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Ignite Tampa gives speakers 5 minutes to spark a community movement

No politicians, politics or pitches. Just community.

That's the focus of Ignite Tampa, an annual TED talk-style open mic night where people share their passions and visions for the Tampa Bay area.

The Cuban Club in Ybor City will host more than 20 speakers from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday. Speakers have a five-minute time limit for presentations. Former Tampa police Chief Jane Castor will emcee the evening.

Joy Randels, co-chair for Ignite Tampa and a previous speaker, said the event holds something for everyone. Her first and only presentation, at the 2013 event, was about the importance of startups for communities. Randels has been involved in the tech industry for the past 20 years.

Presentations can be as simple and personal as the importance of practice or as broad and complex as social injustice.

"The intent is for them to talk about something they're really passionate about, anything that motivates the community," Randels said.

Organizers also reach out to community members whose ideas could spark a movement.

Past events had people talking up their visions for mass transit, ideas for Tampa International Airport and the importance of involvement in community projects and organizations.

Mark Lombardi-Nelson, 22, spoke last year about the "art of monthly challenges" and how those challenges exposed him to different ideas and lifestyles.

Each month Lombardi-Nelson took on a new challenge like drinking a gallon of water a day and finally learning to swim after 22 years in Florida. His favorite challenge: writing a thank-you note to someone every day.

"It wasn't just a diet thing, it was self-discipline," Lombardi-Nelson said. "It doesn't matter if you succeed or fail, it's about exposing yourself to new ways to live your life."

Lombardi-Nelson said it was difficult to narrow his thoughts into a five-minute presentation, but was glad he could share his journey with an audience and connect with fellow speakers.

The Ignite concept was created in Seattle in 2006 and came to Tampa in 2008. About 200 cities around the world put on Ignite events.

This year's speakers came from a crop of more than 90 applicants. Speakers were selected after organization leaders and community members voted to hear their topics presented.

Ignite Tampa has two teenage speakers this year, one talking about social injustice in the community and the other discussing the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, in schools.

Other notable topics include "The Joy of Missing Out," "My Radical Sabbatical (or 77 days in an RV with 3 kids under 5)" and a chat about the elusive "Florida Man" portrayed as a superhero.

"The best talks are the ones that are personal," Randels said. "We see things come out of this (like) community participation."

Randels said that last year she challenged the audience to do one selfless act every week for a year. She hasn't decided on the challenge for this year.

"You have to do something without expecting anything in return," she said. "That's how you build the community."

Contact Chelsea Tatham at ctatham@tampabay.com. Follow @chelseatatham.

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