Chicago Ideas Week is an annual seven-day festival featuring over 200 speakers and more than 150 events spread across three main venues. The festival is put on by Chicago Ideas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to offering events and digital content that are both accessible and impactful. The organization strives to make the festival an entertaining and inspiring experience. The purpose of Chicago Ideas Week is to create a stimulating environment that crosses industry and social boundaries, where ideas can flow without restraint.


Chicago Ideas was founded in 2011 by Brad Keywell, the co-founder of Groupon. Chicago Ideas Week, which was first held that same year, is chiefly geared towards empowering the local community through exposure to topics that are relevant to the social and economic success of the Chicago area. In the interest of community engagement and inclusivity, most tickets are only $15. Chicago Ideas Week is one of the largest and most affordable ideas festivals in the world, with about 30,000 attendees annually. “What better way to stoke our community of curiosity than to facilitate conversations across borders?” said Jessica Malkin, Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Ideas Week, in a press release.

Chicago Ideas WeekThe festival also takes on a global focus, in accordance with Chicago Ideas’ mission statement, which states that “Chicago Ideas aims to be the world’s leading catalyst for inspiring, connecting, and empowering curious people in order to make the world a better place.” In past years, speakers such as Hillary Clinton, George Lucas, Buzz Aldrin, and Sandra Day O’Connor have spoken on such varied topics as making hard choices, altering history, and the value of education. Events fall into one of two categories: 90 minute talks or hour-long conversations. The festival also gives attendees the opportunity to participate in hands-on labs at various local companies.

In the months leading up to this year’s festival, Chicago Ideas hosted a Curiosity Series, a series of events featuring conversations between an interviewer and an innovative leader in his or her respective area. It was first held in 2016 and ran from February 23-May 11 of this year, with Alec Baldwin as the headlining speaker. The series began with Reimagining Prison, a multi-disciplinary program that encouraged attendees to consider the purpose and effects of incarceration. The Curiosity Series featured speakers from many different disciplines, including Arne Duncan, Joi Ito, and Bassem Yousef. The series is representative of Chicago Ideas’ effort to extend themselves across the calendar and into new territory.

Chicago Ideas Week 2017

The seventh annual festival takes place from October 16-22. The speakers will discuss topics such as leadership and life’s lessons, science and technology, and creativity in the entertainment business. Keywell has said that “Every year we strive to provide stimulating programs with world-renowned speakers while fulfilling our mission of crossing industry and social boundaries to spark ideas into action.” Chicago Ideas Week’s programs, speakers, and labs offer opportunities for brand development, networking, and market expansion; but most importantly, the festival brings together people and ideas, forging a bridge to creativity, innovation, and new ways of thinking.

Chicago Ideas WeekChicago Ideas Week takes place from October 16-22. To find out more about the presenters at this event, check out the list of this year’s featured speakers!


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