Who has the power to end poverty?

Poverty isn’t one simple, easy-to-identify problem. It’s a catch-all term for droves of problems that stem from many sources. It’s daunting to think about solving such a sprawling issue, but there’s power in that too. Change needs to happen at so many levels that everyone from local communities to big governments can make a tangible difference.

Below, TEDx Talks with creative ideas about how to make a dent in poverty at three different levels — local, national, and global:

**Become the leaders of your own community: Boniface Mwangi at TEDxKibera
Boniface Mwangi calls on his community to demand representation and take charge of it’s own future. Kibera, the urban slum around Nairobi, is the largest in Africa. Despite the creativity of local innovators and entrepreneurs, infrastructure remains unsound and human rights abuses are widespread. At TEDxKibera, Boniface calls on his neighbors to demand justice and take action before outside sources forge their future for them.

**For money, insert human rights: Susan Randolph at TEDxUConn
What’s more important for a government hoping to improve the lives of its citizens: growing its economy or strengthening its social safety net? According to Susan Randolph, one might not work without the other. She measures a country’s human rights achievements, relative to its GDP per capita. She’s found that a country’s economic growth is unstable when it’s not coupled with policies that secure citizens access to the food, health, education, housing, work, and social security that’s within the country’s means. Reducing poverty is hardly just about money; it’s about guaranteeing citizens reasonable levels of dignity and stability, too.

**In defense of foreign aid: Joe Cerrell at TEDxASL
Wealthy countries like the US and UK have impressive aid programs, but many of their citizens view these as a colossal waste of money that ought to be spent solving the problems at home. What that argument usually misses, however, is that foreign aid makes up a near infinitesimal portion of most national budgets and that even those modest investments make a tremendous impact. Concerns about implementation notwithstanding, Cerrell makes the case that the spending is well worth the cost.

Coffee. Hacking. Indonesia: 5 TEDx Talks on Java

imageWhen you hear “java,” you might think of the pesky window that pops up on your computer desktop every few months, begging you to close all browser windows so you can install vital security updates — or maybe your morning coffee, expertly brewed by your favorite neighborhood barista — or, an image even more lovely, the lush greens of Indonesia’s third largest island.

Whatever it is you’re thinking of — we’ve got a talk for you. So pour your cup of joe, save all tabs, and take a break from your vacation planning to watch these 5 TEDx talks in honor of the word java:

All your devices can be hacked: Avi Rubin at TEDxMidAtlantic
Lately reports have been popping up all over on a vulnerability in Sun Microsystem’s Java plug-in, which has prompted what PC Mag has called a “Java-based hacking spree.” Recent attacks have affected companies such as Facebok, Twitter and, now, Apple, prompting concern over who will be next and how these attacks will be stopped. Computer scientist Avi Rubin is no stranger to hacks, and at TEDxMidAtlantic, he explains how hackers are compromising cars, smartphones and medical devices, and warns us about the dangers of an increasingly hack-able world.

Hacking the city with fun: Irwan Ahmett at TEDxJakarta
Sometimes the smallest things make your day so much better. A funny road sign. Clever graffiti. Free cookies.
Part-way through his career, artist Irwan Ahmett realized this and decided to run with it. Using spinning umbrellas, a human monorail, fruit baskets, and a secret lumberyard Internet cafe, he hacked his city, Java’s largest, with random acts of playfulness. At TEDxJakarta, he explains the story behind the hacks.

The human cost of food: Rebecca Scott at TEDxCanberra
Rebecca Scott
wants you to know what goes into your morning coffee — and that’s not just how much cream or sugar you like. She says that when we buy a cup a coffee, we should think about more than just taste; but consider the treatment of the people behind the bean — the farmers, harvesters, packagers, and coffee shop employees involved in providing our caffeine fix. In this talk, she reveals some of the astounding stories behind the things we consume, and introduces her project, STREAT, an effort to create cafes and coffee shops staffed by homeless youth serving ethically-sourced food and drink.

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TEDxDzorwulu organizer Mac-Jordan Degadjor named Ghana’s first Internet Freedom Fellow


Mac-Jordan speaks at TEDxYouth@Inspire

TEDxDzorwulu organizer Mac-Jordan Degadjo is a TEDx’er, writer, blogger, activist, and — most recently — a U.S. Department of State Internet Freedom Fellow.

According to a press release from the US embassy to Ghana,”The Internet Freedom Fellows program brings human rights activists from across the globe to Geneva, Washington, and Silicon Valley to meet with fellow activists, U.S. and international government leaders, and members of civil society and the private sector engaged in technology and human rights.”

Until 2013, there had yet to be an Internet Freedom Fellow from Ghana. Mac-Jordan is the first.

His work covering the 2012 Ghanian presidential elections online; advocating for the protection of and collaboration between Ghanian bloggers through a group called BloggingGhana; and co-organizing BarCamps throughout the country to, as the embassy reports, encourage young Ghanians to "get on-line where ever and however they can, making sure they have Ghanaian peers available to walk them through tech challenges," garnered the attention of the program, and a place among this year’s fellows.

"A free and open world depends on a free and open Internet," Mac-Jordan said when we spoke to him about the fellowship. "I believe in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, which states that: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’

"If access to the Internet was blocked when I moved to Ghana in 2007, there [wouldn’t have been] news about innovations, entrepreneurship and others coming from Africa and Ghana. Keeping the Internet free and open means more jobs opportunities are shared through social networks and forums, the spirit of innovation and creativity is encouraged."

Mac-Jordan is especially interested in social media, which he spoke about at TEDxYouthInspire in 2010. “Social media is playing a key role in every aspect of our lives,” he told TEDx, “moving beyond just networking. Social media is also changing the way traditional news sources distribute their information. It enables every Internet user to freely access, produce, and share information with networks across borders. It makes power disseminate into society with ease.”

What does he plans to do now that he’s an Internet Freedom Fellow? “The core aim of this fellowship is to share experiences and lessons learned on the importance of a free Internet to the promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly as fundamental human rights,” he said. “Therefore, I’ll use this fellowship to inspire my generation/network of youths about the positive effects social media and the Internet can bring to them.”

You can follow Mac-Jordan’s work on his blog, or on Twitter or Facebook. For more of his thoughts on technology and Internet freedom, read the rest of our interview below:

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The Higgs Boson, breaking the sound barrier, Occupy Wall Street, oh my! — 9 TEDx Talks to remember 2012

2012 saw major advances in science, remarkable feats of human achievement, and sea-changes in politics, international conflict, and human relations. These nine talks should help you frame the essential ideas that shaped events this past year.

The Higgs Boson: What You Don’t Know: Dr. Dan Hooper at TEDxNaperville

Earlier this year, CERN uncovered overwhelming evidence pointing toward the discovery of the elusive Higgs-Boson particle — providing experimental backing for some of the most fundamental theories in physics. Dan Hooper explains what makes this discovery so special. (Filmed at TEDxNaperville.)

STRATOS - The longest free fall in history: Dr. Jon Clark at TEDxUSC

On October 14, 2012, Felix Baumgartner lept off a ledge 39,045 meters in the air, broke the sound barrier, and landed safely on the ground. Dr. Jon Clark worked on the suit that helped Felix survive. Watch the talk to find out how he did it. (Filmed at TEDxUSC.)

The aftermath of Occupy: Naomi Colvin at TEDxHousesofParliament

Last year, the Occupy Wall Street movement spread like wildfire across the globe. This year, members have struggled with critics who dismiss the campaign for its inability to articulate specific demands. Naomi Colvin thinks they miss the point entirely; that the protests were not about rushing into specific negotiations based on conventional principles, but about disrupting the way we reform altogether. In this reflective talk, she lays out a new vision of political identity. (Filmed at TEDxHousesofParliament.)

Be optimistic about the US and China: Geoffrey Garrett at TEDxSydney

When, in April of this year, civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng fled from house arrest to seek asylum at the US embassy in Beijing, the US and China faced a delicate situation that challenged both countries’ policies and basic ethics.  Geoffrey Garrett believes that because the issue was resolved with relative ease — he can outline a vision of the future where these codependent superpowers can peaceably exist. (Filmed at TEDxSydney.)

What are your universal rights?: Philippe Sands at TEDxHousesofParliament

In addition to leaving thousands and countless homeless, the ongoing conflict in Syria has tried international stability — forcing every nation to reflect on its philosophy of intervention. In a call for consistent international conduct, Philippe Sands reframes intervention as a moral issue. He makes the case that no government should be free to abuse its citizens, that the rights of individuals supersede those of the state and that those rights must be protected by a powerful international force. (Filmed at TEDxHousesofParliament.)

Fixing election coverage: Jay Rosen at TEDxColumbiaEngineering 

In November, America re-elected Barack Obama. But before they could do that, they were inundated with a barrage of press coverage, most of which, according to Jay Rosen, wasn’t very helpful. In this talk, he lays out the problems with the press’s election coverage and offers a simple fix. (Filmed at TEDxColumbiaEngineering.)

How Curiosity Changed My Life, and I Changed Hers: Adam Steltzner atTEDxNewEngland

Aside from representing a major achievement in science, engineering, and the exploration of space, the Curiosity rover is simply, incredibly cool. Adam Steltzner, landing lead for the Curiosity rover, explains how NASA got a 1-ton SUV onto Mars. (Filmed at TEDxNewEngland.)

Hate Speech Beyond Borders: Nazila Ghanea at TEDxEastEnd

In September, a hate-filled video posted to YouTube sparked a slew of violent protests across the Arab world and left serious questions about how cultures of free speech can peaceably coexist with cultures of censorship. Oxford professor of International Human Rights Law, Nazila Ghanea, gives us a look into the wider international picture of contemporary hate speech and the nature of the violence it incurs. (Filmed at TEDxEastEnd.)

A History of Violence:  Steven Pinker atTEDxNewEngland

Several times this year, headlines described traumatic, violent events. But, through it all, it’s essential to remember that we live in the least violent time in history, says philosopher Steven Pinker. In this talk, he breaks down the numbers behind the decline of violence and lays out his expectations for the future of conflict. (Filmed at TEDxNewEngland.)