Update on Melissa Fleming's TED talk on refugees

Last year I wrote a post about the TED talk Melissa Fleming, the UNHCR spokesperson, my trusted colleague and I worked on. Her talk reached millions of people through the TED platform and is one of the strongest narratives on refugees today.

I am happy to report that Melissa's book entitled "A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea", which is based on this story, became a NYT bestseller and will now be adapted into the big screen by Steven Spielberg and J.J.Abrams. 

The ripple effect of a powerful narrative continues. 

Two excerpts

There are some excerpts from books or movies that stay with us forever. Quotes that are a constant  reference in our lives; truths and statements we identify with.

A few years ago I read this in A.A.Gill's book "A.A.Gill is Away":

Travel makes for intense companionship. These are people I will probably never meet again, many of whose names I can't remember, but they live with me and I'm constantly reminded of their parallel lives stumbling alongside mine, somewhere out there over the horizon. Travel lead us to the realization that what connects us is far more astonishing and precious than what separates us. We are further apart than we think and closer than we imagine.

Recently I started reading "The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are" by Alan Watts. He writes: 

This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not "come into" this world; we come "out" of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean "waves", the universe "peoples". Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. 

At first I did not connect the two. I just knew that both resonate with me a lot and kept on bringing those two up in conversations.

They both boil down to the same thing: interconnectedness.

Oneness in all things. We are indeed closer than we imagine. And we are all expressions of the whole realm of nature.

 

*Trivia: first book was suggested by a good friend years ago. The second recently by my sister. They both have the same birthday. Interconnectedness? Maybe :P

8 eventful months

These last 8 months have been pretty eventful: two TEDGlobal events (TEDGlobal>London and TEDGlobal>Geneva), one TED event in Vancouver, four TEDx events in various cities around the world, one YPOLab event in Dubai, many executive coaching events, over one hundred speakers all over the world and a baby boy baking.

Just a few days before I embark on my maternity leave, I feel grateful to have been working with and learning from so many wonderful people. Strong minds, visionaries, change makers, explorers, innovators, people who strive to make a difference in their communities and the global community we all live in. From scientists and social activists to billionaire entrepreneurs and the first Syrian refugee on a TEDx stage (more on that as soon as the talk is released), there is nothing more satisfying than seeing these speakers rock on stage.

Preparing their talks is a collaborative process; one that requires commitment and making sure that what comes out on stage will be the most impactful version of their story. Speakers allow me to become a part of that story and deep dive in their fields of interest. And every single time I feel more fulfilled as a person. The bond formed is a strong one, and very often results to friendships that last much more than the standing ovations they receive. 

Before I immerse myself into the new story of motherhood, I wanted to say a big heartfelt THANK YOU to all the amazing people that trusted me with their stories and their talks these past months.

See you after the summer!

K

TEDGlobal>London, September 2015. Photo credit: James Duncan Davidson/TED

TEDGlobal>London, September 2015. Photo credit: James Duncan Davidson/TED

The ripple effect of a strong narrative

The power of a strong narrative and its ripple effect can be overwhelming...

Back in October 2014, while working at TEDGlobal in Rio, I suggested to TED speaker Melissa Fleming, the UNHCR Head of Communications, to give a talk on refugees and the Mediterranean in Greece. Back then the flow of refugees from Turkey to Greece via boats was already a reality, but nothing compared to the thousands of people fleeing in these so called "death boats" in the following months. 

Melissa and I worked on her talk for the TEDxThessaloniki event in May 2015. In this journey our co-traveller was my trusted colleague and good friend Elena Papadopoulou, TEDxThessaloniki Curator. By then, seven months after Rio, the situation in the Aegean Sea was reaching its peak and media attention was on the largest refugee crisis since WWII. In Thessaloniki, Melissa told the heartbreaking story of Doaa, a young Syrian woman who saved a little girl's life and became a hero, while being aboard an overload ship carrying more than 500 refugees. 

In November 2015 her talk was released on TED.com, reaching 1.2 million views as I'm writing this post. One of the strongest narratives on refugees so far, Melissa is now writing a book based on this talk that will be released sometime during fall 2016. You can also hear her latest interview at the TED hour on NPR. 

While it's unfortunate that the refugee situation continues to get worse, it's satisfying to be part of a process that increases awareness on such important world events.

It's a small contribution to trying to make this world a better place.  

Melissa Fleming at TEDxThessaloniki. Photo credit: Vasilis Draganis, Nikos Pappas. 

Melissa Fleming at TEDxThessaloniki. Photo credit: Vasilis Draganis, Nikos Pappas. 

Q&A with Nikkos J. Frangos

Last May I had the opportunity to do a Q&A with Nikkos J. Frangos on the stage of TEDxThessaloniki. An incurable visionary, Nikkos is an entrepreneur, investor and producer of films and documentaries. With investment activities ranging from the fields of renewable energy and the shipping industry to IT, he has founded and funded numerous companies all over the world. Working for a couple of months with Nikkos prior to the TEDxThessaloniki event, I was amazed by his passion for life, his notion of "living on the edge of existence", his love for new ideas and his unconventional approach into doing business. 

"What you're looking for is the essence of a problem. Reasoning can take you only so far, but it's your character and willingness to cultivate and allow intuition to be your guide. Your courage and faith –that's what will take you to the rest of the way."

A workshop with the Gates Cambridge Scholars

In June I was invited by the Gates Cambridge Scholars to give a workshop on "How to deliver an impactful talk". I hadn't been in Cambridge for a couple of years; yet every time is emotional, every time I go back to my careless student days in Trinity Hall.

Organising a workshop for twenty bright Gates Scholars was a fantastic experience. My aim was to help them present their ideas effectively in short 5 minutes presentations. With topics ranging from architecture to bone tissue regeneration and from education to climate change, what was common in all scholars was their passion. And being passionate -and authentic- is the perfect basis for a good talk. 

One of the participants, Rebekah Scheuerle, wrote a beautiful article on The Huffington Post summarising the key points of the workshop. 

King's College as seen from the bridge behind Trinity Hall. 

King's College as seen from the bridge behind Trinity Hall. 

TEDGlobal>London _ a recap

After months of preparation for TEDGlobal>London, we opened our doors to about 400 attendees. It was a one-day event, held on June 16 at the Faraday Lecture Theatre at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. You may find a great recap of the day and a short summary of all talks at the TEDBlog. You may see some of the talks on TED.com, like the one from Yuval Noah Harari, trying to explain the rise of humans (I really love this talk).

What you cannot see is that inside the theatre, we decided to do a little experiment, banning the use of smartphones, laptops, tablets, cameras –all electronic devices. It was hard for the ones who enjoy live tweeting and sharing, but at the end everyone said they loved it. You may read about it in this interesting article that Bruno Giussani wrote in The Guardian. 

Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED

Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED

Daily reminder, daily gratitude

It's not the TED talk format or the TEDx talk format, or the whole buzz around 18 minute talks. It's the inspiration I get from working all these months with HIV activists, with the people who take humanitarian action behind the news we're served, with the gay HIV advocate of Nigeria, the one of the Lost Boys of South Sudan, the lovely Afghani artist from Kabul working with street kids (street kid himself), the activist from Lagos fighting for meningitis vaccines (who almost died by meningitis).

Thank you for bringing inspiration in my life.

Thank you for reminding me our world is small, we're small - but we may do "big" good if it's from the heart and soul. I haven't got enough words to express my daily gratitude for working with these amazing people and helping them tell their stories.