The stories from Pakistan you're not being told

I've been watching the media coverage of the Pakistan floods with growing frustration. With 20m homeless, this has been one of the worst humanitarian tragedies of the decade, yet seems to be less important to the world than whether an Islamic center is built in New York or exactly how much money Tiger Woods lost in his divorce.  We're talking 20 MILLION people. It as if
 the entire populations of London and New York had to abandon their homes, and no one thought it was a big deal.

And when the story is covered, the public response often appears to be:  So what. We can't help anyway. They can't be trusted.  Donations toward relief from the US are a tiny fraction of what went to Haiti or the 2004 tsunami, despite the fact that more people have been made homeless in Pakistan than those two tragedies combined.  (Yes, the death toll is lower. But do we give to the dead or to the living?)
For the next two weeks, I will devote this blog to a different kind of story from Pakistan. Stories of what's happening directly on the ground. Stories of insight and ingenuity, generosity and heroism.  Pakistan has the world's sixth highest population (170m) and more than a quarter of the country has been deluged. Its people are resourceful and compassionate. There's an incredible effort on the ground, often led by Pakistanis, that we need to know more about.  If these stories are told, it will chip a hole in the monotone narrative so much of America and the west has adopted of "Pakistan = danger".
So, here's my appeal. If you've been involved in the Pakistani relief efforts and have a story you can personally vouch for, please email it to  It should ideally:
- be about an action taken by an individual or individuals that has made a difference
- perhaps a tale of insight, ingenuity, generosity or heroism 
- include a picture or video (that we would have permission to publish)
- be less than 500 words. 100-200 words is ideal.
- unless there are specific reasons not to, please include names, dates, locations
If you want to just tell the story on video, that's fine too. Keep it to less than 3 mins.
My scribe Jane Wulf and I will post these stories here on this blog, and highlight them on Twitter. We'll also cross-post them to this existing wonderful resource devoted to the flood.

Please help spread the word on this.  And check back in for the results. We hope to publish at least a couple of stories every day.  It's a critical time in Pakistan. The flood waters are starting to recede, but a public health crisis could explode at any moment, and a daunting rehabilitation process lies ahead. As a matter of basic humanity, we should all be helping.
Chris Anderson • TED Curator • • "Ideas Worth Spreading"

Pakistan Flood Story #1: Three Rented Vehicles
Pakistan Flood Story #2: The Rotaract Club of Karachi Karsa
Pakistan Flood Story #3: An entrepreneur takes action.
Pakistan Flood Story #4: What was recreation becomes a lifesaver.
Pakistan Flood Story #5: My first day visiting Pakistan flood victims
Pakistan Flood Story #6: Setting up a refugee camp - a photo essay
Pakistan Flood Story #7: After dramatic bridge collapse, villagers construct ingenious chairlift
Pakistan flood story #8: Day 2. Video snapshots of what it's like to be trapped 


Milestone! World Bank opens its data

I was thrilled to receive this email from TED talks hero Hans Rosling. He's been battling for this for ten years... a key step in the world gradually getting smarter!  
From: Hans Rosling <>
Subject: Give me a TED talk and I shall move the world!

Hi Chris, June, Laura, & Jason!

So it did happen! Just hours ago the World Bank president did completely change the World Bank data policy.
This story shows the power of Ideas worth spreading:
The story runs in 5 acts:
1. My TED2006 talk yields Google's acquisition of software from Gapminder.
2. Tim Berners-Lee adds pressure for free data at TED 2009
3. 2010 Google launches Public data explorer with moving bubbles and a few of the free indicators from World Bank
4. On 20 April 2010 President Bob Zoellick of World Bank  gives up the old habit of selling public data and the change in policy is comprehensive and includes the right for institutions and companies to redistribute the data. In his Youtube video at 1.46 min the moving bubbles from my TED2006 in their new Google formate forms the background for the spread of ideas from the stage at TED in 2006 to World Bank in 2010.
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Archimedes said: Give me a fulcrum, and I shall move the world!
Rosling says: Give me a TED talk and I shall move the world!

Kind regards from a happy Hans

The TV show that could change America....

I would love your help with something. This won't take long... but it's a big deal.  

Today, Friday, TED Prize winner Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution comes to America. His show premieres on ABC tonight. The show is awesome. If people watch it, it's going to change their lives.  

Here's what I ask you to do:   

  1. If you're in America, please watch or record the show. I promise you won't regret it. Here are the program times. Here's the trailer
  2. Whether or not you're in the US, please encourage your American friends to watch.  Forward a link to this page to at least five people.  They will thank you for it.

As a reminder, America, along with much of the rest of the world, is suffering an obesity epidemic. Millions of people are literally in danger of eating themselves to death. Jamie Oliver's food revolution tackles this head on... by helping families rediscover the thrill of delicious, healthy, freshly-cooked food. He is a magnetic spokesman for one of today's most important issues.

Please help make a TED Prize wish come true. 

P.S. While you're at it, please add your name to Jamie's petition. We'd love to get to a million signatures within the next six weeks.

Does anyone have an explanation for this dream?

I had a dream this morning, unlike any I've had before. In my dream I heard my cell-phone's ringtone (which just happens to be Martha and the Muffins' Echo Beach).  In my dream, I answered the phone and there was my friend Guy Allman on the line, calling from the UK. He says. "Hey, Chris, morning matey. Guess what? It's 11.30am."  My sleepy, now half-waking brain does the calculation. That would mean that in New York, where I live, it must be 6.30am.  Waking up, and somehow knowing what's coming, but not really believing it, I sit up, lean over and look at the clock.  Not 6:29. Not 6:31.  6:30.

Some background.
- I don't make a habit of rising at 6.30. It's often 6:03, or 5:47, or earlier, or later.
- The phone didn't actually ring, and I didn't have a conversation with Guy in my sleep. It wasn't even next to the bed.
- It's *not* a surprise that I'd dream of a phone conversation with Guy, since he emailed me this week and I do want to call him.
- It's *not* a surprise that my brain guessed the time fairly accurately.  I have a good internal clock and often guess the time in the night within 10 minutes or so. But right on the minute is definitely a surprise.
- Being a Brit I am well aware that the time difference between UK and New York is 5 hours, though I'd always thought of that as a conscious calculation, not something my unconscious mind would be playing with.
- I don't believe that Guy somehow tried to send me the correct time, though I'm going to tell him about the dream just to make sure.
- I don't believe I looked at the clock in my sleep. You actually can't see the face of it without sitting up and moving over.
- I'm a total skeptic on most people's dream stories. I don't think they predict the future, except in ways that your brain naturally could, nor that they take you into a world of ESP, or whatever.

My theory:
- My unconscious mind/body runs a mental clock that is more accurate than I know, and if I could avoid letting conscious estimates over-ride it, I'd surprise myself more often.
- My dreaming mind did the reverse calculation and figured out that in the UK it would be 11.30 and inserted that time into the dream.

But it still seems surprising to me on both counts.  Is this type of dream common? Was the exact-to-the-minute timing perhaps just a coincidence?  What's your theory??  I know there are many much-weirder dream stories out there... !

Pakistan's first TEDx event!

I was born in Pakistan, so this makes me incredibly happy: a self-organzied gathering of more than 200 people, mostly young women, in Lahore to dream about what Pakistan's future might be.  Below is a report from organizer Areej Mehdi, to whom, my congratulations.  More pictures on their blog here.   More about TEDx events here.  5-10 are held somewhere in the world every single week now!

Where do I start?!

The TED name attracted a lot of people from the professional world. We had people applying from outside Pakistan, even though they knew it was a TEDx event but everyone was very excited. However, we had to limit our attendance to 200 - 300 people due to security concerns. Kinnaird is an all-girls institute and as such we do not have mixed events. I had to convince the administration to allow us a mixed TEDx event because I'm aware how rare TEDx events are in Pakistan, let alone Lahore.

We themed the event "Believe in Tomorrow". I think it was very pertinent to address the feelings of despair residing within students when it comes to the future of Pakistan. Through this event, we hoped to address those feelings and come up with a positive spin on things.
The program was divided into two sessions with a 30 minute break in between. For our first event, I approached diverse speakers. We had students, teachers, political and social commentators, along with HR managers.

I think the best part about the event was its location. We had no carpets, no cushions and yet people enjoyed the event. We did have weather concerns, but the event managed to go smoothly enough. The audience comprised of students mostly, but we had people for the professional world as well. We managed to introduce TED to a whole lot of people because only a few of them were already familiar with the TED name. The event was highly appreciated by all. The one negative feedback that I did receive was that we had not publicized the event on a greater scale. But I had to do that since we could not allow a great number of people given the budget that we had been granted.

Our speaker list included names famous and unknown. We had people like Fasi Zaka, a political satirist and commentator; Omair Rana, professor of Media Studies and a theater artist; Huma Mirza, an educationalist working to promote the concept of Reading Rooms in Pakistan; Asim Fayaz, TEDxLahore Curator who is involved with various social action projects and is quite popular with the student body here, among others.

I personally loved the feeling of becoming closer to TED through the hosting of this event. Asim and I constantly joke about the TED bond that we have developed over the months. He was very helpful in explaining things to me at times when I was stuck, so I'd like to mention his name especially.