TEDx and Transparency

When TEDxPhnom Penh initially launched in Cambodia, I assisted with the organizing committee, and encouraged friends with prior TED experience to participate.

Over a period of several months I came to realize that TED is quite a popular name and event.
TED talks are volunteer-run events, and as such can take considerable time and effort.
My hat’s off to any team that can pull it off smoothly.

For the first talk (2010) I dropped out after several months of meetings. I simply couldn’t commit enough time. I also had some reservations about speakers being selected from members of the organizing committee, as well as internal transparency in the decision-making process. I figured those items would be fixed as the talks became a yearly event.

In 2011, an anonymous email invited me to participate in TedXPhnomPenh by evaulating potential speakers. I replied with two questions:
- Who was involved this time?
- How much time would this require?

I never received an answer.

In March 2012, another anonymous email invited me to be a judge for ‘TedXPP’.
This time my query was simple: Who are you?

This time I got a response. The TEDxPP team would web up a list of their members on their web site. (Hasn’t happened yet.)

Nearly a month later, I find out (via Facebook) that I’m being listed as an attendee at a ‘Tweetup’ for TEDxPP with the US Embassy. I did not solicit nor approve this announcement. And I still don’t know who’s doing what for TEDx.

I think TedXPP is an interesting idea, and am pleased they have invited friends of mine like Kounila Keo and Preetam Rai. I’m also pleased that the US Embassy is reaching out via social media.

I would like to clarify that I will NOT be attending this meeting. I will also be withholding my endorsement of TEDxPP until they publicly list their staff. It’s a great concept, but the team needs to get their act in gear.

Postscript: The TEDxPP site has just added their volunteer list, sans roles.

8 Responses to “TEDx and Transparency”

  1. Hi John –

    Thanks for your kind words about TEDxPhnomPenh in this article. I appreciate that you acknowledge it’s an all-volunteer outfit and that it’s a big time commitment (I’m sneaking this in on my lunch break now).

    But you’re right, transparency is important, particularly with such a big-name event. I’m sorry no one got back to you on your first e-mail. We’ve posted a list of our current volunteers on the website, right above a contact form where anyone who would like to get involved with TEDxPhnomPenh can reach out; I can personally guarantee a response within 48 hours.

    Oh, and we didn’t mean to make it look like you were an attendee at the event! Sorry for the confusion! That was just in the Khmer tradition of tagging the first 20 people who come to mind when you post a Facebook photo. I went ahead and untagged you to avoid confusion.

    Thanks for voicing your concerns! Let me know if you want to meet in person to follow up, happy to sit down for coffee or whatever.

    All the best,

  2. I kind of had the same feeling about a lack of transparency in the beginning of TEDxPP (and being volunteers is not an excuse at all), but I think now the people in charge are known in PP. I am more concerned about the involvement of the US Embassy, since they represent a country that is getting really bad in internet freedom.

  3. Jerry says:


    The PP mix of presentations has been rather too NGO centric to meet the description, in my opinion.

  4. Jinja says:

    @Roswell: Please don’t use my name to promote your product/brand. Especially when there’s no one listed on the TedxPP site. That’s what led to this blog post. Thanks for this initial step towards more public clarity.

    @Thomas: Being known in Phnom Penh is easy. Literally displaying it should not be hard. I’m tickled to see @USEmbPhnomPenh rubbing shoulders with @KosalKhiev and @MuSochua! Maybe they’ll lobby for the ‘My Asian Americana‘ video to get recognition? ;)

    @Jerry: I’d enjoy seeing the talks become more diverse with each new iteration. The TedxPP team has been open to critique. If you have recommendations, I’d suggest you get in contact. Criticism is easy; construction is hard.

  5. anida says:

    john – i can’t believe you put kosal and US Embassy and My Asian Americana in the same sentence. niiice! i thought i was the global agitator but you’re stirring up some trouble too. i think it’s great to keep each other accountable and the dialogue open. TedX has been a great supporter of our work and Kosal’s. to that we are deeply appreciative. Roswell played a character in our never to be released (or finished) spoof about the White House scandal. i’m interested in TedX being more accessible by Khmer people and for Khmer people but i think this may be intrinsically impossible because the TED brand itself is self-serving and English based.

  6. Grr! says:

    Big brother is watching you…

  7. Jinja says:

    I’m assuming the writer above is Visal, from his tweet with similar language.
    While I am getting a number of responses on this topic, I’m going to refrain from posting any more unless commenters identify themselves clearly via email / web site / details. (As befits conversation about transparency, after all.)

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