When your story is a powerful as UNHCR’s Vincent Cochetel – of his 317 days in captivity near Chechnya as a hostage chained to a bed, in darkness but for 15 minutes a day of candlelight and able to take 4 small steps and no more – simply the facts can have a profound influence on listeners. But when you tell it as eloquently and powerfully as he did at the recent TEDxPlaceDesNations, you have a message that sears itself into the memories of your audience.

If you have 20:44 minutes, watch his talk, “Attacks on Humanitarians are Attacks on Humanity“. Listen to the message and see if you can keep a dry eye. It’s a beautifully told story of a captive, an object in a political struggle, that makes himself a human being in the eyes of his captors, an act that ultimately makes it easier for them to free him. It’s told in a quiet way – an example of storytelling of the very best kind in my opinion, and humbling to watch. I was sitting in the second row of that grand hall in the Palais des Nations in Geneva for the event, and his talk gave me an immediate sensation of the humanitarian work that goes on within the United Nations system (I worked there myself for a few years, although, as a young professional, I was in a big building in Geneva far from the reality that Vincent speaks of).

Watch him take his 4 small steps, light his candle for that 15 minutes, and speak in the hushed tone of a captive. His words transport you – you’re there in that small room with him. You might find yourself, as I did, wondering how many other humanitarian workers throughout the world right now are in captivity still waiting to see daylight again, and what more can be done to help them.

We held the TEDxGVAChange event in Geneva last Thursday; it was one of the 200 live events around the world that connected to the central TEDxChange event in Berlin. The Berlin event was co-organized by the Gates Foundation and, as all the others including ours, focused on issues surrounding global health and development.

(above is the wordle we made from the participants’ “About Me” registration statements.)

The TEDxGVAChange event was exhilarating! And it benefitted from an amazing volunteer team, particularly apparent in the intense days and hours just prior to our going live. After months of identifying and coaching speakers (with amazing support from a professional speaker coach Laura Penn), finding sponsors, meetings and conference calls, sourcing props for the stage, and on and on – you get to the day (or in our case the day before and the day of…) and it all has to come together.

Here is a snapshot (literally) of what you have to do, after all the ephemeral talking and email, to the roll-up-your-sleeves set up a TEDx event like ours…

Let’s start the day before:

You have to pack up all your props to take them to the venue, because usually you are using a space that, for 99.9% of its time, is a square empty meeting room in a building. As a result it won’t necessarily have the quirky items you want to create a stage (or even a stage for that matter! We built our own stage, borrowed from the World Health Organization across the street). One of our team members, Christine Carey, was both a speaker liaison and our set designer. Here she is below with Lizzie packing up her carefully sourced props (budget: nearly zero) for one of the many trips to UNAIDS, which provided our excellent venue.

There, we worked with the tenacious UNAIDS team to create our perfect TEDxGVAChange space, and that included creating a black backdrop so that the video would look great, and maintain the TED black, red, and white theme.  Christine and Jean-Charles from UNAIDS had to figure out how to create that dark space in the light wood paneled room; the clever solution was to hang black fabric using velcro hidden in the corner seams in the ceiling…

Of course all that fabric had to be ironed first (we had a team of perfectionists!), and while that was going on, others were getting on top of other things, like the social media side. Sharon Bylenga, below, also one of our speaker liaisons, was setting up and testing the TEDxGVAChange Twitter feed and sending through some early tweets.

Also tweeting from #TEDxGVAChange was Sarah Bomkapre (below), a journalist from Sierra Leone who joined us to help with social media for the day, along with the creative team from UNAIDS including Mikaela Hildebrand.

Once the curtain was up, the stage was set up and the props placed. We went for minimalist, and wanted it to look like someone was sitting at their desk reading a fascinating article and just got up to tell you about it (e.g. our speakers).

You can’t imagine how many opinions there can be on the correct angle of the table, which direction the wine boxes should face (shouldn’t the Italian wine box be at the back, this is Switzerland after all!), and so on. We put up our meter high red TEDx letters, and in front the “sweet spot” carpet where the speakers would stand to talk. The round carpet is important to centre the speakers on the stage for the audience and video, to dampen noisy heals while they walk, and to keep them from falling off the back of the stage!

Of course we also needed our own sign, which was fixed onto white foam board (the kind architects use to make models) and after a 50cm “lip” was scored so it would hang perfectly straight, it was attached to the table under the TEDx letters, and the table covered with black card stock paper. (I must admit, none of this had ever crossed my mind before, but Christine in her day job is a voluntary environmental and social standards systems expert, and has some of the highest standards for everything I know, and indeed, it looked fantastic!)

In the rest of the room, lots of other things were going on. Lighting, for example, is very important for the video, and also for ambience and drama. We borrowed a set of lights for our visual facilitators, Sarah Clark, Raj Rana and Elizabeth Auzan,  to use in the back of the room where they would be working, drawing a 90cm wide and 133cm high panel for each of our speakers’ talks. We also rented some brighter spots from a DJ sound and light distributor for the stage (everything but the mirror ball – that’s me below!).

Our biggest budget item was the video team – their time filming, and post-production – because we wanted the video quality to be excellent – all the videos go onto TEDx.com where they can be viewed after the event (some of the best even get to TED.com). The film crew flew in from the UK to set up the day before and run tests during all our rehearsals on the morning of the event.

Here are Alasdair and Chris at the start of their set up – we used three cameras for filming, and one additional camera was connected to a computer for our livestreaming (we had over 500 people joining us virtually).

Once the room was set up with stage, lights, camera and sound, there was one PPT presentation to create with all the images of the talks in sequence with black slides in between (so we didn’t have to fiddle around with changing files). We waited until just before the event to prepare this, as the speaker order was only set on the day of the event, after the rehearsals. We did this to have the most logical and the most interesting sequence of talks. Once the order was set, Lizzie and I as the hosts, wrote up the connections in between the talks – we would be on stage together for the opening and closing, and otherwise would take it in turns connecting the talks and introducing our speakers. We wrote the script based on the speaker order, in the final hour(s) before the event started. Here is Lizzie working on the slides…

Our event was scheduled to start at 15:00, first with our local speakers for 90 minutes, and then after a tea break, we would cut to the TEDxChange simulcast in Berlin. To prepare on the day, each speaker had 1 hour of rehearsal on stage and we practiced everything from coming up and down the steps, waiting for the applause (human nature seems to be to bolt as soon as you are done talking), and going through each talk at least 3 times with Laura, our speaker coach. Repetition came along with some breathing exercises, little walks to warm up muscles, and pep talks (being a TEDx speaker can be rather terrifying – at least I thought so when I was a speaker at the last TEDxGVAChange event!)

Here is Laura rehearsing with Tjeerd Royaards, one of our five local speakers, who is co-founder of the Cartoon Movement – a network of cartoonists who do investigative cartoon journalism:


  • once the rehearsals were done,
  • the equipment all warmed up and tested (UNAIDS New York helped us test the livestream),
  • script written,
  • the float acquired (we charged a minimal 15CHF per person to help defray some of the food and beverages costs),
  • name badges stuffed, including the “talk to me about” three words selected by participants,
  • all the food and beverage set up and ready for our tea break (brown bread and homemade jams) and aperitif (organic wines and juices and locally farmed vegetables, meats and cheeses) under the careful and capable supervision of Matthew Crudgington and three hospitality students from the EHL in Lausanne),
  • the double bass moved into the reception area (our team member, David Cooke, who worked with us on sponsorship also brought his 3 piece jazz ensemble),
  • the outer space arranged with a display of Cartoon Movement’s Haiti cartoons, and a space for three practitioners of the Grinberg Method (who in the pauses would look after our health), with help for set up from volunteer Claire Hugo,
  • and the room ready to go (thanks again to the UNAIDS team under the leadership of Susie Bolvenkel-Prior, Buildings Manager, and Sophie Barton-Knott, Global Communications Manager)…

… only THEN we were ready to welcome our participants and start the event!

Everything after the doors opened, for me, is a bit of a blur, and seemed to go so quickly. Thankfully, however, you can see more photos of our event on the TEDxGVAChange FaceBook album that our terrific photographer from UNAIDs, Olivier Borgognon, took, including photos of all of our speakers and the final drawings from the visual facilitation team. It was an exciting day!

(photo credit for the group photo: Sharon Bylenga)

We just helped put on a TEDx event hosted by the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) on the future of hospitality which had a string of amazing speakers exploring “ideas worth spreading” from how our human spaces will increasingly interact with us, how to put together an unlikely “SWAT team” to solve a problem that needs innovation, why thinking like a novelist can help you create the perfect cafe, meat as the luxury item of the future, why if there is no nose there is no fun…and more.

With a topic like hospitality, and an audience filled with EHL alumni, partners and others for whom the hospitality industry is their bread and butter, no only did the talk selections have to be surprising – the curation aimed to scope future surprising trends from other fields such as neuroscience, storytellers, gamers, flavour science, anthropologists and innovation engineers – but the surroundings also had to step up to the plate  (ok, that’s baseball, but think porcelain in this case).

And, we were in one of the most famous hotel schools in Switzerland, so that gave some excellent grounds for innovation.

For the coffee break, it would have seemed odd to have just coffee and biscuits, so the school served at their coffee break hand made icecream in delicious popcorn flavour, in white wine flavour, and caramel which they made with liquid nitrogen right in front of us and served in tiny dishes. 

They also capped every coffee with an intricate design in chocolate which they did at amazing speed.

For the reception, the students created a special TEDx cocktail which was red and delicious and and matched with an equally interesting and flavourful tower of mini “icecream” cones filled with a mousse of truffle and foie gras.

The whole event was a full sensory experience, the ideas were exhilarating and, of course, the hospitality was excellent!
(PS. Find a running commentary of the event and key speaker ideas on Twitter at #TEDxEHL or with the tag TEDxEcoleHoteliereLausanne)

Watch this video of Nancy Duarte talking about sparkline.

I have often found myself making reference to the ideas of Nancy Duarte. She spoke to me and a group of TEDx-ers on a pre-opening backstage tour of TED2011 early this year about storytelling and presentations that “Resonsate” – the title of her recent book. In my blog post “TEDxWorkshops, Talks, Tips and Tweets…” I recalled my tweets from her talk: Nancy Duarte on storytelling formula: What is – what could be – what is – what could be – what is – call for action – the utopian new bliss. / Nancy Duarte quotes Ernest Hemmingway: “The first draft of anything is shit.” / Nancy Duarte quotes Woodrow Wilson: “If I have 10 minutes to present I need a week to prepare; if I have an hour I am ready now.”

I have since quoted these myself many times when working with people preparing presentations, and am delighted to say that I just today discovered this short video of Nancy giving much the same talk. Watch it. And once you’ve done so, look at the links on the webpage under the heading ‘Extended Web Content’. Here you can click through to examples of how the formula applies to talks – including by Benjamin Zander, Ronald Reagan and Feynman. I think these are very useful to see it in practice, and trust that you too will find this a great resource for thinking about your presentations in the future. Let us know how you get on!

Watch this 8 minute video taken at the recent TEDx Tokyo which features Junko Edahiro, Chief Executive of Japan for Sustainability, answering the question about what motivates young people today.  She introduces 3 “De’s” – trends which she observes to be forming a big part of the value set of young adults today (much to the consternation of their elders).

  1. De – ownership (from owning things to sharing things),
  2. De-materialisation of happiness (from happiness in buying things to person-to-person/nature),
  3. De-materialisation of life (happiness in our own lives without the lure of the monetary economy),

For the latter she talks about young people who are half farmer/half something else (musician, NGO leader, etc.). These people combine growing their own subsistence food needs with their mission-driven work – instead of investing all their time climbing a company ladder, climbing a ladder to pick apples instead. Junko talks about Japan, can these same trends be spotted elsewhere in the world?

Junko provides thoughtful examples, challenges us all to think about our own possibilities to “De” our life, and welcomes us to the Era of “De”!

(Note from me: Junko is a terrific speaker, fellow Balaton Group Member, and friend and I am delighted to see TEDx and Junko connecting their considerable talents in this way.)

In February, I had my first “TED-ache” at TEDActive2011. TEDsters know all about TED-aches. They come with the “mind-mash” that is a TED conference. One minute its talks on quantum mechanics, biochemistry or brain science. The next its the latest in information technologies. And then you’re plunged deep into the ocean, taking a swim with seals alongside a nature photographer. Or you’re marvelling as a life-size horse puppet breathes and trots around the stage, and then Bobby McFerrin has you singing and laughing from your gut!

This is no ordinary conference. It stretches you to go where you would likely not go if just browsing the talks on TED.com. Most people listen actively to every single talk. And the beauty comes in the meaning you make for yourself as you listen to talks on a great diversity topics and begin to see patterns; to make connections; to find learning where you might least expect it.

On the journey home, I tried to create a mindmap as I read through all my notes (without which I would have retained but the merest fraction of ideas worth spreading). It was messy. However, perhaps even messier still has been my process of trying to sort all my tweets into some sort of coherence in order to share them here. From the mind-mash that was TEDActive, here are what are still a mish-mash of tweets (with some tweaks) to share my take-aways with you, clustered under some imperfect headings. The talks can be found here: TED2011 Talks

a. Perspective
b. Right, wrong and assumptions
c. Unintended consequences
d. The need to encode ethics in algorithms
e. Innovation and counter-intuition
f. Instrumental information: visualizing systems
g. Collective wisdom for change
h. Art for social change
i. Crowd-voicing
j. Collaborative creativity
k. Leveraging learning
l. Breathtaking medical breakthroughs
m. Miscellaneous communication products and technologies

a. Perspective

Astronaute in space Cady Coleman speaks perspective & the importance of connectedness & value of the earth as she circles once/18 mins.

“If a chunk of metal can be in two places at the same time, you could be. We have to think about the word differently as an individual” Physicist Aaron O’Connell.

Physicist Aaron O’Connell: “Everything around you is connected & that’s the profound weirdness of quantum mechanics.”

In a gfa-1 microbe in Mono Lake CA, arsenic seems to function as phospherous in a cell. Evidence of alternative biochemistry on our planet? It would change our definition of habitability elsewhere… Felisa Wolfe-Simon

We can only find what we know how to look for. For Felisa Wolfe-Simon that’s learning to look for alternative biochemistry on earth.

Edith Widder’s eye-in-the-sea explores bioluminescent deep ocean life & language. “Don’t know what they’re saying… I think its sexy!”

Paul Nicklen chokes up recounting leopard seal stories from his polar photo missions for Nat Geog and shows pictures of the white ‘Spirit’ or ‘Kermode’ bear – only 200 left on the planet! Save sea ice; its as important as soil.

Swiss explorer Sarah Marquis: “I dont want to put people back in nature; I want to put nature back in people”. “Let your soul touch the earth…. go walking.”

RachelSussman photographs living things >10’000 years old. “If you didn’t know what you were looking for, it would be easy to overlook something other megaflora were grazing on before extinction”.

b. Right, wrong and assumptions

“Trusting too much in the feeling of being right can be very dangerous and create huge tactical and social problems as we believe our beliefs reflect reality and make huge assumptions to explain people who disagree with us: assume their ignorant, idiots and/or evil, leading us to treat each other terribly, missing the hole point of being human. The miracle of the mind is that you can see the world as it isn’t.” Kathryn Schulz

“We need to learn to step outside of rightness, look around at one another and the vast complexity of the universe and say: ‘Wow, maybe I’m wrong!The system tells us getting something wrong means there’s something wrong with us. We learn the way to succeed is to never make any mistakes.” Kathryn Schulz

“How does it feel to be wrong?” Asks Kathryn Schulz. “Wrong. You’re answering the question, ‘How does it feel to realize that you’re wrong?’ It feels like being right to be wrong until until you realize you’re wrong.”

Daman Horowitz speaks about his work in prisons giving philosophy classes & the importance of questioning what we believe and why we believe it, including exploring wrongness. “What is wrong? Maybe I am!”

Magician Franz Harary demonstrates playing with glitches in peoples minds that distort and manipulate thoughts, using magic to fake technology that doesn’t exist.

c. Unintended consequences

Evolution will be guided by us in the future, thanks to genetics. What will we choose? More competitive? Empathetic? Creative? “If anything had the potential for unintended consequences, this is it!” Harvey Fineberg

We cannot foresee all consequences. But how can we close the gap between capabilities & foresight? Edward Tenner’: “Learn meticulously from unintended consequences & chaos”.

Edward Tenner: An example of unintended consequences = adding lifeboats to a ship, making it more unstable and resulting in tragedy.

“We are at a threshold moment: a single global brain of almost 7 billion individuals learning collectively at warp speed = very powerful and potentially very dangerous. Nuclear weapons are evidence.” David Christian

Looking at ‘big history’ shows us the power of collective learning and the dangers that come with it. Studying this will help all students make better decisions in the future. David Christian

d. The need to encode ethics in algorithms

“We need new info (Internet) gatekeepers to encode ethic responsibility into their (Facebook, Google…) algorithmic code & give us some control” El Pariser.

Speaking of Facebook and Google, Eli Pariser asserts: “’Personalized algorithmic filter bubbles are throwing off balance our info diet, converting it to info funk food.’

“The demise of guys is a consequence of arousal addictions stimulated by the internet & video ‘porning'” – Philip Zimbardo

e. Innovation and counter-intuition

“The greatest time for game-changing innovation was The Great Depression.” Edward Tenner

“When you train people to be risk averse, they are reward challenged”, said Morgan Spurlock in his talk encouraging the embracing of transparency. He sold the naming rights to his talk.

Inspiring talk by Kalia Colbin about reimagining Christchurch: “10 days ago my be the beginning of the demise of my city, but in the rubble their may be promise”. Help with ideas at www.reimaginechristchurch.org.nz.

Do something good for the city and we’ll give you more land, says Malaysia to property developers as incentive. Thomas Heatherwick does, with buildings that leave more ground for the forest.

For the first time in history not one child in Utter Pradesh & Bihar (northern India) has Polio. New vaccine + resolve + tactics = a unique eradication opportunity. Bruce Aylward

Chefs Hamaru Contu & Ben Roche introduce “Disruptive Food Technology”: from the Future Food science lab: tricking taste buds we can reduce energy & waste http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tv/future-food/.

Bill Ford asserts ingenuity in mobility solutions is not only about our movement, its also about access to food and healthcare. Smart cars, smart parking, smart signalling and smart phones all integrated in new smart mobility system is the future.

A leap in thinking is needed to avoid global gridlock if the population reaches the predicted 9 billion in 2044. Real time data is needed for a new mobility system. Bill Ford

“If we sped up cars in our cities by 3mph, we would reduce by 11% the emissions of our transport system.” Counter-intuitive! Luis Cilimingras, IDEO (formerly FIAT)

Speaking of cars actively driven by the blind (unveiled Jan 2011 http://is.gd/ruV8l1): “Technology will be ready, but will society be ready?” Need system change. Dennis Hong

f. Instrumental information: visualizing systemss

“As the world becomes increasingly instrumented and we have means to connect the dots, we can see interactions not previously visible with profound implications for us as individuals” Deb Roy,

Deb Roy set records in home-video hours to reveal patterns linking words to context and identifying feedback loops as his son acquired language in his Human Speechome Project http://j.mp/ePanlq.

Collaborating with scientists, Rajesh Rao tries to use computer modelling to decipher the last major undeciphered ancient script – Indus. Does it boil down to picture of ‘bee’ + ‘leaf’ = ‘belief’?

Ebs and flows in US flight patterns are visualized, providing powerful communication www.aaronkoblin.com/work/flightpatterns/

Carlo Ratti, MIT SENSEable City Lab, uses pervasive technologies to track trash in an investigation into the “removal-chain”. Listening to Haydn’s ‘Farewell’ Symphony (45), he shows us trash doesn’t leave, just moves! http://senseable.mit.edu/trashtrack/

g. Collective wisdom for change

Students tackle 50 interlocking systems problems learn how not to follow short term destructive paths and learn how to think about World Peace long term, learning right and wrong through their experience. John Hunter

John Hunter asserts very openly that the collective wisdom of his 4th grade students is so much greater than his own. He trusts them to solve world problems, practicing with his World Peace role-play game.

US General Stanley McChrystal talks about changes in leadership with distributed technologies and the inversion of expertize as old ‘leaders’ are less familiar wit the technologies required.

h. Art for social change

Under house arrest in Shanghai, Ai Weiwei speaks via video of art for social change & the creation of a civil & more democratic society in China despite no party willingness.

Street Artist JR’s wish: “Stand up for what you care about by participating in a global collaborative art project. And together we’ll turn the world INSIDE OUT”: www.insideoutproject.net

Women Are Heroes project by street artist JR: www.womenareheroes.be In Kibera “we didn’t use paper (on the rooves), because paper doesn’t prevent the rain from leaking in the house but vinyl does.”

“It doesn’t matter today if it’s your photo or not. The importance is what you do with images… We decided to take portraits of Palestinians and Israelis doing the same job. They all accepted to be pasted next to the other.” JR

i. Crowd-voicing

Human right activist & TED Fellow Esra’a Al Shafei presents www.crowdvoice.org – a project of MidEast Youth tracking voices of protest around the world using crowdsourcing.

Wael Ghonin: Egypt saw extreme tolerance, Christians & Muslims protecting one another praying. “The power of the people is much stronger than the people in power”.

Surprise talk by Wael Ghonim on the Egyptian revolution: “No one was a hero because everyone was a hero.”

“We cannot have a well-functioning democracy if there is not a good flow of information to citizens” El Pariser.

Head of Al-Jazeera, Wadar Khanfar: “The democratic revolution sweeping the Arab world is the best chance to see peace. Let us embrace it.”

j. Colloborative creativity

“Electronic communication will never be a substitute for someone who face to face encourages you to be brave and true” Marc Martens talking of the powerful “Glow” public art playground http://glowsantamonica.org/. Public art to connect people is at the heart of the Santa Monica ‘Glow’ project.

Face ache follows the Bobby McFerrin session. “Unparalleled joy” was in the programme! Playing along with Bobby’s creative spontaneity warmed everyone’s hands, voices and hearts.

The lennonbus.org at #TEDActive – a non-profit mobile recording studio dedicated to providing students with opportunities to make music and video projects.

eyewriter.org – an ongoing collaborative research project using completely open source technology to empower people suffering with paralysis to draw with their eyes. Mik

Co-creating a music video through crowdsourcing: Aaron Koblin describes www.thejonnycashproject.com: a living, moving, ever-changing portrait as people all over the world contribute portraits to the collective whole.

Aaron Koblin: “Interface can be a powerful narrative device”, showing a crowd-sourced video, which when viewed is unique to each viewer www.thewildernessdowntown.com/

Conductor Eric Whitacre’s “Lux Aurumque” gives voice to a virtual choir – http://ericwhitacre.com/the-virtual-choir. The upcoming project received >2050 videos online from 58 countries.

k. Leveraging learning

Project V.O.I.C.E. – lovely project by Sarah Kay uses poetry as a way to entertain, educate & inspire. List 10 things you know to be true. Sharing these lists – who has the same? / opposite? / who heard something never heard before? / heard new angles on what you thought you knew? Sarah Kay

Make a list “10 things I should have learned by now.” Sarah Kay uses poetry to work through what she doesn’t understand with a backpack from where she’s already been.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio looks at the conscious mind: “There are 3 levels of self: The proto, the core & the autobiographical (past & anticipated future). We share the first 2 with other species.”

NYT Columnist David Brooks asserts emotions are the foundation of reason and, as social beings emerging out of relationships, we need to learn better how to read, listen to and talk about emotions.

Ed Boyden explores the brain signals that drive learning & describes the process of installing molecules in neurons and using light to turn on/off specific cells in the brain and treat neurological disorders.

“Personal perceptions are at the heart of how we acquire knowledge.” Autistic Savant, Daniel Tammet, shares insights from synaesthesia about colours, textures & the emotions of words & numbers.

29% greater retention from doodlers & better problem solving because it engages all learning styles – Sunni Brown. “The doodle has never been the nemesis of intellectual thought. In reality, it’s been one of its greatest allies.”

Khan Academy learning: self paced, interactive, peer-to-peer, encouraging trying & failing (like falling off a bicycle), and designed to be iterative and so avoid ‘swiss cheese’ gaps in education. Salman Khan

“By removing the one-size fits all lecture from the classroom, these teachers have used technology to humanize the classroom.” “What we’re seeing emerge is this notion of a global one-world classroom.” Salman Khan

“Kids 1 year from voting age don’t know butter comes from a cow. They’re not stupid. Adults have let them down. Every child has the right to fresh food at school & food education as a requirement. It’s a civil right” Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver’s exciting new announcement about the future of the Food Revolution: http://bit.ly/hbRmGM #TED

Alison Lewis presents fashion technology, encouraging DIY “Switch Craft” projects blending sewing and electronics to bring handiwork into the 21st century: http://blog.alisonlewis.com/?p=541.

Fiorenzo Omenetto reinvents something that’s been around for millennia. Learning from silk worms, he reverse engineers the cocoon turning water & protein into material with environmental & social significance.

A seed cathedral, inspired by Kew’s seed bank, jurassic park & play doh mop-tops is Thomas Heatherwick’s stunning London Pavillion @ Shanghai: www.heatherwick.com/uk-pavilion/.

Learn a second language in Second Life: an alternative emersion process that works with the 5 stages of second language acquisition and the mastery of the 4 language skills, says Jeong Kinser.

Indra Nooyi talks about Pepsi’s Refresh University to sustain & multiply social change emerging from www.refresheverything.com: stories, lessons & ‘how-to’ online + leadership skills training.

l. Breathtaking medical breakthroughs

Luke Massella is living proof of Anthony Atala’s regenerative organ work. He was one of the first ten people to receive a ‘printed’ kidney. 3D printed organs are the next frontier in medicine.

Eythor Bender showcases his incredible exoskeletons, which enable the paralyzed to walk again.

m. Miscellaneous communication products and technologies

The effects of HIV can be reversed. Watch this powerful ad from the Topsy Foundation: http://t.co/lLph2Or via @youtube.

A compelling video for the genocide-awareness www.onemillionbones.org/ project by Art Activist TED Fellow Naomi Natale #TED: http://youtu.be/FFukmsLLG0k.

Weforest.org’s “Lessons from a tree” video – narrated by Jeremy Irons – supports the “Buy2get1tree” campaign, working with corporate partners to save 2 trillion trees by 2014. Bill Liao

Kate Hartman creates devices that play with how we relate and communicate with ourself, others and nature. “Our bodies are our primary interaction with the world”.

The Handspring Puppet Company breath life into a larger than life War Horse puppet on stage using masterful “emotional engineering” and “up to date 17th century technology to turn nouns into verbs”.

Mike Matas demos www.pushpoppress.com/ – the first feature length interactive book and sequel to “Inconvenient Truth” – with Climate Change solutions. Blow on the screen to turn wind turbines!

A smart braille phone varying the height of a pixel instead of color to communicate information on “screen”: A concept of TED Fellow – SumitDagar.com.

Mattias Astrom demos C3, a new 3D mapping technology: http://www.c3technologies.com/

Bubbli – ambitious new startup seeks to change the way we record images with cameraphones. Terrence McArdle & Ben Newhouse.

Shea Hembrey invented 100 artists and imagined their art. http://www.sheahembrey.com/

Attending TEDActive 2011 back in February – and joining a couple of hundred other organizers of TEDx (independently organized events under license from TED.com) for workshops, back stage tours, talks and tips – I tweeted about my TEDx learning. For posterity, I’m now sharing the tweets here:

Began #TEDActive 2011 with pre-workshop of TEDx organizers. Great community! Learn about the independently organized TEDx events near you: www.ted.com/tedx

Discovering high +ve correlations between TEDx organisers, entrepreneurs & The Hub network (www.the-Hub.net) at #TEDActive

Idea / quote of the day from TEDx Middle East – “TEDxRevolutions – Revolutions worth sharing” at #TEDActive

TEDx Talk Tips from Ruth, TEDxColumbus: “Who is the hero & villain in each talk? Can I relate? Can I learn from it? Can I follow you? Is it primal? Can I root for you?” #TEDActive

Kelly & Rives’ TEDx Host Tips: Get a stage manager; start hosting pre-event and finish at the after party; introduce the unexpected; have time-fillers and back up plans #TEDActive

TEDx Kids Tips: Shorten; embrace chaos & noise; keep adults aside; invite on stage; involve from seats; outsource jobs to them; give them what they want; max demo’s and Q&A’s; & feed them! #TEDActive

TED set up: casual, relaxed format; 50% seating, unobtrusive background music; brain/superfoods; wine & beer – not spirits; large name tags; & locatech online tool. #TED

Nancy Duarte on storytelling formula: What is – what could be – what is – what could be – what is – call for action – the utopian new bliss. #TED behind the scenes tour, Longbeach

Nancy Duarte quotes Ernest Hemmingway: “The first draft of anything is shit.” #TED

Nancy Duarte quotes Woodrow Wilson: “If I have 10 minutes to present I need a week to prepare; if I have an hour I am ready now.” #TED

Where do we stand in the work to save and improve lives around the world? What changes have taken place in the last decade? What does the future hold? Listening out for some learning for the future, here are some highlights I took from TEDxGeneva’s TEDxChange event: The Future We Make.

1. Learn to save lives. Learn from a local innovator, a barefoot entrepreneur, a world leading corporate giant. Learn across sectors and scales. Look, listen and learn closely. “Success is relevant because if we analyse it we can learn from it and then we can save lives.” (Melinda Gates)

2. Bye bye linear, hello loops. Take time to understand the system you’re operating in. Create feedback loops to achieve your goals, leveraging energy from throughout the system so it’s not all on you. (Gillian Martin Mehers)

3. Be one step ahead: Diagnosis pays. Never mind the naysayers. Invest in investigation. Don’t stop at symptoms. Diagnose your enemy. Minimize medication (scale up tests and the need for antimalarials drops – see Senegal). Resist fuelling resistance. Eliminate malaria. (Rob Newman).

4. Warmly welcome the wonderful world of statistics. Let data be your guide. And keep it modern, refreshing concepts as you go along. (Can we really still call a country – Singapore – with one of the lowest child mortality rates in the world “developing”?) (Hans Rosling)

5. Bowl in the light. Demand real time data. Turn the lights on. You need to see the skittles and know the score so you can decide on your ball, approach and spin. (And you need to know whether you’re hitting the skittles in your intended lane or next door!) (Melinda Gates)

6. Make a smart entry. You’ll make little progress reducing the strain on natural resources with family planning until you’ve figured out infant mortality. Suss out the system first. Identify the obstacles to change. (Patrick Keenan).

7. Change with children. Children are the Revolutionary Optimists of Calcutta slums. They are the educators and group leaders. “It is our duty – our little brothers and sisters,” they say as they champion and double Polio immunisations, carrying fellow children to clinics. (The Revolutionary Optimists)

8. With women and girls too. Look at Malawi. “Women and girls will lead social transformation.” (Graça Machel)

9. Up the ubiquity. Take a master class from the ubiquitous. Learn to get everywhere from Coca Cola (who serves the equivalent of every man, woman and child on the planet a glass of coke a week) and Thai condoms. (Mechai Viravaidya)

10. Parle local. Be aspirational to beckon new behaviours; avoid avoidance messages. Even if people need something, you still need to make them want it. Take toilets in India, for example, and match them to courtship. Remember, “No loo, no ‘I do’”. (Melinda Gates)

11. Promote promise. Polio. 99% reduction in 20 years. We’ve come so far. How amazing would it be to eradicate this disease?! We can overcome Polio and make it the 2nd disease ever to be wiped off the face of the planet. (ibid)

12. “Aid-u-tain”. Play snakes and ladders (“Auntie takes her pill in the morning when she wakes up. Very good. Up the ladder you go.”) And let the Olympics save some lives (“why just run around?”). (Mechai Viravaidya)

13. Involve everyone. Empower the people – from policeman plod and cabbies to vendors in local corner and coffee shops. “Would you like a condom with your cappuccino?” (ibid)

14. Ever-re-design you. One designer candidly speaks of his purposeful and personal trajectory to maximize impact, ever re-designing his design career. What are you doing to maximize your impact? Reflect on re-designing your career to leverage more change in the system. (Patrick Keenan)

15. Encourage for the cause with networks. Change making needn’t be lonely. From the power of one to the power of many: network your knowledge and scale up confidence, assurance, courage, commitment and even career change. (Cheryl Hicks)

16. Converse. Conversations matter. Talk about action, however small. “We’ve got the future in our hands, lets build it in our minds.” (Bajah and The Dry Eye Crew).

I was very honoured tonight to be able to speak after Melinda French Gates, Graca Machel, Hans Rosling, and Mechai Viravaidya at the TEDxChange event, hosted by the Gates Foundation. Well, this is technically true, although I was speaking on the TEDxGeneva local stage, which followed directly after the simulcast of the New York event.

Lizzie, representing tonight the Hub in Geneva, curated the event brilliantly. It started with the simulcast, a break and then four local speakers including Dr Robert Newman, a pediatrician at World Health Organization and Director of the Global Malaria Programme, Cheryl Hicks an independent business advisor in Geneva who spoke about the power of networks using CSR Geneva as an example, Patrick Keenan – one of the co-founders of the Movement, and me

I spoke about the power of systems thinking to help social change agents be even more powerful. How can we use the systems around us, close up feedback loops, and get systems to “do our work for us”? During my short talk (10 minutes!) I adapted a demonstration game called Living Loops, from the Systems Thinking Playbook. I used the game to demonstrate the difference between relationships that are linear and take an enormous amount of effort to change, and between systems that have feedback loops that are self-sustaining and can help you reach your goals.

The game helped me tell the story of my brother-in-law, who is working in Mutale in the Northeast of South Africa, and his community’s efforts to start, among other things, a tomato growing business for income generation. When childcare issues threaten to challenge the sufficient engagement of the local labour force to make the business work (many families are run by a single head of household due to absentee parents working in the nearby mines), connecting the profits of the tomato business with creche management and maintenance helps to make this initiative self-sustaining – it satisfies the community’s desire for income and parent’s desire for secure and quality childcare while they work. We played the game demo using a tomato picked from my garden instead of a ball.

After hours of preparation, it’s over now – whew! I enjoyed speaking at the TEDx event, although the quality of all the TEDTalks are so high, that it was extremely nerve wracking to prepare for and then to walk on that stage in front of 100+ people at the University centre in Geneva. We had one of 82 of the parallel TEDxChange events globally, all focused on the 10th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals and The Future We Make. Big topic, big event, big night – just coming down off of my endorphin rush, and happy I did it!