By Dean Whittaker

We are all striving to be unique, to stand out, and differentiate ourselves. How are you known among your colleagues, friends, and peers? How will you be remembered?

Communities, being a collection of individuals, face these same questions. What makes yours special? If you were asked, what is West Michigan known for, what would you say? To me, it is known as a community that cares. It cares about itself, and it cares about others. What struck me when I moved here 18 years ago was how passionate residents were about the place in which they lived. The level of community involvement was one that I had not experienced anywhere else that I had lived or worked. The compassion that I saw and felt both by individuals and companies was unlike any I had observed, and it was amazing to me. Perhaps this is why it was selected as the second happiest place (Boulder being first) in the United States by the Gallop Poll.

On March 8, 2012, the Knickerbocker Theater in Holland, Michigan will be the venue for an event that has been 18 months in the making. TEDx Macatawa ( was created by an all volunteer army of over 100 people that have put in more than 10,000 hours. The TEDx platform is part of a global effort to spread ideas. It is modeled after a long-standing TED conference in which a group of individuals are invited to a conference to share their world-changing ideas in Technology, Entertainment, and Design ( The audience applies to attend and is carefully selected based on their level of engagement in the community. This method creates synergy as great ideas are shared with those most likely to carry out the positive momentum within their communities. Over 450 people have applied to attend the TEDx Macatawa event, which has a capacity for 400. The event will be live-streamed via the Internet to individuals, other viewing locations, and area schools classrooms.

The event taking place will feature 16 speakers ( from West Michigan who have been curated to represent the theme “Do More Good.” They will each give a 15-18 minute presentation sharing their idea for how they are “Doing More Good.” This theme was selected to showcase compassion as one of the outstanding features of our West Michigan community. It will feature a number of stories reflecting efforts in our community to make the world a better place. These presentations will become part of a global TED library of material that can be accessed without charge in order to spread the ideas to other parts of the world.

Checkout the event on March 8th by viewing the live-stream at