TEDxSydney is a celebration of BIG IDEAS. The theme of TEDxSydney this year was “Togetherness”. What does this mean? It means that no big idea happens in a vacuum: the best ideas are the result of conversations and collaborations. I also think more generally it means “we are all in this together and we will all go down together – so let’s get our act together!”
Again this year, there was a great mix of intelligent, brave, inspiring and funny speakers and entertainers, who challenged the audience to think, feel and act differently.
I had three big take-outs from the day. These themes were in many different ways repeated over and over throughout the day and are good principles for us all to remember and try to live up to.
1. If You Don’t Step Over the Line, How Do You Know Where the Line Is?
Remo Giuffré is a thinker and creative strategist with a long track record as an entrepreneur, retail merchant and brand builder. He is also the Founder and Licensee of TEDxSydney.
In his welcome to the day Remo outlined for us TED’s overarching mission to nurture the spread of powerful ideas. His ambition is to continuously challenge people and push the boundaries of our understanding, our compassion, our biases and our use of technology.
Remo eloquently said that in the quest for innovation we not only have to keep moving the line but actually step over it. I think this is such a powerful metaphor; innovation isn’t a destination, rather a continuous journey we take as humanity. So long as we don’t destroy ourselves or our planet we will have to keep innovating and building our improving understanding of community and acceptance of each other.
2. When We Know Better, We Can Do Better.
Tara Winkler is the Managing Director of the Cambodian Children’s Trust (CCT) which she established in 2007 in order to rescue fourteen Children from a corrupt and abusive orphanage.
Unfortunately, Tara found out that the well-meaning support and donations from the West fuels an industry that exploits foreigners in exchange for donations.
Building more orphanages is not the solution; it was actually part of the problem. To break the cycle of poverty children need to be taken out of institutions and have family based care and love.
This was an eye-opening revelation and puts paid to the some of the charity-tourism, which has become an industry in itself.
Tara made me wonder how many other things we take for granted that may be based on an underlying false assumption or result in unintended consequences? Curiosity about the world around us is part of the answer; a quest for deeper understanding and knowledge is always a good thing. And most importantly, owning up to our mistakes and having the courage to make a change. Tara was truly inspirational. You can read more about it in her just published book How (Not) to Start an Orphanage.
3. Courage, Kindness and Forgiveness is the Essence of Humanity
Peta Murchinson and Gill Hicks, two incredibly inspiring women, shared powerful and very moving stories. Both connected with and captivated the audience – I doubt there would have been a dry eye in the auditorium for both talks.
Peta’s daughter is dying of Batten Disease, a very rare degenerative genetic disease that affects otherwise healthy children. Peta has had to face the absolute certainty of losing her daughter and at the same time open herself up to the warmth, compassion and generosity of her daughter’s school, community and even complete strangers.
Gill Hicks is a survivor of the London terrorist bombings in July 2005. She shared with us the horror of the attack, her rescue and her permanent injuries, losing both legs from just below the knee. Her vivid account of that day left me breathless, and her acceptance and forgiveness for what has happened to her is inspirational. She has dedicated her life to being an advocate for peace and refuses to talk about ‘the others’ or ‘the enemies’; we are all human and we all have the capacity for kindness and forgiveness.
Although the two stories are quite different what connected them, for me, was that through the depth of their sadness and horrific injuries, both these women found the courage to keep going and to not only endure, but to grow and open up to the love and kindness, sometimes from strangers, that helped them both to face their adversities.
A day at TEDx is a day well spent and certainly challenges you to think and act differently: something we should all do more of, more often!