Positive Disruption Q&A: Melinda Gates and Chris Anderson on TEDx as a Force for Change

Next Wednesday April 3rd, Melinda Gates hosts TEDxChange: Positive Disruption at the Gates Foundation Campus in Seattle, Washington. The event will be livestreamed to 200 TEDx events around the world. In advance of the event, Melinda and TED curator Chris Anderson discussed the idea behind the theme and her hopes for what this global conversation will bring. 

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 book, The Last Hunger Season. At TEDxChange, he’ll be telling the story of Ethiopia’s small holder farmers and how their lives have been transformed with access to the technologies we take for granted in places like 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 have you chosen to partner with TEDx on this initiative?

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.

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