One of the TEDx talks I thought was insightful was Bruce Taylor’s talk about his solution to ineffective charities. In his opinion, the current model of charities and foreign aid, which means giving money and “stuff” to countries in need, just doesn’t work – it teaches those countries to be dependent on foreign aid, rather than to be self-sufficient. When the foreign aid eventually runs out of funding, or must leave the country in need because of war or other factors, the people the foreign aid was helping now have nothing. Taylor wants to flip the idea of charity on its head: he believes that the way to help people in poverty is by teaching them basic business and manufacturing skills. By setting people up for self-sufficiency, the cycle of poverty can continue to be broken even when foreign aid is forced to leave. His program has seen success in South Sudan, where he taught people how to build and sell water filters to help their families protect themselves from typhoid fever.
The other talk I was quite interested in was Prof. Jennifer Lynes’ talk about Marketing for Sustainability. While people’s attitudes have changed with respect to saving the environment, their behaviours haven’t changed nearly as much. Thus, using marketing techniques, she developed five points to induce greener behaviour in people. First, informing people of environmental changes on its own isn’t going to induce behavioural change. Second, environmental scare tactics just don’t work on most people. Third, environmentalists should acknowledge that most people won’t adopt greener behaviours for the sake of it – they need some other incentive. Fourth, environmentalists should try to induce social change, redefining what behaviours are “good” and “bad” by adding an environmental twist. Finally, designers should design cool things that just happen to be good for the environment, rather than designing environmentally good things and trying to make them cool. I thought her talk also highlighted the importance of collaboration between engineering and marketing to develop products that are both cool and good for our future.