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Disrupting philanthropy: Nicolas Berardi at TEDxMIA 2012 Framing the Future

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[TEDxMIA, x=independently organized TED event] [Nicolas Berardi] I'd like to get started by asking how many of you consider yourself to be a philanthropist. Not too many hands up there, and that's exactly why philanthropy today is failing. One out of three people in Latin America live in slums. This accounts for over 180 million people that live with under two dollars a day. I believe this is happening because we're stuck in an old paradigm. In this old paradigm we understand, we conceive, and we truly live by the premise that poverty will always exist. What's worse about this paradigm is that as a society—you, me, and everybody— we've delegated dealing with these issues—not solving it—dealing with these issues to the governments, the religious institutions, the Bill Gates, and the Warren Buffetts, and we just haven't gotten involved enough. Now what if I told you that seven university students—they got together and started dreaming a different country of their own, and not only did they dream it or talk about it, but they became responsible towards making it happen. This was happening in Chile in 1997 while Chile was economically booming. It was politically stable, yet there were 90,000 families that were living in slums. These university students, they came across an amazingly forward-thinking jesuit who had the notion that Chile was like a glass of water that would never fill up because it had two major cracks. On the one side you had the university students—the empowered youth with every single opportunity at hand, yet they were only thinking of their own success, and on the other hand you had the families living in slums who had absolutely no chance of grabbing on to all the good things that Chile was going through, and they were only thinking of surviving. Now he had a radical idea, which was to tie both of these ends together, and what was born from that is TECHO—a movement that has built over 90,000 houses. It has mobilized over half a million youth volunteers, and there's no one hired above the age of 30. Now right there you can see how TECHO is disrupting this model—how it symbolizes a new paradigm— this paradigm of the active responsibility, where we've come to understand that unless each and every single one of us takes an active approach towards solving these problems they will never get solved. This new paradigm is made up of three concrete concepts. The first of them has to do with massive engagement, the second one with bottom-up thinking, and the third of them having a cease-to-exist approach— to having a very ambitious long-term goal, yet very concrete and tangible, to one day go out of business. I'd like to start with massive engagement—and particularly with my own personal story. That's me in high school, looking almost like Harry Potter— a visitor in my own country—a tourist in the broad sense of the word, going by the city and just seeing slums as everyday urban scenery. To me slums were just there. Not once did I challenge the idea of their existence. Now that's also me—in the single most exciting moment of my life, where for the fist time I connected with what makes up a very large part of my country, and I did so by working alongside real people that were facing real problems— stories of enormous effort, humility—all these values that went incredibly against all the social prejudice I had before going into that slum, and that slum was just ten minutes away from my house. Later I got to travel across the region—I've been to Mexico, Haiti, Colombia, Uruguay— and everywhere I went I got to meet hundreds of volunteers that had had the same experience that I had. They had seen a reality that now they just couldn't turn their back on. They now felt responsible for changing that reality and, even more than responsible, they started to know that there's nothing structural about poverty except for the structural mindset that generates it. That's how the massive engagement is key, because it's through the massive engagement that poverty stops being about statistics or numbers and starts being a connection— an emotional connection—between two different people, and that changes everything. I never thought I was responsible for overcoming poverty. I never thought I would end up working at a place like TECHO, yet here I am and yet there are over half a million people across the region that are now thinking differently. It's also through that emotional connection that we started seeing the value, the potential, and the need of incorporating their ideas into everything that we did. So that's how we came across the second concept—this idea of the bottom-up thinking. I think for too long in the old paradigm we've lacked a listening approach. We've tried to find solutions in the universities, in the science labs or the high-ranking government offices, but we haven't incorporated enough the people that are suffering these problems. That's why I want to go back to that first build I was telling you about before. That's Juan. Juan had been incarcerated for seven years. When I dared to ask why, he said he had been in the middle of a shootout while dealing paco. Paco is one of the most harmful drugs attacking our slums. A couple of weeks after I was visiting and over lunch I mentioned how I had seen that a new ditch had been dug out throughout the entire slum, and that's when Juan jumped up and told me, "Well you guys came here. We built together a house for my family, and I just felt a responsibility in continuing your work." So here's this guy who may have even killed someone, who was dealing the most harmful drug, all of a sudden not thinking about philanthropy—he was talking about responsibility, about how he himself was responsible of generating change in his own community. And even what was also very enlightening for me about Juan's story is that we started noticing how the houses we were building by themselves were not overcoming poverty— that the families living in slums needed many different things—in this case a ditch for example. And that's how we came around to incorporating health programs, education programs, legal aid, skills training— where the key of that process is having the families living in slums lead the way and tell us what it is that they need, and really having that bottom-up thinking trickled down into everything that we do, because I believe that in the old paradigm people living in slums were invisible, or they were, in a sense, too poor to volunteer, and we've started to radically change that as well. For example, in Argentina we have a benchmark to have at least 20 percent of our volunteers come from slums. Or in a country like Haiti, where 71 percent of their population lives in extreme poverty, a vast majority of our volunteers are local Haitians. And still I think there was a missing ingredient, because once we understood the importance of the massive engagement and the bottom-up thinking, I think having that cease-to-exist approach, really having that concrete, tangible goal of one day eradicating poverty, that's what makes me the most passionate about TECHO—the fact that I know that I will someday take my kids—well, if not, my grandkids—to a museum of poverty. Just try to get your head around the idea that on the day we eradicate the last slum on earth we'll have the grand opening of the museum of poverty, and we've taken steps in that direction because truly by understanding what the families were going through, we also started understanding what was failing regarding public policy across the region. So for example in Chile, when it came to social housing the government was very old paradigm thinking. They saw poverty as only a housing issue so they would just go on by themselves and just build houses, and that was not solving poverty. So in the new process where we got them to privatize social housing we're leading the way by coordinating the work with the government officials, the private sector for additional support, the construction company, and the slum leaders, where everybody is very clear about their responsibility in moving forward. And since that change, which happened in 2007, we've transformed over 400 slums into actual sustainable neighborhoods. And Antofagasta, a region in the north of Chile made up of around 600,000 inhabitants, will be free of slums by July next year. And that's how the new paradigm is generating results in such little time, because we've truly come to understand that slums are a reflection of how we think as a society, and it'll be on the day that our dictionaries read: "Slums; a reflection of how we think as a society" that the new paradigm will take flight everywhere in the world, and the combination of the bottom-up thinking, the massive engagement, and the cease-to-exist approach will lead us to a conversation way bigger than philanthropy. We're going to start talking about changing the world. And if it's easy for you to say that we've been able to do these things in countries like Argentina or Chile, I want to go back to a case for Haiti. Before we started working in Haiti, we heard in classic old paradigm thinking, "You will never find volunteers in Haiti. Haiti is too poor. Forget about Haiti." Well of course we went in there regardless right after the earthquake in 2010 and since then we've built over 2,000 houses and we've mobilized over 5,000 volunteers. Most importantly, Olson, a Haitian volunteer—he's our new executive director in Haiti— he's a true symbol of the new paradigm taking flight in a country like Haiti. And just to me, in general, people like Juan and Olson, they're the new philanthropists. So my question to you is: What are you going to do to join them? Thank you. [applause]

Video Details

Duration: 10 minutes and 11 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 84
Posted by: verotesta on Aug 27, 2013

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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