Collecting beautiful little things from the TED Community.

Many darks things in the news these last few weeks (perhaps months, at this point). While it was hard to block it out and re-center for a while, I found my peace in my communities. We cannot let the darkness win, so instead, let us celebrate the good we create together and the beautiful, little things. These are a few things from my community within TED that brought some light and healing into the week.

This week, I briefly caught up with a friend (and previous co-worker) who went to Baton Rouge a week ago to join the protests when we ran into each other in the Strand, unplanned. I was standing over a shelf of books, looking for Andrew Soloman’s newly published collection of essays, but also taking my quiet moment of solace in my favorite of sacred spaces (bookstores). She was taking a break from her office, trying to digest everything that she had seen and experienced, while trying to integrate back into New York. We bought sought that moment of peace over a table of books. I looked up to see her beaming, even through her complicated thoughts and reflections. While it took me a moment to process who I was seeing in front of me, her warmth made my face involuntarily break into an easy smile. That was a moment I needed and celebrate, even while so much else was brewing in the background. Andrew’s TED2014 talk offers some moments of his own healing:

This talk from Adam Savage at TED2016 is a series of beautiful little moments in a very creative community. It was amazing to watch coworkers post this talk this week alongside pictures of their children creating their own costumes, memories from their own adventures in make-believe worlds, and artists sharing stories from their own creative communities.

I went to see Finding Dory this week in a movie theatre with my partner. I forgot how magical Pixar’s movies are. There are characters we’re joking about a week later and scenes I described to my mother, hoping she would go see it too so we could talk about them. It reminds me of the talk from TEDTalks Live this past fall where lighting designer Danielle Feinberg talked about the effect of color and light in animated stories.

I appreciate them even more than I used to, because we work so closely to the amazing animators behind TED-Ed’s Lessons.

This team puts so much love into their work. It’s visible in their work and their willingness to teach others about their craft. They regularly volunteer to do workshops in the rest of our community (and get extremely positive feedback, because they are amazing teachers!) and one animator even teaches art classes regularly in a school in her community!

A friend asked me to send her a talk that gave me hope, and I was grateful to return to this talk by May El-Khalil. Peace is a marathon… we have to build our endurance because in the long run, love will win.

I was also deeply inspired by our community this week. The TED residents gave talks about the projects they are working on, and my friend Sheryl, who is a TEDx organizer and immigration attorney, talked about the value of immigration and immigrant stories in the US. It was the perfect antidote to the waves of far right backlash in politics right now.

Sheryl Winareck, TED Residents talks, July 2016
Sheryl Winareck, TED Residents talks, July 2016

I am grateful to be part of this community today and every day. The optimism is infectious and the common belief holding us together is a share love for ideas, experiments, creative growth, and hope for a better future. We see the good, here and now, but we also see what we could become and we celebrate it.

I want to end with an essay written by TED’s CEO, Chris Anderson on the value of ideas. It was the hope in the dark we needed, just after the Brexit vote… Ideas matter, more than ever.

Why ideas matter … now more than ever

A few surprising plot twists in daily economics

I love economics stories that surprise me. In the last few weeks, I’ve listed to a few stories that truly shocked me and I wanted to share them, in case you need a media list for the weekend.

Did you know that some professional hunters are also some of the most ardent conservationists? This RadioLab episode explores the story of poachers who pay for expensive contracts to hunt for rare or endangered animals around the world.

White Rhinos, US Fish and Wildlife Services, Taken Nakuru, Africa. Credit: Karl Stromayer/USFWS
White Rhinos, US Fish and Wildlife Services, Taken Nakuru, Africa. Credit: Karl Stromayer/USFWS

Turns out, the story is more complicated than “blood thirsty poachers.” This episode is well worth a listen to the complicated financial structure behind conservation parks.

Voluntourism draws a lot of critique from communities around the world, but I hadn’t realized how closely tied some orphanages in countries like Cambodia, Nepal, and Uganda are to the emotions (and markets!) that tourists bring to their travels. What happens when “cute children” become a tourist trap? (Good news: She’s working on fixing this bad dynamic)

We Need to End the Era of Orphanages | Tara Winkler

Breakfast is my favorite part of American cuisine… but it wasn’t always a “thing.” This writer explored the breakfast cereal marketing campaign that made Breakfast “the most important meal of the day.”

And how about a public bench designed to simultaneously interrupt informal economic activities (specifically, drug dealing), prevent theft, limit loitering, and defy graffiti? 99% Invisible covered a brief history of unpleasant design to show how some designers though about solving what they viewed as “social ills.”

Work by Public artist BiP, New Haven CT
Work by Public artist BiP, New Haven CT

Finally, a few thought-provoking pieces by R. Luke DuBois about how we organize numbers and think about people. If you haven’t seen his TED talk yet, I would recommend beginning here.

His maps of the United States are fascinating and worth exploring over a long, hot summer afternoon. You can see more of them on the TED Ideas Blog or on his website. He challenges the idea of “data viz” with his piece called “Take a Bullet for the City” and he does his part to make our communities a little warmer through his piece that connects people on the missed connections board on Craigslist.

A few beautiful & challenging ideas from TEDSummit

We started with: “ideas don’t know borders, they’re for the whole world” Important opening talk at by , offering the hope we need

Thought provoking questions from Lesley Hazelton: “The quality of soul is not a tradable commodity.” “Could soul be a matter of being brave enough to be vulnerable?

On public art: “We could have finished sooner, but I think it took us three weeks because of all those tea breaks” on his piece in Egypt. When the piece was finished, he explains the reaction of the owner of one of the homes he painted: “he was really proud to see his house painted — he said it was a project of peace”

“if we have a generation that doesn’t know how to build a fort, we have a generation” that doesn’t care about nature — We have an excuse to make more time to play outside, thanks to Emma Marris.

Without that “radical humanism” we lose “the unnecessary, the intimacy, ugly, and the incomplete.”

Marwa Al-Sabouni is an architect living in Homs, Syria. She teaches, runs a bookshop & works other jobs, against backdrop of war. She is thinking about architecture, communities and the future of her country. She has not given up.

Julia Bacha is documenting female role models in non-violent movements around the world. “If we do not celebrate the leadership of women in conflicts/movements, we fail to show the spectrum of role models” 

Anti-terror measures created by governments needs to be balanced by robust & independent press, it is a necessary check on power, argues Rebecca MacKinnon

Alexander Betts reminded us: Dangerous times if “lies have equal status as truth and evidence.” We need to rebuild research into debate. But this is also an opportunity to revamp our arguments and begin new conversations. If Fear comes from limited information, let’s health together.

Zeynep Tufecki reflects on Turkey, the airport bombing, and her upcoming visit: “We are going to build tolerant societies and I feel that our joy is part of our power.”

Ione Wells, after she was attacked remembered “there are infinitely more good people in the world than bad.”

And Pico Iyer, reminding us how comfortable and honest it can be to say “I dont know,” and learning as we go.

Photo header credit: TEDx Global Forum at TEDSummit2016, June 25, 2016, Banff, Canada. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

Colombia’s Historic Ceasefire

The first time I saw this talk I bawled my eyes out. The frozen shell we sometimes learn to build around our hearts because it means surviving… melted. I was left with only love.

We grew up in Mexico during a period of violence so dark we’re still processing it. My research took me back into the archives and narratives of Colombia in the 1970s-2000s, when it was torn apart by guerillas, paramilitary groups, Narcos, and the government. Everyone in each setting, so hardline we thought we’d never find peace.

Last week (June 24th, 2016), Colombia signed a historic ceasefire. Peace is sometimes difficult to achieve. Negotiation is difficult. Listening and humility is difficult. But peace and cooperation and growth is beautiful and worth it.

Let us learn from them. Viva Colombia!

Finding my way to black market research

This was a talk that changed my life as a young adult. Misha Glenny is a journalist know for his work on criminal networks and organizations. I saw this talk and was hooked, shifting my research focus from immigration to black markets and organized crime. I purchased his book McMafia at TEDGlobal and devoured it.

I became fascinated with the different ways people organize and problem solve in the market, when they are either blocked from entering the traditional workforce, cannot build a business within the legal structure, or need to participate in black markets, rather than formal markets, for other reasons.

I gave a talk at the University session of TEDGlobal 2014 in Rio and Misha was in the audience. When I saw him later at the conference and he told me I had done a good job, it was like having a personal hero pat me on the back. (I gave a similar talk later that year at TEDxMunich)

I am constantly inspired by Misha’s research methods and writing style, and was so grateful to find his work at that point in my life. It helped me build my structure for study in University and beyond. That’s a powerful talk!

I love Informal Speaker Rehearsals

We’re in the thick of things leading up to TED2016. It means a lot of setting up and building a magical space, reviewing the last few primary sources for a fact check, and lots of informal speaker rehearsals.

I love the informal speaker rehearsals.

These are rehearsals we offer for speakers, sometimes with speaker coaches and sometimes with just me or another member of the team… and a few of the other speakers waiting for their turn to give it a go.

I love watching the friendships that develop here, between speakers and our team. I love that talks are interrupted to ask clarifying questions but also, hold on, can you tell me more about your research because that sounds amazing, questions. They start to give each other feedback, and hugs in the hallway before the each go up for their talks.

I love that TED creates a common language, even for just a few moments. It’s a beautiful moment when I can see bridges forming between disciplines and thinkers, and these incredible thinkers see each other prepare during an informal rehearsal… to end a rehearsal with “wow. that’s… so cool!”

It’s been a beautiful and busy week. I am learning so much, so fast. I am grateful and inspired.