Despite it being a Saturday, Day 4 of The Ashes and it being hotter than a forest fire in Hades, me and Mrs G plus @philardo headed to the impressive Evelyn Grace Academy for the first ever TEDx Brixton event yesterday.
After getting our badges from security, collecting our goody bags and dropping in our Brixton food bank donations we took our seats with the rest of the guests in the sell out hall (Brixton’s first public sauna come the afternoon heat) for a day of inspiration.
The aim of the organisers was to ‘Connect people across disciplines to create a local, national and international conversation around the theme of TRANSFORMATIONS.’ and this was definitely achieved despite the odd technical hitch.
I didn’t see all of the speakers and had to leave slightly early (*fortunately in time to see Clarke get out*), but I’ve done my best to summarise the best bits of what I saw below.
There were 3 broad sections to the day with there being a few speakers in each.
A team from Creative Connection turned up to immortalise the content in picture form which went down very well with the crowd judging by the paparazzi style line up around the poster between the breaks. I managed to elbow my way to the front to take the below picture.
Part 1: POWER UP
(i) Sam Conniff from Livity – The Role of Purpose
Sam spoke passionately that there’s real potential in all of today’s youth and that if we can give them purpose, they can realise it.
One shocking stat he shared was that only 40% of kids in Britain today have met someone with a job they want to do. If this is the case, we’re not doing a great job at inspiring young people and giving them a sense of purpose.
He explained a bit about the ‘purpose curve’ they use at Livity which plots an individual’s ambition on the y axis and their inspiration on the x axis.
His underlying message was that he feels that purpose can be used to augment and improve education and that it can be a way of judging success rather than just assessing an individual’s performance in the traditional sense.
(ii) Paul Reid – The Black Cultural Archives
Paul talked about The Black Cultural Archives, a project to collect, preserve and celebrate the history of black people in Britain.
He was driven to create the project after realising that black people have been a part of British culture since at least Roman times and not necessarily in a slave capacity.
By educating young black people about their roots he hopes to generate a sense of belonging for them, one he didn’t necessarily have at that age.
(iii) Graham Hughes – The Odyssey
The first person to travel to every country in the world without flying and it took him 4 years to achieve – what else do you need to know?
Great speaker who showed that by being resourceful and creative you can achieve great things.
He said that his journey transformed the way he sees the world, completely restored his faith in humanity and that we should remember that our passport is a huge opportunity and open door to see THE WORLD.
Despite his scouser origins he’s won my respect.
Part 2: RE-CHARGE AND RE-BOOT
(i) Solomon Smith – Setting Up Brixton’s Soup Kitchen
Solomon gave an energetic talk about the power of getting on and just doing things if you see a problem.
He recognised that homelessness is an issue and decided to do something about it by setting up Brixton’s first soup kitchen.
He’s managed to get suppliers like Gregg’s and Pret a Manger on board and has worked with Livity as well as appearing in Channel 4’s documentary ‘Something for Nothing’.
(ii) Simon Woolf – The Brixton Pound
This was a great talk about the massive success of the Brixton Pound, Brixton’s local ‘pay by text’ currency.
Simon had noticed that Brixton’s high street is full of big, globally networked supermarkets (as is the case with pretty much any other in the UK) and that figures show 90% of the area’s food spend goes to them.
This means that lots of money was flowing out of the local area as the supermarkets don’t source their goods locally, unlike local businesses.
To combat this trend, Simon created the Brixton Pound. He’s calculated that 70-80% of money spent in local businesses stays in the area and that it has a ‘Local Multiplier Effect’ and therefore makes a positive impact – businesses, their supply chain and consumers thrive off eachother.
Simon demos how this all works below…
Taking the concept a step further with Lambeth council, their employees can now opt to receive some of their wages in Brixton Pounds which is pretty impressive.
The amount of currency in circulation in the local area continues to grow with there currently being over 100,000 and there being a target of getting millions eventually.
As well as adding financial value to the area though, the Brixton Pound has really helped to restore a sense of community pride, making it famous for once rather than infamous and this is a massive plus for the project.
(iii) Kibwe Tavares – ‘Robots of Brixton’
Played an award winning film based on the Brixton area and some of its history.
(iv) Aaron Sonson – the ‘Stop and Search’ app
A talk explaining an innovative new app that lets young people look up their rights when they’re stopped and searched, allows them to upload their personal experience and also view the number of stop and searches in their local area.
Handy video summarising the concept below.
We legged it up the road in the tropical heat to the awesome Wishbone in Brixton market. They accept Brixton Pounds, but we paid in cash (harsh) before heading back for part 3. (*At this stage, England are in trouble and the Aussies are bedding in for a long afternoon at the crease*).
Part 3: CTRL-ALT-SHIFT
(i) Sarah Corbett – Craftivism
Sarah see’s craftivism (craft + activism = craftivism) as a less aggressive and less confrontational form of activism which better suits her personality and those of others who are also passionate about burning cases of injustice and inequality, but are introverts.
The term was coined by Bettsy Greer in 2003 and Sarah thinks the movement can positively impact activism in a few different ways:
– It’s a very slow form of activism and focuses the mind to concentrate on the important issues while creating something positive.
– It allows people to be challenged in a transformative and respectful way. She gave an example of cross-stitching an MP a handkerchief with a message on which opened up a dialogue with her that she wouldn’t have previously been able to have.
– Something small and beautiful (like a small stitched banner) produced over time and placed strategically can be just as impactful as producing something big and brash. This is particularly true with the advent of social media given people love to share things they find.
On the back of her work, lots of people are now joining in and they’ve been encouraged to come together in groups and craft in public spaces. This gets passers by interested who stop and ask what they’re doing, enabling them to open up a dialogue. People are much more open to discussion once you’ve first piqued their interest by getting them to question something they see.
(ii) Mark Henderson – Science influencing policy makers
Mark’s talk centered around the value that science could potentially bring to public policy making and the fact that science is hopelessly under-represented in the current parliament (1 MP with a scientific background out of 650).
He feels that MPs are missing a trick when they fail to take on board Carl Sagan’s famous quote below:
He feels that public policies are not currently produced as evidence based, but quite the opposite, with MPs abusing the evidence they base policies on in 3 different ways (cherry picking, fixing and clairvoyance) all of which leads to poorer policies for us all.
Mark feels there is huge opportunity to use a type of scientific experiment called the randomised control trial to inform public policies for the better and gave the allocation of different types of recycling bin (the bane of all of our lives) as an example opportunity.
Why not randomly select 2 different groups of streets, allocate different types of recycling bins and bags to each and then compare the impact on total recycling of the 2 areas? Whichever method has a bigger impact is then distributed to the whole group.
Simple and effective, but in summing up he argued that this type of decision making will never happen unless we as voters demand it en masse from our MPs.
(*Cricket update and the Aussies are teetering on the brink as they lose some quick wickets*)
(iii) Janet Gunter – Restart Parties
Janet talked about the huge amounts of electronics waste we produce and the fact that this can be better managed.
Many of this waste is taken for recycling, but before it even gets to this stage she feels we should be doing a much better job of either repairing or re-using it.
In fact, 23% of the electronics we take for recycling is either still functional or repairable which shows the opportunity for impactful change to the current process.
As a result she founded The Restart Project which ‘promotes positive behaviour change by encouraging and empowering people to use their electronics longer.’
One way they look to do this is by holding ‘restart parties’ where people bring along their broken electronics for repair by a small team of experts. People are encouraged to learn what’s wrong with their product as they’re watching it being repaired which in theory has a positive knock on effect in the future.
Despite a bit of my usual healthy skepticism, from what I saw the overall quality of speakers was brilliant and a good mix of topic, background and agenda made the event a roaring success.
A couple of other Ted Talk videos were played during the day and both are well worth a watch:
My only criticism was there was no wi-fi which made following the cricket very stressful, although to be fair this made me concentrate on the speakers even more.
Well done to all connected with the event.
If anyone stayed all day and wants to share below what we missed out on then please do.