Global Issues

Forces of Change: A Q&A about a TEDGlobal session exploring world-shaping shifts emerging from Asia & Africa

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TED Fellows Erik Hersman and Adrian Hong have curated the TEDGlobal 2013 session "Forces of Change."

TED Fellows Erik Hersman and Adrian Hong have curated the TEDGlobal 2013 session “Forces of Change.”

Only one thing is constant in the world — that things will continually change and evolve.  Session 9 of TEDGlobal 2013, called “Forces of Change,” will explore how, in recent years, much of the change happening in the world has originated in Africa or Asia. This session, which will be guest curated by TED Fellows Erik Hersman and Adrian Hong, will explore the powerful and unexpected forces of change emerging from these continents, from political upheaval to economic shifts to art and innovation.

How did this session originate?

Erik Hersman: When TEDGlobal director Bruno Giussani approached us last year with the idea to guest curate a session together, we jumped on a call and started thinking about how the people we know and admire, the movements we see, the world that we are a part of could best be showcased on the TED stage.

Adrian Hong: The theme “Forces of Change” is a way to highlight the strong movements, energies and people that are driving major shifts in the world, particularly in Africa and Asia, the regions in which Erik and I work.

How do your professional backgrounds and interests complement each other as co-curators for this session?

Hersman: As a technologist based in Kenya, I tend to focus on Africa, specifically in the fields of technology and business. Adrian is a strategist and advisor engaged in Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. Both of us have been involved with the frontlines of technology use in these regions during political change and unrest, as well as for business. This made it easy to tap into our knowledge of people and organizations in each region to bring interesting insights into the TED community.

Hong: Erik and I both tend to travel quite a bit and come across people, players and insights that aren’t always readily accessible or apparent from a distance. We’re both excited to be able to highlight some of those in this session. Erik and I have also known each other for years — we were both in the first class of TED Fellows and TED Senior Fellows. We also share an affinity for promoting innovation and forward-thinking in austere and challenging environments.

How did you go about choosing speakers?

Hong: We both tried to find speakers who represent the future that is being made now — voices that are heralding, in some way, what is to come in places that are also critically important to their respective regions, as well as globally. There are some real shifts underway now, just under the surface, that will reshape entire industries, continents and interests. We’re quite fortunate to have been able to grab some speakers who are at the forefront of either leading the charge, or of understanding shifts that may be less apparent to the untrained eye.

Hersman: Looking for speakers was a lot harder than I first imagined. It’s not just important to find someone doing something interesting, new or insightful, but also someone who can tell the story of what they do in a way that resonates. We ended up starting from the very top, the people we admire and who are actively involved in doing some of the most exciting things, or doing the best job at researching or writing about their work. Luckily, almost all of these people were available, so we’re excited to introduce them from the TED stage in Edinburgh.

Tell us a bit about the speakers you picked.

Hong: Charles Robertson will be highlighting the seismic shifts happening the Africa of today as compared to the Africa that is stereotyped in the eyes of outsiders. He believes Africa is poised to be an engine of massive economic development, and says it will go from being the “bottom billion” to the “fastest billion.” Mustafa Abushagur, a long-time Libyan opposition leader and first democratically chosen Prime Minister-elect of Libya, will share with us his prescriptions for stabilizing the Arab Spring and helping countries to build stronger societies post-revolution. And Joseph Kim will speak about growing up in North Korea, and how his story may herald possibilities for the future of North Korea as a nation.

Hersman: Dambisa Moyo is a long-time favorite of mine. She explores some of the uncomfortable truths of development aid in Africa and China’s position on resource economics. She’ll be a great startup speaker for the session. Toby Shapshak will offer up some thoughts on innovation in Africa, and how we should pay more attention to what’s happening on this continent. And Just a Band is an eclectic band of Kenyan artists who will surprise everyone with their exuberant electronica.

Which speakers do you think will blow us away?

Hersman: I’m particularly excited about Dambisa Moyo. I’ve been a longtime reader of her work, and think she’ll deliver a great talk. Outside of our session, I’m most looking forward to Daniel Suarez’s talk. We at Ushahidi are all fervent readers of his work.

Hong: All of our speakers are extraordinary in their own way and right. Part of the beauty and magic of TED is that there is something for everyone — and often the talks and speakers we least expect to resonate with our personal interests spark thoughts, insights and inspiration in ways rather unexpected and often profound.