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Graphic: 9 Ways to Activate the Civic Circle with Ted Talks

TED Talks are engaging to watch, quick to consume and packed with insights. As we continue to explore ways you can activate around the nine elements of the Points of Light Civic Circle, we’re highlighting some of our favorite TED Talks about civic engagement.

The speakers in each of these talks brings their own unique perspective to demonstrate a different facet of each Points of Light’s Civic Circle element, which offer nine different access points for individuals and organizations to lead, lend support and take action for causes they care about. 

Donate: The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong

Activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta challenges the way nonprofits have traditionally functioned. He says that nonprofit organizations should set big goals and be rewarded for big accomplishments, while we should normalize increased spending towards these aims. Whether you donate to a nonprofit or work with one, this talk will give you some new perspectives.

Listen & Learn: How to Disagree Productively and Find Common Ground

Ever had a disagreement with a friend or family member on a social or political issue… and your time spent together turned sour? If you want to find ways to engage in meaningful discourse over the causes you care about without ruining Thanksgiving dinner, this is the talk for you. World debate champion, Julia Dhar offers three techniques to reshape the way we talk, disagree and find common ground.

Purchase Power: Conscious Consumerism – Time to Shop and Live Our Values

Maybe you’ve heard about the concept of being a “conscious consumer,” but what exactly does this practice look like in today’s fast-paced world? In a culture that increasingly prioritizes speed and convenience, retail and marketing expert and activist Diane Ridgway-Cross implores us to wield our purchase power wisely in order to proactively support companies aligning with our beliefs and values.

Service: The Necessity for Servant Leadership

What is a “servant leader,” and how has this role evolved across generations of people who have served their country through military, AmeriCorps and Peace Corps programs? Emily Cherniack is the founder and executive director of New Politics, and in this talk, she brings perspectives from her own year in AmeriCorps as well as insights from President Kennedy and former generations who put country first.

Social Entrepreneur: Profit’s Not Always the Point

Join Harish Manwani, COO of Unilever, as he makes the case for business owners and corporations of all sizes, including major global companies like his, to prioritize value, purpose and sustainability over profit. He discusses why the bottom line shouldn’t always be the chief metric that corporate leaders are looking at when making strategic business decisions.

Vote: There’s No Such Thing as Not Voting

In every election, there are those who choose not to vote. In this TED Talk, former political speechwriter Eric Liu challenges the idea of abstaining from voting with a powerful argument that anyone eligible to vote in an election should do just that. He also brings the idea of joy into voting, rather than simply viewing it as a civic duty or responsibility. You’ll finish watching with a fresh take on voting.

Voice: The Danger of Silence

Got five minutes to watch a TED Talk? Check out this one – a quick but powerful call to action from poet, teacher and activist Clint Smith. It takes courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice, and the cost of not speaking up often outweighs the fear we may feel when using our voices. 

Volunteer: Why Volunteerism is Our Most Precious Heirloom

Hear from EMS chief Dan Batsie as he explores the power of volunteerism in bringing communities together both because of and in spite of their differences. This moving talk demonstrates why volunteerism is as important as ever, among the increasing human and economic costs. 

Work: 3 Ways to Be a Better Ally in the Workplace

Civic engagement doesn’t stop at the border of our personal live, it reaches into our professional lives, too. And since most people spend the majority of their days and weeks at their places of work, it’s helpful to have tangible ways to engage at work. Melinda Briana Epler discusses the many ways that gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability and sexual orientation shape our professional opportunities and how anyone can be an ally for those who face discrimination at work.

Whether it’s on your next lunch break, on your next walk or while cooking dinner, we encourage you to put on one of these TED Talks for education and inspiration. For more ways to live a full civic life, check out our recommended apps, documentaries and books as well as our free digital magazine, Civic Life Today which offers practical, actionable steps to take around each element of the Civic Circle. 

Tag Points of Light on social media to let us know what you’ve learned and how you’re engaging! We look forward to hearing how these resources continue to help you on your journey of civic engagement.

This piece is part of a series that highlights the many ways you can activate the Points of Light Civic Circle using various tools. Check out all the ways you can live your best civic life


  • Diane Quest

    Interim President and CEO

    Points of Light

    Diane Quest is the chief operating officer at Points of Light and has served as an executive leader with the organization since 2016. An accomplished nonprofit executive, she brings 20 years of experience in management, strategy, and external affairs, including marketing and communications, event production and experience, and partnerships. In her tenure at Points of Light, she has served in a variety of roles as a member of the executive leadership team responsible for enterprise strategy, and most recently she served as chief external affairs officer, where she was responsible for brand strategy, the annual Points of Light Conference, The George H.W. Bush Points of Light Awards and Celebration, and The Daily Point of Light Award. Diane has an extensive background in strategic and crisis communications. In her previous role at MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership she successfully led a rebranding effort, a strategy that resulted in increased visibility in earned media and social media, and the doubling of registration at the organization’s annual national conference. Prior to MENTOR, she was a consultant with Camino Public Relations, a boutique firm with a focus on social justice nonprofit clients. She served at The Pew Charitable Trusts as the communications manager for a jointly sponsored advocacy project with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Prior to her work at Pew, Diane was the national media director at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She managed the development and implementation of media relations campaigns to advance the mission of the $1 billion reproductive health care and advocacy organization. In addition to her nonprofit work, Diane also has experience working within the federal government. She was the media and legislative affairs liaison for the inspector general at the U.S. Department of State. Before entering the field of communications and public relations, she was a television journalist. She has a Master of Arts in political science from American University in Washington, D.C., and a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.