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Small Pieces, Big Picture: TEDx UNSW 2017

Small Pieces, Big Picture: TEDx UNSW 2017

Thought-provoking and inspiring, the 2017 TEDxUNSW conference showed us that the smallest connections we make can lead to big differences in the lives and communities we’re part of. The ten powerful speakers, and brilliant interactive music, magic and entertainment, left the audience inspired and connected throughout the day. Here are some of the lessons we learned.

We are connectors

Ace Mamun reminded us that we, with our innate superpower, have the power to be the connector of the dots, to connect people to information, to resources, to other people. Being a facilitator of contact is part of the evolution of society itself. With greater connectivity, fewer degrees of separation can blur the lines and broaden the field of empathy, expand the distribution of opportunity, and drastically increase the ripple effect by bringing people within three degrees of influence. Every time we meet a new person, we bring each others’ networks closer in proximity, and open the door to hundreds of thousands of new opportunities and possibilities.

Survival trumps bullying

Lucy Thomas tackles hate, bullying and prejudice in Aussie schools. Lucy had us all envisage a world where kindness and respect, empathy and connection thrive. Her team listens to students, instead of leveraging guilt or inspiration to attempt to manipulate change. Collaborating with their audiences they come up with strategies people would be willing to use, where they’re all prepared to look out for each other. The big surprise, says Lucy, was that these students became our teachers, heroes and changed our lives as we strived to change theirs.

After doing these workshops in schools for years, Lucy experienced heartbreaking bullying herself. Expressions of love became police evidence. Reaching out to comfort someone she loved could put them in danger. Bullies can still lean back on social, legal, and political structures that systematically support their prejudice.

For so many reasons, she realised that some people just can’t tolerate kindness. Being bullied shattered her view of kindness. But then kindness put her back together again. And the workshops became a space of sincere group empathy, the likes of which she never knew before that lived experience paved the way.

“The ultimate act of rebellion against bullying is survival. Survival of who you are, what you love, of what you stand for. I’m not defined by other people’s ignorance. I’m still here, and I’m still kind. It’s not simple, but exercising compassion is the greatest thing we can offer to this messy world we live in.”

Flow through life

Kamal Sarma stated “Every now and then something comes along and empties us out. We lose a career, a loved one, our health. In that moment after the void, that’s where resilience begins. That’s where leadership begins. We have to move on from the art of war. There are wars happening. Within our self. Within our relationships. In our workplaces and careers. Flow through life, don’t power through life. Declare peace.”

As each speaker shared from the heart about social capital, resilience, robots, energy, human rights, and the hereditary cancer, a common theme arose: While we go out to make an impact in our communities,  we come to find that our communities impact us. Your followers can influence you. Your students can teach you. Your patients can heal you. 


By Jade Barclay



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