The courage to believe change is possible: A Q&A with Melinda Gates

Posted by:
Melinda French Gates (right) speaks to TED's Chris Anderson. CourtesyoftheGatesFoundation

Melinda French Gates (right) speaks to TED’s Chris Anderson. Photo courtesy of the Gates Foundation.

Can a person change a world rife with problems — villages without basic healthcare, girls turned away from schools, hospitals unable to get life-saving vaccines to the people who need them? For three years, TEDxChange, a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the TEDx program, has said yes, by spotlighting people who are taking risks, thinking big and making change happen.

On Wednesday, April 3, the conversation continues at TEDxChange 2013: Positive Disruption. TEDxChange will begin at 9 am (PST), April 3, at the Gates Foundation Campus in Seattle and will stream live online at TED.com and TEDxChange.org. The program will run for 90 minutes.

Hosted by Melinda Gates, TEDxChange features seven speakers:

  • Julie Dixon, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication
  • spoken-word poet David Fasanya
  • Halimatu Hima, Niger’s first Youth Parliament president
  • M. Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of law and of theology at the University of Notre Dame
  • Salim Shekh and Sikha Patra, 15-year-olds working to eradicate polio from their communities
  • Roger Thurow, an author of the book Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty and a recipient of Action Against Hunger’s Humanitarian Award

Around the world, you can gather at an independently organized TEDx event to watch a live broadcast of TEDxChange. This year, at 200 events in 65 countries — including ones in Amsterdam, Kyoto, Delhi, Bogotá and New York — TEDxers will consider TEDxChange’s theme of how disruption can lead to good. Spaces are still available at many of these events; to join the positive disruption and find a TEDxChange livestreaming event near you to attend, click here.

Here, TEDxChange host Melinda Gates chats with TED Curator (and former TEDxChange host) Chris Anderson to talk about positive disruption. Below, their conversation:

Chris: Melinda, I’m really looking forward to TEDxChange and am excited to see you host this year. Tell me a bit about the speakers you’ve lined up…

Melinda: Thanks Chris! With only one week to go, I’m focused on preparations for my role as host. It’s quite different from the work I did leading up to my talk last year — and given the impressive job you’ve done as TEDxChange host until now, yours are big shoes to fill.

Luckily, I’ll be sharing the stage with some truly talented and inspiring people. I was really struck by Roger’s bookThe Last Hunger Season. At TEDxChange, he’ll be telling the story of Ethiopia’s smallholder farmers and how their lives have been transformed with access to the technologies we take for granted in the U.S. and Europe. I have such admiration for Cathy Kaveny, who shares my belief in the power of faith communities to bring about positive change in the developing world. I’m excited, too, to see Halima again. We met in Niger — the country with the highest fertility rate in the world. The insights and stories she shared from her country contributed to my ongoing learning on the importance of advocating for access to contraceptives as a way to unlock the potential of entire communities.

Chris: And the theme, Positive Disruption, why did you choose it?

Melinda: Positive Disruption really comes down to courage. I’m very fortunate that my work at the foundation means I have the opportunity to travel. Wherever I go in the world, I meet so many amazing people with the courage to believe that, for the world’s poorest people, change is possible. And the commitment to make that dream a reality.

Chris: What are you hoping comes out of this event? Why does an event like this matter?

Melinda: At this year’s TED conference in Long Beach, Bono spoke about the progress that has been made in the fight against poverty. But too often these stories of progress remain untold. We started TEDxChange in 2010 to give voice to the issues that still affect so many around the world today — HIV/AIDS, nutrition, access to life-saving vaccines. My hope for this year’s event is that it will give more people the courage to be disruptive and in doing so, unlock the potential of many others all over the world.

Chris: Lastly, why TEDx?

Melinda: The TEDx community is such an awesome force for change. It’s incredible that 200 TEDx organizers, from Kabul to Amsterdam, are holding TEDxChange events this year. I’m reminded of the work of one of our speakers, Julie Dixon, who will talk about influence as a currency for change. The TEDx community has already shown that it has real influence on global conversations — but also the heart to use that influence to change lives for the better.