Titillating TED Talks for Development Folks

Three separate TED Talks caught my eye over the last week. All encouraged me to reflect on development as a practice and how I personally and professionally stay connected to “what is living” at a local level that is authentic and that has potential to unleash social change. No concrete answers yet of course, but how I love the questions!

Noreena Hertz: How to use experts — and when not to

Economist Noreena Hertz argues that “we’ve become dependent on experts’ assuredness and definitiveness, ceding our own intellect for the allusion of certainty experts provide.” I love you development economists, but Hertz says it’s time to redefine who the experts are and create space for managed dissent, bringing “heretical” views into the discourse. We have to ask—what is the cost to all of us when so many of the best minds and perspectives from the community-level are left out of navigating the paradox of development?

Jacqueline Novogratz: Inspiring a life of immersion

The founder of the Acumen Fund asks us, “What is the cost of not trying?” She aptly discusses how living a life of purpose is a conscious, intentional process that takes effort, persistence and a willingness to examine your thoughts, motives and emotions.

Krista Tippett: Reconnecting with compassion

Journalist Krista Tippet argues that a linguistic resurrection of the word “compassion” is needed. She shares, “Each and every one of us, frail and flawed as we may be, inadequate as we may feel, has exactly what’s needed to help repair the part of the world that we can see and touch.” Compassion is rarely a solution, but a sign of a deeper humanity. Seems that in order to improve international aid, we might not only have to embrace results, but also embrace our (gasp!) feelings.

From the Interaction Institute for Social Change


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  1. Very strong case of alternative development model…

    Indeed history repeats itself more obviously than we can ever pretend it’s unfolding. Market deregulation following the debt crisis in the eighties needed, to be restored, “market friendly” reforms from the prescription of the Bretton Woods System. Indeed as long as economics are involved, accountability remains a mathematical combination to get things going right.

    Such a premise led to structural adjustment programs, one country failing to deliver after another before the controversial rationale can be questioned later on. Here again, as a result of a remedy, the International Institutions leading the development agenda at large, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank in its generic name), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and their unconditional follower, the United Nations (UN) got a chance to learn and most definitely learn and adapt.

    Despite United States conservative lawmakers’ proposals to slash and burn entire portions of the foreign aid budget, in the midst of a fast approaching 2015 deadline to meet a collective global promise to tackle poverty and improve education, health and environmental sustainability around the world,an inclusive shift in the development assistance process can make the difference.

    A couple of major historic facts, ground for a renewed international development agenda:

    Primo: Servitude, captivity, and confinement has led to the French Revolution (1789-99) stemming from a period of radical social and political upheaval in French and European history; inspiring world precedence from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

    Segundo: Good economics do not always mean good politics: growth needs to respond to the imperative proper distribution of wealth, which lack thereof explains why at 74, Tunisia’s life expectancy edges out Hungary’s and Estonia’s, countries that are more than twice as wealthy. Some 69% of Egypt’s children are in school, a ratio that matches much richer Malaysia’s (United Nations’ recent 20th anniversary Human Development Report). Simply put, such states did not fail in providing social services but distributing the benefits of economic growth was not as inclusive as it sounds.

    Tertio: Sounds like incompetency is what keeps International Development Agencies on the Job: if development worked as intended, overall self-reliance might be a firing motive of such an aid. Rio Earth Summit convened in 1992 and following Millennium Development Goals agenda (to name the most outstanding) remain occupational leisure time intellectual activities for decision-makers… to date.

    At this path, it is high time that international development community takes ownership in this chaos prevailing up North, down South, noticeable in East as well as in the West under homeland security issues.

    The same way Media is being redefined, achieving results so far, without a finite body of restrains and canvas, development assistance have to be sought in less tangible venues with minimum accountability requirements from the grassroots collective indigenous survival tools (sustaining and adapting over centuries) in absence of government assistance or help of any kind…

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  3. Jennifer- thanks for bringing attention to these posts… watched @jnovogratz talk last week, not familiar with the others and look forward to viewing. Given the fact that SO MUCH development has taken place with free, prior & informed consent of indigenous peoples, and without appropriate cultural sensitivity, we strongly suggest you include Wade Davis’ revelatory and very popular ted talk- a mind-blowing download of info from indigenous cultures worldwide and their incredible value to the population as a whole: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/wade_davis_on_endangered_cultures.html
    keep up the great work.

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  5. Kathy

    I really love your selections here. I have listened to each of them a couple of times, to let the wisdom and learnings sink in. If only we had more of this kind of vision and inspiration in the international development field. Thanks for bringing these to our attention.

  6. Jennifer: Thanks for sharing these three great TED Talks with your readers. May I suggest one from the DO Lectures: Maggie Doyne’s wonderful story of how she made a tremendous impact on children in Nepal. Brene Brown’s TED Talk is also worthy of mention. Jim Melfi, Founder, VideoTalks.org.

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