04/20/2011 12:24 pm ET | Updated Jun 20, 2011

TEDxEast: Curating New York City's Idea Communities

On May 9, hundreds of inspiring and inspired people will gather in New York City for the next TEDxEast event to "Tinker, Noodle and Obsess." I'm excited to attend, mildly obsessed with the program line-up and looking forward to joining the always enthusiastic crowd of thinkers and doers that gather to be creatively encouraged and motivated.

TEDxEast has its roots in TED, a nonprofit that organizes global conferences featuring 'Ideas Worth Spreading.' TEDx events, which are independently organized, riff of the core principles of TED, but design the TED experience at the regional level. From authors to performers to scientists, ideas are welcomed by an engaged and eager-to-network audience.

I've had the pleasure of attending the past two TEDxEast events in New York City, where I had the chance to not only connect with like-minded others, but experience the world of ideas as I never had before. It's a rare weekday that one gets to hear Suzanne Vega perform and immediately after, listen to best-selling author Bruce Feiler, author of Council of Dads, discuss his own mortality as he faces the reality of cancer and plans to ensure his daughters' role models represent elements of his values when he passes.

I caught up last week with Julianne Wurm, the founder and curator of TEDxEast. Launched in May 2009, and one of the first TEDx events in the U.S., it's been going strong ever since. With a star group of volunteer event producers, talent coaches and marketing gurus, Wurm has not only kicked off a much-craved event among New Yorkers -- she and her team are now taking it to the next level, creating new forums that stretch beyond the one day of compelling speakers. As we talked, it was clear to me that the expanded future for TEDxEast is a brilliant one.

Laura Cococcia: I'm intrigued by the theme of the next TEDxEast event -- "Tinker, Noodle, Obsess." How did it come to be?

Julianne Wurm: This particular inspiration came from worlds of books and relationships. I was talking with literary agent Tina Bennett about what the "zeitgeist" of humanity is right now. We talked about how there's something around the idea of tinkering -- about people who are stepping away from their jobs and doing their passions as a hobby.

For this next round of TEDxEast, we wanted them to share their passions on stage even if that seems outside of the norm. We wanted to have an event where we celebrated our 'other selves' -- to asking the question, 'who is the other within what each of us do?' This event is about recognizing that we each have different aspects but they can be integrated. And, we're honoring the different aspects of our identity besides our formal professions.

LC: You and the team have a strong line-up of presenters for May 9. How did you decide on these particular people during the curation process?

JW: We take both a large and small view at what's possible with our attendees, looking at press and TV as well as local NYC events and relationships. And it can be at the most unexpected times and places. In fact, it was at a theater party where I was connected to the woman who runs WITNESS (Jenni Wolfson), an international human rights organization based in New York that uses video to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations. She'll be presenting on May 9.

Curating the event takes a lot of research and curiosity. I can see that personally, I attend to people and listen to them in different ways now. There's something beautiful about it. It's activated a curiosity about people for me and I look at the world and individuals within it differently.

LC: One thing I love that TEDxEast does here in NYC is cultivating community beyond the event. Can you talk a bit about what's to come leading up to and following May 9th?

JW: Our first event was November 2009 and since then we've grown tremendously. One thing we want to start doing is giving our community opportunities to be together in between the larger one day events. One thing we often talk about is that the ideas at the events are fantastic and inspiring, but people want to know more about how it links to action in our day to day lives. And, we've heard consistently that our NYC community wants to spend more time together. Our goal is to cultivate and build community through regular outings -- a tighter, more cohesive one -- that is really working toward something.

This year, we'll be offering the group an opportunity to get together the Sunday afternoon before to explore different elements of NYC (more details to come). We think this lends itself to the experience on the day of the event -- because of the relationships you may have built the prior day, you know people in context and people are primed for ideas. At some point, we hope that we'll have an element of community service surrounding our event day. Ultimately, we are all about being inclusive and we're open to trying out new ways to make that happen consistently.

LC: For those new TEDxEast, how can they get involved?

JW: We always invite new members to join our events and community. All parts of TEDxEast are run by volunteers. Right now, we're looking for an experienced event producer for our next run. There are always roles, so I encourage people to reach out to me if they're interested.