Sitting there in Hamburg’s Leisehalle, listening to change makers from all around the world about a variety of innovations and programs, was just what this teacher needed to make it through the last leg of the school year.
A friend from Berlin asked me to come hear her speak at TEDx Hamburg. At first I thought that there was no way I could take a day off of work to go north for the day. Only important business people do stuff like that.
The title of this year’s TEDx Hamburg was “City Connectors”. People spoke on connecting citizens through technology, connecting citizens through music, connecting citizens to their governments, connecting citizens to resources, and connecting citizens to citizens.
The day began with Paul Hilder’s talk, Heart Power: the future of swarming change. Mr. Hilder spoke of the reawakening of democracy through heart power and Change.org. Through social networking and crowd sourcing applications, people are able to create real change through online petitions. Instead of waiting every two years to vote for a change, people are empowering change and asserting their influence everyday via the web.
Geraldine de Bastion spoke about Made in Africa. Africa is known as the Dark Continent, however there are many emerging markets and technologies in Africa. Ms. de Bastion inspired the audience with stories of African innovators coming together to connect citizens with little resources. Don’t have a bank account? Why not open a M-Pesa account that allows you to pay for various products and services using your mobile phone. Even in countries with few government resources and little infrastructure, African innovators are coming together to create apps and programs that help Africans live better.
Katina Sostmann discussed her work with independent information structures. What do people do when rebels or a despotic government take over their means of communication? Creating small, portable communication systems for people in crisis regions, gives communication power back to those who are cut off.
Sascha Hasselmeyer proved to the audience that real change happens in governments when officials go and talk to those who need their support. How can a community make life for the blind safer? Ask the blind what they need. The problem has been in the past that governments have little access to innovations that can help their constituents. The challenge today is to connect city governments with resources that are cost effective and empowering for their citizens.
Anja Feidler’s talk, Harvest for the City, reminded us where our food comes from. Her work creating garden spaces in construction zones connected low-income citizens in Berlin to real food sources. Another project she worked on led teenagers out of the city to live in the countryside with no money for 3 weeks. These students learned to forage for food and appreciate the feast.
When was the last time you played in public? Jennifer Asku showed us the Invisible Playground of Berlin. She and her friends look at the world through different eyes. They see public spaces as places where people can come together and play. Who knew that an escalator ride could become a game of Black Jack.
And then there was the whole purpose of my trip, to hear my friend Jennifer Wood present her experiences as a Holocaust educator in Dachau. She spoke of her inspiration; what led her to spend her life sharing with others this tragic story from Germany’s history. She showed us the city of Dachau that is forever tied to a past from which it cannot let go. She instructed us that maybe the answer to the question, “What can I do to make sure this never happens again?” is to just “be kinder.”
Jennifer unveiled her little project: Visit Holocaust Memorials In Europe. She has invited me to be a part of this project. We hope to provide resources and outreach to International School teachers seeking to connect students to Holocaust history. Using the local memorials that surround us we hope to bring a much more enriched understanding of history to our students. Find out more here.
After a long day of listening, my husband and I strolled down to Landungsbrüken. Sipping a beer on the harbor, we watched the light dance on the wakes the boats left behind. Our minds were uncomfortably full but we felt inspired by those who shared their stories with us.