lie to strangers – sxsw special jury prize

Aggregate’s Creative Director, David Wilson, and his partner AJ Schnack have been awarded the Special Jury Prize for Directing for Documentary at SXSW for their film We Always Lie to Strangers, about the town of Branson MO. The film had its world premiere at SXSW and will be playing other festivals this spring. You can “like” the film on Facebook to stay on top of news about screenings close to you.

we’re sponsoring the true/false film fest

we’re sponsoring the true/false film fest

When David Wilson isn’t directing or producing video content for Aggregate or making films of his own, he serves as the “Co-Conspirator”—alongside Paul Sturtz—of the True/False Film Fest, one of the country’s most well-regarded documentary film festivals.

Now in its tenth year, True/False is a reflection of David and Paul’s love for great documentaries, powerful storytelling, talented filmmakers and Columbia, Missouri, the festival’s home town and the happiest place on earth every year at the end of February/beginning of March.

Because of our love of storytelling, our belief in its ability to change the world (for the better) and our love for and belief in David, Aggregate is excited to announce that we are sponsoring the festival in 2013 and hopefully in years to come.

If you can get to Missouri February 28-March 3, join us at the festival. You won’t be disappointed.

(And check back for highlights from the fest.)


our annual contributions

our annual contributions

When I decided to start my own company, one of the things that I wanted to achieve was to ensure that the people I hired were proud of where they worked. I figured we could do so in a few different ways: do smart, creative work for great clients, provide a fun and beautiful setting for them to come to every day, enable them to have new experiences (travel, meeting cool people) and be a company that wears our values on our sleeves.

To achieve this last item, we could be outspoken about the issues we care about—in our conversations, via the content we share online—and we could work with organizations that share those values. We could also give to organizations that were working to uphold those values.

We moved into our first office on September 1, celebrated our first anniversary on October 1 and today we are announcing our first annual charitable contributions. We reached out to friends, vendors, family and clients for ideas and they sent quite a few fabulous options. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to increase the number and the size of the donations we make, but this is what we are doing this year.

Boys and Girls Club of King CountyWe wanted one of our donations to go to a group in our home town of Seattle. Haley suggested the Boys and Girls Club because, as she said, they enabled her to afford to ensure her beautiful daughter had after school care when Haley was enrolled in a full time Master’s program. Giving women the chance to further their education—and to inspire their daughters to do the same—is core to our hearts and we love having the opportunity to allow Haley to say thank you and to join her in doing so. We are giving the Boys and Girls Club $500 (actually, we’re letting Haley’s daughter do the honors) and encourage you to consider making a donation as well.

Southern Center for Human Rights: We are proud of the work we are currently doing with the Council of State Governments Justice Center and of the other people in our world who work to address the injustices of the criminal justice system. They need our help. The Southern Center for Human Rights provides legal representation to people facing the death penalty, challenges human rights violations in prisons and jails, seeks to improve legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, and advocates for criminal justice system reforms on behalf of those affected by the system in the Southern United States. We are giving the Southern Center for Human Rights $1,000 and hope you will consider making a donation as well.

Ali Forney Center: On December 17, Spencer Cox died at the age of 44. Spencer was a committed AIDS activist whose passion enabled him to contribute to saving the lives of millions of people worldwide, a fact we should all know and never forget. His family suggested three charities to which donations could be made in Spencer’s name and we selected the Ali Forney Center. The Center, in New York City, provides housing and other services to homeless LGBT youth and recently needed to invest significant resources to rebuild its drop-in center, which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. We are giving $1,000 to the Ali Forney Center—in Spencer’s name—and hope you will consider making a donation in his name as well.

Spencer was featured in David France’s How to Survive a Plague and upon his death, David posted the amazing video of Spencer at the top of the page, in which Spencer reminds all of us what matters most: being kind, and being generous. Thank you, Spencer.

things that excite us: august 14, 2012

things that excite us: august 14, 2012

What excites us right now?

  • getting ready to move into our beautiful new office within spittin’ distance (if we did indeed spit, of course) from the new Seattle Great Wheel
  • the onslaught of resumes we’re getting for the new positions for which we are hiring (we recognize that our attempt to use proper grammar occasionally makes us sound like Yoda)
  • talking to some of the great folks behind those resumes and realizing we might just have a great idea about what we’re all looking for in the kind of work we do and the way we do it
  • this stand up and take to the streets inspiring trailer for our favorite documentary, How to Survive a Plague
  • kicking off a new project with a new (old) client
  • remembering this New York Times article from a couple years back about how foot binding in China stopped being a social norm and how it applies to other efforts to create social change
  • how beautiful Seattle is in mid-August
  • making connections between people who should know each other
  • smart clients who trust us with their challenges because they know we care as much as they do (no, really)
  • asking for help from the people in your network—and getting it
if aggregate was a woody guthrie quote

if aggregate was a woody guthrie quote

“I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim or too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard travelling.

I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work. And the songs that I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you.

I could hire out to the other side, the big money side, and get several dollars every week just to quit singing my own kind of songs and to sing the kind that knock you down still farther and the ones that poke fun at you even more and the ones that make you think that you’ve not got any sense at all. But I decided a long time ago that I’d starve to death before I’d sing any such songs as that. The radio waves and your movies and your jukeboxes and your songbooks are already loaded down and running over with such no good songs as that anyhow.”

– Woody Guthrie