I saw my first TED talk when I was in college and was captivated. Ever since then, I have seen many online. When I got a last-minute ticket to TEDXBerkeley through an I-House friend, I was pumped to experience the TED magic myself!
The theme of the event was Wisdom, Compassion, Connection, and speakers weaved those themes into their presentations. The 7+ hour event had too many interesting things to share here, but I’ll note a few speakers that really stood out.
Dan Garcia, a Computer Science professor here at UC Berkeley, appeared on stage on a unicycle to start his fascinating speech. As someone with little knowledge of computer science, I walked away with a greater understanding of the importance of the field, especially in regards to Computer Science education.
Suzanne Ackerman-Berman of Pick n Pay (a grocery chain in South Africa), spoke about social enterprise efforts to create “equality in every sense of the word” in the company. Pick n Pay has created programs to create opportunities for poor and marginalized populations in South Africa along every step of the supply chain, through thoughtful and transformative efforts. Her presentation clearly laid out the role markets can play in transforming a society and creating justice.
Ackerman-Berman was followed by Dr. Victoria Kisyombe, who shared her journey from being a poor, widowed mother of three children in Tanzania with only one cow to her name, to creating SELFINA, a micro-finance initiative for women to become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses. Since SELFINA’s start in 2002, 25,000 women have accessed financing, 125,000 jobs have been created, 200,000 people have been impacted, and $16 million have revolved through the system–all starting from one cow! Dr. Kisyombe’s story shows how powerful one person can truly be.
Dan Viederman, of Verité, discussed labor trafficking and forced labor issues. This is an area I focus on, and I was glad to see how relatable Viederman made the issue. There are tremendous human rights abuses along the supply chains that provide us with our clothing, electronics, food, and other consumer goods, and understanding that is the first step towards fighting for justice. Viederman emphasized the importance of consumers taking the initiative to make sure the brands they buy from are committed to fair labor standards (and enforcement!).
You may notice that I mentioned mostly internationally-focused speakers. Each of these represented something different–Ackerman-Berman spent many years outside of her home country of South Africa, living a privileged life, but felt compelled to return home and make a difference. There are many inspiring people I have met here at I-House whom I foresee doing this in the future. Dr. Kisyombe is also a citizen of a developing country, but was immensely successful despite the lack of opportunities she had. Some of the people I have bonded with most at I-House are those who have fought hard to get here. Finally, Viederman is an American who is disturbed by the abuse of those who labor for his benefit in terrible conditions, and decided to do something about it. Living in I-House as an American, interacting with people from all over the world on a daily basis, has made me more aware of global issues and made me feel more compelled to fight for change.