A decade of events in Amsterdam

TEDx is a name that’s known all across the globe. It’s a name that’s synonymous with big ideas, big thinkers and big changes in the way that we live our lives. Whether it’s exploring the refugee crisis, new technologies or art, TEDx beings together people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world, believing in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately the world. A decade ago, TEDx came to Amsterdam. Founded by Dutch author Jim Stolze in 2009, TEDxAmsterdam events have featured speakers from all over the world, helping to share big ideas and drive positive change.

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In the Netherlands, TEDxAmsterdam has played a crucial role in driving change, hosting world-class events that help give a stage to speakers sharing their ideas about how to make the world a better place. To celebrate its tenth edition, TEDxAmsterdam is hosting a special anniversary installment at Amsterdam’s Stadsschouwburg on Thursday, 29 November. With this in mind, we’ve picked out five key moments from TEDxAmsterdam’s first decade.


A flying start in 2009

The first conference in the Netherlands to have a waiting list of more than 4,500 people, TEDxAmsterdam’s inaugural event was probably the perfect start. Founder Stolze had been granted the license to bring TEDx to the Netherlands after appearing as a speaker at TEDx in Palm Springs, California in 2009. Held at Amsterdam’s Royal Tropical Institute, the first edition was nominated for an Event Award by High Profile in 2009, and the programme book won a European Design Award in 2010. Thanks to sponsors, the event was free of charge (or “priceless”, as Stolze puts it).

The launch of the TEDxAmsterdam Award

Launched in only the event’s second year, the TEDxAmsterdam Award aims to help people with big ideas translate their dreams into reality, supporting entrepreneurs and creatives through knowledge, experience and exposure to its network of influencers, change makers and business and science partners. It’s not about profit, but about inspiring others – whether that’s through sustainability, education, physical and mental well-being or social innovation. Take 2017 finalist Veronique de Bruijn, whose renewable chemicals company Photanol processes CO2 and sunlight into valuable chemical products. The firm recently closed an €8m euro finance round to build a demonstration plant in Delfzijl. Reflecting on her experience, Veronique says: “The TEDxAmsterdam Award helped me to find a way to convey our story to a much larger audience, to find the words to speak the language of the many people we had to tell it to so that they understood how it could solve their problem.”


A tribute to Joep Lange

One of the world’s leading researchers in AIDS therapy, Joep Lange dedicated his life to improving access to HIV/AIDS therapy in developing countries and served as the president of the International AIDS Society from 2002 to 2004. He tragically lost his life when the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down on 17 July 2014 over Ukraine, just weeks before he had been due to give a speech at TEDxAmsterdam’s 2014 event. To honour Lange’s tireless dedication to fighting AIDS, his peers from all around the world paid him a touching tribute, before Dutch actor Kees Hulst read out an article about research in Africa Lange had written before his death. A poignant moment in TEDxAmsterdam’s history and a fitting tribute to an extraordinary man.

A force for change

One of TEDx’s main aims has always been to promote positive message and ideas that can have a global impact, and TEDxAmsterdam has taken that mission very seriously over the course of the last decade. Take Princess Margriet of the Netherlands’ talk about natural disaster prevention and relief in 2015, or an emotional talk by Raed el Saleh, the leader of Syria Civil Defence’s 2,851 search and rescue volunteers – also known as the ‘White Helmets’ – in 2016. Throughout TEDxAmsterdam’s roster of past events you can find multiple examples of presentations by people who might not have had a voice elsewhere, or who send a clear message that action needs to be taken now for the greater good.

Tackling controversial topics

As well as promoting positive change, TEDx events have always strived to create a healthy dialogue and debate around our understanding of the world and what it means to be human. With this in mind, TEDxAmsterdam’s organisers have hosted a number of speakers whose views could be considered controversial. Take General Peter van Uhm, who in 2011 argued that the gun might be “one of the most important instruments of peace and stability that we have in this world” in an impassioned speech. Or the 2012 talk by Dutch artist Tinkebell, who gained national notoriety in 2004 after making a handbag she claimed was made from the fur of her pet cat, saying she had killed and skinned the animal herself. By providing a platform for speakers whose views are considered controversial and even extreme, TEDxAmsterdam has shown it’s unafraid to take risks in order to provoke healthy debate.


Find out more about TEDxAmsterdam's 10th edition, or read more news stories from around Amsterdam