It’s easy to discount the impact of a good idea if it doesn’t inspire you to action. Something that is persuasive, beautiful or thought-provoking still might not get you out of your chair and out the door. But that’s not Jonathan Holiday’s story.
Jonathan came to last year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland event excited to hear new ideas. The theme of the event, think.inspire.go. was one which intrigued him. It seemed to coincide with some of his basic values about how to go about taking action: Small steps, once taken, take on momentum and pretty soon you find that you’re realizing your dreams. Relatively new to Portland, his main hope for the event was to get as much out of it as he could.
What stuck with Jonathan that morning was a story of social entrepreneurship. The talk, given by Polly Bangs and Tres Shannon, was about Bangs’s project to create job opportunities for low-income, at-risk youth. After the local businesses that were supplying jobs for these youths were affected by the recession, she needed to become creative. She partnered with Tres Shannon and Voodoo Donuts, applied for funding for a van, and created a mobile business where these youths could work and gain experience.
Jonathan was touched by how selfless and constructive this project was. He’s been an auctioneer for over seventeen years for one of the world’s largest auction companies, a company whose clients include many large corporations and businesses; however, he’s also utilized his auctioneering expertise to help raise over two million dollars for charities and non-profits. What he saw in the talk was something familiar, a union between business and non-profit, but in its organic origins it was unmistakably different. Bangs and Shannon were partnering because of a clear need in the community.
Here were people inspiring real change, he thought, and by the end of the final session he realized that he didn’t just want to be inspired for the day. Sitting down or standing-by wasn’t enough. He believes in taking action and he wanted to begin taking the steps needed to make things happen.
After the conference, he contacted Polly and asked if they could use another van for her Urban Opportunities program. She accepted—they definitely had need for another one.
The pieces began to fall into place. One of his clients, Frito Lay, sells the same type of van that Voodoo needs and they generously agreed to donate one. He jumped at the opportunity, but there was only one hitch: though they had plenty available, there were none in the Pacific Northwest. A search began and for the past few months Jonathan has worked diligently to locate a van nearby.
But very recently his search ended. A van will be ready for Impact NW by the end of the year!
Jonathan’s found that both TEDxConcordiaUPortland and the city of Portland itself have renewed his creativity. In his future he sees himself getting back to screenwriting, doing more public speaking, and pursuing new business ventures. “Portland’s an amazing place,” he said. “It’s artistically and creatively dynamic.” He motioned to the bustling coffee shop we sat in. “Even this place. You couldn’t find this anywhere else.” I agreed. The place, filled with local art and décor, was humming with people conversing, plugging-in, and otherwise sharing ideas.
As we were getting ready to leave, he ended with this thought: “It’s changed my life to be able to change others’ lives.”
TEDxConcordiaUPortland has the power to do this. Ideas spread in ways that no one can foresee. At this year’s event, be prepared to hear about people who are “Becoming Extraordinary,” but more importantly be prepared to be changed.
By Sean Wheaton