A guest post from Idealist.org: Try this! Bring TEDx to under-resourced communities

This post comes from the Idealist Blog,
an project from Idealist, a non-profit designed to “[connect] people, organizations, and resources to help build a world where all people can live free and dignified lives.” Here, blogger writes about two African TEDx events: TEDxKliptown and TEDxKibera, and how others can learn from their example:

Over the past few years, TED Talks have become a popular way of sharing knowledge on pretty much anything. From robot technology to guerrilla gardening, the topics tackled by TED speakers have a limitless breadth, and [independently-organized TED-like events, TEDx events] are known to pack auditoriums and concert halls across the world.

But what about smaller, isolated communities who don’t have access to this bottomless pit of information, whether it be in person or via TED’s online video archive?

They create their own version.

…Kelo Kubu and Kevin Otieno have [organized TEDx events] in two African villages. Kubu used a “TEDx in a Box”—an all-in-one kit of equipment needed to put on [an event]—to hold Kliptown, South Africa’s first [TEDx event, TEDxKliptown] in 2011 and Otieno used the aid of other veteran TEDx organizers to get TEDxKibera (one of Kenya’s largest slums) off the ground in 2009.

“It’s important to share [TED Talks] with other impoverished communities, since the majority of the people in these communities have lost hope in life,” says Otieno. “We’ve already seen the small impact made in Kibera. People can learn, be encouraged, be motivated and be inspired to think big and differently. And they didn’t have that before.”

While their events both followed a similar structure of a regular TEDx [event], both Kubu and Otieno worked hard to mold the events into something the locals would want to attend, if not continue on their own. From promoting a simplistic, bare-bones image—as to not intimidate the largely impoverished attendees—to knowing what snacks to bring, the two successfully piqued the interest and imaginations of their specific communities by finding common ground.

Why you might like to try this

  • Sparks local and global idea sharing.  In Kliptown, Thulani Madondo, the leader of South Africa’s One Laptop Per Child branch spoke about the program’s efforts to bring new technology to remote communities and classrooms. In response, local children in the audience who had received laptops through this program recorded their own TEDx discussion on how they use it. “What was interesting to me was the ease at which the community caught on to the idea of TEDx and wanted to make their own,” says Kubu. “And to see both the creator of the laptop program and the children who received it side by side brought it full circle.”

  • Empowers community. Otieno says that TEDxKibera has changed people’s perceptions on who can teach. “They realize that despite their socioeconomic status they are not different. They can’t choose where they are born but they can choose what they want to be.” Since TEDx became a reoccurring presence in Kibera four years ago, new businesses led by event attendees have popped up across the sprawling slum.
  • Provides insight on universal technologies. The TEDx in a Box kit contains tablets and smart phones that can be plugged into projectors to screen TEDx talks. Kubu says that bringing this usually foreign technology to small communities is a huge step in global education, especially for youth. “Kids catch onto new technology faster than adults. It doesn’t matter if they are in a rural community or in New York City. With just a simple tablet or smart phone in a classroom, children can become global citizens,” says Kubu. “This is the future of education.”

How you can replicate it

While each area‘s TEDx events should be uniquely crafted to make sense in their community, Kubu and Otieno agree that the idea is meant to be universal. If you’d like to host a TEDx in your small community, or know of one that could benefit from a TEDx event [visit the TEDx site for more information, and] consider these tips from Kubu.

  • Do your homework on the location. Community members will only be interested in the talk if the topics relate to real issues and ideas that are relevant to their society. For example, in Kibera, Otieno invited the head of a local art studio to speak, encouraging listeners to contribute to the space. “To make it work, you have to know something about the community. You have to know what their needs are and how it can benefit them,” says Kubu. “It has to make sense.”

  • Find the right messenger. Kubu says that if you aren’t from the area, it’s key to connect with a community leader to spread the word about the event. People feel more comfortable hearing about a new idea when it comes from a familiar source.
  • Make the audience comfortable. Be sure to create a welcoming atmosphere for attendees. If they’re used to sitting on the floor, don’t bring chairs. If social events in their community usually involve snacks, make sure you bring the right ones.

  • Make cost a non-issue. “It’s important to show the community that putting on a event doesn’t have to cost a lot of money,” she says. “You can make money a barrier, and we don’t want that.  We want people to see that it’s easy and can be something they would have done on any other day.”
  • Provide tools to keep it going. Kubu left a stack of TED DVDs at Kilptown’s library—one of the few places in town with electricity and a DVD player. Now, locals visit the library weekly for an arranged viewing of a talk.

“Ideally, I’d like to see Kliptown put on their own TEDx [event],” she says. “But all we can do is start the idea. The rest is in their hands.”

Written by . For more posts from Idealist, visit their blog here: http://blog.en.idealist.org

While I was in high school, something happened. I met a young gentleman from our village who had been to the University of Oregon…

I told him, “Well, I want to go to where you [went]”… And he told me, “What do you mean you want to go? Don’t you have a husband waiting for you?” And I told him, “Don’t worry about that part. Just tell me how to get there.”

…I applied to school and I was accepted to [Randolph College] in Lynchburg, Virginia. [But] I couldn’t come without the support of the village because I needed to raise money … and again, when the men heard and the people heard that a woman had gotten an opportunity to go to school, they said, “What a lost opportunity. This should have been given to a boy.”

From Kakenya Ntaiya’s TEDxMidAtlantic talk, “The first school for Massi girls,” about her fight to attend school as a Massi woman, and how she came to found the first girls’ school in her village in Kenya

Let’s find the strength to change our slums: Boniface Mwangi

"You people are the answer to your own problems"

While working as a photographer for a Kenyan news service, Boniface Mwangi bore witness to some of the most horrible atrocities in the country’s recent history. Overcoming thoughts of suicide and self-doubt, Mwangi decided to use photography to inspire change within Kenya’s toxic political structure. (Filmed at TEDxKibera)

Each week, we choose four of our favorite talks, highlighting just a few of the enlightening speakers from the TEDx community, and its diverse constellation of ideas worth spreading. Browse all TEDxTalks here »

I arrived in America … I found snow. I found Walmart, vacuum cleaners, and lots of food in the cafeteria … But during that moment, while I was here, I discovered a lot of [other] things. I learned that that ceremony that I went through when I was 13 years old, it was called female genital mutilation. I learned that it was against the law in Kenya. I learned that I did not have to trade part of my body to get an education. I had a right. And as we speak right now, 3 million girls in Africa are at risk for undergoing mutilation.

…Those things made me angry. I wanted to do something. As I went back, every time I went I found that my neighbors’ girls were getting married; they were getting mutilated; and here…the constant cries of those girls was on my face. I had to do something … I started to talking to the men of the village and mothers, and I said, “I want to give back, the way that I had promised you, that I would come back and help you. What do you need?”

As I [spoke] to the women, they told me, “You know what we need? We really need a school for girls,” because there had not been any schools for girls. And the reason they wanted the school for girls was because when a girl is raped when she is walking to school, the mother is blamed for that. If she got pregnant before she got married, the mother is blamed for that. And she’s punished. She’s beaten.

They said, “We want to put our girls in a safe place.”

I went to talk to the fathers. And the fathers, as you can imagine, they said, “We want a school for boys.” And I said, “Well, there are many men in my village who have been out and they’ve got an education. Why can’t they build a school for boys, and I’ll build a school for girls?”…and they agreed. And I told them I wanted them to show me a sign of commitment. And they did. They donated land, where we built the [first] girls’ school.

From Kakenya Ntaiya’s TEDxMidAtlantic talk, “The first school for Massi girls,” about her fight to attend school as a Massi woman, and how she came to found the first girls’ school in her village in Kenya.