Sara Hyde talk

SaraHyde_portraitSara also has a background in theatre. She starts with, acts rather than tells, the story of Katie: a beautiful small baby, neglected; moved into foster care, moved again and again; at 12 babysits and is raped by the father, and then all his friends; she runs away, and gets involved in crack and crime; at 18 she stabs an old woman; she’s had juvenile sentences, now it’s adult prison.

What does justice look like for Katie? How many people do we know that have been to prison? Why is it that the answer is lots for some and none for others?

Who ends up in our prisons? Other human beings. Sara is sharing statistics of the men and women behind bars. For example, how many have been abused or suffered depression, or attempted suicide.

Katie was not a sick fish as a baby, but grew up in unhealthy water. We need to change the water.

In recent years, the ratio of prison officers to prisoners has fallen. There is overcrowding. We are moving towards the US model of commercialised prison, but we can’t afford it. The National Audit Office says that there is no correlation between crime rates and numbers in prison.

Is there another way? 97% of people in prison say they desire not to reoffend, but 58% do. At HMP Grendon, a therapeutic prison, the rate is closer to 20%. This is due to focusing on relationships, giving time and place for human beings to relate to other human beings, and having a relational approach to justice.

We do still need prisons, especially for perpetrators of violent crimes. But what does relational justice look like? The principles include: a person’s acts may be bad, but they are still human; we all mess up; we need space to practise life; a prisoner may become a tax-paying citizen in the future; people are not commodities; prison is not an industry; what if people who sent others to prison were accountable for them; inequality means people don’t get equal chances.

On the ground, this means: reduce the prison population; use community sentences; reduce prison sizes; high staff ratios; use restorative justice, de-othering the victim and de-monstering the perpetrator; train and pay officers properly.

It is more effective to reduce crime by reducing drug use and providing mental health care than to put people in prison. HMP Grendon costs more per prisoner, but the lower reoffending rates means that it saves overall.

So where might Katie be now? What can we do, human to human, before we find Katie in a prison cell?

Jenny Sealey talk

JennySealey_portraitJenny became deaf (with speech) at aged 7. Her mother said she could do whatever she wanted. Her careers officer said she could become a librarian! With Graeae, she works with some extraordinary deaf and disabled artists. She is showing a video of some of them as she continues to speak.

Disabled people are dependent on Access to Work and the Independent Living Fund. The first is one of the government’s best kept secrets. It helps disabled people into the workforce, so they can fulfil roles with equality, and come off benefits and pay taxes. The latter does what it says. But in 2012 Esther McVey announced out of the blue that it will be closed and passed to local authorities in June 2015. The pot is £23m, and per person the cost of £346 compares very favourably with the cost of care in residential homes [several thousand]. Jenny argues the closure breaches human rights.

When working on the Paralympics Opening Ceremony, Stephen Hawking said don’t look at your toes, look at the stars. He and many other deaf and disabled people (Beethoven, Roosevelt, Frida Kahlo) have contributed enormously to civilisation. They needed and received support. Jenny is running through a list of people who are struggling with accessing government support so they can fulfil their potential.

For example, a graduate in business studies had Access to Work for 6 hours a day, then when moved to another job was only given 3 hours a week, and had to leave the job… which also means that two signers lost their employment too.

Disability does not occur because someone has done something wrong. Yet disabled people are vilified and in some countries treated as beggars. It amazes some that there are disabled people on the stage. Many decisions seem to be the result of lack of empathy and understanding. For example, how do blind people use tablets with smooth screens? The Paralympics were glorious. Following it, Channel 4 asked Jenny to put some of her people forward to Undateables, which she found sickening.

So Jenny asks us to familiarise ourselves with Access to Work, and with the issues, and help disabled people in their efforts to give their great contributions to society.

Dick Moore talk

DickMoore_portraitThe focus in the third session is switching back again to the UK. First up is Dick Moore, a passionate advocate for mental health in children and teens.

“How are you?” he asks. Statistically, 26% of us will be suffering from a cold, 46% from an injury, and about 70 of 460 in the theatre from some emotional or mental health issue.

He is showing a photo of his family: Dick, his wife, and their four boys. Life was kind, with decent schools and university opportunities. Three of the four coped well with life’s ups and downs. The fourth, Barney, lacked confidence to be in a group of people. He had a serious relationship, which sadly ended. He tried to win her back, and became obsessive, to the point of saying life was not worth living without her. He was eventually sectioned, but he argued his way out. Dick gave him a letter saying that he was loved, but Barney didn’t read it. Later he took his own life.

Dick and the rest of the family were heart-broken. Eventually the storms gave way to some surprisingly silver linings. The relationship end wasn’t the underlying cause of Barney’s action. Just as diabetes is a physical condition, so depression is a mental condition that can’t just be ‘got over’. Barney killed himself because he wasn’t equipped to deal with the storms of life.

Dick doesn’t blame anyone in particular. But in the world we’ve become obsessed with hard evidence and measurements – perform better, look better, and be better. Young people are under more pressure than ever, and the outcome is occasionally emotional turmoil. The World Health Organization estimates a 300% increase in self-harm in the UK in the last 10 years.

If you were to work out in the gym for an hour, the release of endorphins makes you feel good. Self-harm leads to an immediate release of endorphins. Why haven’t we explained to young people how they can cope with pain without resorting to physical harm? Suicide among young men accounts for more deaths than AIDs, violent crime and road traffic accidents added together.

Worry, anxiety and stress are part of life. At what point do they become problems? Life is in three parts: sometimes fun, sometimes normal, and sometimes stormy. If we are lucky, the storms are short-lived squalls. Others experience longer-lived storms or even hurricanes.

How are we teaching children resilience? The New Economics Foundation suggests we can help young people be more connected through noticing the world around them, being physically active, engaging with new ideas, doing random acts of kindness. Dick argues we need more – a fundamental change in attitude, led by schools and universities.

We need to explore what and how we are teaching and assessing at every level. Prioritising mental health will have a direct and positive impact on academic performance. We need to embed social learning in all academic institutions, in every lesson, not as an appendage. Edutopia is working on this in the US.

Dick encourages anyone with influence to encourage this change, so that young people in the future can dance, rather than drown, in the rain.

Celia McKeon talk

CeliaMcKeon_portraitCelia is asking us to clench our fists, tighter. How would it feel to clench it for ever? Now open your hand, stretch it out, and notice how that feels.

It wasn’t until she was 16 that Celia realised how important security could be. She was in a camp in Europe, and became friends with a Croatian girl. During the Balkan conflict, she wrote to her friend, but eventually lost contact. She was horrified that her friend was exposed to such experiences and insecurities. So she got involved in peace-building.

Time and again, she has learnt that peace and security are built by talking about the root causes, with an out-stretched hand and not a clenched fist.

In places like the UK not affected by such conflict, we can still ask what security means. Does it mean defence? Pictures of tanks and barbed-wire fences?

Sources of insecurity include patriarchy, militarised violence, climate change, concentration of power, financial insecurity. All cross boundaries, and require collective global solutions. So the 20th century requires us to build security with an out-stretched hand. Yet the global spend on defence is over $4 trillion dollars. There is something wrong.

Iraq and Afghanistan have been dubbed ‘strategic’ failures for Western governments. We are deploying drones, supposedly precision strikes, but more than 100 people have been killed when trying to kill one leader. Which has led to even higher resentment. Everyone has a clenched fist.

We are told there are no other options. But there are, from a different starting point, relying on building relationships, confronting inequalities, and recognising humanity. There are seven elements required, including: access to work, access to food, health protection, trust in communities, political participation.

Celia is sharing stories of how this has worked in practice: in the Philippines via a touring government commission; in northern Mali via many community organisers; in Northern Ireland via a touring citizens’ inquiry.

It is not a magic solution, but conversations and the willingness to listen are powerful. In the UK’s ‘war on terror’, we need the courage not to respond to a clenched fist with another clenched fist. How instead can we build basic security for everyone? Power – the UK elite are tied into global military sales – isn’t working. Let’s consider being vulnerable instead, where most break-throughs have come. The most transformative moments in peace processes around the world are when the risk is taken to build relationships… unclenching the fist and offering an out-stretched hand.

Celia later lived in Croatia for a while. War veterans from all sides are being brought together to talk and listen. So ask whether politician’s approaches are building true security, and recognise that we have the choice to harness creativity. In the end, our future is likely to depend on the kind of security we choose to believe in.

Karima Bennoune video update

Karima Bennoune featureKarima Bennoune’s talk – sharing stories of real people fighting against fundamentalism in their own communities – was a highlight of TEDxExeter 2014, and has now been featured on TED.com and watched by more than 1.25m people. She has recorded a video update for us.

She didn’t dream that the battle would be even harder now, against the ideology of IS. Has the West stood with the people within the Muslim countries that are fighting these fundamentalisms? They have continued to cosy up to the Gulf states. Meanwhile, the UK has become an exporter of jihadists. Karima’s contacts in the US are standing against fundamentalists in their own US cities. Her contacts in Algeria have been beaten for displaying a banner listing the names of women killed. The authorities are silencing their people.

Karima asks us to raise our voices in their support, and to continue to share her original TED Talk. One of her stories was about Amel, a women killed in Algiers for studying law. Amel’s mother died recently. There was little healing for her, where there is no justice and little opportunity for remembrance. But hope (which is the meaning of Amel) lives on when stories are shared.

Karima’s father wrote an open letter: “Your movement is the negation of reason, democracy, common sense and Islamic universal values. It is doomed to fail.” We need to work together to make this so.

Karima has felt much anger this year, at the atrocities and at the Western response. She has written a poem “Why I hate Islamic State”, a gut-wrenching conclusion.

Clive Stafford Smith talk

CliveStaffordSmith_portraitFuelled by tea and a cookie, it’s now time for the second session – Global Connections – and Clive Stafford Smith.

He begins with a tribute to his aunt who died recently. She was born at the wrong time, when opportunities were not available to women. His dad had bi-polar disorder, which has led to some interesting stories! Many of his actions were not the action of a rational mind. His aunt couldn’t accept that her brother was mentally ill, so didn’t accept that this drove his actions and were not necessarily bad in intention.

… Which leads to a story about Ricky, a convicted child molester and murderer. His mother was severely injured in a car accident, and while she was pregnant continued to be given all sorts of drugs, one of which has been linked to paedophilia. Ricky developed psychosis from an early age, and started molesting other children even though he had no idea what he was doing. At some point he had a counselling session, which told him he had a mental disorder and shouldn’t be released or he would reoffend. He was bright, so himself wrote to the state board saying he shouldn’t be released but kept in a mental hospital… but bureaucracy intervened… and then he killed a child.

The DA tried to seek the death penalty. Eventually there were conversations between Ricky and the mother of the boy he killed, who heard his story and said she’d fight for him. But the DA continued to seek the death penalty, and the mother was now considered to be unfit to parent her other children.

Ricky himself wanted to be a case study, to improve understanding of his condition. At the trial, the mother wanted to testify that Ricky was mentally ill and should be kept in a mental hospital and never released. Her testimony supporting him was very moving, and Ricky was spared the death penalty.

Clive concludes with two points. First, the mother was a victim, and the government tried to teach her to hate, but she tried to understand. Second, a person with mental health issues needs to be understood and not hated, which might get us to a place where we can prevent harm.

Carmel McConnell talk

CarmelMcConnell_portraitCarmel points out that we live in the 6th richest economy and a great loving country, but we are living towards the end of the worst economic downturn in 80 years. Prices have gone up and wages down, which has led to a problem of child hunger, and this is a real problem for education.

0.5m children in the country go to school too hungry to learn. Children get a great lunch, but the most important lessons are usually in the morning.

Carmel was researching a book on change activism, during which she spoke to headteachers about inequality. They all said that they had hungry children, and across the country, 55% of teachers are bringing in food for children. She asked why the parents aren’t feeding their children… and was told the parents are hungry too. Children were late or not attending school, because they were foraging for food, and they had behavioural problems.

So she started bringing food to five schools every day. And that made a difference. Children were attending and on time. They could focus, and behaviour and social interaction improved. Carmel therefore had a hard decision… continue to advise big business on making a difference, or make a difference herself.

She chose the latter, so now Magic Breakfast is delivering breakfast to 17,000 children every day, at a cost of 22p per child per day, or £45 per year. They want to reach the 0.5m sustainably, tackle holiday hunger, and make the case for change. They are only a small team, and need to be catalytic on the ground. Ofsted is on board, as the project is driving improvements in school performance.

Carmel tells the story of Zara, who is seven. She often needed to ask for food at cafés on the way to school, but often didn’t get any. She was at risk of being excluded for being naughty and affecting the whole school. But after a bagel and a glass of milk, she was settled and the whole school was ready to learn. She visited No.10 with the school, and sat in the PM’s seat. Perhaps Zara or one of those 0.5m could be PM one day?

Ann Daniels talk

Ann Daniels featureAnn grew up in Bradford, went to a comprehensive, left school at 16, got a job, got married, had no aspirations… especially to having an idea that is worth spreading.

Having triplets changed all that. She realised that she could do anything! She saw an advert for ordinary women to go on a polar expedition. She had all the qualifications – she was an ordinary woman. She went on a weekend for applicants on Dartmoor, and was annihilated. But she then spent 9 months training, friends taught her how to read a map, and she went back to Dartmoor and got on the team, her biggest accomplishment!

She was on the first leg of a relay across the Arctic ocean. She spent 17 days walking in what she describes as a ‘crystal beast’, with blues and pinks, and booms of moving ice.

Coming back she and four other women hatched a plot to be the first British women team to reach the South Pole. They spent 61 days walking into the Antarctic winds, in incredibly low temperatures, but they made it.

She also realised that scientists actually work there, but before getting involved in science, she had another expedition to walk all the way to the North Pole. Temperatures were unprecedented: -70 degC with windchill, hauling 300lb sledges. And she realised why only 53 teams had managed to undertake the journey. Traversing the ice is harder than the Antarctic land. On day 37, they had gone only 69 of 500 miles. They suffered physical injuries, frostbite and gangrenous feet – unpleasant photo! One of the team had to leave on the next supply plane. They had to swim, in specially-designed orange suits. But again they made it, and set a world record for women reaching both poles.

Ann got to know Pen Hadow, who is an explorer and scientist. He chose her to lead a team on the Arctic ice while he and another collected ice samples and took photos. What’s the point if we don’t do anything with information we collect? The photos are a way of sharing with the world. Every night they drilled and measured with a tape measure. They appeared on the News at Ten.

On the next expedition, she learnt about ocean acidification, collecting samples of water. Since the Industrial revolution, the carbon dioxide we have emitted has been absorbed by the ocean. The oceans have been a buffer, but at a cost. The water is becoming a weak carbonic acid, which is affecting coral reefs, becoming bleached and eroded. Other marine life is suffering, and humans will too, as reef protects us from winds and tsunamis. Phytoplankton can’t produce as much – the bottom of our food chain is being eroded.

We can make small changes that make a difference – buy locally, buy green energy, use the car less, make your home energy efficient, encourage each other to go through glass ceilings and realise our dreams.

Addendum

Here’s another bit of topical Twitter tennis with the Met Office, your friendly Exeter-based national meteorological service.

@TEDxExeter : Hi @metoffice we have @AnnDanielsGB polar explorer speaking at #TEDxExeter today, what is the current weather in the polar regions?

@metoffice : @TEDxExeter Greenland is forecasted light snow and temps between -1 and +1 C over next 5 days http://bit.ly/1maeG9x ^EC

@metoffice : @TEDxExeter Antarctica has light and heavy snow in the forecasts, temps between -5 and 0 C http://bit.ly/1jdrvjF ^ec

Positively balmy!

Fin Williams talk

Fin Williams featureNow we move from physical health to mental health. Fin focuses on the earliest connection we make: with our parents.

40% of us live stories that become prophecies and influence how we see the world. This is a problem, because they also influence the stories we tell our children. Hospitalisation for self-harm increased 68% in the last decade. Children have low well-being in the UK compared to other wealthy countries. We have become obsessed with progress, but has technology caused a loss of connection? If we are losing connection with our parents, then also losing connections with others.

We rely on what we receive. It’s hard to hear others if we haven’t been heard. We lose trust, and hence our curiosity and toleration for uncertainty. If we have limited ways of experiencing the world, we have limited ways to empathise.

Telling stories, or storying our lives, enables us to reflect and create new connections in our brains. A better understanding of our own experiences gives us empathy and compassion, and we can start to build communities.

Fin’s own story was negative up to aged 18, very rebellious and often grounded in her room. Her father worked long hours and was never seen; her mother ran the house and was disengaged. They coped by having strict control over their lives, and over their children’s. She suffered with anorexia and depression during her A’Levels. She went to university but became pregnant very early.

But she decided not to give up on her baby or her studies. Rebellion became determination and teamwork with her son. Her story changed. She started to remember good things about her childhood: her father building things, holidays and the fun fair. Her now-retired parents became supportive rocks in caring for her son. Rewriting the story changed challenge-in-opportunity into opportunity-in-challenge.

So write your own story. Look at the chapters, and what you learnt from them. Recognise the strength you’ve developed to survive. Ask where your funfair was. Tell someone your story, a friend who will listen without judging. A good story will help you become more resilient and trusting that that friend will be there for you.

Fin’s own story has just taken her out of the NHS, with the dream of turning her years of research into a new initiative to change children’s futures.

Joel Gibbard talk

Joel Gibbard featureJoel got into robots because he thought they were cool. His first robot was Clean3PO, which stumbled around his parents’ kitchen.

His favourite robots are those that are inspired by nature, which to many people are creepy. [I’m not going to look up at the video of an 8-legged overly-realistic robot.]

The most natural movement is in the human hand. Each hand has 29 bones, 34 muscles and 123 ligaments. Is it possible to replicate this robotically without necessarily replicating all these intricacies?

Joel built his first effort from stuff he found around the home, but he still managed to get some realistic movement.

When he studied robotics at university, he found that the options for amputees needing a prosthetic was limited, in terms of cost and functionality. He realised that what he was doing could change people’s lives. He wanted to get the latest technology to amputees at an affordable price.

His next hand was sheet aluminium, and chopped up rubber gloves for a nice touch. This attracted a lot of interest, so he made the design open source.

After a stint at an engineering company, he returned to the project and investigated the potential of 3D printing. He quit his job, bought a 3D printer, and moved back in with his parents(!) He could see the potential of 3D printing for both cheap and tailored production. His design uses free software all the way. His latest model can cope with being knocked about, and has smooth and natural movement. The video looks great, but the model he has on stage only has 2 working fingers. The leading prosthetic costs $18K. He plans to sell his for only $1K. For growing children, he can reprint only the parts that need to be replaced over time. Kids’ hands can be customised to look cool instead of awkward.

Joel has found his only limitation has been in his ambition. The next time you use your hands to do something, taken a moment to think about the complex intricacies. Technology has the power to mimic this freedom, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Addendum

Here’s a Vine of “Dextrus hand closing and opening. Except for the pinky finger!” If you can’t view the embedded film, it’s available here.