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Mike Dickson talk

Mike Dickson featureNow we are going to find out how to live a more generous life and become like Superman… but I might have given that away yesterday.

Each year, Charles Handy, the management guru, and his wife work out what they need for the coming year, and add 20% as he is pessimistic. He then divides the year into three: one-third spent on management consultancy, one-third on writing, and one-third on working for nothing and connecting with people. He wanted to maximise his life, not his income.

What is enough? How many presents do we receive that we don’t really want? And by implication, how many presents we have given haven’t been wanted? A colossal waste, driven by thoughtlessness. And take food. We throw away one-third of all the food we buy. One billion gorge ourselves and pay for gyms and diets, while another billion starve.

Everyone in this theatre could be Superman to the other billion: provide a microloan, sponsor a child’s education, get together at lunchtime to raise money for a well in Kenya.

Mike thinks he has discovered the purpose of life – what the riches we are receiving at TEDx today! – which is to help other people, people we know and people we have never met before and perhaps will never meet.

Our homework is to work out what enough is for us, to stop buying stuff we don’t need, to get a grip, and to turn ourselves into Superman or Superwoman.

Mike Dickson biography

Mike Dickson BWMike Dickson advises companies, ranging from private equity firms to fashion retailers, on how to develop effective and inspiring relationships with charities: partnerships that help to inspire employees, increase job satisfaction, improve internal communications and create a more intelligent business. Mike co-founded the successful children’s charity Whizz–Kidz which provides mobility equipment for disabled children. Since 1990 Whizz–Kidz has raised over £75 million to provide equipment for more than 7,500 children and young people.

Mike is the author of Please Take One Step, a call to lead a more generous life, to move on from consumerism, to a create a world rather than acquire one. It discusses the links between altruism and happiness; asks what is ‘enough’ to live a happy and fruitful life?, challenges us to help the poorest people the UK, to champion the bottom billion in the world, and to do no harm to our environment.

In 2011 Mike founded the Rainmaker Foundation, to proactively help NGOs. Mike is a regular attendee at Ted Global. He has ‘been round 6 marathons’, led fundraising treks in the Himalayas and Peru, is married with two children, and lives in West London.

News about Mike Dickson


TEDxExeter’s Twitter account is the place to go for the latest news about our previous and upcoming speakers and performers. And here are a few bonus snippets.

Tomorrow, Karima Bennoune is giving the Edward Said memorial lecture at Warwick University. Her first report as UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights was recently released; click on “LATEST REPORT”.

Jenny Sealey’s theatre company Graeae and the Central Illustration Agency (CIA!) recently collaborated on a wide-ranging exhibition at The Guardian. “Reframing the Myth” celebrated 35 years of placing Deaf and disabled artists centre stage.

Deeyah Khan and Manwar Ali (Abu Muntasir) both featured in this BBC interview about the lure of ISIS. Deeyah Khan wrote in the HuffPost last June about how “We Must Tackle Extremism Without Compromising Freedom of Speech”.

Carmel McConnell was awarded her MBE on 19 February for services to school food. A slide from her TEDxExeter talk was featured at the TED conference in Vancouver, as Jay Herratti celebrated ideas coming through TEDx events around the world with a particular focus on food.

Patrick Holden was featured in a Guardian article about urban farming and equality.

And finally… Last week, Mike Dickson released a new book! “Our Generous Gene” is “A call to action illustrated with stories from ordinary people who are, to their surprise, already changing the world and seeing small actions ripple outwards for good… For a future of happiness and meaning we just need to develop the naturing, caring instincts we are born with and focus on creating a world, not acquiring it.”

TEDxExeter story: Nicola Evans, 2012 attendee

The fifth of our short series of stories from speakers and attendees at previous TEDxExeter events. Claire met Nicola at the Northcott as she was buying tickets for TEDxExeter 2015. It’s an inspiring start to the new year.


Completely unrelated to TED, my partner Sarah and I had been thinking for some time about making our wills more meaningful than splitting our estate into small portions and distributing amongst members of our family, who didn’t really need it. Whereas, as a whole, it was a not insignificant sum that could make a real difference.

There were a number of things floating around in minds, including:

  • We had recently visited Costa Rica and were quite taken with the ethos of the country: no military, for which they were nominated a Nobel Peace Prize – a lot of their taxes go into the education of their children. Whilst they are a relatively poor country economically, they consistently perform well in the Human Development Index and have twice ranked the best performing country in the New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index. It is also on schedule to become the first carbon neutral country in 2021
  • We believe that the only thing that will radically change the world is education. Not just academic but an understanding and embracing diversity through knowledge
  • We believe that children are our future and, although we don’t have any of our own, we need to invest now to help them make things better for future generations – it really is our duty
  • We believe that women have a huge contribution to make but in many parts of the world are still considered second class citizens and victims of atrocious human rights violations.

… but it wasn’t until TED that all of our thought began to gel into a coherent plan and the starting point was at our first TEDxExeter in 2012, when we heard Mike Dickson talk on “What is enough?” We were genuinely inspired, so we hi-jacked him over a sandwich at lunch time and he subsequently invited us to meet him in London to discuss our plans further.

Sarah and I then gave each other space to consider what we wanted to do individually and when we came together to reveal our thoughts – guess what? They were exactly the same:

We wanted our money to be used to set up or support a school for the education of mainly female (but not exclusively) children in Costa Rica or a similar country (more research needed). We have subsequently set up a trust to do just that.

TEDxExeter gave us the freedom to think differently about things and empowered us to act on aspirations beyond those for ourselves.