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A new HOPE

The last line we saw Carrie Fisher (albeit a CGI-reconstructed ever-youthful Carrie Fisher) deliver in a movie before she died was in Rogue One. Rogue One was the prequel to what is now known as Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Carrie’s line was the single word “Hope”. Pretty good legacy, I’d say.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

On HOPE…

Thank you to Martin Thompson for this guest blog, which is adapted from a post he wrote for Advent on his own blog. Martin teaches RE at Uffculme School. He is a big supporter of TEDxExeter in his work, bringing pupils to the events and using videos in the classroom. In the early years, when the event was in the school holidays, he was a volunteer with a view from the wings of the Northcott.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

 

Hope.

I wonder what comes to mind when you hear that word?

Dreams?

Aspirations?

A desire for something to change?

Expectation?

There’s been enough going on in our world recently to make even the most optimistic progressive want to give up. We’ve even taken to criticising those of us who have suggested that things may not be as bad as we at first think, that this may be a time of challenge, but also of great opportunity.

Hope appears diminished, besmirched somehow…an unattainable wisp of a thing. Our world is a mess, with little to suggest that there’s any way out. To say we ‘hope’ sounds like an unattainable expression of an idea, not any concrete reality.

We are crushed. Hope is gone.

Sometimes the English language simplifies concepts that deserve much more interesting definitions. A great example of this is the word ‘love’ – which could be used to describe desire for our partner, our interest in an author or a football team…but in Greek there are at least four different words for love – agape, philos, eros, storge… each reflecting a slightly different dimension of the same thing.

It could be helpful to explore whether there might be a better way to think about hope – perhaps looking at other understandings, other dimensions that help us glimpse something different.

For example, the Greek word that we translate as ‘hope’ – elpis – might better be translated as ‘expectant’. A sense that something is coming, something is happening. Not an empty, dreamy thing, but a visceral, tangible expression of denial that the way things are is the way things have to be.

Another helpful example might be the Latin version of the word spero, which is etymologically related to the word spiro, ‘to breathe’. It’s almost as if they’re saying to hope is to breathe, or vice versa, to breathe is to hope.

If we breathe, we have hope. If we have hope, we keep breathing.

A Latin phrase based on the works of Theocritus and Cicero echoing this idea says simply this:

Dum spiro spero…

‘While I breathe, I hope…’

Just take that in for a moment.

We breathe, we hope.

We are hope.

Our world is a mess, but we are bearers of that which has the potential to transform all that appears dark into light – hope.

We must never give up our expectation, our breath. To do so would be to stop breathing, to expire.

To die.

Dum spiro spero…

Our world is changing for ever. Something is coming, something real. But what that ‘something’ is depends on us and how it impacts us is our choice.

Our choice is to shape that change, to engage with it and bring ‘hope’ to those who feel they have nothing to live for other than hate of the ‘other’ – or to give up and to allow the darkness to overwhelm us.

Our choice is to be expectant that our efforts can and will counter those of forces who want to see us divided and in conflict – or to stand by and allow event greater horrors to emerge.

Our choice is love over fear.

We live or die by our choices. They cost us and those around us dearly every single day.

Choosing not to act, not to hope isn’t a neutral place to be. Too much is at stake here. Too many lives. We choose acceptance over resistance.

If we stop believing we stop hoping. If we stop hoping, we stop breathing.

I choose to believe.

I choose hope.

I choose to breathe.

#alwayshope

Danny Dorling on TED.com

See the world anew and discover hope for the future says Danny Dorling as his TEDxExeter talk is featured on TED.com.

We are delighted that Danny’s powerful talk has been featured on TED.com, the 6th talk from TEDxExeter to be featured on the main TED site.

“There are a huge number of good news stories in the world,” says Danny Dorling in his 2016 TEDxExeter talk: “Maps that show us who we are (not just where we are)”. And now his talk is on TED.com many more people around the world will hear about the constant, incremental changes for the better that rarely feature in the print and broadcast media.

Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford, challenges us to examine some of our beliefs about the world and open our minds to a new, often unreported reality. Using beautiful and unfamiliar world maps created by Ben Hennig (and shown in colour for the first time) he shows us that in many ways life is slowly getting better and there’s much to be optimistic about, as long as we continue to connect with each other.

“I’m very glad TED has decided to feature the talk I gave at TEDxExeter,” said Danny. “In it I examine new ways of viewing the world, its future, and how we can be a little less afraid if we do not see other people as being our enemy as much as we currently do. We currently fear people from other countries too much, we fear that those in faraway places are taking ‘our jobs’, we fear what we do not know. But if we begin to see the world as a whole, as the place from which we all get our food, as the place that we all pollute, then as our global population begins to stabilise we can learn to become less fearful. Some people learn faster than others. The British Prime Minister, Teresa May, recently said that ‘if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere’. It is not her fault that she was taught geography at time before we could map all the citizens of the world and see that we are each just such a citizen.”

“I hope you watch the talk if only to see the weird and wonderful ways in which Benjamin Hennig has remapped the planet. Seeing the earth shaped in proportion to the amount of rain that falls, and how that changes over a year, shows the planet as a single entity that almost appears to have an annual heartbeat. Seeing all the humans of the world drawn on a single projection can help us realise that imagining all of humanity as one is not beyond the scope of our collective imaginations. Let’s see the world anew!”

Ben Hennig has also used this method of remapping the world to map the result of the US presidential election and show that not only did most voters who voted not vote for Trump (which people know), but also that an even larger majority of Americans live in areas which did not vote for Trump. See more on Ben’s website Views of the World.

Democrat areas are coloured blue on Ben’s map of the election result. On the traditional map it looks as if Trump had a great deal of support. On the map adjusted to correctly represent the number of people living in an area it is made clear that only a small minority of Americans supported him and that he has only won office due to the US voting system and because there is so much disaffection there (so many people don’t vote).

Danny’s TEDxExeter talk was based on a book he wrote with Carl Lee called ‘Geography’.

His new book A Better Politics can be downloaded as a PDF here. The book was timed for publication on the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s book ‘Utopia’ which is this month (‘Utopia’ was originally published in Latin in very late 1516).

You can find out more about Danny’s work at dannydorling.org and @dannydorling.

Reasons to be Cheerful

I subscribe to GRIN. That is to say… Every Monday to Friday, I get a bulletin from the Grants Resources Information News, which focuses on one grant scheme or related resource. Every alternate Friday it features a blog by TED fan and philanthropy advisor Emma Beeston. I thought today’s tied in nicely with the theme of TEDxExeter 2017, which we have just announced: HOPE. Emma was happy for us to feature it as a guest blog.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

 

Depending how you get your news, it can easily feel that we are living in gloomy and uncertain times. So, as the evenings get darker, it is important to keep looking for the positives that are all around us.

Not to delude ourselves (as my teenage son puts it when I endeavour to be cheerful, “life is not all rainbows and butterflies”) but to give us hope that positive change is possible. These are the reasons to be cheerful that I have gathered over the past few weeks and that give me cause for optimism: 

  • I attended a training session for small charities supporting refugees across the SW, which was co-hosted by Unbound and Lloyds Bank Foundation. I was very impressed by the fact that, despite the considerable difficulties they face to deliver vital front line services, all the charity leaders were also working to achieve systemic change. And one of the advocacy trainers reminded us all that the campaign to abolish the slave trade was started by just 12 people coming together.
  • The Funding Network held a live crowdfunding event in Bristol. The pitches were excellent – getting your case for support across in six minutes is no mean feat – and over £25k was raised for the five good causes. These were all small organisations where this level of funding, and the recognition, will make a big difference. But what struck me was the positive energy in the room created by people coming together and wanting to help.
  • I got to visit Exeter CoLab as they hosted the latest meeting of the Funding SW funders forum. This is such a good example of bringing services together to tackle social issues. I liked the focus on relationships, with those in difficulty telling their story just once and then being introduced to the individuals who can help them, rather than being constantly referred from one organisation after the next.
  • I have started using 360Giving website. After so many years of talking about data sharing and transparency, it is fantastic to have this open resource where you can see who has given grants to who. Do take a look, and if you are a grant-maker, add your data.

The millennials are coming and they are going to change things. I have been reading lots of research showing how millennials want to combine working with doing good. And this includes their activity in philanthropy and investment (e.g. a World Economic Forum study surveyed 5,000 millennials in 18 different countries and found that their overall top priority for any business should be “to improve society.”). Here is one article with some examples of what the next generation are up to.

And these are just some examples.  I have also visited and read about lots of other excellent charities who are working really hard to bring about positive social change. Thanks to all of them for giving me hope for our collective future.

Giving TED talks to know you’re not alone

I recently opined that deep down we watch TED talks to know we’re not alone. It subsequently struck me that because we can see the number of views, and comment and read other’s comments on each talk, we can be certain that we are not alone in watching TED talks.

And that led me to reflecting on the speakers’ perspective. Now that so many statistics are collected on the number of times a talk is viewed and the related web pages are accessed, the speaker knows they are not alone too. There are dangers: that they compare themselves to others, or they feel under extreme pressure not to fail and let their viewers down, or they are Brené Brown. But I’m hoping that it would a great encouragement to them to keep on keeping on.

More than that; it’s not just the speakers. At TEDxExeter 2014, Karima Bennoune told four powerful stories of people who are living under Islamist fundamentalist repression. A year later, in her update she said: “Cherifa Kheddar and other victims’ families counted the number of views of my TED talk – the talk containing their stories – as those views accumulated. And I did not realize how much it would mean to them that hundreds of thousands of people around the world would listen, so please keep sharing that talk and this one as a sign of your support not of me but of them.”

So do keep watching, keep sharing, keep commenting (constructively!), and keep encouraging each other.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

Watching TED talks to know you’re not alone

There are myriads of reasons why people watch TED and TEDx talks, and myriads of outcomes.

Some might want to be entertained with interesting facts about the world, or music or humour, or to be challenged to think in new ways about the world.

Others might want to find a campaign to support, and there are plenty of talks describing plenty of opportunities, not least the talks at TEDxExeter 2015 by Matthew Owen about Cool Earth and by Carmel McConnell about Magic Breakfast. Of course, it’s possible that it’s the talk which grabs the unsuspecting viewer by the scruff of the neck and makes them start the campaign. Bandi Mbubi’s talk at the first TEDxExeter inspired a group of people to coalesce around him and found Congo Calling.

Yet others might be looking for new ways of doing things in the workplace. Alan Smith’s talk at TEDxExeter this year may well be inspiring many to use more data visualisation in the decision-making process. Others might be looking for new ways of being and seeking to change themselves, or seeking to affirm themselves, but they are challenged anyway.

Scientists have found that “when we read a story and really understand it, we create a mental simulation of the events described by the story”. It is as though reading a novel or biography adds to our experience of the world, a safe way of trying things out. Perhaps watching TED talks also enables us to try on for size new approaches to working, living, viewing the world, or even new selves.

A talk like Manwar Ali’s on Jihad, also at TEDxExeter 2016, holds up a mirror to the choices we all face between light and dark, our potential for violence and for peace. Going off the TEDxExeter piste now, Brené Brown’s talk takes us through the experience of allowing our self to be vulnerable and life to be uncertain. Susan Cain asks us to empathise with introverts, recognise their strengths, and maybe gives some the lightbulb moment of realisation that that is who they are.

CS Lewis wrote of “the few” and “the many” readers. “The few” are those who seek out space to read, who must read, who often re-read books, and who are open to being deeply changed by what they read. “The many” read when there is nothing else claiming their attention, do not re-read, and show no sign of being changed by what they read. I would like to coin “the TED few”, who would be those who make space for new ideas, who often re-watch talks, and who are open to being deeply changed by what they see and hear.

Much of my reading is by people who have similar interests: who have or are seeking a sense of place; who are living and working prophetically; who have experienced the struggles and sometimes the successes. Recent examples include Spiritual Activism by Alastair McIntosh and Matt Carmichael, and Daybook, the Journey of an Artist by Anne Truitt. I am not reading in order to follow their example or recreate what they are doing, but because through their stories I learn that I am not particularly special or different, that others have similar goals to mine, and that they doubt and lack confidence and have struggles too. And that somehow gives me hope and the energy to persevere a while longer.

In a similar vein, my prime motivation for watching TED talks is to find other people who are risking and creating and doing great stuff. So I tend to gravitate to the talks on creativity and art, like Peter Randall-Page’s talk at TEDxExeter 2015, and two of my favourites by Janet Echelman and Stefan Sagmeister. It means I am often tempted towards envy, and thinking that I wish I could do or had done that. I need to remember that I won’t do the same thing, but I will do some thing, and I should focus on and celebrate that thing. What I am seeking from TED talks are stories of people who are blazing trails of possibility, and effectively giving me permission to do my own risking and creating and (hopefully great) stuff.

The film Shadowlands gave CS Lewis the phrase: “we read to know we are not alone”. I think it’s true. I also think that deep down we watch TED talks to know we are not alone.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

Tickets now available for TEDxExeter screening of Jihad: a story of the others

A TEDxExeter Adventure

Jihad: a story of the others

 

We are screening Jihad: a story of the others, a BAFTA nominated film by Emmy and Peabody award winning director and TEDxExeter speaker Deeyah Khan on Monday 28 November 2016 from 6.30 – 9pm at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM). The screening will be followed by a discussion with Deeyah Khan and Manwar Ali.

Click here to buy tickets which cost £12 (£8 concessions).

The world has watched aghast as thousands of young men and women abandon comfortable lives in the West to join the barbaric Isis. Girls and boys have gone from being apparently well-adjusted school kids, to enthusiastically joining the ranks of kalashnikov-wielding religious warriors and burkah-clad “jihadi brides”. It feels like a new and frightening phenomenon, one which has left many feeling bewildered and repulsed.

But as this new documentary film by Emmy Award winning director Deeyah Khan shows, Westerners embracing jihad is nothing new. For three generations now, young people across Europe have fallen prey to extremist groups and fought, killed and died with mujahideen movements from Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kashmir, to Chechnya and Burma.

In this film, Deeyah, who has faced threats from extremist fundamentalists in the past, sets out to find out why the jihadi message has such an alluring hold on young Westerners.

At TEDxExeter 2016 Deeyah and former jihadist Manwar Ali spoke powerfully about jihad and what draws young people to radicalisation. We are delighted that they are returning to Exeter to share the film with the TEDxExeter community.

Click here to buy tickets which cost £12 (£8 concessions).

More about Jihad: a story of the others

2016 BAFTA nomination in the Current Affairs documentary category

Shortlisted for Best Documentary on Current Affairs at the 2016 Grierson Awards

Nominated for a 2016 Golden Nymph Award at Monte-Carlo TV Festival Norwegian Ministry of Arts & Culture Human Rights Award

“Anyone wishing to understand why thousands of Western-born Muslims are leaving comfortable homes to fight with Isis would do well to watch Deeyah Khan’s powerful new film, Jihad … featuring extraordinary interviews.”

– The Independent on Sunday

“Great journalism often challenges the official version of events. That’s what Deeyah Khan’s film Jihad does to the story which governments and tabloids like to tell about the radicalisation of Muslims. She takes those cliches and caricatures, shreds them, and then she let’s you see what is really happening.”

— Nick Davies, special correspondent, The Guardian.

TEDxExeter is independently organised by volunteers and licensed by TED.

Click here to buy tickets which cost £12 (£8 concessions).

Manwar Ali on TED.com

The idea of jihad has been hijacked, perverted and turned into terrorism by fascistic Islamists says Manwar Ali. His TEDxExeter talk “Inside the mind of a former radical jihadist” from April this year has just been selected to feature on TED.com – an honour that only a tiny proportion of TEDx talks achieve (five of them now from TEDxExeter). Needless to say we are all excited and proud that Manwar’s brave and moving talk will reach a global audience. It has already been watched by nearly 7,000 people since it went online in May and now it will reach millions more.

Manwar Ali, who is also known as Abu Muntasir, has more than 30 years experience teaching Islam and is one of the few scholars in the UK who has been directly involved in jihad. He was a committed pioneer of jihadism in the UK who fought in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Burma.

“For a long time, I lived for death,” says Manwar Ali, a former radical jihadist who participated in violent, armed campaigns in the Middle East and Asia in the 1980s. In this moving talk, he reflects on his experience with radicalisation and makes a powerful, direct appeal to anyone drawn to Islamist groups claiming that violence and brutality are noble and virtuous: let go of anger and hatred, he says, and instead cultivate your heart to see goodness, beauty and truth in others.

Manwar Ali also says: “I thought violent Jihad was noble, chivalrous, and the best way to help. At a time when so many of our young people are at risk of radicalisation by groups like IS, AQ and others, when those groups are claiming that their horrific violence and brutality are true jihad – I want to say – their idea of jihad is wrong. Totally wrong. As was mine, then.”

He believes that “there are no circumstances on earth today in which violent jihad is permissible, because it will lead to greater harm”.

“I am absolutely delighted that my talk has been chosen for TED.com,” says Manwar Ali. “I am forever grateful to everyone responsible for making this happen. I am thrilled that a much wider audience will benefit from my humble admissions.

“It is vital for us to understand the poison of the ideology of Islamism which is necessarily supremacist and do our best to protect and cure humanity from its pernicious effects on the hearts for peace, compassion and understanding. For it to be hosted on TED.com is simply a dream come true.”

TEDxExeter organiser and licensee Claire Kennedy adds: “At a time when stories of young people being recruited to violent jihad overseas are regularly in the headlines, this talk is very timely. We are delighted that Manwar’s wise and thought-provoking words will reach a global audience.”

Manwar Ali is chief executive of Muslim educational charity JIMAS. He is also a specialist interventions provider for the Home Office’s Office of Security and Counter Terrorism working with people who are at risk of radicalisation and those convicted of terrorism. He is chaplain for University Campus Suffolk, Suffolk New College, and the Ipswich Hospital; a member of the local scrutiny & involvement panel for the Crown Prosecution Service in East England; a member of the police crime panel for the Suffolk Police & Crime Commissioner; and a member of the Suffolk Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education.

Giles Duley’s refugee portraits win International Photography Award

Syrian refugeeTEDxExeter speaker Giles Duley has won an International Photography Award with his portraits of Syrian refugees living in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. He was awarded first prize in the category people, portraits. Third in the same category was Bert Hartman, for his portraits of TED Fellows during the 2016 TED conference in Vancouver, Canada.

Giles spoke at this year’s TEDxExeter conference in April. In his talk, The Power of a Story he focuses his lens on the stories of some of the refugees fleeing conflict in Syria.

giles4Giles Duley is an award winning humanitarian photographer who, through his work with UNHCR, focuses his lens on their lives and tells their stories.

He is himself casualty of war who almost died and lost both legs and an arm in an improvised explosive device explosion in Afghanistan. His lasting wounds allow him to connect with the people he captures on film and to tell the stories of those without a voice.

In this powerful and moving call to action, Giles reminds us that we are at a defining moment and calls on us to do all we can to make a difference to the lives of refugees, now. Watch the video now.

Show the love to take action against climate change this week

Imagining the world anew
Danny Dorling

We’re in the middle of a Week of Action to celebrate the people, places and things we want to protect from climate change – and to make sure MPs feel that love.

There are all sorts of events going on around the country – we’ll be seeing nature walks, tea parties, classic lobbies, community energy visits and all sorts of other events to start those key conversations about climate change. All this will either involve MPs or be showcased to them, so that politicians see, feel and hear how much their constituents care about what we could lose to climate change.

People all over the UK are organising events in their local areas – find ones near you on this map. Do join in and #speakup. Also #showthelove.

8678548066_197b5a07ba_z
Jonathan Porritt

And to get you in the mood, why not check out some of our TEDxExeter climate-related talks. Carbon reduction plans are often talked about just in terms of what we have to give up, but there are plenty of things that would be nicer, better, more fun even, in a low carbon world. To help us imagine it, Jonathan Porritt paints us a picture of what a sustainable life would look like.

If you’re talking climate, they don’t come more knowledgable than Peter Cox. Professor of climate system dynamics and leader of the inter-disciplinary “climate change and sustainable futures” activity at the University of Exeter, Peter Cox was also a lead-author on the  fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He asks us to think outside the low carbon box, and concentrate on reducing methane.

This year, Danny Dorling took a rather different approach: asking us to imagine the world anew. Did you know that population growth is slowing rapidly? Danny challenges us to examine some of our beliefs about the world and open our minds to a new, unreported reality. Using beautiful and unfamiliar maps drawn by his colleague Ben Hennig, he shows us how we are changing as a species. While so much of our media focuses on what’s wrong with the world, Danny shows us that there is much that is slowly getting better, much to be optimistic about, as long as we continue to connect with each other.