TEDIndia

TEDIndia Session 5: Redesigning Community

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Kavita Ramdas at TEDIndia, Session 5, “Redesigning Community,” November 6, 2009, in Mysore, India. Credit: TED / James Duncan Davidson

“Redesigning Community” was a diverse, but powerful, session. Speakers tackled the literal aspects of design, as well as the more abstract idea of social redesign. As the session progressed, talks became more and more emotionally intense.

Banny Bannerjee is a design educator, and today he’s talking about the areas of your brain you use when you design. He calls this particular type of thought “design thinking,” and it involves risk-taking. The problem is that the typical office and classroom don’t approve of risk-taking and in Bannerjee’s opinion, throwing away risky ideas is risky. He wants to use design thinking to address a much larger class of challenges — like the loss of infants to low birth weight in India. A design team was called into address that problem and after some social research, reframed the issue and found an innovative solution. Design can also produce rapid diffusion mechanisms. The Population Media Center creates radio and TV serial dramas to influence change. When one of these about contraception aired in Ethiopia, the contraceptive use rate went up 157 percent and the average fertility rate dropped by magnitude of one. Bannerjee says rapid transition is possible with a willingness to expend serious creative energy. Read more about Banny Bannerjee’s design think here >>

Shamsul Wares is an architect, as famous for his influence in the classroom as his work. For his talk he’s walking us through a recent project of his, step by step. He was charged with creating a vacation house for a wealthy client. As the owner would only beusing it on weekends, he suggested opening it as a community center for the rest of the week. Amazingly the owner agreed. This house is surrounded by simple hedges instead of walls, with fruit trees around it to attract birds. It’s three stories tall and built with a concrete frame, with no attempt to hide it. Wares pointed out that the building has no ambiguity, everything is clear. There’s lots of glass, but no cosmetics, no color. Not an inch of paint in this house. The building is static, but when you move the view changes. New patterns created by the sun as it filters through different windows. He shows slides of the community happily using the home and sitting on the banks of the pond it leads to. Speaking of his use of raw material in a wealthy person’s home, Wares explains “It’s the proper material. Nothing extra, just what you need, that’s what I try to do.” See Wares speak in a clip from My Architect >>

Kavita Ramdas is the director of the Global Fund for Women and an eloquently states her position as a feminist. She remarks that on the unusual phenomenon that women are at once viciously oppressed by cultural practice and the preservers of culture. Ramdas asks: Are different women doing each? Are we guilty of assuming that there is a single story of the struggle for women’s rights? Her story began as one of three daughtersin a country where having sons is fortunate, and watching her aunt go through the trauma of being an Indian woman widowed early, while Ramdas’s father stood helplessly by. This, she says, is how she learnt the rules about what is means to be female in this world. But, she is still hoping for change — dramatic change on the streets and the little changes at the kitchen table are equally important. Also, Ramdas points out that just as you need heat from the bottom and the top to cook a rice cake, real change must come from the bottom and the top. And, in most parts of the world, that top is still controlled by men. But, women are definitely on their way up. Read more about the Global Fund for Women here >>

Sunitha Krishnan is an anti-trafficking activist, and delivers one of the most powerful and emotional talks of TEDIndia yet. She explains that she’s not here to talk about traffic regulations, but about the worst form of human rights violations and the third largest form of organized crime — human trafficking. She shows pictures of three young children: Pranitha, Shaheen and Anjali. All three have suffered horribly after being kidnapped or sold, undergoing rape, physical abuse and HIV infection. Krishnan’s own story begann when she was raped by eight men at 15. And she was ostracized by society as a result. Now, she runs a foundation and home for these children called Prajwala. She is the voice for the victims and survivors, she says, and they need our compassion, empathy and acceptance. She asks that we accept them as human beings,not just as philanthropy or charity. Visit the Prajwala Foundation’s website here >>

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