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TEDxChange: Looking Beyond Our Own Backyard

by Kate Hodel | Apr 16, 2012

It's easy to get caught up in our own worlds, and how we can create more jobs, more businesses, more innovation, more entrepreneurs. And then events like TedxChange come to town and remind us how important it is to look further than our own backyard.

Last week’s TedxChange, simulcast from Germany, reminded us that we are part of an interdependent, global community—and that many, too many, in that community don’t have food, clean water, life-saving medical treatment, and vaccines. It reminded us that we need to extend our reach, our thinking, and our innovation, that we can’t do business as usual.

Here are just a few thoughts we took away from TedxChange. We’d love to hear what impressed you.

(You can see the entire broadcast here.)

Design enables conversation

Jeff Chapin, IDEO, uses design as a means to address longstanding social and environmental issues that exist in developing countries and in his homeland of the United States. He talked about minimizing diarrhea in southeast Asia through better latrines and focused on design as a way of enabling conversation.

His six key points:

  • build upon cultural norms
  •  look for analogous models: for them it was how people build basic houses and then improve; build a basic latrine and then improve
  • prototypes must be culturally relevant
  • listen to lead users
  • be open to serendipity; be flexible to adapt from mistakes
  •  work on the process as well as the product; make it easy for people to buy/use/engage

“If you can put on a big festival, you can work together to solve problems."

A group of young Indian children from a very poor area has been working on getting their community vaccinated for polio. A video update on the project revealed that they'd gotten up to 80 percent but were shooting for 100 percent, which included mapping the community so they'd know which houses they had missed. Google didn't have them on the map. Smart phones and GPS technology allowed them to upload house-to-house data. And then they talked about how other communities could do the same:

"If we have to wait for African women to win a Nobel Peace Prize before they get a place at the table, we'll wait a very long time."

An African woman talked about how many discussions of HIV/AIDS/economy in Africa do not include African women in the discussion. Women are talked about, but are not included in the conversation, and if they are, only a few select women are invited.

Education and access

Melinda Gates closed with a great presentation on why contraception should get back on the world health agenda. She focused on why contraception should be a couple's choice, why people don't want to talk about it, and how most of the world has 66 percent use of contraception, with the exception of sub Saharan Africa and parts of Southeast Asia, where she believes couples would make similar choices if they had education and access.

“Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. Transformation is flattery.”

The final presentation in Kansas City was live. Austin Kleon talked about imagination and creativity. He says that artists are collectors, not hoarders; the collect selectively the things that they love.

Then he went on to tell his story of writer's block and how he started blacking out words of newspaper articles to create poems - the Newspaper Blackout process. He compared it to CIA files that are released to the public.

When his book came out, someone told him he was stealing from a guy named Tom Phillips. After some research, he discovered that Tom Phillips borrowed ideas from William Burroughs . . . and then traced the whole thing back through several "thieves" to a friend of Benjamin Franklin.

His point: nothing is completely original: everything is a remix or mash up.

He closed by saying "imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery...transformation is flattery." He challenged the audience to take the ideas we get today, transform them and put them out into the world for others to steal.

(And here's a final thought...when you are watching a broadcast talk, do you clap for people who can't hear you?)

Content contributed by Kate Pope Hodel of MOSourceLink, par of U.S.SourceLink, America's largest resource network for entrepreneurs. 

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