10/27/2010 10:58 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Building and Supporting a Local Community of Change Agents

As an academic, I've spent a lot of time and effort attending conferences to learn things I never knew before, and to meet like-minded people. And over the years have nurtured great friendships with people attending these conferences, and it is those relationships that are the greatest value in attending any event. Many of these friends, I only get to see once a year at the annual conference since we live so far apart and keep ourselves so busy throughout the year.

Conferences like TED are so inspiring; you wish they could go on forever. While big conferences tend to become fixated on the bigger challenges facing the world, there are also local challenges right here in our back yard. In organizing TEDxHongKong, I've begun to realize how many people there are working to create positive change here. Organizations such as the Global Institute for Tomorrow, Sow Asia, the Social Entrepreneurship Forum, and the World Peace Café are just a few of the many groups dedicated to raising local awareness and promoting sustainable development.

Just as there is a "slow food" movement that promotes local food, perhaps it is possible to organize an event that brings together local innovators inspired to "create change." Since the participants are local, there is an opportunity to meet more frequently and work toward developing new projects and ventures, especially around the area of sustainability and social enterprise. More than just sharing ideas, a community would be built that could take action. Just as in a slow food party, everyone participates! The process of preparing the food is as much a labor of love as is the consumption; everyone offers to do what they are best at and each feels a part of the whole. There are many new "experiment" communities to support the development of new models such as the Unreasonable Institute, Palomar5, and Y Combinator.

With this in mind, we are launching a new conference called Re-Ignite in Hong Kong as part of the Second Annual Asia Consciousness Festival. The conference brings together local and international scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs interested in transformation and change. Re-Ignite borrows from the conference model and also extends it by making the event more experiential and action-oriented.

While most conferences focus on ideas and networking, Re-Ignite introduces participants to experiential practices related to mind-body wellness. Given the economic situation in many parts of the world, our challenge is to transform the existing consumer culture into a culture of innovation. It is easy for one to lose one's bearings during these times of continual change. Increasing chronic stress brought about by the demands of modern life makes it difficult to innovate. Even worse, physical and mental health decline, which distorts perspective, increases stress, and leads to a vicious cycle.

Learning to live a balanced and integrated life is essential to creating sustainable organizations, products, and services. New research into the relationship between mind and body, positive psychology, and the effects of traditional practices such as mindfulness and deep breathing on the physiology provide insight into the health benefits of more conscious living.

Admission into Re-Ignite also gains participants membership into M-Power an informal bi-monthly gathering held to continue discussions and create new opportunities. Supporting M-Power is M-Lab, a commercially oriented academic laboratory which can nurture projects and ventures that emerge from M-Power.

I know that most people keep their lives very full and busy, but there are a growing number of skilled, talented, and passionate individuals who are looking for more meaningful endeavors to dedicate their lives too. They range from university graduates that have shunned the corporate world to professionals looking for better work-life balance to the semi-retired who continue to enjoy learning and contributing to society. It is these individuals that Re-Ignite targets, with the intention to develop and support a local community of entrepreneurial change agents who are working toward a more meaningfully productive life.