Experimental, organic, and polymathic, the TED Fellows program continues to provoke, inspire – and defy convention. The initiative was inspired by the success of 100 groundbreaking Fellows from around Africa at TED Global in 2007, which included Alexandra Graham, cofounder of Lagray Chemicals, the first vertically integrated pharmaceutical manufacturing company in West Africa;Mohammed Bah Abba, innovator behind the pot-in-pot cooling device;Ainea Kimaro, biogas evangelist, whose work has reached from Rwanda to Tanzania; and Segeni Ngethe, founder of Kenyan e-commerce pioneer Mama Mikes.
The TED Fellows initiative has since grown to include individuals from six continents, including around 100 from TED India. These mavericks, innovators, and paradigm-shifters operate in areas of interest ranging from robotic self-assembly to human rights activism. They continue to embody a fresh, youthful curiosity in their work, projects and initiatives. Here are what a few Fellows from the class of 2011 are up to:
Xavier Vilalta is a Spanish architect whose firm, XV Studio, uses fractal geometry to innovate in the built environment.Suzane Lee is a pioneer in the field of growing clothes. She uses a bacterial cellulose to propagate fabric that can subsequently be molded into dresses – or anything else that suits her fancy.Sumit Dagar is an interaction designer whose signature product, the Braille Phone, varies the height of a pixel instead of color to communicate information on a touchable “screen”.Sanjana Hattotuwa, founder of Groundviews, is a citizen journalist who seeks to capture and document post-conflict Sri Lanka in unflinching detail.
The 229 (and counting) Fellows represent a unique collection of cross-disciplinary pioneers from diverse places. The program team has sought to identify individuals whose work has the most potential for amplified impact. For example, Working Villages, Alexander Petroff’s organization, consists of only two full-time employees, but has overturned notions of food self-sufficiency in the Kivu region of the Congo.
Meanwhile, visual artist, filmmaker, biologist, and author Angelo Vermulen has propagated a worldwide series of cross-cultural, symbiotic installations, within which social interaction, ecology, and game culture converge. DK Osseo-Asare believes that low-cost, low-tech architecture can not only be climate-responsive and ecologically sensitive, but also aesthetically progressive and grounded in local culture. And entrepreneur Su Kahumbu contends that organic farming is the most cost-effective way of producing food in Africa.
The TED Fellows program proudly associates itself with Fellows-led initiatives such as the renowned Ushahidi crowdsourcing platform, Jamaica’s Halls of Learning, the Green Lab at the University of Oregon and the Santa Fe Institute. As the program evolves into its third year, the noticeable accomplishments of our current Fellows and alumni continue to be a testament to the transformative power of recognizing and nurturing individuals whose ideas make a difference.