Debra Lam’s TEDx Talk: Building Stronger Communities through Local Innovation and Partnerships

August 22, 2023, 12:08pm EDT

In her captivating TEDx talk, Debra Lam explores the realm of Wicked Problems – complex societal challenges that seem insurmountable. Issues like climate change, poverty and homelessness demand collective efforts and innovative thinking. Drawing from her diverse expertise in nonprofit, government, corporation and higher education, Lam reveals the crucial role of local partnerships and innovation in addressing these challenges.

Wicked Problems are not ordinary hurdles with quick fixes; they are intricate, ever-evolving challenges intertwined with social, economic and environmental factors. Lam emphasizes that her talk isn’t solely about climate change but encompasses all Wicked Problems and how communities can confront them together.

Based on her earlier experiences in Pittsburgh, Lam highlights the importance of involving local innovators in tackling these issues. Start-ups, universities, small businesses and nonprofits can all be catalysts for change by offering expertise and creative solutions tailored to their specific challenges. An example is PGHLAB, a groundbreaking 6-month partnership in Pittsburgh that connects start-ups with local government authorities to address Wicked Problems, leading to transformative results like combating food insecurity and waste.

Lam also emphasizes the role of universities in addressing these challenges, where research can be translated into impactful applications through collaboration with local governments. For instance, a smart traffic management system developed through a collaboration between Georgia Tech and Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia, improved emergency response time and saved lives.

To effectively address Wicked Problems, Lam suggests rethinking traditional public-private partnerships. The new generation of collaborations encompasses physical, digital and social infrastructures, fostering inclusivity and embracing a diversity of voices. Trust and relationships become the driving forces for finding innovative and sustainable solutions.

In conclusion, Lam’s call to action urges us to identify and address Wicked Problems in our communities. By embracing local innovation, fostering partnerships and promoting inclusivity, we can pave the way for a more sustainable and equitable future. While challenges and setbacks may arise, Lam’s vision offers hope, showing that strong, resilient communities are achievable when we collaborate, innovate and persevere together. The potential for positive change lies in our hands.

Lastly, we give thanks to Jacqui Chew for making this impactful TEDxAtlanta talk possible and bringing attention to these crucial societal challenges.

Debra Lam gives Ted Talk on building stronger communities
Debra Lam gives Ted Talk on building stronger communities

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