Category Archives TEDPrize Updates

The latest updates to TEDPrize

“It’s easy to think that corruption happens somewhere over there, carried out by a bunch of greedy despots,” says anti-corruption activist Charmian Gooch in her blistering talk from TEDGlobal 2013. “The reality is that the engine of corruption exists far beyond the shores of countries like Equatorial Guinea or Nigeria or Turkmenistan. This engine is driven by our international banking system, by the problem of anonymous shell companies, by the secrecy that we have afforded big oil, gas and mining operations and, most of all, by the failure of our politicians to back up their rhetoric.”

Gooch, along with her Global Witness co-founders and co-directors — Patrick Alley and Simon Taylor — have spent 20 years doing research and deep analysis into the many ways that corruption weaves itself into society. And so TED is pleased to announce Gooch as the recipient of the 2014 TED Prize, honoring Global Witness’ work to date – and calling on them to use the $1 million prize to make a world-changing wish. On March 18, Gooch will take the TED stage to share this wish with world, and look to the TED community to help make it become a reality.

This wish has been in the works for months. After careful consideration of more than 1,000 nominations, Gooch was selected as the TED Prize winner by a jury of TED community members.

Notably, the Skoll Foundation will also honor Global Witness this year with its own million-dollar-plus prize to help further the organization’s work.

“That both TED and Skoll independently selected Charmian and Global Witness as recipients of these prizes is a remarkable testament to their daring investigative and campaigning work,” says TED curator Chris Anderson.

“Social entrepreneurs are, by definition, disruptors. Charmian’s leadership epitomizes great social entrepreneurship,” says Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation. “Skoll and TED both connect and showcase inspiring, entrepreneurial, breakthrough innovators. We are thrilled to be working closely with our TED colleagues.”

If you haven’t watched Gooch’s talk from TEDGlobal 2013, do it now. While you’re at it, read her detailed annotations of the talk. But of course, the heart of the TED Prize is a wish—a bold clarion call to galvanize global action. Mark your calendars for March 18 from 6 to 7:45pm PST to watch Gooch reveal her wish during session 4 of TED2014. This session will be broadcast globally for free at this URL:

Then in early April, Gooch, Taylor and Alley will be honored along with other 2014 Skoll Awardees at the 11th Annual Skoll World Forum in Oxford.

“Everyone at Global Witness is honored and thrilled,” says Gooch. “This is truly a rocket boost to our work – making it possible for us to carry out even more cutting edge investigations, report on matters in the public interest, and launch hard hitting campaigns that challenge vested interests and change the system. This being our 20th anniversary year, we couldn’t have wished for a better birthday present.”

A few numbers to keep in mind: 3, 31, and 1 million. That’s because nominations for the 2015 TED Prize are being accepted through the end of the day on March 31, 2014. You have until then to nominate a mentor, a co-worker or a visionary leader whose work you admire from afar for this prestigious prize, which brings with it $1 million for a wish to inspire the world.

Below, learn more about the TED Prize.

19: The number of people who have been awarded the TED Prize so far. Just a few of the winners: politician Bill Clinton, astronomer Jill Tarter and author Dave Eggers.

1,353,958: The number of species catalogued in E.O. Wilson’s Encyclopedia of Life, launched with the 2007 TED Prize.

105: The number of countries in which Pangea Day events were held in 2008, as part of Jehane Noujaim’s TED Prize wish.

About 11 million: Pangea Day’s total number of YouTube views.

60: The percentage of people with incurable epilepsy who have demonstrated at least a 50% reduction in seizure rates from Robert Fischell’s responsive electrical stimulation, now known as RNS. He explained this advance in his talk “My wish: Three unusual medical inventions.”

14,685: The number of architectural projects shared through Cameron Sinclair’s Open Architecture Network.

153: The number projects completed via the Open Architecture Network so far.

1,644,110: The number of people that Sinclair estimates have benefited from these projects.

4: The number of centers dedicated to math and science that Neil Turok has opened as part of his wish to “Find the next Einstein in Africa.” The centers are located in South Africa, Senegal, Ghanna and Cameroon.

174,760: The number of posters pasted so far in 110 countries, from JR’s wish to turn the world Inside Out through art.

67 million: The amount of money raised by Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue voyage, and the subsequent Ocean 5 voyage, to protect the oceans.

Jamie Oliver's TED Prize wish in action: “I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.” Photo Courtesy of JOFF

Jamie Oliver’s TED Prize wish in action: “I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”
Photo Courtesy of JOFF

Somewhere between 3 and 4: The percent of the ocean that is now fully protected.

105,005: The number of people who have signed Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion, including Pope Benedict XVI.

30: The number of languages the Charter has been translated into.

5,000: The number of children in classic music programs involving Sistema Fellows, the 50 passionate musicians trained by Jose Antonio Abreu and the New England Conservatory of Music.

3 million: The number of people who have participated in ONE’s efforts. That’s three times what Bono hoped when he wished was to build “social movement of more than 1 million American activists for Africa.”

888,000 and counting: The number of people who have signed the petition for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

6K: The number of people who’ve been taught how to cook on Oliver’s Big Rig mobile kitchen, during its 40 week tour of California in 2011.

And finally, 3/18: The date when you’ll find out who has won the 2014 TED Prize. Mark your calendar: You can watch a free webcast of the TED Prize as it’s presented live on the TED stage, 6–7:30pm Pacific time on Tuesday, March 18. Stay tuned to the TED Blog for details to tune in.

IOP- Chang Mai

JR’s TED Prize wish — to turn the world Inside Out through portraiture — has led to more than 120,000 posters created and pasted on walls in 108 countries, from New York’s Times Square to Nepal. Photo: Aline Deschamps

The TED Prize turns our staff into genies: every year, we give a million dollars to one inspiring leader with a bold wish for the world. Here’s a sampling of wishes that have won in recent years:

“My wish is to help design the future of learning by supporting children all over the world to tap into their innate sense of wonder and work together. Help me build the School in the Cloud.” —Sugata Mitra, winner of the 2013 prize

“I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world…INSIDE OUT.” —JR in 2011

“I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.” —Jamie Oliver in 2010

“I wish you would use all means at your disposal — films! expeditions! the web! new submarines! — to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.” —Sylvia Earle in 2009

Nominations are open for the 2015 TED Prize now through March 31. Using ournominations page, you can introduce us to an incredible colleague, friend, teacher or mentor — or even nominate yourself. And while the nomination form asks for a wide range of information, the most vital element is the wish itself. A vivid, compelling wish — like the ones above — excite our entire office. Below, a look at the anatomy of a great TED Prize wish, to help you craft your thoughts into the perfect wish.

The heart of a TED Prize wish: A creative approach to solving a problem.

A great TED Prize wish is a new, fresh way to think about one of the world’s intractable issues. It should be simple and free of jargon. It must be compelling and infused with passion. And while it may not eradicate the problem entirely, it offers a way for people to join together and create a movement toward that end. Anna Verghese, Deputy Director of the TED Prize, explains, “The wishes that get us excited are the ones that, in a couple of sentences, clearly set out the issue that needs the world’s attention, and provoke you to want to take action on it.” Sarah Schoengold, our TED Prize Project Coordinator, adds, “The wishes that excite me most are those that capture my imagination and make me think again. Sugata’s kid-centered learning labs – it’s easy to picture how this take on group learning could spiral across cultures and intersect with classical learning. And JR’s wish made us rethink the power of paper and glue. Who could have imagined that something so simple could be so compelling?”

The brain of a TED Prize wish: A leader with the ability to inspire action.

A key element of a TED Prize wish is that is geared toward action — that there is a clearly defined plan for how the wish can be achieved. This means that the ideal TED Prize wish comes from a pragmatic dreamer — someone with a big idea who also has a proven track record in his or her field. We’re looking for a leader who is able to manage others and who can demonstrate the ability to execute a multi-year project (we give winners 1 to 3 years to implement their wish), to budget a million dollar initiative (the award goes fully toward the project), and to produce measurable results (we ask that the bulk of the project be completed in year one). But beyond being a great strategic thinker, a TED Prize winner must be a great communicator, with the vision and charisma to get people outside of their field excited to take part in the wish.

The arms and legs of a TED Prize wish: The TED community.

As soon as a TED Prize wish is announced, it has a global army of willing foot-soldiers: the members of the TED community. This includes not just the TED Prize staff but our international network of TEDx organizers, our diverse community of speakers, the members of our TED Fellows program, and our web of Open Translation Projecttranslators. A TED Prize wish should point towards concrete ways for these communities to get involved. Explains Verghese, “The TED community’s resources and desire for change provide a wish with that foundation to encourage mass, global collaboration.”

The lungs of a TED Prize wish: The public, at large.

SOLE Method

Sugata Mitra has just opened the first branch of his School in the Cloud, where students turn over the questions that matter most to them as a retired teacher encourages them on via the Granny Cloud. Photo: Anna Verghese

A great TED Prize wish allows members of the public — whoever they may be — to breath fresh air into a field. Part of Jamie Oliver’s wish: that families to cook together, as a way to teach kids about food. The core of JR’s wish: that people photograph themselves and paste the image publicly, in a global effort to surface unheard voices. These wishes invite people in, give them a way to take action, and let them run wild with their creativity. Schoengold explains, “The most powerful wishes use really inclusive, visual language, asking everyday people to take part in an experiment that will only work with their help.”

So what is the wish that won the 2014 TED prize? We’ll reveal that during TED2014 “The Next Chapter” in March. In the meantime, we can’t wait to see what wishes you make for 2015. We are looking to you dreamers out there to wish big for the world!

What would you do with $1 million to spark change in the world? Every year, the TED Prize is awarded to an extraordinary individual with a bold vision to ignite an imaginative and collaborative global action. From Sugata Mitra’s School in the Cloud to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, TED Prize winning wishes are transforming big dreams into realities from India to LA.

The time has come for us to find the next TED Prize winner—and it could be you or someone you admire.

Help us find the next TED Prize winner. Join TED Prize Director Lara Stein, for a Twitter Q & A on June 4, 2013 from 3-4pm ET to learn more about the nominations process. Participate in the conversation and submit questions by tweeting at @TEDPrize and using the hashtag #TEDPrize14. Feel free to send questions in advance by tweeting @TEDPrize and we’ll address them during the June 4th chat.

To apply for the TED Prize, nominate yourself or someone else with an ambitious wish for the world by June 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm ET.

Are you or someone you know the next TED Prize winner?

By, Jamia Wilson

On an unseasonably chilly Monday evening in Manhattan, hundreds stood in line in Times Square for up to two hours. As a city-dweller for seven years, I’ve seen queues this long for big Broadway openings or on New Year’s Eve. But this line was formed for a very different purpose — for people to have their faces and stories featured in what JR describes as “the biggest art gallery in the world.”

JR, the man behind the participatory global art project INSIDE OUT, has parked a photobooth truck in Times Square, from now until May 10. Photo: Instagram/newyorkermag

It’s been three years since TED Prize winner JR made the wish to turn the world INSIDE OUT with a global collaborative art project. As a documentary about the project premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last weekend, JR decided to use his time in New York productively. He hatched the plan to park a truck with a photobooth on-board in the middle of Times Square, as he’s done in other cities before. As soon as I heard about this project, I knew that I wanted to be one of the volunteers for the truck’s inaugural night in my hometown.

When I arrived in Duffy Square (the northern triangle of Times Square), stunning rows of freshly pasted black and white portraits covered the ground. Smiling, smirking and winking visages of passersbys — with homes as diverse as the Bronx and Tokyo — replaced the usual bareness of the concrete. Throughout my shift, elders, painters, skateboarders, toddlers and even NYC’s infamous Naked Cowboy posed for INSIDE OUT’s camera, adding their photos to the street-side quilt of images that breathed life and humanity into the street.

As an INSIDE OUT volunteer, I learned how to capture and distribute large-scale portraits and make and apply wheat-paste. Over and over again, commuters interrupted their busy and purposeful strides and stopped to behold “the people’s art project.” Since I was adorned in INSIDE OUT’s trademark black and white spotted t-shirt, I was repeatedly asked about the origins of the project, how people could get involved, and how much it would cost to buy the portraits. Almost everyone eagerly jumped in line after learning that they could participate by giving their time, image and elbow-grease to help paste pictures.

Placing the faces of strangers side-by-side in a collective masterpiece created a powerful sense of community. People marveled at the process of taking their pictures in the speckled black and white photobooth and watched in awe as their likeness printed from the side of the truck. I spoke to one man who was so addicted to the practice of snapping and pasting his photo, that he has followed JR’s installation to three cities around the world, including Tokyo and New York.

As I walked away from Times Square, I thought of the thousands of people who have contributed 120,000 portraits to city walls, streets and countless other surfaces from Tunisia to South Dakota. I wondered if volunteers in the each of the 110 countries INSIDE OUT has touched experienced what I did. Did they see giggling children who were shorter than the portraits of their likeness dance blissfully with images of themselves? Did they witness a bride and groom take photos in their wedding finery and paste their pictures next to each other to symbolize their bond? Or, did they see what I repeatedly witnessed, a sense of recognition, pride and purpose in the eyes of folks who were given a moment to be truly seen – with big, bold, authentic, and honest emotion.

“The people’s art project” gave New Yorkers a chance to choose to remain anonymous while also being visible. By providing us with an opportunity to pause and be present together, INSIDE OUT created a humbling a sense of intimacy in the most populous city in the United States.

Help INSIDE OUT transform the city! If you live in New York City or will be visiting between now and May 10, email to volunteer by yourself or with a group.

By Naween A. Mangi

My grandfather was compulsively compassionate. As a child, I remember this quiet and gentle soul, offering love, understanding and a helping hand, to whomever he came across. Thieves and con men were no exception. When his family objected, he smiled and offered compassion anyway. Compassion was a trait at the center of his being.

When I started the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust in his memory in 2008, the aim was to create a model village in his ancestral hometown of Khairo Dero, a village in southern Pakistan. A model that could be replicated elsewhere in turning poverty-stricken and forgotten rural hamlets into habitable places; complete with access to clean water, a sanitation network, housing for all, education, income-generating opportunities, and health-care services.

As we began the process of engaging the community of 3,700 people in their own development, something felt sorely amiss. While projects were doing well and impact was visible, the work seemed somehow to be standing in isolation. Then, I came across the Charter for Compassion, became a signatory, and started thinking about how we could bring compassion into village life, creating a binding force that would weave our work and our community together.

When we opened a community center and park in 2011, we documented our symbolic commitment to practicing compassion by displaying the Charter in our Community Hall. We then started by teaching our trust’s employees and volunteers about compassion and seeking their views on how we can implement this approach in our daily lives.

Since we wanted to make compassion real, a part of village life, and a practice rather than a notion, we began holding regular activities exploring how to live compassionately. Some of the events we routinely host are:

-Readings from the Charter for Compassion and group discussions.
-Readings from Karen Armstrong’s Letter to Pakistan and Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.

Pakistan: Compassion Readings

-Short plays developed and performed by village children on the theme of compassion.

-Drawing competitions about compassion.

-Compassion Counter: We maintain a journal at the Community Center where adults and children can come and record their acts of compassion. We’ve crossed 700 acts and are aiming to hit 1,000 by the summer. Two examples: a schoolboy took a few extra moments to clear away stones from the road so passengers wouldn’t be hurt and on a chilly January morning, and a teacher brought in one of her favorite sweaters for a maid who didn’t have any warm clothes.

-Compassionate Living Day: We celebrate this without schedule and as often as our community feels we need to center ourselves and come back to the mindful practice of compassion. The day is marked by cultural performances, plays and speeches on how we can treat fellow villagers as we would ourselves would like to be treated.

As we began taking these small, practical steps, we started noticing a change in the way villagers interacted with each other.

“People always used to bully me and make fun of my speech and gait, and in turn, I also used to misbehave with them,” says Rashid Gachal, a 12-year-old diagnosed with cerebral palsy. “Seeing the love and compassion I got from the staff since the program began, villagers also started treating me with love and in turn I also behave very well with them.”

We were so heartened by these countless individual stories that we added Compassion Campaign to the list of projects on our website and continued to spread the word, inviting more people to participate. We went for the easiest, most visible targets first.

“Earlier, children were constantly complaining about each other and picking fights in the park,” says Zoya Parveen, a trainer at the trust’s Community Center. “Since we began our compassion campaign, we notice how these kids offer each other a turn on the swings and slides without our intervention.”

This led us to our next step and we started asking ourselves how we can make all our projects in the village more compassionate. We pondered how we could make the process of documenting which candidates most urgently needed a hand pump to access water, or materials to build a home or a micro-loan to set up a small business more infused with empathy. And again, we thought the smallest steps are the best place to start.

“As volunteers for the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust, we are taught to practice compassion in everything we do,” says Tariq Kango, a 15-year-old student. “So we are not supposed to just take patients to the hospital but accompany them with an understanding for their suffering. And in this process, I’ve learned that the practice of compassion brings me so much happiness and great joy.”

Soon, we also started noting changes in the way people interact with our organization that is now at the center of village development. Individual demands of “more for me” started to slowly give way to the idea of sharing.

“I was a beneficiary in the first group of women who received micro-loans to start small businesses in 2011,” says Mashkoora Mirbahar, a 35-year-old woman, who spent years begging in the fields for food to feed her children in the absence of an income. “I also became part of the group that discusses compassion. When a meeting of past and potential loan candidates was called, I attended. But when asked whether old candidates should get loans again and whether I would like a new loan, I said no. I already received that benefit and now the opportunity should be given to other needy women. This is how I chose to practice the concept of compassion I learned here.”

Most recently, we lost our sweet Waheeda, a heart patient in her twenties who died on April 2 after post-surgery complications. We came back, in our grief, to compassion. In our condolence and prayer meeting the next morning, we decided on a new compassion theme to make constant practice easy: Each Person Matters.

In a letter to our trust’s employees that day, my heart deep in mourning, I offered these words:

Service without love, without warmth, without truly giving of your deepest self, is no service at all. As we set out each day in service of our community, let us always ask ourselves if we are showing each person we serve that they truly matter.

The same day, Waheeda’s husband, Javed Depar, came to us with this consolation:

“I could never have arranged my wife’s surgery if the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust had not made all the arrangements and provided funds,” he said. “But what truly moved me was the courage, support and deep compassion they provided me. This created a warm, family-like feeling that will always stay with me even though I lost my wife.”

In today’s Pakistan, there is often talk of revolution; when it will finally happen, how it can be brought about, what forces will be involved. No one can deny revolution is what our people so desperately need. But can a true revolution be brought about by grit, force and power? That may cause change, yes. But isn’t revolution ultimately meant to improve the lives of a people weighed down by an endless struggle to survive? What good, otherwise, is a revolution to those helpless against a system that provides them no skills, no jobs, no access to healthcare? In our little village, peoples’ lives are changing. Street children are drawing flowers and forming letters, once-starving women are making a living and casting off dependence, those suffering in sickness are finding a place to turn to and the community is pulling itself out of a centuries-old mire.

As I watch, in amazement, I have learned that a real revolution is small, silent and deeply empowering. In our little corner of the world, an uprising is underway and our commitment to compassion is the thread tying it all together.

Naween A. Mangi has been working as a financial journalist for 18 years. She is currently the Pakistan Bureau Chief for New York-based Bloomberg News. Naween started the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust in 2008 in memory of her late grandfather. The non-profit aims to create a model village in Khairo Dero, district Larkana, Pakistan, that can be replicated elsewhere.

Naween holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the London School of Economics and a master’s degree in business and economic journalism from New York University. She lives in Karachi.



The documentary INSIDE OUT: The People’s Art Project will premiere at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival in New York this Saturday, April 20, giving an

TED Prize winner JR reveals his wish for the world on the 2011 TED stage

intimate look into the courageous victories and heartrending challenges involved in creating the world’s largest participatory art project. In 2011, French street artist JR announced his TED Prize winning wish to connect people worldwide through a collaborative artistic action.

He  launched INSIDE OUT, inspiring thousands of people — from South Dakota to Iran — to collectively transform their personal identities into public artwork. From Moscow to Tunisia, citizens have turned more than 120,000 digital portraits into bold posters covering everything from city walls to trains.

Besides shifting the way INSIDE OUT’s participants and onlookers contemplate storytelling and public space,JR’s big dream has inspired diverse individuals to define the soul, values and vision of their communities with a few simple tools — a camera, paper and paste.

Inside Out: The People’s Art Project debuts on HBO on May 20th at 9PM ET. For a sneak peek, watch the trailer below.


Participate in an action in your community »

Check out just a few of the amazing — and stunning –images pasted in cities across the world »

At TED2013, education innovator Sugata Mitra invited parents and educators everywhere to create Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs) to help kids tap into their innate sense of wonder, embark on intellectual adventures, and work together.

Have you conducted a SOLE in your school, home, or community? TED and The Huffington Post invite you to participate in the SOLE Challenge contest and share your discoveries. Up to three winning blog post submissions selected by Sugata Mitra and the TED Prize team will be featured in a future edition of TEDWeekends on The Huffington Post. The Grand Prize winners will receive a pair of tickets to attend TEDYouth 2013 including economy class airfare and hotel accommodations.

Are you ready to take the challenge? Here’s some tips for how to make a good SOLE Challenge blog post great:

·      Introduce yourself. Provide context about your community and/or school culture.

·      Share what inspired you to take the SOLE Challenge.

·      Share the questions you investigated in your SOLE and explain the children’s discovery process.

·      Celebrate your triumphs and identify challenges. How did you overcome obstacles? Did you have any pleasant surprises or epiphanies?

·      Explore this question: Did you adapt the format of the experiment to fit the needs of your community? Why or why not? How did it go?

·      Reflect on feedback you received from kids participating in the SOLE and share it.

·      Compare the SOLE approach with other educational methods you’ve tried. What made this experience different?

·      Make your mark on the world! Address how you envision your SOLE adventure impacting the future of learning.

·      Include photos, videos, and/or audio examples of student work and interactions to illustrate your SOLE experience.

Good luck!

For more information about the SOLE Challenge, join the TED Prize team for a Twitter chat on Thursday, March 28th from 4:30-5:30PM EST. Use the #TEDSOLE hashtag to send questions and learn more about the contest from the TED team and a veteran SOLE educator.


Sugata Mitra carved a hole in a wall in a New Delhi slum—about 3 feet high—and placed a computer in it. When kids asked what it was, he said, “I don’t know,” and walked away. Photo: courtesy of Sugata Mitra.

Before long, children from the community figured out how to search for information online. They began learning English and other subjects, and started teaching each other. Consequently, Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” experiment catalyzed his pursuit to advance child-driven learning for thousands of kids around the world.

In his talk from TED2013, Mitra describes repeating the “Hole in the Wall” experiment 300 miles away. He installed a mysterious computer on the side of a road where such machinery was even less familiar than in New Delhi.

12-year-old Arun Chavan was one of the kids who found himself drawn to that computer in Shirgaon, a coastal village in India. Over the next few months, he taught himself to use it. And now, more than a decade later, he lives in the United States and studies at Yale University.

We connected with Chavan to discover how the “Hole in the Wall” impacted his life. Here’s what he’s up to today:

How old are you?

I am 23 now.

And you’re at Yale. What inspires you about your field of study?

I am doing a PhD in Evolutionary Biology. I’m just amazed by the stunning diversity of organisms around us. The excitement of digging into the past to discover how it arose is what keeps me going.

What were your first thoughts when the street-side computer appeared in your community? 

I was a kid then, studying in the sixth grade. I had never handled a computer before. I thought it was great to have those computers lying around to play with. I don’t remember being afraid to use them. I think we figured out soon enough that restarting the computer fixes almost every problem!

What was your favorite thing about participating in the “Hole in Wall” program?

I would say mainly three things: First, that there was nobody telling us what to do and not to do. Second, that it wasn’t the same as having a computer to yourself. We learned things as a group. We learned everything empirically, and taught each other what we found. And third, that the computers in the “Hole in the Wall” were connected to the Internet. It was amazing to be able to Google anything, or to chat with my sister who was studying in a different city.

How did your family feel about your participation?  Did it affect their lives in any way?

My parents were as excited as I was. A few years later when we got ourselves a computer, the only thing I taught my father to do was to switch it on. In his 40s, he taught himself how to use it, and now he regularly blogs to share his paintings and writings.

Are you still in contact with the kids you studied with using the “Hole in the Wall” computer? 

Unfortunately, I am not in contact with many of my friends from that time. Some of us went to different cities to attend college after high school. Most of those who stayed back attended vocational training programs and are working now.

Now that you’re a PhD student, are you teaching? If so, did your experience with the “Hole in the Wall” impact the way you instruct and connect with students?

Only recently have I started teaching. In the discussion sessions I lead, I tend not to intervene unless it is necessary, and I try to let the students understand things from their own discussion and ideas. I don’t know if I borrowed this approach from “Hole in the Wall,” but I find it similar.

What is the most important thing you learned from the “Hole in the Wall” experience?

Sugata Mitra’s “Hole if the Wall” idea is quite radical, I think. But it’s too important to be ignored. I like how he dares to imagine (and also hopes for) a completely different future of education than most of us do.

Along with the “Hole in the Wall,” many other things — interactions with certain people, books, and parents — have impacted my way of thinking. It’s really hard to tease apart what I have learned from the “Hole in the Wall.” I think that you can learn anything if you really want to — this could possibly be a “Hole in the Wall” effect.

What does curiosity mean to you?

A driving force to explore something new, I guess! Curiosity is also exciting for me.

If you could give a TED Talk, what would it be about?

My father writes and directs plays. As a kid, I acted in many of them. These plays have significantly influenced my thinking and have greatly contributed to who I am. If I had to give a TED talk, it would probably be about that experience.

Arun Chavan is now studying for a PhD at Yale. Photo: courtesy of Arun Chavan.

To learn more about the Hole in the Wall, read Sugata Mitra’s TED Book, Beyond the Hole in the Wall: Discover the Power of Self-Organized Learning. And for more on how to inspire self-organized learning wherever you may be, download this toolkit »