TEDxDonovanCorrectional – Mariette Fourmeaux du Sartel – Organizer

In Collaborating, Organizing by Mark Sylvester

The Hack:
Ignite and honor the brilliance of each individual on the team


In five minutes of listening to Mariette Fourmeaux du Sartel talk about why she has spent the past couple of years going to prison every week, in San Diego, to help create TEDxDonovanCorrectional, you will understand how her passion drives her to continue, overcoming obstacles every visit.

Mariette deeply cares for the men at Donovan Correctional and taught me so much about the challenges she and the team face in producing the event. She quoted one of the men who told her, "In my 20 years of incarceration, I've never been treated as a human until now." Wow.

After the wild success of TEDxDonovanCorrectional held at San Diego’s Donovan state prison, Mariette has transferred her passion for building resilient high-performing teams and authentic human-centered leadership – honed through two decades in corporate and start-ups – into the unlikely environment that is prison. She founded Brilliance Inside, a nonprofit program to transform prison from being strictly a container of violence to a creator of rehabilitation and peace.

Before this, Mariette spent 17 years in business, developing cutting-edge technologies for world-scale problems, such as a cancer-detecting medical device in Paris, d.light’s solar lanterns for the rural poor without electricity in India and a new augmented reality technology at HP, Inc. She also grew up intertwined in the creation and expansion of her family wine businesses, starting at the ripe age of 6. Mariette is a true global citizen: born in France, she’s lived on four continents and has explored some of the most remote corners of our world. Finally, Mariette holds a double materials engineering and economics degree from Brown University and a Berkeley MBA.

I had no idea if we were going into the jaws of a lion or the cuddles of a kitten."Mariette Fourmeaux du Sartel - Organizer

The Lightning Round

  • Tell us a bit about your background and your TEDx origin story.

    "My journey started with hearing, while meditating one day, the words that changed my life forever: "go to prison." To resolve the inner battle that ensued, I googled "prisons in San Diego" and set foot inside prison about 5 months later. Wishing for others to experience the richness in humanity I discovered in this dark and violent place led me to organize TEDxDonovanCorrectional."

  • How many TEDx events have you worked with or produced?

    There are 30 TEDx events held in prisons. She went to one of the original prison TEDx events at Marion Correctional to understand the rehearsal and event experience firsthand.

  • What makes your TEDx unique?

    It's in prison. There are constraints on this event that other events don't have to consider - no paper is allowed. You can't do a thing without review and pre-approval. Safety is the number one concern for everyone - the external team members and inmates.

  • What’s your Superpower?

    Organizing and Collaborating

  • What was the biggest surprise while working on your event?

    The transformation of the inmates as they went through the process of working together - which is not a natural behavior in prison.

  • Every event has its challenges, what was the biggest dragon you had to overcome?

    It's in prison.

  • The show is called Hacking the Red Circle, so what's your best hack?

    Ignite and honor the brilliance of each individual on the team

Featured Episodes


TEDxUCLouvain – Creating an Experience in spite of COVID

Finding ways to be creative and stay connected to your TEDx Community during these challenging times of sequestering and dealing with a global pandemic can test even the most creative Organizers.

Lara Stein – Founder of TEDx

On the first day of TED2019 in Vancouver, Randy Bretz, TEDxLincoln, Emeritus, and I were honored to interview the founder of TEDx, Lara Stein.

TEDxSydney – Remo Giuffre – Organizer

Remo Giuffre, the original licensee of TEDxSydney, has the envious position of curating one of the most widely respected TEDx events in the world.