It’s a little after 9am on a Saturday morning, the temperature is already nudging the mid-twenties and I am walking up Coldharbour Lane in Brixton. This is the sort of day that Brixton is made for, when the heats encourages the music, smells and tastes to come into their own. But I am not here to have my senses tickled, I am here to have my brain exercised; it’s the much-anticipated inaugural TEDx Brixton and I can’t wait!
The theme of the day is transformation and we learnt much in the eight hours that followed. We heard from inspiring individuals who are transforming the world we live in with their vision, ingenuity, commitment and courage. But what struck me the most was that the most inspiring speakers were those who embedded their own personal story in the idea they were presenting.
Take Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock: black, female, dyslexic and obsessed with the Moomins, she dreamt of going to space; instead her teachers put her at the back of the class “with the safety scissors and glitter”. She moved school and lied to her new teacher about which set she’d been in, said she was top class. She’s now a space scientist. She’s delivered talks on the wonders of space to more than 120,000 school children. She described being inspired to aspire.
Then we had Rob Forkan, co-founder of Gandys Flip Flops, which gives a hefty portion of its profits to orphanage projects. Rob and his five brothers and sisters lost both of their parents in the Tsunami. He described the children, aged between eight and 17, hitching to the airport with no money and no passports. Since launching a year ago they have been contacted by the person who rescued his little sister from a tree!
Until a few years ago Sarah Corbett was a campaigner with development charities. A self-confessed introvert, she was becoming disillusioned with the anger and short term nature of many campaigns. So she is established the Craftivist Collective which raises awareness of human rights issues and injustice through craft and public art. She is bringing campaigning and activism to a group who might otherwise have been put off taking a stand. She even has a campaigning column in a craft magazine!
These are just three examples of the stories and ideas we feasted on that Saturday. But what are the stand out ideas here? Think about it: scientist tries to inspire children; business gives portion of profit to charitable causes; passionate young woman promotes social action. Nothing new there! What inspired us most that day about all of the talks were not just the ideas (although they were amazing too!) but the people behind them. Ordinary – or perhaps extraordinary! – people who captured our imaginations with their personal experiences, vulnerability and passions.
So, whether you’re a charity chief executive delivering a keynote speech, a social entrepreneur seeking investment or an intrapreneur convincing the board of your big idea, next time you’re selling a concept or a cause perhaps you should give a thought to how you authenticate your idea with your personal story?