Tjeerd is a Dutch editorial cartoonist living in Amsterdam. He has worked as a cartoonist for over seven years, ever since getting a master’s degree in Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. .His work has appeared in Dutch dailies NRC Next, De Pers and De Volkskrant, as well as German newspapers Handelsblatt and Hannoversche Allgemeine and Swiss weekly Weltwoche. In 2010 Tjeerd received a “Citation of Excellence” in the United Nations Political Cartoon Award.

Tjeerd is Editor-in-Chief of the Cartoon Movement, a global platform for high quality political cartoons and comics journalism and his TEDxGenevaChange talk is about the power of cartoons in crises.

The Chief of Disaster Risk Reduction at the United Nations Environment Programme, Muralee Thummarukudy has over 20 years experience in Environment and Disaster Management around the world, including as Corporate Adviser to Shell-operated oil companies in the Middle East and with Post Conflict and Disaster Management Branch of UNEP, involved in responses to major natural disasters, including the SE Asia tsunami (2004), the earthquake in China (2008), cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (2008), earthquake in Haiti (2010) and recent floods in Thailand. He also dealt with post-conflict environmental assessment and clean up in Iraq, Lebanon, occupied Palestinian territories, Liberia, Sudan, Rwanda, and Kenya. Originally from Kerala, Muralee is well known for his humorous travel stories.

The TEDxGenevaChange 2012 was an exciting event, and we are posting the videos here on our blog. In this one, we present Mahesh Mahalingam who encouraged us all to “Value Life Over Death.”

Mahesh has worked on AIDS for 21 years. After developing a passion for activism at college, after a short career in advertising and broadcasting, Mahesh began to work on shaping what was to become India’s first national AIDS education programme for young people. He has since been involved in developing policies and programmes on HIV prevention and treatment across Asia and Africa and heightening public awareness on AIDS issues globally. With UNAIDS for the last 12 years, he has held several positions including UNAIDS’ Country Coordinator in Lesotho and Adviser for HIV prevention with a focus on young people, pregnant women and people at higher risk of HIV infection at UNAIDS’ headquarters in Geneva where he currently serves as Head of Communications.

Watch Katharina Samara Wickrama’s talk on “Accountable Aid” recorded at the TEDxGenevaChange event.

Is humanitarian aid repeatedly failing to be accountable? To what extent should communities be involved in designing their own humanitarian aid programmes and measuring success? Should humanitarian responders hold themselves accountable for ensuring the delivery of quality assistance? How much money could be saved? And how many unwanted yoga mats???

If you have any comments on this talk, please share them on the talk’s YouTube webpage, we would love to see a discussion going!


About the speaker: Katharina is an expert in the field of humanitarian accountability, particularly responding to sexual abuse and exploitation of beneficiaries by humanitarian workers. She began her career as a lawyer but has spent the last twenty years in the humanitarian field, first at UNHCR then as the Coordinator of Building Safer Organizations (BSO) project. In 2007, Katharina brought BSO to the Humanitarian Accountability Project (HAP) and took on the responsibilities of Regulatory Services Director (managing social audits of humanitarian organizations) before being appointed HAP’s Executive Director (interim) in 2010. She is presently NHRP Phase II Project Coordinator at ICVA, the International Council of Voluntary Agencies. The NHRP project is implementing practical ways to bring the national and international NGO voice to the UN-led humanitarian reform process, recognising that civil society has a key role in responding effectively to crisis.

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 where they can be viewed after the event (some of the best even get to 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)

Today, 5 April 2012, Lizzie and I are hosting one of the 200 global TEDxChange events at UNAIDS premises in Geneva. On the live stage, we have 5 speakers who will be exploring, in some surprising and provocative ways, different angles on health and development. You can read more about our speakers on our websie.

We will be livestreaming our event, which will take place from 15:00 – 17:00 Central European Time. You can connect to the event through our Facebook Page and watch the Livestream if you are interested to hear more about how all disasters are preventable, why investigative cartoon journalism works in places where the mainstream media has left, what the Monkey God and the postal service can teach us about eradicating AIDs, and more…

The videos will be up on the TEDx website in a few weeks, we will announce them then – hope to see you on the livestream!

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!