Kaila Colbin

Kaila Colbin is the co-founder of Ministry of Awesome, NZ Ambassador to Singularity University and, Chairman of the Board of the New York-based Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, and a member of the Advisory Board for the Christchurch Transitional Architecture Trust.


BS: What are you working on now?
KC: I’m currently working on TEDxScottBase, which airs this weekend! It’s the first ever TEDx event on a government base in Antarctica, and features scientists, photographers, entrepreneurs, a musician, an astronaut and a Cousteau.

We’re also hard at work growing SingularityU New Zealand, building from the immense success of the SingularityU New Zealand Summit we ran late last year. Our ambition is to help New Zealand and the wider region understand exponentially accelerating technologies so that we can all adapt and thrive in a changing world.

I also have a number of board appointments and do lots of public speaking.

BS: Why do you live in Christchurch instead of a larger city?
KC: Because Christchurch is AWESOME! It is such an exciting time to live in this city. Following the earthquakes that devastated our city in 2011, there was a blossoming of what we call the “transitional movement” — people using experimentation to actively co-create the kind of city they wanted to live in. So we have organisations like Gap Filler — whose latest project is a giant street arcade with a life-sized joystick — and the Festival of Transitional Architecture, which takes over the city once every two years with giant architectural installations.

But it’s not just the funky creatives doing stuff. Our local government — I’ve joined the board of the agency responsible for tourism, events and economic development — is also excited about doing things differently and looking to the future, embracing the tremendous opportunities we have not only economically and technologically but also socially.

BS: What are you most proud of?
KC: I’m most proud of the way the projects I’ve led or co-created (TEDxChristchurch, Ministry of Awesome, SingularityU New Zealand) have contributed to the people of Christchurch.

BS: What have you changed about yourself recently?
KC: Yikes… I don’t know about “changed recently…” There are always things I’m working on. I tend to get really impatient with people, for example, which is something I’m quite ashamed of. So it’s a continuous process to be more mindful of that.

BS: Tell me about your first TED experience.
KC: In 2011, I went to TEDActive in Palm Springs. A week before the event started, Christchurch was hit by a huge earthquake. 185 people died, and we lost 70% of the footprint of our central city. While I was at TEDActive, I had the chance to give a 3-minute talk, and I spoke about what had just happened. I spoke about how devastated we were, and I also spoke about how the rubble of our city might also contain its promise: we had the opportunity to reimagine our city, and we could reimagine it in any way we chose. Friend of mine in New Zealand put up a website, reimaginechristchurch.org.nz (it doesn’t exist anymore) overnight, to capture ideas from people about the kind of city they wanted to live in. We got hundreds of submissions, and later gave them to the city council as part of their Share An Idea programme. That event also kickstarted TEDxEQChCh — worst event name ever — an event focused specifically on the future of the city post-quake. In a lot of ways my entire professional life today can be traced back to that first TED experience!

Check out Christchurch on Wikipedia.
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