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TEDxPhiladelphia 2019: Unintended Consequences

TEDxPhiladelphia 2019: Unintended Consequences

an Unintended consequence

It seemed like a good idea at the time. How often have you thought that? You start to do one thing, and something completely different happens. 

Sometimes it’s fairly ordinary, like you go to the store for a quart of almond milk and wind up with $87 worth of cereal, turkey bacon, maple-bourbon gelato, gluten-free waffle mix, 10 cans of pinto beans for $10, a half dozen ramen noodle sachets, some of those cute mini-cucumbers, a sack of kitty litter and too many triple-a batteries. And sometimes it’s wildly extraordinary, like when the city adopts a 10-year tax abatement to spur development and it works pretty well for a while until a few years later a condo on Walnut Street sells for $17 million which generates relative bupkis in revenue for the school system.

Never saw that coming. 

Not all unintended consequences are bad surprises. Remember when the city shut down for the Pope’s visit? Most people thought that was madness. Many people escaped town. Those that stayed enjoyed the meandering freedom of quiet, deserted streets, like something out of The Twilight Zone, but far less spooky. It was so astonishingly delightful we decided to make it a new tradition, and the annual Philly Free Streets festival was born. 

A while back we at TEDxPhiladelphia asked our friends, fans and audience what subjects they’d like to see explored here today. Some suggested themes like “the concept of home.” Others wanted to hear folks talk about “social justice.” One suggestion was to craft talks around the fact that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And then we heard this:

“It’s nice to go to a TEDx talk and get all enlightened and super excited, but what are we supposed to do with all that energized enlightenment, huh?”

And we realized that for a few years now we’ve been hosting these great talks, and spending a lot of energy filming and getting every talk edited beautifully, and posted online in hopes of viral fame. Turns out most folks really wanted to do more than watch and listen. We heard you wanted to engage. You want more than a good story well told. You want to find out more, you want to act, you want to get involved after the fact.

One unintended consequence of the TEDx experience is our learning that civic engagement means more than just talking. Enlightenment is not as easy as watching a compelling talk online. Actually, it’s hard work. 

So welcome to the next generation of TEDxPhiladelphia. This one promises to direct you to resources with which you can engage after you leave this beautiful venue. We hope you’ll take the lessons learned here today – lessons learned by examining what really happened when we tried to do something else – and apply them in your daily lives, your home, your neighborhood and in building a city more intent on living up to its brand of brotherly love.

No doubt we’ve set out to do something that will inspire things to spring to life that we never intended or expected. At least this time we’ll be watching for it, and we’ll learn from it. And it might lead to a fascinating and enlightening and engaging theme for the next TEDxPhiladelphia. 

Thanks for being with us. Here’s to the unintended roads ahead.


Esaay for TEDxPhiladelphia by Ed Tettemer

the speakers


Market & Competitive Intelligence Strategist | Industry Speaker

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Design Thinking Strategist & Social Impact Advocate


City Planner & Reproductive Justice Advocate

the performers

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Executive Director, Philly 311

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Director, Philadelphia LandCare, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

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South Philadelphia Community Advocate & Social Innovator


Founder and Director, Studio Ludo

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Founder, Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice

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Founder & Executive Director, Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia

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Director, ExCITe Center of Drexel University


Executive Director, Syrian Emergency Task Force


Jamal Parker


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Ill Fated Natives