Sofie Sandell’s TEDxIslingtonWomen talk 6th December 2013

This is Sofie Sandell’s talk from TEDxWomen, December 2013.  The text is transcribed, so it may feel a bit odd to read, please have that in mind.

Good afternoon everybody. How are you doing? I think it has been a wonderful day. I am so grateful that I have been here the whole day to listen to all the speakers. So many inspiring messages and I am going to connect with some of the messages in my speech today. I am going to talk about leadership and I would like to dedicate my talk today to one of the greatest leaders in the world, Nelson Mandela. He had something in him that I think all of us are striving for. He had some kind of wisdom inside him and shared it with the world… And I think that we all can be leaders. We all can reach out there and influence others, inspire them to do things. In the future I believe that leaders are gonna use social media in a smarter way to collaborate and connect with others.

And with leaders. I don’t mean titles. I mean people like you and I. People who want to do things. People who want to share their wisdom, share their ideas, and show the rest of the world that things are possible. That is what I mean with leaders.

We all have people we can influence, people we can connect with, people we love, people we meet, but we also have people all around the world that we now can connect with, thanks to the internet. We can share our messages with them and we can collaborate. Thanks to the smart digital tools that are out there to be used. And the digital tools, they are democratic. Anyone who has access to computer and the internet can use them and with these tools, we can share our message that we care about so much. My thoughts matter and your thoughts matter and our thoughts matter. We should do something about them. We should share them with more people.

Today, I’m gonna share some stories which are about two friends of mine. One story is in London… and I hope you’ll bring with you some of the key points in them that you can bring with you and do something with maybe tomorrow, maybe next week.

I’m going to start locally. I would like to start with a community in West London called Acton. And for you who are not sure where Acton is, this is Central London, here is Hyde Park, and then you continue driving and there is Acton. You can go there by tube… I live about two stops from Acton by the overground and lots of people I meet up with on regular basis are very concerned.

They are protesting and they are annoyed because there is a property developer who wants to build a big, large property in the middle of Acton right between the High Street and Churchill Road. So, that is here; Churchill Road and Acton High Street. They want to build this big building there, right here. That is going to be like a gated community that people can’t walk through. They are going to be cut off the bloodstream.

Have you ever been to Acton? You know how it looks? Can you agree that Acton is in need of a face lift? They need to do something about it. It is not great, you know. The High Street needs investment, they need new energy. They need new business going there and you know, just give it a face lift.

Another thought; if we would let the property investors and developers just develop things wherever they would like to develop it, London would look a little bit crazy. This is what the citizens of Acton thinks, if you are going to give them free hands to do this. What is going to be next? You know when you do big investment like this, a nine storey house it is going to stay there for 100 years… I do not know, long time.

This has been going on for a few years now. Recently, the local politicians, the local government, they approved it. They said, “Yes, this is a good idea.” There is even plans for a Waitrose in the property, and who doesn’t like to live near a Waitrose. [Waitrose is a posh UK super market] The local citizens don’t even believe that the Waitrose will survive for six months…

They have been protesting and now they are influencing the mayor of London. All major projects that are going to influence many people need to go through his office for approval. They are actively protesting and getting more and more people to influence and they made it accessible for everyone to participate. They set up a website which looks like this. And they shared this website with everybody who they think will be affected, and it shows step by step what you can do, the mayor’s email address and everything on Twitter and Facebook, who should email in Waitrose, and things you can share. Everything is there. They made it totally accessible for everyone to help.

They also created a video, a YouTube video that is seven minutes long and this seven-minute long video is very easy for anyone to just watch, and then you understand the problem and the implications of if they are going to build this new house there and what is going to happen with the traffic? Do they really believe that that is the right thing for the citizens?

They did a poll last week in the London West newspaper and 87% of everybody participating in this poll are against this. So, people there they don’t want it it to happen.

So, the step they took here, they made it accessible with the website. They created a video in which they interviewed local citizens and they said why they do not think this is the right solution. This is not the right kind of thing that Acton needs. And they also got Anna Chancellor, the British actress involved. For you who do not know who she is, for me, she is most famous for being part of ‘Four weddings and a funeral’ and she is the woman, the duck-face woman, who Hugh Grant dumps just before they are going to get married… she is quite famous and she is the main voice of the local Acton citizens talking through the consequences of what is going to happen if they build the nine story house there.

It is very easy to understand, by watching the website and watching the video, you know what to do? You can share this video with your friends. Most of us would have seven minutes!

This is an example of excellent local digital leadership in action and they need to get this done before Christmas. They mayor of London can vote any day. They can say yes or they can say no. And the people living in Acton they are concerned.

If they can do this, this is something that I think we can do as well because we will have similar things in our lives in the future that we will not be happy about. And crazy development might happen where we live on our High Street or in our part of the city.

My next story I would like to share with you is about a lady called Katherine Sparkes. This is Katherine. She is a pretty amazing lady. She works with Corporate Social Responsibility and done that for many, many years.

In her spare time when she does not do that, she run an amazing amount of charity projects. And a few years ago, 2011, she decided to build a school… and raise money for a school in Africa in one month. Her belief is the best way to fight poverty is through education. That is her belief and her values in what she really wanted to do – fight poverty through education. So, she got in contact with a village in Kenya and they decided here is the right place to build the school and she set up a challenge.

The challenge was to raise money in a month and get 250 people to donate £100 each. She has been very, very active, raised a lot of money before and she already asked all her friends a few too many times and asked also her family and everybody she knew to donate money to her charity projects. So, she thought – “I have to go worldwide.” How do I go worldwide? I will use Twitter. So, she used Twitter for the first time in her life and it looked like this. [First tweet] “Build a school in a month” and they had a website that is taken down now.

[Second tweet] “Want to get involved in a little challenge for this summer?… Help me build a school in a month”. She got this going and within 30 days they raised the money and strangers that she never ever heard about before donated money and they were involved and they build the community around this project.

This is an example of how to go global with zero knowledge how to use Twitter. Just because her message was what she really truly deeply believe it, it worked so well. And also, the time frame. 30 days! it is a challenge, get people to get involved now. They can’t wait until next month. They have to take action now. So, this is another example of digital leadership worldwide that goes into a community in one country in one village for these kids and children. She made a big difference there. If she can do it, we can do it.

My next story is about this guy here. He is called Greg McQueen. I met him when I was in Denmark earlier this year. He was a photographer at an event that I was speaking at and after I had been speaking about digital leadership he came to me and said, “Sofie, Sofie, Sofie you have to listen to my project what I did a few years ago.” I said please tell me.

This is an amazing story. Do you remember the earthquake in Haiti a few years ago… it happened in January… and Greg sat at home in Denmark when this happened and his daughter was about two years old – and he got very, very emotional and sad for the people there losing their family, children losing parents, losing friends, everything. And he thought what can I do? How can I contribute? What are my skills and talents that I can bring forward and do something for them?

He realized… okay I am going to a write a book and I am going to ask 100 people to contribute with a story each. He is very technically savvy… He did a YouTube video. Very simple YouTube video that is 2 minutes and 34 seconds. He called it 100 Stories for Haiti. Put it on YouTube sent it to some friends and shared to some people then put it on Twitter and all the instructions on what you need to do if you would like to write one of these stories was in there. You know, you could not have published the story anywhere else, and copyright things… you really wrote the story and stuff like that. Everything is in this video. He shared it on his Twitter account on 19th January.

Within 24 hours, he had over hundreds stories submitted and then within a couple of weeks, they had over 1,000 stories submitted. That is a million words and that is huge. It is a big project to manage a million words. It is nothing you can do yourself.

So, he had to build a community, worked with lots of editors and writing experts and people good at judging what is a good story and then set up a website where people could vote. This story is good. This story is not good. In the end, it worked out to be published and done and ready within six weeks and four days and that is when the e-book was published. He inspired lots of different people. There were thousands of people who knew about this project and wanted to contribute in different ways. There was one publisher who got very, very inspired and they published the book. It looks like this. You can read all the stories here. And it didn’t stop there.

He had a big team of editors and people contributing in Australia and, there was the flooding in Queensland in Australia, pretty devastating, and they wanted to do something similar. So, his project got other people inspired – now we have ‘100 stories for Haiti’, ‘100 Stories of Queensland’. Greg also managed the project ’50 Stories for Pakistan’ and then another author after the tsunami in Japan wrote ‘New Sun rising Stories for Japan’.

He created a blueprint that other people who would like to do something similar just could copy and they all ask him for permission, “Oh, hi Greg. It is alright if we do the same thing like this.” Greg said: “Of course you can do the same.” It is the same kind of system,use the same kind of rules and get it going.

I think this is a very good example of how you can get people all around the world to contribute and work together… he never met most of these authors. He also got some quite famous authors to contribute with a 1,000-word story.

A 1,000 word story, how long time does it takes to write? I don’t know… if you are a good writer, you can do it in half a day for sure. I think this is a very good example of someone who is creating something that other people can copy and they can use the blueprint. It is a good example of worldwide engagement. How you can get more people then just the one you know to get engaged and lots of people contribute. It is digital leadership in action. If he can do it, I also think we can do it.

If you would like to do anything like this, I would like to share a few tips, a few things that I learned from listening to these people. Feeling inspired. The three keys to success that I would like to share with you:

They are act with your passion. These people here were really deeply looking into themselves, what they wanted to do, and then they did it. They did not do anything because there was anyone else who told them what to do and that was like they told that this solution might work. Let us try it. That was how they did it.

All of these projects had limited timeframe. Do you remember the Acton guys? They have to act before Christmas. It has to be done now. They can’t wait. Katherine, 30 days, and Greg, raising money for the Red Cross for Haiti. It has also a time limit. They needed the money now. They could not wait.

Then the third is: connect with your network and dare to approach strangers, because your network might connect you with the right people and then also you have no idea who is sharing your values and your beliefs in another part of the world.

They might be the right one for you that would make something happen. And the message is key.

I love working with communication online and I often see that people get communication a bit wrong… but when you get it right, when you get the message right, you talk to people’s mind, their heart, their body, and you’re in there touching their soul and spirit. You are connecting emotionally somehow because you also believe that that is the right thing to do and that is why it’s working. Remember that!

I would like to finish with some questions. What is your next tweet going to be about? What is the next project that you would like to get involved in? What is the project that you would like to start and get other people involved in?

I can do it, you can do it, and we can do it.

Thank you!

Sofie Sandell

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Email: sofie@sofiesandell.com

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