TEDx Yerevan Looks Beyond Borders

Father Ktrij Devejian answers the question, "What are you worth?" Photo Courtesy TEDxYerevan

YEREVAN–TEDx Yerevan, held on Saturday, Sept. 25, was born of the desire of a group of TED devotees who had already spent months translating TED talks into Armenian. Beyond Borders was chosen as the theme.

Salpi Ghazarian, Director of the Civilitas Foundation, which was both sponsor and helped organize the event, welcomed the introduction of the TED culture of listening and sharing to Yerevan. “All of us were thirsty for an environment that allows unencumbered thinking, debate, flights of fancy. TED enables that, and TEDx Yerevan brought that home to us.”

The choice of the theme was natural. Yerevan, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited settlements, has been a place on the global map despite continually changing borders. In the globalized 21st century, where nations and states are searching for new ways to define themselves—beyond borders—Yerevan remains the capital of a state whose people have lived beyond all borders for millennia.

A committee of volunteer organizers and a handful of local sponsors got together to hold TEDx Yerevan. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. In the internet world, www.TED.com has become a very popular site for ideas worth spreading, for listening to interesting people around the world with interesting insights and new ideas of global relevance. TED provides general guidance for TEDx programs, but individual TEDx events, including the one in Yerevan, are self-organized.

In the same spirit of ideas worth spreading, at TEDx Yerevan, TEDTalk videos and live speakers combined to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group.

In an all-day event, 17 speakers, including Serj Tankian via videotape, addressed a 200 person, full-house, invited audience.

The speakers included Alexis Ohanian from the US, who contributed actively to securing the TEDx Yerevan event license, had participated in a TED conference in 2009, where he presented “the positive impact of social media on solving various issues”. His Yerevan talk was entitled “You’ve lost control (and that’s OK!). Alexis, who co-founded Reddit.com with a roommate and watched it become one of the World Wide Web’s most striking examples of democracy in action, also founded Breadpig, Inc., an “uncorporation” that’s responsible for bringing geeky things into the world like.

Anna Yeghoyan from Gyumri, Armenia, called her talk, “YOUth Can Make a Difference.” She is a co-founder of the Gyumri-based non-governmental organization “Youth Initiative Center”, and works on women’s development projects at Armenian Caritas.

Hagop Emrazian flew in from Kuwait to talk about “Promoting Learning Within 10 Minutes.” A firm believer in introducing unconventional learning solutions to enhance people’s performance in a multicultural environment, he addressed the importance of self awareness, assertiveness and personal branding.

Hans Gutbrod, who lives in Georgia and is the Regional Director of the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), used the data from multiple research projects, over many years, to speak about the perception of happiness in the South Caucasus countries.

Hrair Hawk Khatcherian, a photographer, a globetrotter and a pilgrim, explained how he came to travel to 44 countries in the last 13 years, photographing everything from Armenian churches and monuments, to landscapes and portraits, to still lifes and nudes. His talk was entitled, “Cancer and the Miracle of Life.”

Rev. Fr. Ktrij (Armen) Devejian, who moved to Armenia from the US nine years ago, entitled his talk, “What Are You Worth?” A licensed architect, he served in the administrations of California Governors George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson. He currently is the Foreign Communications Director for the Catholicosate of All Armenians and the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin as well as the pontifical representative for India.

Meroujan Minassian, an architect and co-founder of the Ket Architect firm based in Yerevan, presented a multi-dimensional approach to visualizing history.

Michael Aram, an internationally recognized designer who has lived and worked in India since 1989, spoke about the function of the outsider’s perspective in validating local art and craftsmanship.

Nvard Manasian, an educator, intermingled her personal educational challenges with her conviction that one must “Question YourSELF if You Want to Have One.”

Paula Devejian, born in Fresno, California, has lived in Armenia since 2001. She currently serves the Armenian Church as the Director of Internet Development at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Her talk was about “Perfect Design.”

Pegor Papazian, Chief Executive Officer of the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia, spoke about theories of development and ways to catalyze development.

Raffi Kassarjian, Chief Executive Officer of iCON Communications in Yerevan, was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and lived for over 30 years in the US until he moved to Armenia in 2008. His talk, “Electronic Brain Fill,” had to do with finding ways to reverse brain drain.

Rich Goldman, vice president of Corporate Marketing and Strategic Alliances for Synopsys and CEO of Synopsys Armenia, said his company, and others like it, should be engaged in G to G interactions, more than B to B.

Siemon Scamell-Katz, an international shopper strategy consultant from the UK, shared insights into shoppers, how they navigate and make purchase decisions, how persuasion works and the broader implications on persuading people to think differently.

Sona Hovhannisyan, a professional pianist turned manager, acknowledged that “All I Know About Management is Music.”

Timothy D. Straight, born in the US, has spent most of his life outside that country, including in Norway for nearly two decades and in Armenia since 2000. After serving in Bosnia as leader of the Norwegian Peoples Aid office during the war, he came to Armenia and headed the Norwegian Refugee Council. He serves as the Norwegian Honorary Consul to Armenia as well as Finnish Honorary Consul. His talk, entitled “Where is Eurasia” looked at Europe as geography, mentality and culture.

Vardan Hovhannisyan, an award-winning documentary filmmaker from Armenia, presented the key to happiness, through his recent film, Donkeymentary, about a village in Kenya, where the only merit of wealth, luck and happiness are donkeys.

In addition to these live guests, Serj Tankian, singer, poet, songwriter, activist, and composer, presented a talk by video, appropriately entitled “Holographic Performance” and advocating the use of technology to transform concerts into economically and environmentally more efficient presentations that continue to tie performer and audience together.

The day-long TEDx Yerevan event was made possible by support from a handful of sponsors: The Ani Plaza Hotel, which served as the event venue, the software and services firm Agrian, DEEM Communications, Autograph-Net Printing, Tufenkian Artisan Carpets, the popular Oregano Restaurant, as well as two young vintners, owners of 365 Wines and Brest Winery.

Kristine Sargsyan, the TEDx licensee, who initiated the event, expressed special thanks to sponsors who were ready to support this first-of-its kind endeavor, sight unseen.

See TEDx Yerevan photos at TEDxYerevan.com and watch TEDx Yerevan speakers videos at the Asbarez TEDxYerevan video section.

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