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The studio blog is a place to show our thinking in public, sharing the inspirations and processes that get us to the end of a project.

“Somebody Tell Me Something Good”

I was one of the TED Fellows invited to attend the TEDWomen Conference in Washington DC last week. As I was preparing to go, the backlash and controversy surrounding the conference was growing, and tweets like this appeared on my stream. I was critical too, and perhaps uncertain about my own position. While I could not help but wonder what such a gender focused conference actually means in today’s time and age, I was excited by the speaker list (which included Kiran Bedi, one of my childhood heroines!) And having been there, listened to the amazing 70 speakers and performers, conversed with other inspiring attendees, I have come back challenged: politically, intellectually and emotionally. Many of the controversial questions surrounding the conference were raised by the speakers themselves, including Hilary Clinton. The talks are already beginning to appear online, and the 80+ simulcast TEDx events across the world hopefully provided a platform for continuing the debate with passion and openness. And here are some my highlights: Halle Tommasdottir is the founder of Audur Capital, which not only survived, but steadily grew despite the Iceland’s financial storm. And Halle shared her secret: a set of values that were almost unheard of in those financial circles, values such as Risk Awareness, i.e. "we will not invest in things we dont understand", and Straight Talking, i.e. "we will present benefits, but equally share the potential risks of any investment with our customers". In the same session, Lisa Donnelly, another personal heroine, entertained and provoked us with what she does best: intimate and political cartoons. Hans Rosling was in his element as ever, using the metaphor of a washing machine to create yet another powerful visualisation of our current energy consumptions and its implications on our collective future. Tony Porter’s talk was highly emotional, the quote that's stuck in my mind from his talk: “My liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman” Deborah Rhodes persistent, innovative efforts to design a radically new, more accurate, less painful mammography machine are slowly paying off, and her story was one of silent resilience and compassion. Naomi Klein spoke critically about some of our worst climate disasters of recent times, questioned naive investments in Geoengineering, and argued in favour of downright action, which might not be news to many of us, but certainly brought home the point. Fiona Eberts' three minute talk about her discovery of the nutritious qualities of the Moringa - aka the 'Miracle Tree' (which has more protein than any other plant)  which transformed the diet of a large population in Africa was very inspiring.  And within the same theme, Kate Orff' proposed her speculative Oystertecture, an offshore wave attenuation oyster-reef and a water-based inland to protect New York's waterfront from climate changed-induced sea level rise and storm surge. All three talks were especially relevant to us at SuperfluxLab as we launched our new project 'Lilorann' at TEDWomen, a collaborative project which aims to work with scientists and technologists to design positive tipping points for ecologically fragile communities. Hilary Clinton was the surprise speaker, who spoke about the relevance of TEDWomen, and touched upon a series of unique initiatives such as apps4africa and mobile justice, which aimed to boost investments for women in technology and innovation. Jody Williams, the Nobel Peace Prize winner talked about how she refused to meditate, but more importantly about her efforts to continue fighting for peace and justice, concluding: 'I donot believe in hope without endeavour'. Jacqueline Novogratz shared touching stories of people who have influenced her, stories of hope and resilience, and equally stories of failure. And then there was my personal heroine Kiran Bedi, who wowed the audience with her optimistic determination and aggressive stance. If this was not enough, the last session ‘Crescendo’ beat it all, and was definitely a personal highlight. Passionate, highly captivating talks and performances by Suheir Hammad (this post’s title is from Suheir’s poem titled ‘4:02pm”), Caroline Casey, Stephen Lewis and Eve Ensler blew the brains out of my head. (on the flip side, I was too engrossed and forgot to take pictures.) Lastly, the photograph above, of two women who share an extremely emotional, difficult, unbelievable story will stay in all our minds for a long time. The lady on the left is the mother of a 9/11 victim, while the lady in the middle is the mother of one of the convicted hijackers of 9/11, a supposed terrorist who did not board the fatal airplanes, but is in government custody. She, and many others believe that her son is innocent and has been framed. Both the women met through an arranged meeting, shared their grief about their loss, and have ended up being close friends! At this point, most of us have that lump in our throats, that made it difficult to breathe. Somebody tell me something good... writes Suheir Hammad. Yes.