TED

Ignite: The talks of TED@WellsFargo

TED curator Cyndi Stivers opens TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

World-changing ideas that unearth solutions and ignite progress can come from anywhere. With that spirit in mind at TED@WellsFargo, thirteen speakers showcased how human empathy and problem-solving can combine with technology to transform lives (and banking) for the better.

The event: TED@WellsFargo, a day of thought-provoking talks on topics including how to handle challenging situations at work, the value of giving back and why differences can be strengths. It’s the first time TED and Wells Fargo have partnered to create inspiring talks from Wells Fargo Team Members.

When and where: Wednesday, February 5, 2020, at the Knight Theater in Charlotte, North Carolina

Opening and closing remarks: David Galloreese, Wells Fargo Head of Human Resources, and Jamie Moldafsky, Wells Fargo Chief Marketing Officer

Performances by: Dancer Simone Cooper and singer/songwriter Jason Jet and his band

The talks in brief:

“What airlines don’t tell you is that putting your oxygen mask on first, while seeing those around you struggle, it takes a lot of courage. But being able to have that self-control is sometimes the only way that we are able to help those around us,” says sales and trading analyst Elizabeth Camarillo Gutierrez. She speaks at TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Elizabeth Camarillo Gutierrez, sales and trading analyst

Big idea: As an immigrant, learning to thrive in America while watching other immigrants struggle oddly echoes what flight attendants instruct us to do when the oxygen masks drop in an emergency landing: if you want to help others put on their masks, you must put on your own mask first.

How? At age 15, Elizabeth Camarillo Gutierrez found herself alone in the US when her parents were forced to return to Mexico, taking her eight-year-old brother with them. For eight years, she diligently completed her education — and grappled with guilt, believing she wasn’t doing enough to aid fellow immigrants. Now a rookie trader guiding her brother through school in New York, she’s learned a valuable truth: in an emergency, you can’t save others until you save yourself.

Quote of the talk: “Immigrants [can’t] and will never be able to fit into any one narrative, because most of us are actually just traveling along a spectrum, trying to survive.”


Matt Trombley, customer remediation supervisor

Big idea: Agonism — “taking a warlike stance in contexts that are not literally war” — plagues many aspects of modern-day life, from the way we look at our neighbors to the way we talk about politics. Can we work our way out of this divisive mindset?

How: Often we think that those we disagree with are our enemies, or that we must approve of everything our loved ones say or believe. Not surprisingly, this is disastrous for relationships. Matt Trombley shows us how to fight agonism by cultivating common ground (working to find just a single shared thread with someone) and by forgiving others for the slights that we believe their values cause us. If we do this, our relationships will truly come to life.

Quote of the talk: “When you can find even the smallest bit of common ground with somebody, it allows you to understand just the beautiful wonder and complexity and majesty of the other person.”


Dorothy Walker, project manager

Big idea: Anybody can help resolve a conflict — between friends, coworkers, strangers, your children — with three simple steps.

How? Step one: prepare. Whenever possible, set a future date and time to work through a conflict, when emotions aren’t running as high. Step two: defuse and move forward. When you do begin mediating the conflict, start off by observing, listening and asking neutral questions; this will cause both parties to stop and think, and give you a chance to shift positive energy into the conversation. Finally, step three: make an agreement. Once the energy of the conflict has settled, it’s time to get an agreement (either written or verbal) so everybody can walk away with a peaceful resolution.

Quote of the talk: “There is a resolution to all conflicts. It just takes your willingness to try.”


Charles Smith, branch manager

Big idea: The high rate of veteran suicide is intolerable — and potentially avoidable. By prioritizing the mental health of military service members both during and after active duty, we can save lives.

How? There are actionable solutions to end the devastating epidemic of military suicide, says Charles Smith. First, by implementing a standard mental health evaluation to military applicants, we can better gauge the preliminary markers of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. Data is a vital part of the solution: if we keep better track of mental health data on service members, we can also predict where support is most needed and create those structures proactively. By identifying those with a higher risk early on in their military careers, we can ensure they have appropriate care during their service and connect them to the resources they need once they are discharged, enabling veterans to securely and safely rejoin civilian life.

Quote of the talk: “If we put our minds and resources together, and we openly talk and try to find solutions for this epidemic, hopefully, we can save a life.”

“We all know retirement is all about saving more now, for later. What if we treated our mental health and overall well-being in the same capacity? Develop and save more of you now, for later in life,” says premier banker Rob Cooke. He speaks at TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Rob Cooke, premier banker

Big idea: Work-related stress costs us a lot, in our lives and the economy. We need to reframe the way we manage stress — both in our workplaces and in our minds.

How? “We tend to think of [stress] as a consequence, but I see it as a culture,” says Rob Cooke. Despite massive global investments in the wellness industry, we are still losing trillions of dollars due to a stress-related decrease in employee productivity and illness. Cooke shares a multifaceted approach to shifting the way stress is managed, internally and culturally. It starts with corporations prioritizing the well-being of employees, governments incentivizing high standards for workplace wellness and individually nurturing our relationship with our own mental health.

Quote of the talk: “We all know retirement is all about saving more now, for later. What if we treated our mental health and overall well-being in the same capacity? Develop and save more of you now, for later in life.”


Aeris Nguyen, learning and development facilitator

Big idea: What would our world be like if we could use DNA to verify our identity?

Why? Every year, millions of people have their identities stolen or misused. After her own identity was stolen by her brother, Aeris Nguyen began thinking about how to safeguard it for good. She shares an ambitious thought experiment, asking: Can we use our own bodies to verify our selves? While biometric data such as facial or palm print recognition have their own pitfalls (they can be easily fooled by, say, wearing a specially lighted hat or using a wax hand), what if we could use our DNA — our blood, hair or earwax? Nguyen acknowledges the ethical dilemmas and logistical nightmares that would come with collecting and storing more than seven billion files of DNA, but she can’t help but wonder if someday, in the far future, this will become the norm.

Quote of the talk: “In my case, it wasn’t some hacker sitting in front of a computer in some far, far away land who stole my identity. It was my own flesh and blood, which actually got me thinking about, well, my own flesh and blood.”

“To anyone reeling from forces trying to knock you down and cram you into these neat little boxes people have decided for you — don’t break. I see you. My ancestors see you. Their blood runs through me as they run through so many of us. You are valid. And you deserve rights and recognition. Just like everyone else,” says France Villarta. He speaks at TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

France Villarta, communications consultant

Big idea: Modern ideas of gender are much older than we may think.

How? In many cultures around the world, the social construct of gender is binary — man or woman, assigned certain characteristics and traits, all designated by biological sex. But that’s not the case for every culture. France Villarta details the gender-fluid history of his native Philippines and how the influence of colonial rule forced narrow-minded beliefs onto its people. In a talk that’s part cultural love letter, part history lesson, Villarta emphasizes the beauty and need in reclaiming gender identities. “Oftentimes, we think of something as strange only because we’re not familiar with it or haven’t taken enough time to try and understand,” he says. “The good thing about social constructs is that they can be reconstructed — to fit a time and age.”

Quote of the talk: “To anyone reeling from forces trying to knock you down and cram you into these neat little boxes people have decided for you — don’t break. I see you. My ancestors see you. Their blood runs through me as they run through so many of us. You are valid. And you deserve rights and recognition. Just like everyone else.”

Dancer Simone Cooper performs a self-choreographed dance onstage at TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Dean Furness, analytic consultant

Big idea: You can overcome personal challenges by focusing on yourself, instead of making comparisons to others.

How? After a farming accident paralyzed Dean Furness below the waist, he began the process of adjusting to life in a wheelchair. He realized he’d have to nurture and focus on this new version of himself, rather than fixate on his former height, strength and mobility. With several years of rehabilitation and encouragement from his physical therapist, Furness began competing in the Chicago and Boston marathons as a wheelchair athlete. By learning how to own each day, he says, we can all work to get better, little by little.

Quote of the talk: “Take some time and focus on you, instead of others. I bet you can win those challenges and really start accomplishing great things.”


John Puthenveetil, financial advisor

Big idea: Because of the uncertain world we live in, many seek solace from “certainty merchants” — like physicians, priests and financial advisors. Given the complex, chaotic mechanisms of our economy, we’re better off discarding “certainty” for better planning.

How? We must embrace adaptable plans that address all probable contingencies, not just the most obvious ones. This is a crucial component of “scenario-based planning,” says John Puthenveetil. We should always aim for being approximately right rather than precisely wrong. But this only works if we pay attention, heed portents of possible change and act decisively — even when that’s uncomfortable.

Quote of the talk: “It is up to us to use [scenario-based planning] wisely: Not out of a sense of weakness or fear, but out of the strength and conviction that comes from knowing that we are prepared to play the hand that is dealt.”


Johanna Figueira, digital marketing consultant

Big idea: The world is more connected than ever, but some communities are still being cut off from vital resources. The solution? Digitally matching professional expertise with locals who know what their communities really need.

How? Johanna Figueira is one of millions who’s left Venezuela due to economic crisis, crumbling infrastructure and decline in healthcare — but she hasn’t left these issues behind. With the help of those still living in the country, Figueira helped organize Code for Venezuela — a platform that matches experts with communities in need to create simple, effective tools to improve quality of life. She shares two of their most successful projects: Meditweet, an intelligent Twitter bot that helps Venezuelans find medicinal supplies and Blackout tracker, a tool that helps pinpoint power cuts in Venezuela that the government won’t report. Her organization shows the massive difference made when locals participate in their own solutions.

Quote of the talk: “Some people in Silicon Valley may look at these projects and say that they’re not major technological innovations. But that’s the point. These projects are not insanely advanced — but it’s what the people of Venezuela need, and they can have a tremendous impact.”


Jeanne Goldie, branch sales manager

Big idea: We’re looking for dynamic hotbeds of innovation in all the wrong places.

How? Often, society looks to the young for the next big thing, leaving older generations to languish in their shadow until being shuffled out altogether, taking their brain power and productivity with them. Instead of discarding today’s senior workforce, Jeanne Goldie suggests we tap into their years of experience and retrain them, just as space flight has moved from the disposable rockets of NASA’s moon launches to today’s reusable Space X models.

Quote of the talk: “If we look at data and technology as the tools they are … but not as the answer, we can come up with better solutions to our most challenging problems.”


Rebecca Knill, business systems consultant

Big idea: By shifting our cultural understanding of disability and using technology to connect, we can build a more inclusive and human world.

How? The medical advances of modern technology have improved accessibility for disabled communities. Rebecca Knill, a self-described cyborg who has a cochlear implant, believes the next step to a more connected world is changing our perspectives. For example, being deaf isn’t shameful or pitiful, says Knill — it’s just a different way of navigating the world. To take full advantage of the fantastic opportunities new technology offers us, we must drop our assumptions and meet differences with empathy.

Quote of the talk: “Technology has come so far. Our mindset just needs to catch up.”

“We have to learn to accept where people are and adjust ourselves to handle those situations … to recognize when it is time to professionally walk away from someone,” says business consultant Anastasia Penright. She speaks at TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Anastasia Penright, business consultant

Big idea: No workplace is immune to drama, but there are steps we can follow to remove ourselves from the chatter and focus on what’s really important.

How? No matter your industry, chances are you’ve experienced workplace drama. In a funny and relatable talk, Anastasia Penright shares a better way to coexist with our coworkers using five simple steps she’s taken to leave drama behind and excel in her career. First, we must honestly evaluate our own role in creating and perpetuating conflicts; then evaluate our thoughts and stop thinking about every possible scenario. Next, it’s important to release our negative energy to a trusted confidant while trying to understand and accept the unique communication styles and work languages of our colleagues. Finally, she says, we need to recognize when we’re about to step into drama and protect our energy by simply walking away.

Quote of the talk: “We have to learn to accept where people are and adjust ourselves to handle those situations … to recognize when it is time to professionally walk away from someone.”

Jason Jet performs the toe-tapping, electro-soul song “Time Machine” at TED@WellsFargo at the Knight Theater on February 5, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

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Meet the 2020 class of TED Fellows and Senior Fellows

The TED Fellows program is excited to announce the new group of TED2020 Fellows and Senior Fellows! This year’s class represents 13 countries across four continents, and they’re making strides in an impressive range of fields — from astrobiology and ethnomusicology to maternal healthcare and beyond. This group is taking a hard look at the world’s most pressing issues and offering bold, fresh ideas to create meaningful impact.

The TED Fellows program supports extraordinary, iconoclastic individuals at work on world-changing projects, providing them with access to the global TED platform and community, as well as new tools and resources to amplify their remarkable vision. The TED Fellows program now includes 492 Fellows who work across 99 countries, forming a powerful, far-reaching network of artists, scientists, activists, architects, entrepreneurs, journalists and more, each dedicated to making our world better and more equitable.

Below, meet the group of Fellows and Senior Fellows who will join us at TED2020, April 20-24, in Vancouver, BC, Canada.


Zahra Al-Mahdi

Multimedia artist (Kuwait)
Artist using satire, dark humor and tactile collage techniques to reveal the unintended impacts humans have on their societies and ecosystems.



Feras Fayyad
Documentary filmmaker (Syria | Germany | Denmark)
Filmmaker documenting the lives of his fellow Syrian citizens as they struggle to survive and save their neighbors.



Kiran Gandhi
Activist (US)
Electronic musician and gender-rights advocate blurring the boundaries between art, performance and activism.



Kathy Hannun
Geothermal entrepreneur (US)
Cofounder of Dandelion, a green energy startup pioneering novel drilling techniques to make geothermal installations less expensive and intrusive.

Just ten feet below the frost line, the ground is a constant 55 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Dandelion Energy, founded by Kathleen Hannun, harnesses this reservoir of renewable energy to heat and cool homes.


Aparna Hegde
Maternal health innovator (India)
Urogynecologist and founder of ARMMAN, an organization leveraging mobile technology to empower, inform and serve the more than 14 million Indian women and children plagued by gaps in healthcare infrastructure.



Daniel Alexander Jones

Theater artist (US)
Performance artist creating unique and ritualistic dramatic experiences through music, monologue and improvisation by channeling Jomama Jones, a mystical alter ego.



Katie Mack
Cosmologist (US)
Theoretical cosmologist and scientific storyteller unraveling connections between the smallest particles, largest interstellar objects and various ways the universe might end.



Itamar Mann
Human rights lawyer (Israel)
Author and litigator defending the rights of refugees who flee their countries and cross violent borders.



Barbara Maseda
Data transparency advocate (Cuba)
Data journalist exploring and creating ways to collect and share data in places where information is often manipulated and restricted, especially in Cuba.

An artificial cloud hanging over this pavilion rains whenever someone sits inside. Cloud House, an installation by Matthew Mazzotta, provides an experience that replicates the sensory and ecological effects of rainfall. (Photo: Tim Hawley)


Matthew Mazzotta
Artist + activist (US | Canada)
Artist and activist creating unexpected built environments in order to engage communities in public dialogue.



Aaron Morris
Immunoengineer (US)
Scientist developing implantable technology to create an early-warning system for autoimmune disorders, organ transplant rejection and cancer.



Naomi Mwaura
Transportation activist (Kenya)
Transport entrepreneur working to end sexual harassment on Kenyan public transit by advocating for a gender-balanced workforce and training transit workers.



Rohan Pavuluri
Legal aid entrepreneur (US)
Founder of Upsolve, an organization helping low-income Americans file bankruptcy for free and navigate an increasingly complex and expensive legal system.

“I am fascinated by the way a king cobra locks eyes with me,” says Gowri Shankar, coming face to face with a king cobra. Concerned by the encroachment of human dwellings deeper into forests that serve as the king cobra’s natural habitat, his mission is to conserve and rescue while educating people about the highly venomous and deadly snakes. (Photo: Sujan Bernard)


Gowri Shankar
King cobra conservationist (India)
Ecologist studying the king cobra and educating the people of India on the importance of this feared, maligned and now threatened reptile species.



Khalil Ramadi
Medical hacker (US)
Biomedical researcher developing hair-thin brain probes, ingestible medical devices and other innovative technologies to help us better understand how the gut and brain are interconnected.



Sarah Rugheimer

Astrophysicist (UK | US)
Astrophysicist studying the telltale chemical signatures on distant planets that could someday reveal the presence of extraterrestrial life.



Peter Schwartzstein

Climate journalist (UK | US | Greece)
Journalist reporting on the immediate, present-day violence and disruption caused by climate-related environmental change.

In the besieged town of Ghouta, Syria, doctors have built a subterranean hospital known as the Cave, protected from the dangers of the ongoing conflict above. Feras Fayyad’s Oscar-nominated documentary “The Cave” follows the courageous work of the hospital’s doctors as they contend with daily bombardments, chronic supply shortages and the ever-present threat of chemical attacks.


Almudena Toral
Visual journalist (US | Spain)
Journalist reporting stories about migration, violence and trauma through documentary films. Currently tracking the difficulties and exploitation faced by immigrants and asylum seekers in the US and Latin America.


Bianca Tylek
Criminal justice advocate (US)
Criminal justice advocate and founder of Worth Rises, a national nonprofit working to dismantle the prison industry through policy advocacy, corporate activism and community organizing.



Brittany Young
STEM educator (US)
Engineer-turned-teacher creating pathways for young people to careers in science, technology, engineering and extreme sports — all around a shared passion for dirt bikes.


 

TED2020 Senior Fellows

Senior Fellows embody the spirit of the TED Fellows program. They attend four additional TED events, mentor new Fellows and continue to share their remarkable work with the TED community.


Kyra Gaunt
Ethnomusicologist (US)
Digital ethnomusicologist illuminating the prevalence of gender-based exploitation and violence against marginalized girls in digital spaces.



Alison Killing

Architect + technologist (UK | Netherlands)
Architect and open source investigator using journalism and mapping tools to help people better understand the impacts of surveillance and the built environment on human rights.



Adam Kucharski
Epidemiologist (UK)
Infectious disease scientist creating new mathematical and computational models to understand how epidemics like Zika and Ebola spread — and how they can be controlled.

When Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil detected the galaxy LEDA 1000714, she produced the first-ever observation and description of a double-ringed elliptical galaxy. The galaxy, illustrated above, is now known as “Burçin’s galaxy.”


Jae Rhim Lee
Designer + entrepreneur (US | South Korea)
Designer developing new rituals and objects around death to point us toward a more sustainable future, including a mushroom burial suit that converts our unused bodies efficiently into clean compost.



Sonaar Luthra
Water risk forcaster (US | India)
Environmentalist measuring climate-related water risk and implementing solutions for organizations and communities facing 21st-century water security challenges.



Majala Mlagui
Politician (Kenya)
Elected Deputy Governor of one of Kenya’s counties, championing the socioeconomic advancement of women, youth in government, ethical mineral value chains and environmental conservation.


Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil
Astrophysicist (Turkey | US)
Astrophysicist studying extreme objects — including a rare double-ringed elliptical galaxy she discovered — to help us understand how galaxies form and evolve.

Paul Rucker’s “Forever” imagines figures from the civil rights movement in the style of commemorative postage stamps, including these young victims of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing. As Rucker says: “‘Forever’ brings into question who makes the criteria, whether for being an official civil rights martyr, or chosen for a commemorative stamp — and what if our criteria had a different objective?”


Paul Rucker
Multidisciplinary artist (US)
Multidisciplinary artist exploring issues related to mass incarceration, racially motivated violence and the continued impact of policies that sustain inequity.



Edsel Salvana
Molecular biologist (Philippines)
Physician studying the genetics of HIV, developing an affordable test for HIV drug resistance and fighting the spread of misinformation around vaccines and immunization.



Kibwe Tavares
Filmmaker + architect (UK)
Filmmaker and cofounder of Factory Fifteen, a studio collective using dance and live performance to help understand design and our built environment.

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Meaning Seekers: Notes from Session 5 of TEDWomen 2019

Dissatisfaction is the starting point to change, says Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, the mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone. She speaks at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, on December 5, 2019, in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

Session 5 of TEDWomen 2019 is all about seeking meaning: in our political lives, creative lives, healthcare systems, criminal justice and beyond.

The event: TEDWomen 2019, Session 5: Meaning Seekers, hosted by Helen Walters and Anna Verghese

When and where: Thursday, December 5, 2019, 5pm PT, at La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, California

Speakers: Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Priti Krishtel, Robin Steinberg, Manoush Zomorodi, Denise Ho, Denise Zmekhol, Smruti Jukur, Debbie Millman

The talks in brief:

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Big idea: We can catalyze positive change by channeling feelings of dissatisfaction into collaboration and action.

How? After learning of the devastating rebel invasion of Sierra Leone in 1999, and the details of the 2014 Ebola epidemic, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr was struck by profound feelings of anger and discontent. But instead of becoming frozen and overwhelmed by those feelings, she decided to act. This movement from dissatisfaction to action is the key to creating dramatic change, Aki-Sawyerr says. In 1999, she cofounded the Sierra Leone War Trust for Children, supporting and advocating for refugees of Sierra Leone’s rebel invasion. During the Ebola epidemic, Aki-Sawyerr designed the Western Area Surge Plan, which prioritized collaborating with community members to stop the spread of the virus. Now, as mayor of Freetown, she’s bringing together the city to translate their frustrations into actionable solutions.

Quote of the talk: “The steps to address that deep sense of anger and frustration I felt didn’t unfold magically or clearly. That’s not how the power of dissatisfaction works. It works when you know that things can be better, and it works when you decide to take the risks to bring about that change.”


Priti Krishtel, pharmaceutical reformer

Big idea: High drug prices are fueling a rise in homelessness, patient mortality and crushing debt. These prices, in turn, are made possible by an outdated patent system that’s easily exploited by the pharmaceutical industry to perpetuate drug monopolies that extend for years beyond their original patents.

How? Between 2006 and 2016, drug patents doubled. But consider this: the vast majority of medicines associated with new drug patents are not new, with nearly eight out of ten patents being created for existing medicines like insulin or aspirin. Priti Krishtel believes that US patent reforms would dramatically reduce medical costs. We can start by banning new patents for trivially modified drugs, removing financial incentives for the Patent Office (which currently gets paid for each patent granted), increasing the transparency of the patent process, empowering the public to challenge patents in court and introducing robust patent oversight mechanisms.

Quote of the talk“The higher a patent wall a company builds, the longer they hold on to their monopoly. And with no one to compete with, they can set prices at whim — and because these are medicines and not designer watches, we have no choice but to pay.”


 

Robin Steinberg discusses her work to end cash bail, in conversation with Manoush Zomorodi (the new host of the TED Radio Hour). They speak at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, on December 5, 2019, in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

Robin Steinberg, public defender, activist, CEO of The Bail Project

Big idea: We need to end the injustice of cash bail in the United States criminal justice system.

Why? In conversation with journalist Manoush Zomorodi (the new host of the TED Radio Hour), Robin Steinberg gives an update on her 2018 TED Talk about the work of her nonprofit The Bail Project. Here’s the problem: on any given night, more than 450,000 people in the US are locked up in jail simply because they don’t have enough money to pay bail. The sums in question are often around $500: easy for some to pay, impossible for others. This has real human consequences: people lose jobs, homes and lives, and it drives racial disparities in the legal system. Now, with support from the The Audacious Project, Steinberg’s nonprofit is scaling up their efforts — growing their revolving bail fund, expanding the on-the-ground presence of their bail disruptors and rolling out a community-based model that gives local support to people before they are convicted of a crime.

Quote of the talk: “Each and every one of us is implicated in what our criminal legal system looks like. There is no escaping that.”


“Creativity is what the tyrants cannot control, nor repress,” says Denise Ho. She speaks and performs at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, on December 5, 2019, in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Stacie McChesney / TED)

Denise Ho, singer and democracy activist

Big idea: In a stirring talk and performance, banned Cantopop superstar Denise Ho gives the TED audience a taste of a dissident’s life in 2019 Hong Kong — and a glimpse into a protest movement that persists in the face of constant oppression by the Hong Kong government and their allies on the mainland.

How? As an activist in the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, Denise Ho joined her fellow citizens on the streets of Hong Kong for 79 days. Although she was ultimately arrested, censored and banned, she moved her career underground. She remains a crucial voice for democracy and a dedicated fighter in a leaderless movement battling to preserve autonomy for Hong Kong through spontaneous actions that the authorities are unable to predict or control.

Quote of the talk: “Creativity is what the tyrants cannot control, nor repress. WIth their very powerful but slow machine, it takes time for them to react to new ideas. Whether it is the protest on the streets that is taking a new fluidity, or the way that people reinvent themselves, the system needs time to counter it to find solutions. … When they do, we would have already moved on to the next idea.”


Denise Zmekhol, filmmaker

Big idea: The memory of Pele de Vidro, the iconic São Paulo tower, continues to be a poignant reflection of Brazil’s past, present and future.

Why? The Pele de Vidro (which translates to “Skin of Glass”) has been a symbol of modernity in Latin America since the early-1960s, when Denise Zmekhol’s father designed the São Paulo landmark. Yet, it wasn’t until many years after his death that she learned what went on behind its closed doors. As she reconnected with her late father’s memory and filmed a documentary in 2017, she discovered that “the glass walls of this building became a mirror reflecting the glory and turmoil of our beloved Brazil.” But before she could set foot inside, the unimaginable happened: a massive fire swallowed the iconic building. Zmekhol grieved for the city and her father. But today, she is hopeful. Architects are planning to build a cultural lab at the site of the Pele de Vidro to pay tribute to her father and the landmark that meant so much for so many.

Quote of the talk: “Ironically, only after the building was gone could I understand the role it played in so many lives.”


Smruti Jukur, urban planner

Big idea: What if those in poverty were a part of the city planning process?

Why? Within many cities there exists another city — informal communities, hundreds of thousands of people strong. 881 million people across the world who live in these settlements and slums — some as large as townships (Kibera, Nairobi; Dharavi, Mumbai; and Khayelitsha, South Africa, to name a few) — are under threat of being displaced at any time in the name of real estate development. Smruti Jukur urges governments and those in power to work in tandem with these settlements, instead of choosing what they think is right for their citizens. Jukur offers a real-world example, happening right now in Mukuru, Nairobi, where respect, empowerment and collaboration is helping leaders and their residents build a more inclusive city for tomorrow.

Quote of the talk: “Poverty only changes affordability. It does not change aspirations.”


“Branding is not just a tool of capitalism. Branding is the profound manifestation of the human spirit,” says Debbie Millman. She speaks at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, on December 5, 2019, in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

Debbie Millman, designer

Big idea: The ability to create meaning through symbols and logos doesn’t just belong to big corporations. It belongs to all of us. 

Why? Since the early days of human society, we have created community through shared symbols. In fact, some of the first religious symbols were not created by any church or leader, but by communities themselves, explains Debbie Millman. Unique marks and logos have come to indicate ownership or belonging in a variety of ways, from branding cattle to the first trademarked brand in the United States: a beer. But for the last few hundred years, this ability has largely belonged to companies with the means to trademark and advertise something as recognizable as the Nike swoosh. Now, online culture is changing things, Millman says. Social media can amplify messages, and branding has reverted to something created by and for people. The creation of the pussy hat for the 2017 Women’s March is just one example of how the internet grants us the democratic capacity to make shared meaning.

Quote of the talk: “Branding is not just a tool of capitalism. Branding is the profound manifestation of the human spirit.” 

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Wayfinders: Notes from Session 6 of TEDWomen 2019

Singer, songwriter and beatboxer Butterscotch lights up the stage at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, on December 6, 2019, in Palm Springs, (California. Photo: Jasmina Tomic / TED)

The final session of TEDWomen 2019 is here! We can’t believe it; we won’t believe. But, if we must close out these three incredible days, it’s good we did it by hearing from a diverse range of “wayfinders” — incredible women who are using their wisdom and insight to light the way forward, tackle global problems and find the right balance of fear and courage to do so.

The event: TEDWomen 2019, Session 6: Wayfinders, hosted by Pat Mitchell, Helen Walters and Kelly Stoetzel

When and where: Friday, December 6, 2019, 9am PT, at La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, California

Speakers: Valorie Kondos Field, Noeline Kirabo, Martha Minow, Agnes Binagwaho, Mary Ellen Hannibal, Jasmine Crowe, Cara E. Yar Khan, Pat Mitchell

Music: Singer-songwriter Butterscotch performs a virtuosic set, mixing beatboxing with her powerful voice to sing about love, life and everything in between.

The talks in brief:

Valorie Kondos Field, gymnastics coach

Big idea: Victory does not always equal success. Leaders need to consider the cost of winning to those under our care and redefine success in empathetic and positive terms.

How? Across the world, a pervasive “win at all costs” culture is creating emotional and physical crises. When Valorie Kondos Field first started working with the UCLA women’s gymnastics team, she mimicked other “winning” coaches by being relentless, unsympathetic and outright mean. One day, her team sat her down and made a firm case against her top-down, bullying approach. The years that followed — and her deeply personal, trust-based work with champion athletes like Katelyn Ohashi and Kyla Ross — were a lesson in the importance of an empathetic approach. True champions, she says, derive joy from their pursuits — win or lose.

Quote of the talk: “Instead of focusing maniacally on winning, we need to have the courage to develop champions through empathy, positivity, and accountability.”


How do you find your passion? Noeline Kirabo provides some answers at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, on December , 2019, in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Jasmina Tomic / TED)

Noeline Kirabo, social entrepreneur

Big idea: Almost everyone dreams of turning their passion into a successful career — but to do so, you must first identify what your passion is.

How? Passion isn’t only for the rich or the retired, says Noeline Kirabo. When she dropped out of school because she couldn’t afford the tuition, she didn’t settle for a job she didn’t love — instead, she decided to follow her passion. She founded Kyusa, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing youth unemployment in Uganda by helping young people turn their interests into careers and profitable businesses. Her organization provides the necessary support for them to build the future of their dreams, including soft skills and entrepreneurial training. But how do you discover your passion? She poses two questions to help you find the answer: If you had all the money and time in the world, what would you spend your time doing; and what truly makes you happy or gives you a deep sense of fulfillment? To find these answers, she says, we must look inward — not outward. 

Quote of the talk: “We need to look inward to identify the things that give us a deep sense of fulfillment, the things that give us the deepest joy, and then weave them into the patterns of our daily routines. In so doing, we cease to work, and we start to live.”


Martha Minow, law professor

Big idea: Our laws and legal system are focused on punishment, but they should make more room for forgiveness.

Why?: In her 40 years of teaching law, Martha Minow has found that law students are not taught much about forgiveness. While the law itself does contain tools like pardons, commutations and bankruptcy for debt, they are not adequately used. Or, when they are used, they reinforce existing social inequities along the lines of race and class. Yet the benefits of mercy have been widely shown, not just for our own individual health, but also for the health of communities affected by criminal activity. Restorative justice, which emphasizes accountability and service rather than punishment, can disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline that has become a prominent issue in parts of the US, Minow says. Although placing more of an emphasis on forgiveness comes with the risk of bias, it also comes with the promise of creating a fairer future.

Quote of the talk: “To ask how law may forgive is not to deny the fact of wrongdoing. Rather, it’s to widen the lens to enable glimpses of the larger patterns.”


Agnes Binagwaho, pediatrician, former Minister of Health of Rwanda

Big idea: Educating women creates female leaders and establishes gender equity — which improves society in countless ways.

How? In 1994, Agnes Binagwaho returned to her home country of Rwanda to practice medicine in the aftermath of the country’s horrific genocide. The devastation was so pervasive she considered leaving, but resilient Rwandan women motivated her to stay and help rebuild. And she is glad she did. Today, Rwanda has the highest proportion of women in parliament — nearly 62 percent — and the most successful HPV vaccination campaign for children. Binagwaho has been essential in opening the first medical school in Rwanda, University of Global Health Equity, which boasts gender parity and is free of charge, as long as students commit to working with vulnerable communities around the world.

Quote of the talk: “I have learned that if we focus on women’s education, we improve their lives positively, as well as the wellbeing of their community.”


Mary Ellen Hannibal, science writer

Big idea: Around the world, insect species (including the monarch butterfly) are dying at an alarming rate. The looming demise of important pollinators (like bees and butterflies) will have dire consequences for human civilization. Citizen scientists could help save these insects — and the planet.

How? Citizen scientists — people without PhDs who leverage technology to collect data and organize initiatives to protect the natural world — are a crucial force for understanding complex natural phenomena. The same citizen scientists who documented plummeting monarch butterfly populations now work to save them (and other endangered species) through food-source cultivation, habitat preservation and efforts like the City Nature Challenge — a scalable data-gathering initiative supporting threatened species that cohabit our cities.

Quote of the talk: “Insect life is at the very foundation of our life-support systems. We can’t lose these insects.”


Jasmine Crowe, social entrepreneur, hunger hero

Big idea: We’re doing hunger wrong in America. We can eliminate hunger, reduce food waste and give families their dignity back through innovative technology, instead of charity. 

How? While Food banks are beloved community institutions, they aren’t solving hunger, says Jasmine Crowe. They keep families dependent on their services and rarely offer a full meal. Scarcity isn’t the problem, Crowe reminds us: globally, one in nine people go hungry each day, yet food waste has increased by 50 percent since the 1970s. Crowe — who has spent her life giving back to the Atlanta community — is reengineering how cities handle hunger through Goodr, a tech-enabled sustainable food waste company. Their app gathers unused food from local businesses and distributes it to food deserts through nonprofits and popup grocery stores. Each of us has the power to join the movement to bring real food and dignity back to families.

Quote of the talk: “We wanted to change the way we think and approached the hunger fight, get people to believe that we could solve hunger — not as a charity, not as a food bank, but as a social enterprise with a goal of ending hunger and food waste.”


Cara E. Yar Khan, humanitarian, disability activist

Big Idea: Courage is never instantaneous or easy. It’s a careful balance of bravery and fear. 

How? After being diagnosed with Hereditary Inclusion Body Myopathy, a genetic condition that deteriorates muscle, Cara E. Yar Khan heard repeatedly that she had to limit her career ambitions and quiet her dreams. Instead, she actively pursued and accomplished her goals, working as a humanitarian in Angola with the UN and as a disability advocate in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. She decided to descend to the base of the Grand Canyon, embarking on a harrowing 12-day trip: four days descending the canyon via horseback, and eight days of white water rafting through the Colorado River. Though terrifying, the trip showed her how powerful her courage could be, she says. Courage isn’t just a burst of bravery that appears when needed — it arises when we’re willing to take risks, acknowledge and prepare for our fears and become devoted to bringing our dreams to life. 

Quote of the talk: “Without fear, you’ll do foolish things. Without courage, you’ll never step into the unknown. The balance of the two is where the magic lies, and it’s a balance we all deal with everyday.”


Pat Mitchell, TEDWomen curator, self-proclaimed “dangerous woman”

Big idea: It’s time to embrace risk, speak out and live dangerously.

Why? We live in dangerous times, with nothing left to prove and much more to lose, says Pat Mitchell. The rise in sexism, racism and violence against women and girls, alongside the dire state of our planet, demands that we live dangerously. “I don’t mean being feared,” says Mitchell. “But I do mean being more fearless.” Mitchell knows this best from her own life blazing a path across media and television. On the TEDWomen stage, she shares how her own experiences informed her leadership decisions and vision of a future where women wield the power they already hold. (Read a full recap here.)

Quote of the talk: “At this point in my life’s journey, I am holding my splendid torch higher than ever, boldly and brilliantly — inviting you to join me in its dangerous light.”

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A dangerous woman: Pat Mitchell speaks at TEDWomen 2019

Pat Mitchell speaks at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, December 4-6, 2019, Palm Springs, California. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

Pat Mitchell has nothing left to prove and much less to lose. Now more than ever, she cares less about what others say, speaks her mind freely — and she’s angry, too. She’s become a dangerous woman, through and through.

Not dangerous, as in feared, but fearless; a force to be reckoned with.

On the TEDWoman stage, she invites all women, men and allies to join her in embracing the risks necessary to create a world where safety, respect and truth burn brighter than the darkness of our current times.

“This is all possible because we’re ready for this. We’re better prepared than any generation ever before us,” she says. “Better resourced, better connected, and in many parts of the world we’re living longer than ever.”

On the cusp of 77 years old, Mitchell would know what it takes to make possibilities reality from her own career blazing an award-winning trail across media and television. She’s produced and hosted breakthrough television for women, and presided over CNN Productions, PBS and the Paley Center for Media, taking risks all along the way.

“I became a risk-taker early in my life’s journey. I had to, or have my life defined by the limitations for girls growing up in the rural South, especially … with no money, influence or connections,” she says. “But what wasn’t limited was my curiosity about the world beyond my small town.”

She acknowledges her trajectory was colored with gendered advice — become blonde (she did), drop your voice (she tried), lower your necklines (she didn’t) — that sometimes made it difficult to strike a balance between her leadership and womanhood. But now, declaring her pride as a woman leader, activist, advocate and feminist, she couldn’t care less what others say.

Even further, Mitchell states that women shouldn’t wait to be empowered — they must wield the power they already hold. What’s needed are more opportunities to claim, use and share it; for those who’ve forged their paths to reach back and help change the nature of power by dismantling some of the barriers that remain for those who follow.

Iconic playwright George Bernard Shaw, she shares, once wrote: “Life is not a brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

Pat Mitchell believes we’re more than equipped to move our communities forward, together. We have the funds, the technology and the media platforms to elevate each other’s stories and ideas for a better livelihood, a better planet.

And for Mitchell there’s no question that she walks in the same footsteps as Shaw’s, looking forward to a near future where we are willing to take more risks, to be more fearless, to speak up, speak out and show up for one another.

“At this point in my life’s journey, I am not passing my torch,” she says. “I am holding my splendid torch higher than ever, boldly and brilliantly — inviting you to join me in its dangerous light.”

Pat Mitchell speaks at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, December 4-6, 2019, Palm Springs, California. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

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