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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

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

Five go to the voting booth

Clare Bryden has been the TEDxExeter Storyteller since the beginning, mainly blogging articles inspired by each year’s theme, and then live-blogging from the back of the theatre during the event itself. Now she’s starting a new series of things that interest her which have a TED or TEDx angle. These might be her responses to watching TED and TEDx talks, or interesting things that TED and TEDx talks could shed some light on…

First up, Brexit and young people. This is a reworking of a post on Clare’s own blog, where you can also find the data behind the graphs.

 

In the fall-out from the EU Referendum, one particular graph has been much-shown and commented upon. It’s the graph of how three-quarters of young people polled said they would vote Remain, and used as evidence for how they have been sold out by older people voting Leave.

EURef-Voting

 

But the graph doesn’t necessarily show the whole story. It doesn’t account for turnout, and Sky’s final poll says only about a third of people aged 18-24 may have voted.

EURef-Turnout

If that was the case, the votes for Remain as a percentage of eligible voters could actually have been the lowest in the 18-24 age group.

EURef-Adjusted

Now, polls in advance of votes don’t always give an accurate picture. In general elections, the exit polls are generally much closer to the eventual outcome. But in yet another missed opportunity, there were no exit polls at the Referendum, the argument being that they could only usefully be compared to previous votes. And yet surely they would have given us much better information about who was voting and why?

Interestingly, this LSE survey of the ‘inside mind of the voter’ suggests a MUCH higher turnout among young people: “Young people cared and voted in very large numbers. We found turnout was very close to the national average, and much higher than in general and local elections. After correcting for over-reporting [people always say they vote more than they do], we found that the likely turnout of 18- to 24-year-olds was 70% – just 2.5% below the national average – and 67% for 25- to 29-year-olds.”

Between 1964 and 2010, turnout in general elections among young people was much lower than the national average. In his talk at TEDxHousesofParliament in 2014, Rick Edwards asked why, and suggested five solutions to get more young people to vote: introduce online voting; make it compulsory for first-time voters to vote; add a ‘none of the above’ option; improve information about parties’ policy positions; celebrate young people who have stood for and won office as role models.

What happened in the 2015 General Election? Well, although polls of voting intention suggested turnout among young people was as low as in the past, as with the Referendum, subsequent study indicates it may well have been much higher and close to the national average.

We can’t get complacent, though, and ideas like Rick Edwards’ need to be explored. The LSE survey also suggests that young people were extremely engaged in the Referendum, and reacted very strongly to the result. So it could boost political engagement and turnout. But equally it could further discourage young people if they feel their vote doesn’t make a difference or their voices are not heard.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

Out and about with Frosty

Some of the speakers at TEDxExeter 2016 very kindly gave more of their time during their visits to Exeter. Anna Frost called in at a number of schools, the City Council, and went for a short (for her) outing with some local runners. Her whistle-stop tour was arranged by Tobit Emmens, member of the TEDxExeter production team, and speaker at TEDxExeter 2013. He has written a guest blog for us.

 

The children, all 400 of them, as well as the teachers, drew a collective breath when Anna Frost told them how long it took to run the Hardrock100, one of the hardest ultra marathons in the world. 27 hours, two sun rises and lots and lots of food. Anna, who many in the sport know as Frosty, was at St Michael’s Primary Academy, Heavitree, to talk to the children about being curious (what was over the next mountain?), adventurous and brave.

The children were enthralled, amazed and inspired. One pupil said to me: “it was so inspiring to meet a real life superhero”. After assembly, Frosty led an activity session for members of the school running club, with relay races, wheelbarrow races and a lesson on how to cure a stitch. Iain Randall, deputy head of St Michael’s, was delighted that Frosty was able to visit: “we often talk to the children about people who do amazing things and how they can act as role models, but to have one visit and work with the children was brilliant”.

After St Michael’s, Frosty visited St Luke’s Science and Sports College. There she met more primary school children from across the city on a sports Gifted and Talented programme. The children had been learning about pacing, and endurance. They were delighted to meet and listen to Frosty, who gave a short talk on how she started running, the ups and downs and the adventures she has had. This was followed by a Q&A session, and then it was outside for an activity session: a warm up and ‘long run’ around the field to put some learning into action.

Matt Upston, the College Sports Coordinator said: “having athlete role models come in and talk to the Gifted and Talented students can really inspire students to greatness. Frosty was fantastic working with the students and gave them a real insight on what it was like to be a professional athlete and the highlights and lowlights of a career on the road. Anna’s talk was engaging and inspirational to both the students and staff!”

In the afternoon, it was the turn of grown ups! A small group of local runners met at the Four Firs carpark, for a 15 mile run on Woodbury Common. For the local runners who took part, it was fantastic opportunity to run and quiz Frosty on everything from what she eats, how she trains, how she prepares for an ultra marathon, what it’s like to be a professional athlete, why she doesn’t use GPS activity tracking, the role social media has in professional sport, and what she plans on doing next.

Anna also met with representatives of Exeter City Council’s rugby world cup legacy team. Frosty gave some valuable insights on some of the challenges of bringing professional athletes into mentoring programmes.

TEDxExeter speaker calls for us to take a stand against terror and hate

Following the Orlando shooting on 12 June, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Karima Bennoune condemned murderous hate and called for commentators to question how Islamist political ideology purveys hatred against many groups.

Writing in the Huffington Post, she says: “If a suspected Christian fundamentalist had carried out an attack like this, liberal commentators would rightly be questioning how the rhetoric of some homophobic Christian leaders might have fuelled the atrocity.

13598350934_bf699bbef6_k

“As difficult as it is to do so appropriately in an atmosphere infused with discrimination against Muslims and terrifying Trumpism, if the Islamist inspiration of the Orlando murderer is confirmed, we will have to ask precisely the same questions. How has Islamist rhetoric inflamed homophobia and led to mass violence? Mateen’s armed, murderous hate is neither better nor worse because he was a Muslim. It is simply lamentable, to be condemned vociferously, should not be imputed to others who share his identity categories, but must be dissected, analyzed and fought mercilessly.”

Karima Bennoune, who is herself of Muslim heritage, spoke at TEDxExeter in 2014. In her talk, Your fatwa does not apply here, she told four powerful stories of real people fighting against fundamentalism in their own communities — refusing to allow the faith they love to become a tool for crime, attacks and murder. These personal stories humanise one of the most overlooked human-rights struggles in the world.

Speaking about the Orlando shootings, she added: “we cannot be tolerant of intolerance either, whoever’s intolerance that may be. Tolerance of intolerance does not produce tolerance. We have to stand against the far right, whether Christian or Muslim, in the West or in Muslim majority contexts and without disappearing difficult realities behind politically correct platitudes.” 

To read her full article, click here.

Imagining the TEDxExeter 2016 livestream anew

The TEDxExeter 2016 livestream was watched by people from 69 countries all over the world during the course of the day. The top 25 countries included (among the usual Western suspects): India, Mauritius, PNG, Pakistan, and Libya. Riffing on the mapping presentation in his talk “Imagining the world anew”, Danny Dorling kindly passed on our request to his colleague Ben Hennig, who brilliantly produced the following for us.

TEDxExeter_CountriesEqualSize

The first map shows each country represented in the streaming data in an equal size, so that it is a highlight of where all the visitors in the world came from, but represented by an equal measure and not in any other proportion. All other countries basically disappear from this first map.

TEDxExeter_StreamShareWithUK

The second map includes the actual shares of stream usage from each country. In this one, the UK is most prominent because it took the major share.

TEDxExeter_StreamShareWithoutUK

The third map takes out all UK data (so these 86% share of streams from the UK) and gives a proportional picture of where else people streamed the event in an accurate relative representation.