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Richard Lucas: Organizing a global initiative without funding

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How many of you use Facebook? Yeah, that's lucky, because my talk is primarily about Facebook. (Laughter) This talk is not about an uplifting story to bring a forgotten Polish hero back to modern attention. It's more about how, in my spare time, using modern social networking tools, I've been supporting a global movement. For free. Hardly spending any money at all. And although it's me here, up on the stage, telling this story, the people doing almost all the work aren't here. It's teachers, schoolchildren, and other volunteers, all over the world. I'll talk more about that later. (Music) ♫ Have you ever heard of Voytek ♫ ♫ a legend in his time. ♫ ♫ He was a big brown European bear. ♫ ♫ Found by Polish soldiers ♫ ♫ when he was just a cub. ♫ ♫ He would follow the Polish soldiers everywhere. ♫ That was meant to be slide number 7, so -- (Laughter) But I think we can have a -- (Applause) That's Billy Stewart, and a bunch of Scottish kids, composing a song. And I have no idea what slide is going to be next, so let's... (Laughter) Let's see. (Song plays again) Here we go, OK. Here we are. Let me introduce Wojtek, maybe not all of you know about Wojtek. Wojtek was a 3-month old bear cub, adopted by soldiers in the Anders Army in British-occupied Persia, in 1942. He didn't like sleeping alone, he slept in a tent. He drank beer, he ate cigarettes. And he famously helped the soldiers carry ammunition during the battle of Monte Cassino. He traveled with the soldiers through Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt. Sailed to Italy, and ended his life in Scotland. The soldiers who he was with, and the Polish people he was with, were scattered all over the world at the end of the war. And although his story is quite well-known in Britain, the Communists censored the story. It's not so well-known in Poland. Now, bears are the most attractive animals known to man, from Winnie the Pooh to Paddington. The "sneezing panda" has been downloaded more than 79 million times. Now, that's not as many as, of course. But it's still quite a lot. And I realize that through Wojtek the Bear, we could bring Poland's history to a much greater level of international awareness, because bears are extremely popular -- (Music) (Laughter) You're going to get that song several times today. (Laughter) Now, what did I do? Here in Kraków, and in Scotland, we organized bear-themed events, with a primary school here, and a primary school in Scotland. The children drew, they did drama, they did games. And several hundred people, several hundred children, their parents, and their teachers got to learn about the history this way. It didn't cost any money, and we just did it. And what's important is that -- you can't understand the story of the bear without thinking about why there were hundreds of thousands of starving men, women and children coming out of Soviet death camps in 1942. Learning about the bear forces you to learn about the history. So I saw that there was the incredible potential not only to bring this Polish hero back to international attention, but also bring Polish history to a global audience, and I think -- (Music) ♫ Have you ever heard of Voytek ♫ ♫ a legend in his time. ♫ ♫ He was a big brown European bear. ♫ Richard Lucas: ♫ Found by Polish soldiers when he was just a cub ♫ ♫ he would follow the Polish soldiers everywhere. ♫ That's not all. I was looking around for other projects. Violetta in Poland, and Dorota and Angela in Italy translated this book into Italian, for free, bringing it to the Italians. Łukasz and Joanna published this book in Polish and are running so many events and competitions that I can't keep up with it. And what I realized was that there's a lot of stuff going on, but people don't know about it. So I set up the Facebook group, and my role is to gather information about good practice and distribute it globally. Marysia in Australia, for example, simply went into and old-age people's home with a projector and showed films off YouTube. And introduced a bunch of old age pensioners in Australia to the story of Wojtek. It's nice that someone called Professor Norman Davies, Poland's most famous historian, wrote me a letter saying that he'd love to help. So not only Facebook, but Google's on our side. Our group in number 2 in the Google ranking, if you search. And that's important, because I don't really want to persuade people to join this movement. There are 1,200 people in the Facebook group, more. It's growing quite a lot at the moment. It's not a question of that. It's a question of the fact that if they come to me, offering help, we can put them to use. And how do you get up to the top of Google? Well, that didn't cost any money, either. Journalists love a good story. That's what they're there for. And a bear that drinks bear and fights the Nazis is a pretty good -- (Laughter) Is a pretty good story. YouTube is very important. These films aren't mine, but I can use them. Sorry, that's going on a bit. YouTube is very important, because if you're interested in the bear, you can actually see pictures of him, see films of him. It's there, and it's available. And YouTube is also for free. And it's the fact that this is for free which is so interesting and so important. Because it's for free, I never have to spend time fund-raising. I never have to wait to get a budget. You just go ahead and do it. I use institutions, schools, teachers, museums, cultural centers, old-age people's homes. They all exist. They're there already. Of course, they have a cost, but these institutions are there to be used. That's what they're there for. These people want to do these things. So if you have that situation, you can use the social networking to gather examples of international best practice that can be done for free. And then, you just distribute information about them. The fact that we have YouTube available, that Google's on our side, that Facebook is there, and these are tools that anyone here can use, makes it completely feasible to go global. But what are the other conditions you need to have your global movement? Now, come on. Do we get the Queen? Here we go. You need to have an inspiring leader. You need to have your cause, you need to have something that gets people motivated. Now, Wojtek is a great leader. Rather like the British Queen, he doesn't actually tell us what to do. (Laughter) (Applause) But we love him, and we follow him. (Laughter) The point is that if you -- Wojtek is not just a cute symbol, though. He was looked after by people who had suffered terribly in the camps. Just as he was suffering. Here we go. Just as he was suffering, the soldiers who looked after him also had their own trials and tribulations. And this is a story that Polish people want to have told. You know, people care about that too. The bear pulls them in, the history binds them in. And, of course, Wojtek's long dead. We don't know what he would think. But I believe that if he knew this was happening, he would be very happy to think that his memory is being used to broadcast, around the world, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, many other countries -- the story of what happened to all these people. And the fact that it's happening now, that you can do this for free, using tools that are available to anyone in this room... This is the lesson to take home. These things don't cost money, they need energy. So if you've got the energy, if you've got a cause, you've got a project, it's all there, waiting to be used. And I think the final thing I'd say is that this work that's being done by all these people -- I'd like to say it's amazing to think that it can happen, without resources. People think "Where's the money?" You don't need the money, you need the energy. You need the time, you need the cause. And I would like to point out that that's amazing. You know, I live in Kraków, people are doing things in Australia because of this project. That's amazing. I think it's even more amazing that there are people out there, in different countries of the world, who dedicate their time, for free, to make these things happen. And, of course, the most amazing thing of all is Wojtek, the soldier bear, who helped fight the Nazis, and I'd like to dedicate this talk to him. (Applause)

Video Details

Duration: 10 minutes and 29 seconds
Country: Poland
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: TEDxKraków
Director: TEDxKraków
Views: 1,558
Posted by: tedxkrakow on Dec 15, 2010

Talk delivered at TEDxKraków, on October 15, 2010.

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