Creating civic community around thought leaders in Boston

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending the IDEAS Boston conference, sponsored by the Boston Globe.  It was a truly refreshing and thought-provoking event — not the usual kind of dull panel-dominated humdrum conference that seems too much the norm these days.  It was like a great meal of tasty tapas — with only 20 minutes alloted to each speaker, and topics ranging from nanotechnology to sculpture to the woes in Sudan, the audience spent two days captivated by idea after idea.  Kudos to my colleague John Palfrey from the Berkman Center for stirring things up with his own presentation of “things that he worries about” from the point of view of an attorney and Internet expert.  This includes the growing apathy of younger generations in the US, and the potential for using technology to capture their attention.

The Boston Globe deserves a lot of credit for being brave enough to carve out a space for public discourse about cutting edge ideas from around the Boston area.  This is an area that is usually the domain of universities or foundations, but somehow these latter groups aren’t as good as also pulling off events with good content that also have some marketing slickness and good packaging.  In this case the Globe did a great job of creating an atmosphere of open dialogue and coolness out of which a dominating spirit of humanitarianism and concern for others emerged.  Hopefully there will be more of these in the future.

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