11 TED Talks That Can Change the World

PROVO, Utah – Mar 16, 2020 – Changing the world is no small task. It’s not every day that someone does something that changes the lives of people around the globe. So how exactly does one go about changing the world?

Each year, TEDxBYU pulls together a group of remarkable people who attempt to answer this question. From mountaineers to military men and women, a diversity of occupations, interests, and backgrounds are represented at the event. More importantly, the solutions offered are as varied—and unique—as their creators.

Though all of the talks presented at TEDxBYU are interesting, the following eleven feature social innovators who are ready to change the world. For anyone looking to influence their community for good, these speeches are a great place to start.

The New Front Lines

Jake Harriman served as a special operations platoon commander in the Marine Corps where he led four operational deployments and was awarded the Bronze Star for actions in combat. From his experiences, Harriman came to believe that the war on terror won't be won on the battlefield alone: the contributing causes of terrorism—disenfranchisement, lack of education, and extreme poverty—must also be eradicated. Harriman left his military career and enrolled at the Stanford Graduate School of Business to build an organization focused on tackling extreme poverty. He graduated with an MBA in June 2008 and led a team to launch Nuru International in Kenya in the same year. He was BYU Ballard Center’s Social Innovator of the Year in 2014.

What do we really mean when we say college isn’t for everyone?

More often than not, those who question whether college is for everyone do so with their own college degrees already in hand. For many students, particularly those from underresourced communities, a college degree is a chance at a meaningful career and even a path out of poverty. First-generation college graduate Alexandra Bernadotte was a star student but nearly dropped out after her freshman year at Dartmouth before graduating and becoming a nonprofit entrepreneur. In this talk, she wonders what we might accomplish if we spent less time questioning whether college is for everyone and more time fixing the systemic and policy barriers that often stand in the way of college success for all students, especially those like her.

Hugs and Algorithms: How Data Drives Brighter Futures for Foster Youth

Under the leadership of CEO Sam Cobbs, First Place for Youth has evolved into a highly data-driven organization while maintaining its commitment to individualized support for the foster kids it serves. Cobbs shares how his own story influences his understanding of First Place’s clients and the organization’s approach to using both rigorous data evaluation and strong relationship-based guidance to improve youth outcomes.

Grassroots Philanthropy: Simple Can Be Significant

Philanthropic efforts can sometimes be bogged down by bureaucratic systems and paperwork. Bill Somerville shows us how the process can be more nimble, responsive, and imaginative than current practices. This talk inspires viewers to improve our communities in simple yet significant ways.

Comedy and Social Problems

Problems scream, solutions whisper. It’s no surprise that the media, which predominantly highlights problems, screams the loudest. Why don’t we hear more of the remarkable solutions to our world’s problems? The answer, unfortunately, is that the meek but important voice of a solution often can’t compete in a screaming match with the more sensational world problems. Speakers Zach Atherton and Dan Blake share how using humor to empower humble solutions is a powerful vehicle for change. Solutions and comedy work in harmony to effectively capture an audience’s attention. This talk features a comedian sharing the problems caused by food waste and how one company is leading the way to solve it.

An Argument for Hope by Noella Moshi

In this moving talk about everyday expressions of hope, Tanzanian-born social innovator Noella Moshi shows us why our work matters. Drawing on examples from the Africa, Moshi invites listeners to harness the power of community in building a global foundation for change. Moshi has worked on solutions to problems of health and education across Africa. She was on the founding team of African Leadership University in Mauritius, co-founded Goodbye Malaria in South Africa, and led operations at West Africa Vocational Education (WAVE) in Nigeria.

Solutions Journalism

Reading the news is not typically a mood booster. Between stories of war, disease, hunger, and political strife, it’s hard to put the paper down feeling hopeful. David Bornstein is working to change this pattern. He’s making a case for including "solutions journalism" in the news—stories about cures, innovation, and solutions to society’s biggest problems. In this talk, he explains why a bit of good news can make a big difference.

Unexpected Social Innovations

Martin Burt, a Skoll Awardee, BYU Social Innovator of the Year, and founder and CEO of Fundacion Paraguaya, shares his humorous—and sometimes counterintuitive—journey to make a sustainable, scalable anti-poverty solution. In this talk, he also discusses the benefits and limitations of microfinance. If we respect people’s dignity and exhibit trust, we exponentially increase the effectiveness of microfinance.

Six Steps to Life-Altering Change for Addicts and Convicts

Moe Egan and Tim Stay share the philosophy taught at the Other Side Academy, a free self-help school that teaches right living and vocational training for those who have been incarcerated (or would have been if they had not chosen the Academy as an alternative). Egan and Shay help those who are lost obtain lives of sobriety, integrity, and fulfillment. Egan, once an addict and inmate himself, now seeks to save the lives of others who have hit rock bottom. This talk contains six steps for transformational behavioral change that have helped Egan and the tens of thousands of others like him change their lives.

Feeding The Rat—What Can Happen When You Make Philanthropy Accountable

Real impact is more than just monetary donation. Kevin Starr explains how a quest for impact turns the doer and donor power relationship on its head, and accountability for impact gives philanthropy the edge it badly needs.

A Counterintuitive Solution to Poverty: Stop Trying to Eradicate It

What might seem like the obvious methods of fixing poverty—providing resources such as water wells, schools, and hospitals to communities in need—often falls short of actually solving the issue. In this talk, Efosa Ojomo first describes the fundamental misunderstandings we carry as we think about fixing poverty, and then Ojomo highlights a surprising solution.

You can learn more about TEDxBYU here.

Each year The Ballard Center for Social Impact hosts TEDxBYU.

Media Contact: Alicia Gettys (801) 422-5283
Writer: Zelle Harris