Hans Roslin introducing the MDG stats to the audiences

Last Monday I had a rare opportunity to attend a conference organised by TED, one of the most forward thinking organisation of the moment, thanks to my good friend Rebecca Wright, who was part of the London team of organisers.

The topics discussed by speakers revolved around the Millennium Development Goals program which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and were mostly focused on the improvement of people’s life conditions across the globe through insightful aid programmes as well as personal case studies promoting change.

Taking place in the truly inspiring location of London’s Science Museum the first half of the event was comprised of a series of multicasts simultaneously transmitted to 82 countries (our keen Australian antipodes, for example, being on blankets and pyjamas while watching) and an inspiring panel of speakers, among whom were Melinda French Gates from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Graça Machel, Minister of Education of Mozambique and TED’s curator Chris Andersen directly from New York, joined by our London group with Amanda Horton-Mastin, Innovations Director of Comic Relief; Paul Hilder from OpenDemocracy and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from Nigeria. Jamie Oliver also made an appearance in the form of delicious snacks, fruits and canapés prepared by its ‘Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts’ catering service, which were served during the intervals to people’s utter joy.

But we attendees were not there only to eat and do networking, although both did take place with voracious intensity. We went to TED expecting to leave the event a bit changed somehow, trying to understand the global  challenges we are facing and the possibilities to change things; to improve the world we live in and the world that future generations will inherit from us. That’s why the organisers tried to bring a range of different expertises that could offer broader views on human calamities, such as HIV, Polio, famine, over-population and so on. More importantly though, rather than simply exposing the problems the participants were trying to shed light on these issues via alternative solutions that can effectively minimize or even eliminate the misfortunes experienced by a large part of the world’s population who have little or no assistance from their respective governments.

Interesting points were raised by Hans Rosling, for example, on the co-relation between decreasing child mortality rates, female education and sustainable economic growth and use of natural resources. The key was an accurate real-time data gathering process which was also discussed by Melinda Gates. To explain how certain communities who are geographically out-of-reach could benefit from different sorts of humanitarian assistance she turned to the one company with the most efficient system of logistics and distribution in the world. Coca-Cola. She then set off to investigate what made Coca-Cola’s presence possible in the most hidden corners of the world, concluding that the company promoted micro-economies by partnering small entrepreneurs who could distribute the drink where motorized vehicles wouldn’t/couldn’t go. It became clear that the combination of real-time data feedback loops with an engaged local community can work effectively to produce positive outcomes on many levels. An extremely successful engagement program was also put in place in Thailand to reduce HIV contamination through creative executions of informative and meaningful preventive campaigns. From school events through to merchandising Merchai Veradaya demonstrated how behavioural change can be achieved by really understanding what people want and what they need.

The examples and cases are aplenty I don’t intend to discuss one by one, but just as means of conclusion I think that programs which help eradication of hunger and diseases followed by education and individual’s empowerment are key to develop dynamic micro-economic environments through which communities will work their way up into more civilized, healthier and happier societies as many shown by many real-life stories we saw that night. The question now is, what is our own story?

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Chris Andersen and Melinda Gates


About Vilmar hybridthoughts
HybridThoughts is a blog set up by Vilmar Pellisson and it is dedicated to the open debate of global contemporary culture in its most diverse forms. It endeavors to capture intriguing examples that illustrate the complexities and dynamism of cultural production and how it can combine, interact, react and transform our perceptions of the world and the way we live in a process characterized by reflexivity and subjectivities.


  1. rebecca wright says:

    Its great to read about your insights and really glad you could make it. We will be posting future events on tedxlondon.com

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