We the Future: Talks from TED, Skoll Foundation and United Nations Foundation

Bruno Giussani (left) and Chris Anderson co-host “We the Future,” a day of talks presented by TED, the Skoll Foundation and the United Nations Foundation, at the TED World Theater in New York City, September 25, 2018. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

We live in contentious times. Yet behind the dismaying headlines and social-media-fueled quarrels, people around the world — millions of them — are working unrelentingly to solve problems big and small, dreaming up new ways to expand the possible and build a better world.

At “We the Future,” a day of talks at the TED World Theater presented in collaboration with the Skoll Foundation and the United Nations Foundation, 13 speakers and two performers explored some of our most difficult collective challenges — as well as emerging solutions and strategies for building bridges and dialogue.

Updates on the Sustainable Development Goals. Are we delivering on the promises of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, which promised to improve the lives of billions with no one left behind? Using the Social Progress Index, a measure of the quality of life in countries throughout the world, economist Michael Green shares a fresh analysis of where we are today in relationship to the goals — and some new thinking on what we need to do differently to achieve them. While we’ve seen progress in some parts of the world on goals related to hunger and healthy living, the world is projected to fall short of achieving the ambitious targets set by the SDGs for 2030, according to Green’s analysis. If current trends keep up — especially the declines we’re seeing in things like personal rights and inclusiveness across the world — we actually won’t hit the 2030 targets until 2094. So what can we do about this? Two things, says Green: We need to call out rich countries that are falling short, and we need to look further into the data and find opportunities to progress faster. Because progress is happening, and we’re tantalizingly close to a world where nobody dies of things like hunger and malaria. “If we can focus our efforts, mobilize the resources, galvanize the political will,” Green says, “that step change is possible.”

Sustainability expert Johan Rockström debuts the Earth-3 model, a new way to track both the Sustainable Development Goals and the health of the planet at the same time. He speaks at “We the Future.” (Ryan Lash / TED)

A quest for planetary balance. In 2015, we saw two fantastic global breakthroughs for humanity, says sustainability expert Johan Rockström — the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. But are the two compatible, and can be they be pursued at the same time? Rockström suggests there are inherent contradictions between the two that could lead to irreversible planetary instability. Along with a team of scientists, he created a way to combine the SDGs within the nine planetary boundaries (things like ocean acidification and ozone depletion); it’s a completely new model of possibility — the Earth-3 model — to track trends and simulate future change. Right now, we’re not delivering on our promises to future generations, he says, but the window of success is still open. “We need some radical thinking,” Rockström says. “We can build a safe and just world: we just have to really, really get on with it.”

Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, is spearheading a new global initiative, Generation Unlimited, which aims to ensure every young person is in school, training or employment by 2030. She speaks at “We the Future.” (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

A plan to empower Generation Unlimited. There are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world, one of the largest cohorts in human history. Meeting their needs is a big challenge — but it’s also a big opportunity, says the executive director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore. Among the challenges facing this generation are a lack of access to education and job opportunities, exposure to violence and, for young girls, the threats of discrimination, child marriage and early pregnancy. To begin addressing these issues, Fore is spearheading UNICEF’s new initiative, Generation Unlimited, which aims to ensure every young person is in school, learning, training or employment by 2030. She talks about a program in Argentina that connects rural students in remote areas with secondary school teachers, both in person and online; an initiative in South Africa called Techno Girls that gives young women from disadvantaged backgrounds job-shadowing opportunities in the STEM fields; and, in Bangladesh, training for tens of thousands of young people in trades like carpentry, motorcycle repair and mobile-phone servicing. The next step? To take these ideas and scale them up, which is why UNICEF is casting a wide net — asking individuals, communities, governments, businesses, nonprofits and beyond to find a way to help out. “A massive generation of young people is about to inherit our world,” Fore says, “and it’s our duty to leave a legacy of hope for them — but also with them.”

Improving higher education in Africa. There’s a teaching and learning crisis unfolding across Africa, says Patrick Awuah, founder and president of Ashesi University. Though the continent has scaled up access to higher education, there’s been no improvement in quality or effectiveness of that education. “The way we teach is wrong for today. It is even more wrong for tomorrow, given the challenges before us,” Awuah says. So how can we change higher education for the better? Awuah suggests establishing multidisciplinary curricula that emphasize critical thinking and ethics, while also allowing for in-depth expertise. He also suggests collaboration between universities in Africa — and tapping into online learning programs. “A productive workforce, living in societies managed by ethical and effective leaders, would be good not only for Africa but for the world,” Awuah says.

Ayọ (right) and Marvin Dolly fill the theater with a mix of reggae, R&B and folk sounds at “We the Future.” (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Songs of hardship and joy. During two musical interludes, singer-songwriter Ayọ and guitarist Marvin Dolly fill the TED World Theater with the soulful, eclectic strumming of four songs — “Boom Boom,” “What’s This All About,” “Life Is Real” and “Help Is Coming” — blending reggae, R&B and folk sounds.

If every life counts, then count every life. To some, numbers are boring. But data advocate Claire Melamed says numbers are, in fact, “an issue of power and of justice.” The lives and death of millions of people worldwide happen outside the official record, Melamed says, and this lack of information leads to big problems. Without death records, for instance, it’s nearly impossible to detect epidemics until it’s too late. If we are to save lives in disease-prone regions, we must know where and when to deliver medicine — and how much. Today, technology enables us to inexpensively gather reliable data, but tech isn’t a cure-all: governments may try to keep oppressed or underserved populations invisible, or the people themselves may not trust the authorities collecting the data. But data custodians can fix this problem by building organizations, institutions and communities that can build trust. “If every life counts, we should count every life,” Melamed says.

How will the US respond to the rise of China? To Harvard University political scientist Graham Allison, recent skirmishes between the US and China over trade and defense are yet another chapter unfolding in a centuries-long pattern. He’s coined the term “Thucydides’ Trap” to describe it — as he puts it, the Trap “is the dangerous dynamic that occurs when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power.” Thucydides is viewed by many as the father of history; he chronicled the Peloponnesian Wars between a rising Athens and a ruling Sparta in the 4th century BCE (non-spoiler alert: Sparta won, but at a high price). Allison and colleagues reviewed the last 500 years and found Thucydides’ Trap 16 times — and 12 of them ended in war. Turning to present day, he notes that while the 20th century was dominated by the US, China has risen far and fast in the 21st. By 2024, for instance, China’s GDP is expected to be one-and-a-half times greater than America’s. What’s more, both countries are led by men who are determined to be on top. “Are Americans and Chinese going to let the forces of history draw us into a war that would be catastrophic to both?” Allison asks. To avoid it, he calls for “a combination of imagination, common sense and courage” to come up with solutions — referencing the Marshall Plan, the World Bank and United Nations as fresh approaches toward prosperity and peace that arose after the ravages of war. After the talk, TED curator Bruno Giussani asks Allison if he has any creative ideas to sidestep the Trap. “A long peace,” Allison says, turning again to Athens and Sparta for inspiration: during their wars, the two agreed at one point to a 30-year peace, a pause in their conflict so each could tend to their domestic affairs.

Can we ever hope to reverse climate change? Researcher and strategist Chad Frischmann introduces the idea of “drawdown” — the point at which we remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than we put in — as our only hope of averting climate disaster. At his think tank, he’s working to identify strategies to achieve drawdown, like increased use of renewable energy, better family planning and the intelligent disposal of HFC refrigerants, among others. But the things that will make the biggest impact, he says, are changes to food production and agriculture. The decisions we make every day about the food we grow, buy and eat are perhaps the most important contributions we could make to reversing global warming. Another focus area: better land management and rejuvenating forests and wetlands, which would expand and create carbon sinks that sequester carbon. When we move to fix global warming, we will “shift the way we do business from a system that is inherently exploitative and extractive to a ‘new normal’ that is by nature restorative and regenerative,” Frischmann says.

The end of energy poverty. Nearly two billion people worldwide lack access to modern financial services like credit cards and bank accounts — making it difficult to do things like start a new business, build a nest egg, or make a home improvement like adding solar panels. Entrepreneur Lesley Marincola is working on this issue with an interesting payment technology called Angaza that helps people avoid the steep upfront costs of buying a solar-power system, instead allowing them to pay it off over time.With metering technology embedded in the product, Angaza uses alternative credit scoring methods to determine a borrower’s risk level. The combination of metering technology and an alternative method of assessing credit brings purchasing power to unbanked people. “To effectively tackle poverty at a global scale, we must not solely focus on increasing the amount of money that people earn,” Marincola says. “We must also increase or expand the power of their income through access to savings and credit.”

Anushka Ratnayake displays one of the scratch-off cards that her company, MyAgro, is using to help farmers in Africa break cycles of poverty and enter the cycle of investment and growth. She speaks at “We the Future.” (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

An innovative way to help rural farmers save. While working for a microfinance company in Kenya, Anushka Ratnayake realized something big: small-scale farmers were constantly being offered loans … when what they really wanted was a safe place to save money. Collecting and storing small deposits from farmers was too difficult and expensive for banks, and research from the University of California, Berkeley shows that only 14–21 percent of farmers accept credit offers. Ratnayake found a simpler solution — using scratch-off cards that act as a layaway system. MyAgro, a nonprofit social enterprise that Ratnayake founded and leads, helps farmers save money for seeds. Farmers buy myAgro scratch cards from local stores, depositing their money into a layaway account by texting in the card’s scratch-off code. After a few months of buying the cards and saving little by little, myAgro delivers the fertilizer, seed and training they’ve paid for, directly to their farms. Following a wildly successful pilot program in Mali, MyAgro has expanded to Rwanda and Tanzania and now serves more than 50,000 farmers. On this plan, rural farmers can break cycles of poverty, Ratnayake says, and instead, enter the cycle of investment and growth.

Durable housing for a resilient future. Around the world, natural disasters destroy thousands of lives and erase decades of economic gains each year. These outcomes are undeniably devastating and completely preventable, says mason Elizabeth Hausler — and substandard housing is to blame. It’s estimated that one-third of the world will be living in insufficiently constructed buildings by 2030; Hausler hopes to cut those projections with a building revolution. She shares six straightforward principles to approach the problem of substandard housing: teach people how to build, use local architecture, give homeowners power, provide access to financing, prevent disasters and use technology to scale. “It’s time we treat unsafe housing as the global epidemic that it is,” Hausler says. “It’s time to strengthen every building just like we would vaccinate every child in a public health emergency.”

A daring idea to reduce income inequality. Every newborn should enter the world with at least $25,000 in the bank. That is the basic premise of a “baby trust,” an idea conceived by economists Darrick Hamilton of The New School and William Darity of Duke University. Since 1980, inequality has been on the rise worldwide, and Hamilton says it will keep growing due to this simple fact: “It is wealth that begets more wealth.” Policymakers and the public have fallen for a few appealing but inaccurate narratives about wealth creation — that grit, education or a booming economy can move people up the ladder — and we’ve disparaged the poor for not using these forces to rise, Hamilton says. Instead, what if we gave a boost up the ladder? A baby trust would give an infant money at birth — anywhere from $500 for those born into the richest families to $60,000 for the poorest, with an average endowment of $25,000. The accounts would be managed by the government, at a guaranteed interest rate of 2 percent a year. When a child reaches adulthood, they could withdraw it for an “asset-producing activity,” such as going to college, buying a home or starting a business. If we were to implement it in the US today, a baby trust program would cost around $100 billion a year; that’s only 2 percent of annual federal expenditures and a fraction of the $500 billion that the government now spends on subsidies and credits that favor the wealthy, Hamilton says. “Inequality is primarily a structural problem, not a behavioral one,” he says, so it needs to be attacked with solutions that will change the existing structures of wealth.

Nothing about us, without us. In 2013, activist Sana Mustafa and her family were forcibly evacuated from their homes and lives as a result of the Syrian civil war. While adjusting to her new reality as a refugee, and beginning to advocate for refugee rights, Mustafa found that events aimed at finding solutions weren’t including the refugees in the conversation. Alongside a group of others who had to flee their homes because of war and disaster, Mustafa founded The Network for Refugee Voices (TNRV), an initiative that amplifies the voices of refugees in policy dialogues. TNRV has worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other organizations to ensure that refugees are represented in important conversations about them. Including refugees in the planning process is a win-win, Mustafa says, creating more effective relief programs and giving refugees a say in shaping their lives.

Former member of Danish Parliament Özlem Cekic has a novel prescription for fighting prejudice: take your haters out for coffee. She speaks at “We the Future.” (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Conversations with people who send hate mail. Özlem Cekic‘s email inbox has been full of hate mail and personal abuse for years. She began receiving the derogatory messages in 2007, soon after she won a seat in the Danish Parliament — becoming one of the first women with a minority background to do so. At first she just deleted the emails, dismissing them as the work of the ignorant or fanatic. The situation escalated in 2010 when a neo-Nazi began to harass Cekic and her family, prompting a friend to make an unexpected suggestion: reach out to the hate mail writers and invite them out to coffee. This was the beginning of what Cekic calls “dialogue coffee”: face-to-face meetings where she sits down with people who have sent hate mail, in an effort to understand the source of their hatred. Cekic has had hundreds of encounters since 2010 — always in the writer’s home, and she always brings food — and has made some important realizations along the way. Cekic now recognizes that people of all political convictions can be caught demonizing those with different views. And she has a challenge for us all: before the end of the year, reach out to someone you demonize — who you disagree with politically or think you won’t have anything in common with — and invite them out to coffee. Don’t give up if the person refuses at first, she says: sometimes it has taken nearly a year for her to arrange a meeting. “Trenches have been dug between people, yes,” Cekic says. “But we all have the ability to build the bridges that cross the trenches.”


Preview our new podcast: The TED Interview

TED is launching a new way for curious audiences to immerse themselves more deeply in some of the most compelling ideas on our platform: The TED Interview, a long-form TED original podcast series. Beginning October 16, weekly episodes of The TED Interview will feature head of TED Chris Anderson deep in conversation with TED speakers about the ideas they shared in their TED Talks. Guests will include Elizabeth Gilbert and Sir Ken Robinson, as well as Sam Harris, Mellody Hobson, Daniel Kahneman and more. Listen to the trailer here.

“If you look at the cast of characters who have given TED Talks over the past few years, it’s a truly remarkable group of people, and includes many of the world’s most remarkable minds,” Chris said. “We got a glimpse of their thinking in their TED Talk, but there is so much more there. That’s what this podcast series seeks to uncover. We get to dive deeper, much deeper than was possible in their original talk, allowing them to further explain, amplify, illuminate and, in some cases, defend their thinking. For anyone turned on by ideas, these conversations are a special treat.”

The launch comes at an exciting time when TED is testing multiple new formats and channels to reach even wider global audiences. In the past year TED has experimented with original podcasts, including WorkLife with Adam Grant, Facebook Watch series like Constantly Curious, primetime international television in India with TED Talks India Nayi Soch and more.

“We’ve been very ambitious in our goal of developing and testing new formats and channels that can support TED’s mission of Ideas Worth Spreading,” said Colin Helms, head of media at TED. “A decade after TED began posting talks online, there are so many more differing media habits to contend with—and, lucky for us, so many more formats to more to play with. The TED Interview is an exciting new way for us to offer curious audiences a front-row seat to some of the day’s most fascinating and challenging conversations.”

The first episode of the TED Interview debuts Tuesday, October 16, on Apple Podcasts, the TED Android app or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. Season 1 features eleven episodes, roughly 40 minutes each. New episodes will be made available every Tuesday. Subscribe and check out the trailer here.


Humanizing our future: A night of talks from TED and Verizon

Hosts Bryn Freedman, left, and Kelly Stoetzel open the “Humanizing Our Future” salon, presented by Verizon at the TED World Theater, September 20, 2018, in New York. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

There are moments when the world begins to shift beneath our feet. Sometimes slowly, sometimes dramatically. Now more than ever we are living and working in an era of exponential technological advancement. How we address rapid change, what collaborative relationships we create, how we find our humanity — all this will determine the future we step into.

For the first time, TED has partnered with Verizon for a salon focused on building that future. In a night of talks at the TED World Theater in New York City — hosted by TED curators Bryn Freedman and Kelly Stoetzel — six speakers and one performer shared fresh thinking on healing our hospital system, empowering rural women, creating a safer internet, harnessing intergenerational wisdom and much more.

How intergenerational wisdom helps companies thrive. In 2013, Chip Conley, who built a multi-decade career running boutique hotels, was brought into Airbnb to be the mentor of CEO Brian Chesky. Conley was 52 (and thus 21 years older than Chesky) and he wondered what, if anything, he could offer these digital natives. But he realized he could become what he calls a “Modern Elder,” someone with the “ability to use timeless wisdom and apply it to modern-day problems.” For instance, he shares with the younger employees the people skills he gained over decades, while they teach him about technology. Nearly 40 percent of Americans have a boss who is younger than them — and when people of all ages exchange knowledge and learn from each other, good things happen. “This is the new sharing economy,” Conley says.

Can hospitals heal our environmental illness? “It’s not possible to have healthy people on a sick planet,” says healthcare change agent Gary Cohen. Working in healthcare for 30 years, Cohen has seen firsthand the pollution created by hospitals in the United States — if American hospitals were a country, he says, they would have more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire United Kingdom. Cohen suggests that it’s time for hospitals to go beyond medical practice and become centers of holistic community healing. What could that look like? Investment in sustainable, renewable energy and transportation, green and affordable housing, and partnership with schools to pool local food resources. “Transform hospitals from being cathedrals of chronic disease to beacons of community wellness,” Cohen says.

Meagan Fallone works on an education program that’s teaching thousands of rural, illiterate women to create solar power systems — and improve their communities and lives along the way. She speaks at the “Humanizing Our Future” salon. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Empowering rural women through solar-powered education. The innovators best prepared to cope with the issues of the future won’t be found in Silicon Valley or at an Ivy League school, says Barefoot College CEO Meagan Fallone. Instead, they’ll be found among the impoverished women of the Global South. Fallone works on groundbreaking programs at Barefoot College, a social work and research center, helping illiterate women break cycles of poverty through solar power education and training. Nearly 3,000 women have completed Barefoot College’s six-month business and solar engineering curriculum, and their skills have brought solar light to more than one million people. Following the success of the solar education program, and at the request of graduates, Barefoot College developed a follow-up program called “Enriche,” which offers a holistic understanding of enterprise skills, digital literacy, human rights and more. By democratizing and demystifying technology and education, Fallone says, we can empower illiterate women with the skills to become leaders and entrepreneurs — and make real change in their communities.

It’s fine to enjoy a dystopian movie, says Rima Qureshi — but when we’re building our real future, dystopia is a choice. She speaks at the “Humanizing Our Future” salon. {Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Dystopia is a choice. From The Matrix to Black Mirror, many of us crave science-fiction tales of rogue technologies: robots that will take our jobs, enslave us, destroy us or pit us against one another. Is our dread of dystopia a self-fulfilling prophecy? Rima Qureshi offers a warning — and some hopeful advice to remind us that dystopia is a choice. Our love for dystopia courts actual disaster through “target fixation”: the phenomenon where a driver or a pilot panics when a hazard looms, and thus becomes more likely to actually strike it. Although we should always keep cyber threats in our peripheral vision, Qureshi says, we should remain focused on the technologies that will help us: virtual classrooms, drones that race into burning buildings to find survivors, or VR that allows doctors to perform surgery remotely. We should not assume the future will be terrible (though we can still enjoy the next apocalyptic movie about how technology will destroy us all).

Ever played a djembe? The audience at the “Humanizing Our Future” salon got to try their skills on this traditional drum, led by motivator Doug Manuel, at the TED World Theater. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

How drums build community. In 1995, entrepreneur Doug Manuel made a trip to West Africa and fell in love — with a drum. That drum is called the djembe, a rope-tuned instrument played with the hands; it’s one of the world’s oldest forms of communication. “With its more than 300 different traditional rhythms, it’s accompanied every aspect of life — from initiations to celebrations and even sowing the seeds for an abundant harvest,” Manuel says. Since his life-changing trip, Manuel has used the djembe to develop team-building programs and build bridges between Africa and the West. In a live demo of his work, Manuel invites the audience to try their hands at the djembe during two upbeat drum lessons. Backed by two professional drummers, Manuel teaches a few beats — and shows how the djembe can still bring people together around a collective rhythm.

Healing the pain of racial division. During the Civil Rights era, Ruby Sales joined a group of freedom fighters in Alabama, where she met Jonathan Daniels, a fellow student. The two became friends, and in 1965 they were jailed during a labor demonstration, ostensibly to save them from vigilantes. After six days in jail, the sheriff released the activists — but shortly after, they were attacked by a man with a shotgun. Daniels pulled Sales out of the way, and he was killed by the blast. In this moment, Sales witnessed “both love and hate coming from two very different white men that represented the best and the worst of white America.” Traumatized, she was stricken silent for six months. Fifty years later, our nation is still mired in what Sales calls a “culture of whiteness”: “a systemic and organized set of beliefs … [that] maintain a hierarchical power structure based on skin color.” To battle this culture, Sales calls for each of us to embrace our multi-ethnic identities and stories. Collectively shared, these stories can relieve racial tension and, with the help of connective technology, expand our vistas beyond our segregated daily lives.

Bryn Freedman, left, interviews technologist Fadi Chehadé at the “Humanizing Our Future” salon in New York. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

What the internet is missing right now. Technology architect Fadi Chehadé helped set up the infrastructure that makes the internet work — basic things like the domain name system and IP address standards. Today as an advisory board member with the World Economic Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and a member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, Chehadé is focused on finding ways for society to benefit from technology and on strengthening international cooperation in the digital space. In a crisp conversation with Bryn Freedman, curator of the TED Institute, Chehadé discusses the need for norms on issues like privacy and security, the ongoing war between the West and China over artificial intelligence, how tech companies can become stewards of the power they have to shape lives and economies, and what everyday citizens can do to claim power on the internet. “My biggest hope is that we will each become stewards of this new digital world,” Chehadé says.


7 big ideas gain momentum: Updates from The Audacious Project

In this anonymous conference room, The Bail Project is doing paperwork to release 20 people from jail in a single day. Want to know more about the bail system in the US? Read this explainer.

Their ideas are ambitious, with the goal of changing outdated systems and impacting millions of lives. It’s been five months since The Audacious Project’s first class of project leaders spoke at TED2018, and each one is gaining momentum. Below, the latest news.

1,600 bails paid and counting

More than 1,600 people have now had their bail paid by The Bail Project, allowing them to await their trial from home rather than in a jail cell. In July 2018, The Bail Project opened in Detroit, working with the Detroit Justice Center — and that same week, they had their biggest-impact day so far, bailing out more than 20 people in Louisville, Kentucky. Next up for the project: California. They’ve started operations in San Diego, and are gearing up to launch in Compton, working with the UCLA School of Law and the Compton Public Defender.

The media is starting to take note. Robin Steinberg and “bail disrupters” Shawna Baldwin-Harrell and Richard Baxter were featured on NBC’s Dateline in a powerful episode that takes you inside the local jail in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to meet some of the women affected. Meanwhile, The Bail Project has gotten great coverage from The Christian Science Monitor, Michigan Public Radio, PBS NewsHour and St. Louis Public Radio. And after California passed a sweeping set of reforms that Steinberg and other activists fear will dramatically increase pretrial incarceration, she explained last week in an op-ed in The New York Times what should come after cash bail.

Two satellites take aim at methane

Earlier this month, Fred Krupp’s talk posted on TED.com, explaining the Environmental Defense Fund’s plan to slow down climate change by focusing on the greenhouse gas methane. Barely a week later, the Trump administration issued a proposal to weaken EPA rules, made in 2016, to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas companies. EDF projections show that this proposal could result in a half million additional tons of methane pollution by 2025. While they plan to fight the proposal, EDF stresses that it just strengthens the need for MethaneSAT. When oil and gas companies have data on leaks, they take action — this summer, BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Equinor and Shell all committed to addressing the problem of methane emissions.

Last week, Krupp attended the Global Climate Action Summit in California, where Governor Jerry Brown announced exciting news: California is developing its own satellite to measure greenhouse gas emissions. EDF is working with the state, and these two satellites will work together in tandem. While MethaneSAT will take broad, detailed measures of methane emission, surveying 80 percent of global oil and gas operations every four days, California’s system will detect medium to large leaks at specific locations. As EDF puts it on their blog, “It’s like having two camera lenses — wide angle and telephoto — that together produce a more complete picture.”

Trachoma is on the run

It was announced in June, but made official in a ceremony in August: Ghana has eliminated trachoma as a public health problem. It is the seventh country to do so in recent years, following Cambodia, Laos, Mexico, Morocco, Oman and Nepal. Sightsavers has been working since 2000 on eliminating the disease in Ghana, and getting to this milestone was a long road. Watch a video on what it took, and read an account of the final days of trachoma in Ghana, spent searching towns for the final patients, with nurses performing surgeries in teams of four.

Meet the ctenophore, an incredible inhabitant of the ocean’s twilight zone. Want to meet more creatures who live here? Check out this gallery.

Already, new insights on the twilight zone

The first cruise in Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s mission to explore the ocean’s twilight zone — define — left shore from Newport, Rhode Island, on August 11. The goal was to test Deep-See — a tool that’s 20 feet long and packed with broad-frequency sonars, cameras and sensors capable of capturing two terabytes of data every hour. When the cruise returned to land 10 days later, it had already generated more data about the twilight zone than almost any expedition before it. Andone Lavery, a physicist who is part of the project, said it was surprising to see organisms evenly distributed through the zone, rather than in dense layers. She told Science magazine that the new tool was “like color TV versus black-and-white.”

Meanwhile, a second cruise — funded in collaboration with NASA and NSF —  is making its way through the Pacific, looking at the role the twilight zone plays in Earth’s climate. What it finds could show us new dimensions of the carbon cycle. And this is just the beginning.

Health workers amplify vaccination efforts

Living Goods and Last Mile Health have a new partner in their project to digitally empower community health workers, to serve their neighbors in key countries in East and West Africa. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is joining them to make sure that community health workers can collect data and educate communities about immunizations. This work should allow nurse supervisors to vaccinate up to 8 million people by 2021. It’s exciting work, sure to have a big impact. The news comes just as a controlled study of Last Mile Health’s community health worker program was published in the American Journal of Public Health, showing that its model rapidly increases access to lifesaving care for children.

On the road to Selma, a #StressProtest

T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison of GirlTrek are midway through a 50-city wellness tour they’ve dubbed the Road to Selma. As they travel the country and hold workshops with Black women, they’re gathering insights on how to make next year’s Summer of Selma a success. Planning for the event is underway, alongside partners at the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation.

Over Labor Day, the GirlTrek team took a break to camp out in Rocky Mountain National Park for the second annual #StressProtest, a long weekend of self-care, hiking and nature for Black women. Dixon and Garrison spoke to Essence and Shondaland about why this is so vital. “Slowing down is the most radical thing you can do in this capitalist world that demands your work from sunup to sundown,” said Dixon. She and Garrison, recently named Women’s Health 2018 Game Changers, had an incredible time, from long hikes to conversations around the campfire. But even in this weekend of self-care, there was a bitter moment: As Garrison posted on Instagram, while driving a van full of Black women down the road after a hike, she was pulled over by a park police officer. “This man was asking me what I was doing in the park,” she writes. “Asked me while still holding his hand to his gun, despite seeing our hiking gear when we rolled the windows down.” But as Garrison powerfully writes: “I belong here. We belong here.” And she promises: “We’ll be back to the park next year. Thinking we will bring 1,000 Black women this time.”

Helping one million farmers help themselves

One Acre Fund is building capacity, and fast. By the end of the year, Andrew Youn and his team will serve more than 750,000 small-scale farmers, tracking far ahead of their goal of one million by 2020. This work is far-reaching, but its impact is personal. Six years ago, Wycklyfe Mwanje — now age 40 — was a small-scale farmer whose only source of income was his two-acre farm. Today, after working with One Acre Fund to improve his planting materials and techniques, he runs his farm, owns a mill for grinding maize and operates a popular butcher shop.

Wycklyfe Mwanje has gone from small-scale farmer to the owner of a mill and butcher shop. Want to know more about One Acre Fund’s plans to scale? Watch the update from TED2018.


Meet the Fall 2018 class of TED Residents

Activist Glenn Cantave (far left) and artist Kemi Layeni (far right) introduce themselves; behind them, Savannah Rodgers (center) says hello to alumnus Bayeté Ross Smith.

In the foreground, activist Glenn Cantave (far left) and artist Kemi Layeni (far right) introduce themselves; behind them, Savannah Rodgers (center) says hello to alumnus Bayeté Ross Smith during the meet-and-greet that kicked off this season’s Residency. Photo: Dian Lofton / TED

On September 12, TED welcomed its latest class to the TED Residency program, an in-house incubator for breakthrough ideas. These 21 Residents will spend 14 weeks in TED’s New York headquarters working and thinking together. The class includes exceptional people from all over the map — from Bulgaria to South Africa, Canada to Kansas.

New Residents include:

  • A rabbi helping to bring centuries-old wisdom to modern-day social media
  • An underwater photographer depicting the surprising variety of wildlife in urban waters
  • A former banker who inherited a plot of land and is now learning how to farm
  • A journalist seeking transparency in the US healthcare system
  • A rapper helping others find their voice

Heidi Boisvert, PhD, is an interdisciplinary artist and creative technologist building an open-source biometric lab and AI system to understand humans’ emotional reactions to media. Her goal: to figure out what makes media truly affecting and effective, so the knowledge can be used for good and to safeguard against manipulation.

TED Fellow and human rights activist Yana Buhrer Tavanier — based in Sofia, Bulgaria — is the co-founder of Fine Acts, which bridges human rights and art to instigate social change. In 2017, she launched Fine Acts Labs, bringing activists, and artists and technologists together in one space to tackle one social issue.

Recognizing that history-book narratives are Eurocentric, Glenn Cantave’s organization Movers and Shakers wants to paint a fuller picture using augmented reality. His team is working with local educators to create an AR book on the true story of Christopher Columbus. He also plans to launch neighborhood walking tours that depict digital landmarks of black and brown people in the US. He calls the project a “Pokemon-Go for contextualized history.”

Maria Adele Carrai is a sinologist and political scientist finishing a book about sovereignty in China, and how its infrastructure initiatives are changing the country’s place in the world.

Diana Henry chats with fellow residents Heidi Boisvert and Azi Jamalian.

From left, investor Diane Henry chats with fellow residents Heidi Boisvert, an artist and technologist, and Azi Jamalian, a cognitive scientist and entrepreneur. Photo: Dian Lofton / TED

Luz Claudio, PhD, is an environmental health research scientist, author and educator who develops innovative tools for research and the mentoring of young scientists. She is also developing new ways to translate discoveries from the environmental health sciences into practical actions—like writing a children’s book!

Keith Ellenbogen is an acclaimed underwater photographer who focuses on environmental conservation. His work dives into New York’s surprisingly vibrant and diverse marine ecosystems.

Diane Henry is a tech seed investor and startup strategist dedicated to finding, funding and amplifying visionary founders who believe in building ethics into tech as it evolves.

Muhammed Y. Idris is putting his PhD in social data analytics to good use through his app, Atar — a mobile platform that gives refugees seeking asylum information about their rights and available services. For now, the app is limited to people in Montreal but in the last year he has partnered with the UNHCR to expand his work further.

Azadeh (Azi) Jamalian is an entrepreneur and cognitive science PhD building invention hubs and communities for kid inventors. Her mission is to create a world in which all children dare to act on their dreams.

Keith Kirkland is an industrial designer, CEO and cofounder of WearWorks, a company that makes haptic navigation products for the blind. Their product, Wayband, helped the first blind person ever navigate the 2017 NYC Marathon without sighted assistance.

TED Res alumni came back to give the new class some advice on how to take advantage of their time.

TED Res alumni came back to give the new class some advice on how to take advantage of their time. A veteran of the first class, podcaster and author Brian McCullough (in orange), gives his thoughts. Photo: Dian Lofton / TED

TEDx organizer Kelo Kubu started her career in finance and later founded a design studio, but then inherited farmland as restitution from apartheid but didn’t know what to do with it. She’s launching an ag-tech accelerator focusing on urban female farmers so they can all learn to profit from their land.

Kemi Layeni is an artist focusing on the stories and experiences of people of African descent. She is working on a multimedia project about slavery “through a speculative, Afro-futuristic and Afro-surreal lens.”

Entrepreneur and graduate of The Second City, Mary Lemmer is applying improv comedy training to help people become better leaders.

Mordechai Lightstone is a Chasidic rabbi, the social media editor at Chabad.org and the founder of Tech Tribe. He is passionate about using new media to further Jewish identity and community building.

Jullia Suhyoung Lim designs technology to tackle challenges in education and medicine. She is currently designing an AR app to help autistic children identify abstract concepts in real life.

Samy el-Noury is an actor and LGBTQ+ advocate developing his first full-length play, about the life of a historical transgender activist. His goal is to recognize trans people in history and create more opportunities for working trans artists.

Technologist Muhammad Y. Idiris meets alum Danielle Gustafson.

Technologist Muhammad Y. Idiris meets alum Danielle Gustafson. Photo: Dian Lofton / TED

Jeanne Pinder demands radical transparency from the US healthcare system. Although price opacity is often drowned out by the noisier debate about policy and politics, the effects on real people are huge and growing, she says. Her award-winning startup, ClearHealthCosts, reports on and crowdsources true costs of medical procedures and makes the data public.

Originally from Colombia, Mariana Prieto designs scalable solutions to solve complex wildlife conservation challenges.

Savannah Rodgers is a documentary filmmaker from Kansas City. She wanted to make movies after seeing her favorite film, Chasing Amy (1997), for the first time at age 12. Now she’s making a documentary about the film and its enduring, controversial LGBTQ+ legacy.

Julie Scelfo is a journalist and social justice activist whose stories about society and human behavior reframe popular ideas and ask us to rethink basic assumptions. The author of The Women Who Made New York says she believes Donald Trump is onto something when he talks about “fake news” — although she would define it differently.

Raegan Sealy is a poet, singer, rapper and the founder of Sound Board NYC. An advocate of social change through the arts, Raegan and her work draw on her own experiences of overcoming domestic violence, sexual abuse and addiction.

Two members of this class, Kemi Layeni and Savannah Rodgers, won their seats in the Adobe Project 1324 TED Residency challenge, for young creatives (aged 18 to 24) with big ideas to share. The TED team chose the winners; Adobe is generously picking up the tab for their travel, room and board.

The fall Residency will culminate with a program of TED Talks in December. Would you or someone you know like to become a Resident? Applications for the Spring 2019 Residency (February 25–May 31) open October 1 and will close December 3, 2018. You can learn more at ted.com/residency.