TED

The Audacious Project announces new projects in COVID-19 response and recovery

In response to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, The Audacious Project, a collaborative funding initiative housed at TED, will direct support towards solutions tailored to rapid response and long-term recovery. Audacious has catalyzed more than $30 million towards the first three organizations in its COVID-19 rapid response cohort: Partners In Health will rapidly increase the scale, speed and effectiveness of contact tracing in the US; Project ECHO will equip over 350,000 frontline clinicians and public health workers across Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America to respond to COVID-19; and World Central Kitchen will demonstrate a new model for food assistance within US cities. Each organization selected is delivering immediate aid to vulnerable populations most affected by the novel coronavirus. 

“Audacious was designed to elevate powerful interventions tackling the world’s most urgent challenges,” said Anna Verghese, Executive Director of The Audacious Project. “In line with that purpose, our philanthropic model was built to flex. In the wake of COVID-19, we’re grateful to be able to funnel rapid support towards Partners in Health, Project ECHO and World Central Kitchen — each spearheading critical work that is actionable now.”

(Photo: Partners in Health/Jon Lasher)

Announcing The Audacious Project’s COVID-19 rapid response cohort 

Partners In Health has been a global leader in disease prevention, treatment and care for more than 30 years. With Audacious support over the next year, Partners In Health will disseminate its contact tracing expertise across the US and work with more than 19 public health departments to not only flatten the curve but bend it downward and help stop the spread of COVID-19. They plan to customize and scale their programs through a combination of direct technical assistance and open source sharing of best practices. This effort will reduce the spread of COVID-19 in cities and states home to an estimated 133 million people.

(Photo: Project Echo)

Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) exists to democratize life-saving medical knowledge — linking experts at centralized institutions with regional, local and community-based workforces. With Audacious investment over the next two years, ECHO will scale this proven virtual learning and telementoring model to equip more than 350,000 frontline clinicians and public health workers to respond to COVID-19. Working across Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America, the ECHO team will build a global network of health workers who together can permanently improve health systems and save lives in our world’s most vulnerable communities. 

(Photo: World Central Kitchen)

Chef José AndrésWorld Central Kitchen has provided fresh and nutritious meals to those in need following disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes since 2010. In response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, World Central Kitchen has developed an innovative solution to simultaneously provide fresh meals to those in immediate need and keep small businesses open in the midst of a health and economic crisis. World Central Kitchen will demonstrate this at scale, by expanding to employ 200 local Oakland restaurants (roughly 16 percent of the local restaurant industry) to serve nearly two million meals by the end of July — delivering a powerful proof of concept for a model that could shift food assistance around the world.

The Audacious Coalition

The Audacious Project was formed in partnership with The Bridgespan Group as a springboard for social impact. Using TED’s curatorial expertise to surface ideas, the initiative convenes investors and social entrepreneurs to channel funds towards pressing global issues.

A remarkable group of individuals and organizations have played a key role in facilitating the first edition of this Rapid Response effort. Among them ELMA Philanthropies, Skoll Foundation, Scott Cook and Signe Ostby of the Valhalla Charitable Foundation, Chris Larsen and Lyna Lam, Lyda Hill Philanthropies, The Rick & Nancy Moskovitz Foundation, Stadler Family Charitable Foundation, Inc., Ballmer Group, Mary and Mark Stevens, Crankstart and more.

To learn more about The Audacious Project visit audaciousproject.org/covid-19-response.

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“TEDx SHORTS,” a new TED original podcast hosted by actress Atossa Leoni, premieres May 18

Launching on Monday, May 18, TED’s new podcast TEDx SHORTS gives listeners a quick and meaningful taste of curiosity, skepticism, inspiration and action drawn from TEDx Talks. In less than 10 minutes, host Atossa Leoni guides listeners through fresh perspectives, inspiring stories and surprising information from some of the most compelling TEDx Talks. 

TEDx events are organized and run by a passionate community of independent volunteers who are at the forefront of giving a platform to global voices and sharing new ideas that spark conversations in their local areas. Since 2009, there have been more than 28,000 independently organized TEDx events in over 170 countries across the world. TEDx organizers have given voice to some of the world’s most recognized speakers, including Brené Brown and Greta Thunberg. 

TEDx SHORTS host and actress Atossa Leoni is known for her roles in the award-winning television series Homeland and the film adaptation of The Kite Runner, based on Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel. Atossa is fluent in five languages and is recognized for her work in promoting international human rights and women’s rights.

“Every day, TEDx Talks surface new ideas, research and perspectives from around the world,” says Jay Herratti, Executive Director of TEDx. “With TEDx SHORTS, we’ve curated short excerpts from some of the most thought-provoking and inspiring TEDx Talks so that listeners can discover them in bite-sized episodes.”

Produced by TED in partnership with PRX, TEDx SHORTS is one of TED’s seven original podcasts, which also include The TED Interview, TED Talks Daily, TED en Español, Sincerely, X, WorkLife with Adam Grant and TED Radio Hour. TED’s podcasts are downloaded more than 420 million times annually.

TEDx SHORTS debuts Monday, May 18 on Apple Podcasts or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

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Fragility, resilience and restoration at TED2020: The Prequel

It’s a new, strange, experimental day for TED. In a special Earth Day event, TED2020: The Prequel brought the magic of the TED conference to the virtual stage, inviting TED2020 community members to gather for three sessions of talks and engaging, innovative opportunities to connect. Alongside world-changing ideas from leaders in science, political strategy and environmental activism, attendees also experienced the debut of an interactive, TED-developed second-screen technology that allowed them to discuss ideas with each other, ask questions of speakers and give real-time (emoji-driven) feedback to the stage. Below, a recap of the day’s inspiration.

Session 1: Fragility

The opening session featured thinking on the fragile state of the present — and some hopes for the future.

Larry Brilliant, epidemiologist

Big idea: Global cooperation is the key to ending the novel coronavirus pandemic.

How? Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant reviews the global response to SARS-CoV-2 with head of TED Chris Anderson and reflects on what we can do to end the outbreak. While scientists were able to detect and identify the virus quickly, Brilliant says, political incompetence and fear delayed action. Discussing the deadly combination of a short incubation period with a high transmissibility rate, he explains how social distancing doesn’t stamp out the disease but rather slows its spread, giving us the time needed to execute crucial contact tracing and develop a vaccine. Brilliant shares how scientists are collaborating to speed up the vaccine timeline by running multiple processes (like safety testing and manufacturing) in parallel, rather than in a time-consuming sequential process. And he reminds us that to truly conquer the pandemic, we must work together across national boundaries and political divides. 

Quote of the talk: This is what a pandemic forces us to realize: we are all in it together, we need a global solution to a global problem. Anything less than that is unthinkable.”


Now is a time “to be together rather than to try to pull the world apart and crawl back into our own nationalistic shells,” says Huang Hung.

Huang Hung, writer, publisher

Big idea: Individual freedom as an abstract concept in a pandemic is meaningless. It’s time for the West to take a step toward the East.

How? By embracing and prizing collective responsibility. In conversation with TED’s head of curation, Helen Walters, writer and publisher Huang Hung discusses how the Chinese people’s inherent trust in their government to fix problems (even when the solutions are disliked) played out with COVID-19, the handling of coronavirus whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang and what, exactly, “wok throwing” is. What seems normal and appropriate to the Chinese, Hung says — things like contact tracing and temperature checks at malls — may seem surprising and unfamiliar to Westerners at first, but these tools can be our best bet to fight a pandemic. What’s most important now is to think about the collective, not the individual. “It is a time to be together rather than to try to pull the world apart and crawl back into our own nationalistic shells,” she says.

Fun fact: There’s a word — 乖, or “guai” — that exists only in Chinese: it means a child who listens to their parents.


Watch “An ode to living on Earth” at go.ted.com/oliverjeffers.

Oliver Jeffers, artist, storyteller

Big idea: In the face of infinite odds, 7.5 billion of us (and counting) find ourselves here, on Earth, and that shared existence is the most important thing we have.

Why? In a poetic effort to introduce life on Earth to someone who’s never been here before, artist Oliver Jeffers wrote his newborn son a letter (which grew into a book, and then a sculpture) full of pearls of wisdom on our shared humanity. Alongside charming, original illustrations, he gives some of his best advice for living on this planet. Jeffers acknowledges that, in the grand scheme of things, we know very little about existence — except that we are experiencing it together. And we should relish that connection. Watch the talk on TED.com >>

Quote of the talk: “‘For all we know,’ when said as a statement, means the sum total of all knowledge. But ‘for all we know’ when said another way, means that we do not know at all. This is the beautiful, fragile drama of civilization. We are the actors and spectators of a cosmic play that means the world to us here but means nothing anywhere else.”


Musical interludes from 14-year old prodigy Lydian Nadhaswaram, who shared an energetic, improvised version of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” and musician, singer and songwriter Sierra Hull, who played her song “Beautifully Out of Place.”

 

Session 2: Resilience

Session 2 focused on The Audacious Project, a collaborative funding initiative housed at TED that’s unlocking social impact on a grand scale. The session saw the debut of three 2020 Audacious grantees — Crisis Text Line, The Collins Lab and ACEGID — that are spearheading bold and innovative solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their inspirational work on the front lines is delivering urgent support to help the most vulnerable through this crisis.

Pardis Sabeti and Christian Happi, disease researchers

Big idea: Combining genomics with new information technologies, Sentinel — an early warning system that can detect and respond to emerging viral threats in real-time — aims to radically change how we catch and control outbreaks. With the novel coronavirus pandemic, Sentinel is pivoting to become a frontline responder to COVID-19.

How? From advances in the field of genomics, the team at Sentinel has developed two tools to detect viruses, track outbreaks and watch for mutations. First is Sherlock, a new method to test viruses with simple paper strips — and identify them within hours. The second is Carmen, which enables labs to test hundreds of viruses simultaneously, massively increasing diagnostic ability. By pairing these tools with mobile and cloud-based technologies, Sentinel aims to connect health workers across the world and share critical information to preempt pandemics. As COVID-19 sweeps the globe, the Sentinel team is helping scientists detect the virus quicker and empower health workers to connect and better contain the outbreak. See what you can do for this idea »

Quote of the talk: “The whole idea of Sentinel is that we all stand guard over each other, we all watch. Each one of us is a sentinel.”


Jim Collins, bioengineer

Big idea: AI is our secret weapon against the novel coronavirus.

How? Bioengineer Jim Collins rightly touts the promise and potential of technology as a tool to discover solutions to humanity’s biggest molecular problems. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, his team combined AI with synthetic biology data, seeking to avoid a similar battle that’s on the horizon: superbugs and antibiotic resistance. But in the shadow of the present global crisis, they pivoted these technologies to help defeat the virus. They have made strides in using machine learning to discover new antiviral compounds and develop a hybrid protective mask-diagnostic test. Thanks to funding from The Audacious Project, Collins’s team will develop seven new antibiotics over seven years, with their immediate focus being treatments to help combat bacterial infections that occur alongside SARS-CoV-2. See what you can do for this idea »

Quote of the talk: “Instead of looking for a needle in a haystack, we can use the giant magnet of computing power to find many needles in multiple haystacks simultaneously.”


“This will be strangers helping strangers around the world — like a giant global love machine,” says Crisis Text Line CEO Nancy Lublin, outlining the expansion of the crisis intervention platform.

Nancy Lublin, health activist

Big idea: Crisis Text Line, a free 24-hour service that connects with people via text message, delivers crucial mental health support to those who need it. Now they’re going global.

How? Using mobile technology, machine learning and a large distributed network of volunteers, Crisis Text Line helps people get help in times of crisis, no matter the situation. Here’s how it works: If you’re in the United States or Canada, you can text HOME to 741741 and connect with a live, trained Crisis Counselor, who will provide confidential help via text message. (Numbers vary for the UK and Ireland; find them here.) The not-for-profit launched in August 2013 and within four months had expanded to all 274 area codes in the US. Over the next two-and-a-half years, they’re committing to providing aid to anyone who needs it not only in English but also in Spanish, Portuguese, French and Arabic — covering 32 percent of the globe. Learn how you can join the movement to spread empathy across the world by becoming a Crisis Counselor. See what you can do for this idea »

Quote of the talk: “This will be strangers helping strangers around the world — like a giant global love machine.”


Music and interludes from Damian Kulash and OK Go, who showed love for frontline pandemic workers with the debut of a special quarantine performance, and David Whyte, who recited his poem “What to Remember When Waking,” inviting us to celebrate that first, hardly-noticed moment when we wake up each day. “What you can plan is too small for you to live,” Whyte says.

 

Session 3: Restoration

The closing session considered ways to restore our planet’s health and work towards a beautiful, clean, carbon-free future.

Watch “How to shift your mindset and choose your future” at go.ted.com/tomrivettcarnac.

Tom Rivett-Carnac, political strategist

Big idea: We need stubborn optimism coupled with action to meet our most formidable challenges.

How: Speaking from the woods outside his home in London, political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac addresses the loss of control and helplessness we may feel as a result of overwhelming threats like climate change. Looking to leaders from history who have blazed the way forward in dark times, he finds that people like Rosa Parks, Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi had something in common: stubborn optimism. This mindset, he says, is not naivety or denial but rather a refusal to be defeated. Stubborn optimism, when paired with action, can infuse our efforts with meaning and help us choose the world we want to create. Watch the talk on TED.com >>

Quote of the talk: “This stubborn optimism is a form of applied love … and it is a choice for all of us.”


Kristine Tompkins, Earth activist, conservationist

Big idea: Earth, humanity and nature are all interconnected — and “rewilding” the world back to health starts in its wildernesses. 

Why? The disappearance of wildlife from its natural habitat is a problem to be met with action, not nostalgia. Activist and former Patagonia CEO Kristine Tompkins decided she would dedicate the rest of her life to that work. By purchasing privately owned wild habitats, restoring their ecosystems and transforming them into protected national parks, Tompkins shows the transformational power of wildlands philanthropy. She urgently spreads the importance of rewilding — and that we all have a role to play. “The power of the absent can’t help us if it just leads to nostalgia or despair,” she says. “It’s only useful if it motivates us toward working to bring back what’s gone missing.”

Quote of the talk: “Every human life is affected by the actions of every other human life around the globe. And the fate of humanity is tied to the health of the planet. We have a common destiny. We can flourish or we can suffer, but we’re going to be doing it together.”


Music and interludes from Amanda Palmer, who channels her inner Gonzo with a performance of “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday” from The Muppet Movie; Baratunde Thurston, who took a moment to show gratitude for Earth and reflect on the challenge humanity faces in restoring balance to our lives; singer-songwriter Alice Smith, who gives a hauntingly beautiful vocal performance of her original song “The Meaning,” dedicated of Mother Earth; and author Neil Gaiman, reading an excerpt about the fragile beauty that lies at the heart of life.

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TED Talks Daily welcomes inaugural host, Elise Hu

TED Talks Daily welcomes inaugural host, Elise Hu.

TED Talks Daily, TED’s most-downloaded podcast, welcomes its inaugural host: Elise Hu. After nearly a decade at NPR, Elise’s first episode of TED Talks Daily will be released on April 6. While at NPR, Elise was a regular contributor to All Things Considered and Morning Edition. She filed stories from more than a dozen countries as an international correspondent and opened NPR’s first-ever Seoul bureau. Hu also created the Gracie-award winning video series Elise Tries and helped found The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit digital startup.

“I’m hungry to learn and grow. And now, I get to watch and introduce fresh ideas from the global community of TED speakers … for my job! What a privilege,” says Hu. “During this period of being inside and looking inward I’ve found this opportunity to join the TED team and learn from the vast TED community to be a balm and a salve. I can’t wait to engage further with the worldwide TED audience.”

TED’s podcasts are downloaded more than 420 million times annually. TED Talks Daily, which is downloaded one million times per day, is one of the most downloaded shows, and not just in the US — it’s been featured in Apple Podcasts’ top ten charts in 130 countries around the world (more than any other podcast).

Every weekday, TED Talks Daily features the latest talks in audio. Listeners tune in for thought-provoking talks on every subject imaginable — from artificial intelligence to zoology, and everything in between — given by the world’s leading thinkers and creators. TED Talks Daily aims to inspire listeners to change their perspectives, ignite their curiosity and learn something new. As host, Elise brings an inquiring mind and journalistic background to guide audiences and lay the foundation for each episode.

TED Talks Daily has long been a favorite way for audiences to engage with TED Talks, so we’re looking forward to adding onto the format,” said Colin Helms, head of media at TED. “What listeners have come to know and love about TED Talks Daily will continue, but with Elise as our host, we can build a richer backdrop for our talks.”

Michelle Quint, editorial director of format development at TED, added: “Elise embodies the very spirit of TED Talks Daily — smart, joyful and deeply curious about the world around her. We feel so lucky to have her at the helm.”

Partners play a crucial role in bringing TED’s content to the public. TED Talks Daily is sponsored by some of the most innovative and interesting organizations in the world today. TED strives to tell their stories in the form of authentic, story-driven content developed in real-time and aligned with our editorial process — finding and exploring brilliant ideas from unlikely places.

New episodes of TED Talks Daily air every weekday and are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the TED Android app or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

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5 ways to live (and thrive) while social distancing

The novel coronavirus has dramatically changed how we spend time and share physical and virtual space with each other. On Friday, March 27, conflict mediator and author Priya Parker joined head of TED Chris Anderson and current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers on TED Connects to discuss what we all can do to stay connected and sustain relationships while apart during the pandemic. Here’s some advice to help you get through this uncertain time:

Bring intention to planning a virtual gathering

As platforms like Zoom, Slack and email become more integrated into our lives, it’s clear that technology will play an important tool in helping us keep in touch. Whether you’re organizing a Zoom dinner party or Facetiming a friend, Parker invites us to consider how we can elevate the conversation beyond just check-ins. In planning a virtual gathering, ask:

  • Who’s joining and why?
  • What are your community’s needs?
  • What’s the reason you’re coming together?

As the pandemic evolves, these needs will likely shift. Stay attuned to the kinds of connections your communities are seeking.

Include fun themes to elevate your digital get-togethers

Parker suggests centering your gatherings around themes or activities to encourage more meaningful and purposeful conversations. Incorporate elements of the physical world to create a shared experience, like asking everyone to wear a funny costume or making the same recipe together. Though screens don’t quite replace the energy of in-person gatherings, we can still strengthen community bonds by reminding ourselves that there are real people on the other end of our devices.

Set healthy boundaries to maintain wellbeing

As we’re figuring out the best way to exist in the digital world, it’s also crucial we put in the effort to meaningfully connect with those we’re quarantining with. The distinctions between time to work, socialize and rest can grow blurrier by the day, so be sure to set boundaries and ground rules with those you live with. In having this conversation with your roommates, family or partner, reflect on these prompts:

  • How do you want to distinguish time spent together versus apart?
  • How do you want to share time together?
  • Since we look at screens most of the day, could it be helpful to set no-screen times or brainstorm new, non-digital ways to hang out?

Allow yourself to reflect on the unknown

It’s important to acknowledge that this is not a normal time, Parker says. The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the world, and as a global society we’ll experience the reverberations of this period as they ripple across every sector of human life. Make sure to create space for those conversations, too.

Take time to wander through the unknown, to talk about how we are being changed — individually and collectively — by this shared experience. It’s perfectly normal to feel worried, vulnerable, even existential, and this may be a great time to lean into those feelings and think about what really matters to you.

Recognize the power and feeling community brings — no matter the size

While the coronavirus pandemic has physically isolated many of us from each other, our ingenuity and resilience ensures that we can still build and forge community together. Across the world, people are gathering in new and amazing ways to set up “care-mongering” support groups, sing with their neighbors, take ceramics classes, knit together and break bread.

Now is the time to discover (or rediscover) the value and power of community. We are all members of many different communities: our neighborhoods, families, countries, faith circles and so on. Though we’re living in unprecedented times of social isolation, we can forge stronger bonds by gathering in ways that reflect our best values and principles. In the United Kingdom, a recent campaign asked people across the country to go outside at a synchronized time and collectively applaud health workers on the frontlines of the crisis; a similar effort was made across India to ring bells in honor of the ill and those caring for them. During this crisis and beyond, we can use thoughtful ritual-making to transform our unease and isolation into community bonding.

“Gathering is contagious,” Parker says. “These small, simple ideas allow people to feel like we can shape some amount — even a small amount — of our collective reality together.”

Looking for more tips, advice and wisdom? Watch the full conversation with Priya below (and join us for TED Connects, weekdays at 12pm ET):

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