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TEDxToronto: Making Policy Fun

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On Oct 26, Vasiliki (Vass) Bednar will be one of 15 Canadians giving a TEDxToronto address at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. An Action Canada fellow, she's designing a Canadian board game that simulates policy-making and highlights the joys of contemporary governance.

What I'm hoping to impart on the audience is that public policy, which people think of as being something foreign, nerdy, and overly political can actually be fun and accessible in order to allow people to be a part of shaping decisions that can make our society better. The policy-making process doesn't have to be oppositional and exclusive, and it needs to be reminded that "the public" can be an extraordinary source of innovative solutions to increasingly complex social problems.

The "how" part is tough. People think, "Sure, I could do that, but how do I actually get connected so it's not oppositional?" Because right now, the policy process forces people to be reactive, not proactive. You get upset after something and you protest that -- you stomp your feet. But we can modify that aspect.

Right now, except when you go to the ballot box, the only time you're in touch with government is when you're complaining about something. You never just call to say, "Hey my garbage pick up is always on time and my bins are always upright. And I appreciate that." It's almost never a positive exchange of appreciation, and it's light-years away from being playful. And though as a citizen you can provide some input at the ballot box, you're never called on to contribute to the policy design process. Public policy never invites you over to come and play.

I think the TEDx audience will be receptive to thinking about how something super-serious and formal can be playful, and I'm getting to the point in my preparation where if I don't say a certain sentence that I wrote, or if I miss a point, that I know it doesn't matter. I know to just think about what I'm trying to say and not get hung up on the details. If I miss something, people aren't going to notice -- I'm going to notice -- but I have to keep going and keep my narrative.

The most interesting aspect of conveying my ideas on stage is that, being a policy person, I'm much more used to writing more than speaking. Someone last night said, "This isn't the first time you're giving this talk, is it?" And I was like, "Uh yeah, I wrote it just for this!" People watching this Friday, October 26 are going to have something to laugh and think about when my seven minutes are up.

Watch Vass Bendar's talk via live-stream this Friday at www.tedxtoronto.com