All posts by Oliver Ding

Prix Ars Electronica 2009

Description of your project

This project is about bringing in inspirational ideas and fostering social change. It is built around the idea of TED, and is created by two young people living in different continents, made possible by online collaboration tools, and driven by an ardent desire to share great ideas and create positive changes. It is an attempt to bring in more educational content to the current Internet community in China.

Keywords:
TED, education, citizenship, social change

Project History

TED to China started in October, 2008. The project started because we love the idea of TED, and there was no TED China or anything like that when we started. So we thought, why not make a TED fansite in Chinese? So we did it.

The Chinese Internet, though rich with all sorts of entertainment news and other industrial gossip, is still in malnutrition, partly because there are few websites that cover cutting edge ideas about the changing world and possible solutions for social problems. At the same time, as we are chewing the mind-blowing ideas from TED – which are all about making the world a better place – we stumbled upon the idea of introducing the TED concept to China.

At first, Tony did some Chinese translations of TEDTalks, and posted them online. People like those talks and the Chinese translations, and we wondered if we can build a site around this idea.

After some discussions over email, we decided to give it a go. We made a prototype with WordPress, and publish TEDtoChina version 0.1 at the end of last October. Since then, we’ve introduced more than sixty TEDTalks in Chinese, and with the help of social media tools like twitter, we make the TED name known around a whole spectrum of people in China. Many volunteers joined in our group, and they helped further spread the TED idea.

We are still in an infant stage, and the TED to China project needs more care and dedication. We are yet to create some offline gatherings among our community, to better foster idea interactions and ignite social change.

Objectives

The goal of the project is to bring in inspirational ideas from TED and many other groups, and through the process of idea immersion, we hope to foster a citizen spirit that can be a force for good in the community. Be part of the change, that is a resonating idea at TED, and we want to bring people to this idea through our coverage.

Team:

The project is initiated by Tony Yet and Oliver Ding. We adopt the opensource model and anyone interested in joining is welcomed. As of March 17th, 2009, we have seven site editors, they come from different backgrounds and disciplines, all sharing the same spirit of open collaboration. We are employing tools like Google Docs and Google Groups as means of communication. It is a young and energetic team, people are very enthusiastic about the project, and we are very happy about this.

Lessons learned:
What has worked / what has not worked in the process of realisation of your project?

During the first few months of running a fan website, we find that online collaboration is possible, and can turn out great stuff. The translation of TEDTalks into Chinese is mainly done by the community, and with some initial iterations, people can find themselves swimming in ease doing it – with fun. That’s the most valuable lesson we’ve learned.

But the collaboration process is far from easy. There are small details to be worked out for each assignment and sometimes there will be fights of ideas. But we consider that to be part of the process of learning and growth. We feel lucky that we are born in this age of online opensource collaborations.

Statement of Reasons:*
Why the submitted project deserves to win a prize in the “Digital Communities” category.

The TED to China project itself is a testimony to the theory of wisdom of crowds. The team behind this project is distributed all over the globe geographically, and we work on the project totally online. And it is also the support and encouragement of the community that adds momentum to our progress. The community of change that we are building is still small, but we believe that this very idea itself is an idea that worth spreading.

Alex Counts on Technology, Social Media, and Microfinance in China

Editor’s Notes:

Alex Counts, President and CEO of Grameen Foundation, gave an interview to Journalism and Media Studies Centre (JMSC) at University of Hong Kong during “MaD 2010” conference organized by Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture. He talked about technology, social media, and microfinance in China. TEDtoChina writer Jinxin Ma brings us from Hong Kong her interview with Alex Counts.

Microfinance, a worldwide movement to grant as many as possible poor people access to high quality financial services, has rooted in China since early 1990s. Only in recent years; However, has the general Chinese public been witnessing its growing momentum thanks to the development of technology and emerging social media channels.

As one of the leading NGOs in this sector, Grameen Foundation has inspired globally many seed projects including Qifang.cn, a China-based, fast-growing, person-to-person student loan program, showcasing how philanthropy and social enterprise can help the unprivileged weaving their dreams.

Counts believes that technology has a huge positive impact on the development of microfinance. “We have been involved in technology and microfinance in almost ten years, as a major program of Grameen Foundation,” said Counts. Grameen Technology Center started in 2000 has proved how they take it seriously. The Chinese version of MIFOS, an open source system that initiated by Grameen Foundation is expected to function in a year.

Click the below mp3 track to listen to his explanation on how technology shifts microfinance in three different ways: on management, security and individual’s life:

Alex-Counts-Microfinance-1-MaJinxin-Feb-02-10 by tedtochina

Social media is booming this decade, but for its influence on microfinance, Counts considers it only as early stage. Grameen’s Mifos system has already shown how social media can be an efficient and effective way to organize people, since “there is a community of software developers all around the world that help write all parts of the code”, said Counts. From Mifos, as well as Kiva, another online platform for microfinance, he spots huge possibilities. The next mp3 track reflects his elaborations:

Alex-Counts-Microfinance-2-MaJinxin-Feb-02-10 by tedtochina

Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, talked on “China Microfinance Summit” held in Beijing in November 2009, saying that microfinance in China should be in the form of social enterprise, and Counts agrees with Yunus’s “for-profit, but non-distributing” social business model. He also points out the challenges Grameen Foundation faces in China: the first is that they “can provide grants but not loans”, due to Chinese regulations; and the second is that “a lot of people that can be microfinance entrepreneurs in the rural areas are migrating to the cities”. Despite the problems which are “solvable”, as Counts states, he sees mostly big possibilities in China.

About Alex Counts

Counts served as a Fulbright scholar at the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh in 1988, right after he graduated from Cornell University in the United States. The Grameen Bank and its founder, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, later won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

Grameen Foundation was founded in 1997 by Mr. Counts with a mere $6,000 in seed capital and a charge from Yunus. It is Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization and has grown to a global network in 22 countries.

Alex Counts (the second to right) on a panel discussion on MaD 2010, photo by Jinxin MA

About “MaD 2010” Conference

MaD 2010 was held at the Kwai Tsing Theatre on 22-24 January, 2010, in Hong Kong. Over 800 participants from Hong Kong, Mainland China, Macau, Thailand, South Korea and the U.S. attended the event, which was composed of 26 talks and 27 workshops, challenges and chatrooms.

Jinxin MA, Yolanda (馬金馨)
Writer at Global@TEDtoChina Group

A Chinese freelancer located in Hong Kong, focusing on new media, digital marketing, social enterprise and civil society development in China. Worked at various industries including media, non-profit, real-estate, etc. with a Master of Journalism and a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Major in Political Science) from the University of Hong Kong. Fond of poetry, photography, architecture and documentaries. Enjoys TED as it is one of the best platforms to meet intelligent, passionate and solid people.

Twitter: twitter.com/majinxin
Email: yolandahku AT gmail dot com

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[Hong Kong] Karen Jiang on Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues

Playwright and activist Eve Ensler once again spoke for girls and women against violence at the TED 2010 annual conference. Her V-Day initiative has funded more than 11,000 community-based anti-violence programs and launched safe houses in the Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. How did Eve influence audiences especially women in China ? Karen Jiang, our writer at Global TEDtoChina group, reports from Hong Kong with her interesting observations.

Coming from a wealthy family in New York, Eve Ensler, the nowadays world-famous playwright, performer, feminist and activist, did not have a happy childhood as others imagine. As a child, she was abused by her father both physically and sexually. The unfortunate childhood and chaotic youth hood together led Eve Ensler to her later career in stopping violence against women and girls. By writing and playing dramas as well as launching a special movement – V day, Eve Ensler  spares no effort to envision a planet in which females are free to thrive, rather than merely survive.

The Vagina Monologues, Ensler’s first well-known drama, tells hundreds of women’s stories mainly about their sexual experiences. These funny, engaging and scary stories have attracted much attention of the public. In 1996, Eve Ensler was awarded the Obie Award, and till now, The Vagina Monologues has been translated into 45 different languages and played in more than 120 countries.


TED.com: Eve Ensler: happiness in body and soul
We have summarized this talk on our Chinese site on Dec 18th, 2009

In 2001, the English version of The Vagina Monologues was first played in China, and in the following two years, though played for several times, it was mainly knew by some university students. The most influential play during the period was given by students and staffs of Sun Yat-Sen University. Though unprofessional, they have moved the masses deeply by their sincere and powerful performance. The Vagina Monologues’s first commercial show in China, unfortunately, was banned by the government in 2003. Despite of the frustrating experience, various scholars, activists, feminists and university students in China have worked at promoting the public performance of the drama for years. Finally, in 2009, The Vagina Monologues was allowed to play publicly by Xinchuan Experimental Troupe. Based on the original work, the Chinese adaption has added some contents reflecting the present situation in China, such as Dustbin Baby. The show got huge success and was given to full-houses for eight times in Beijing and Shanghai.

To an extent, The Vagina Monologues is challenging to traditional Chinese value system. Some audiences felt uncomfortable during the show, especially when hearing the word “vagina”, but more people give ardent responses to the drama. Moreover, along with the social developments in recent years,  the masses’ notion is experiencing significant changes. Numerous people are participating in disseminating The Vagina Monologues and related thoughts, and some are active in V day movements.

For instance, a group called VA, short for V Action, has been formed on Douban, a popular Chinese online community with specialization in movies, books, and music: members enthusiastically discuss about the book, the drama and shows online. Besides, V day@Wuhan, Vagina Monologues@Fudan and many other groups based on the play are active in different places in China. All these events have undoubtedly aroused social concerns towards issues with respect to sex and females’ rights.

Sixteen years have passed since The Vagina Monologues was first finished; nine years have passed since the first show in China. During the years, the drama has caused lots of arguments all over the world, but meanwhile, it has touched innumerable people, leading them to sob and smile with the females’ fates in the play. The Vagina Monologues is all about self and real stories, making it more vigorous than any study and research. The increasing social concerns towards female rights in China proves it. Therefore, it is safe to say that The Vagina Monologues brings females a process of self-consciousness and self-empowering. Only if women speaks for their individuality, can they avoid the fates of being ignored and obtain freedom to thrive in the world.

Wenyu Jiang, Karen (姜文钰)
Writer at Global@TEDtoChina Group

A student of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, majoring in Integrated Business. Enjoying traveling and reading; fond of Yoga and environmental protection activities. Appreciating humanistic care; concerning with every individual’s stories; respecting all those who are kind , sincere and have full heart toward life. Wish to help others as much as possible. Used to participate in many community services, and glad to know more friends caring for the society and enjoying lives through TED.

Email: karenjiang2 AT gmail dot com

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Andrew Yu | Voluntourism and 1KG

Many marvel at China’s bamboo shooting skyscrapers, but they might have overlooked the enchanting beauty in the rural areas of this country. Each year, tens of thousands of people travel to these regions. Andrew Yu is one of such many but the only who came up with “Voluntourism”, an innovative concept behind his social enterprise project “1KG”.

Andrew Yu (余志海), or An Zhu (安猪) by nick name, is a traveler who has been to most of the provinces in western China. In 2004, Andrew got his epiphany from what he saw at rural schools and started the 1KG project. The idea is to encourage people to take some small gifts to country kids on their trips. There are over 800 schools with registered information at the 1KG website, all uploaded and maintained by the community. Travelers can collaborate through the website. Andrew believes in the power that millions of people taking small steps can change the world, or “democratization of participation”. He advocates that every single human being has the capacity for charity, which should not be controlled by a small bunch of experts and big philanthropies.

1KG Website: 1kg.org
Andrew Yu’s blog: anzhu.net

TEDx1KG: Lijiang, Yunan, China  April 18th, 2010

Philanthropy in China’s Social and Historical Context

Thirty years of economic development in China made possible the emergence of a newly rich middle class in the city. Many rural residents, however, are still living on the edge or under the poverty line. From government to each unprivileged family, hope is put on education to pave way out of poverty. In 1989, Project Hope was initiated to help children whose families are too poor to afford a complete elementary school education. Being the largest and most influential non-governmental welfare project in China, it had financed education of more than 2.6 million poor rural students by the end of 2004. Despite its phenomenal success, financial and information resource constraints still widely existed as there are currently about 60 million children living in the vast rural areas. Among them, one third (20 million) are poverty-stricken. It is obvious that top down approach in public service plays an essential role, but it’s far less than enough.

Historically, China has been family-oriented rather than community-driven. Thus, relatively few philanthropic were giving outside of the family. In addition, Confucianism and Chinese Marxism promoted a culture in which social and political issues are viewed as being primarily the domain of the elite. A 2009 survey[1] by the China Social Entrepreneur Foundation and Horizon Research Consultancy Group even revealed that 63.3% of survey participants rarely talk to others about public welfare issues even though they are actively involved, and over 20% of respondents never discuss such issues. In such a reality, can the general public be mobilized?

Voluntourism Speaks to Genetic Human Needs and an Inspiring Younger Generation

Voluntourism refers to the idea that every traveler may help their destinations’ local rural communities. Contrary to traditional thinking, it advocates “casual philanthropy” that should be happy and fun without much commitment on time, money, and effort. Although as mentioned earlier, philanthropic activities are often carried out by conscientious individuals and have not become a collective action in China. It is, to a large extent, the narrow definition on philanthropy that restricted mass participation. Traditional Chinese philanthropy is often altruistic and one-way, carrying the lofty mission to return to the society and contribute to the homeland. Voluntourism with its key focus on “happy”, “casual”, and “fun”, instead, puts away intimidating burden and brings in add-on, interactive experience for each participant.

American psychiatrist William Glasser once said, “We are driven by five genetic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun.” Recent years’ economic growth transformed the consumption pattern of urban Chinese residents from subsistence to a comfortable life. Thus, the shifting of people’s focus on survival to needs such as love, power, freedom, and fun. Voluntourism, therefore, speaks from its core to the application of this theory. Statistics shows that over 500 million Chinese travel domestically each year to rural areas where natural and humanistic landscapes are well preserved. Among them many are young professionals and college students–an inspiring younger generation who are at large much more socially conscious, open-minded, and well-educated than their father’s and grandfather’s. What if they can carry 1KG more books, stationery and other education related material to donate to schools and children along their journey? This primitive idea gave living water to Andrew’s good will to help on rural education.

The Secret behind 1KG: Open Sourcing Charity

1KG initiated with this simple and approachable idea–passing on 1kg of books or stationery to unprivileged kids that volunteers may meet while traveling. As it evolves, the key element of Communication was also added in. In addition to material help, volunteers also bring to the needy information of the outside world and help to build up kids’ self-confidence by talking to, playing with, and getting to know them. The interactive communication approach, in return, exposes volunteers on a deeper level to the local culture, education, economy and development demands. Most importantly, the experience helps to create a very special bond between the volunteers and the kids and their families, which may lead to continued relationship in the long run.

In less than 6 years after 1Kg’s official kick-off in 2004, “over 250 trips were planned by volunteers every year; more than 10,000 people have participated in 1KG’s trips; more than 600 rural schools covering most of the sightseeing spots in the rural area of China have been recorded in details and publicized on its website; At least 1 million people have felt the knock-on effect; Volunteer groups have been organized in almost all the major cities of China.” These are achievements that even amazes Andrew himself. As one of the fastest growing NGOs in China, what factors are contributing to 1KG’s significant growing momentum?

The borrowed phrase “Open source” can’t be more appropriate to reveal the secret. In the IT field, it basically means to open the source code for the aim of enabling “a self-enhancing diversity of production models, communication paths, and interactive communities”. The open source model includes “the concept of concurrent yet different agendas and differing approaches in production, in contrast with more centralized models of development”.

1KG organizers have a practical idea to offer interested public and believe in the power of collaboration and collective wisdom as what Wikipedia had demonstrated to us. Having recognized its effective role as a designer, 1KG decided to focus on building and optimizing its interactive online community 1kg.org, providing user friendly platform so that scattered volunteers can search and implement essential data about rural schools, communicate with peers in interest groups and 1KG forum, share information on activities such as trips, teaching opportunities, fund-raising, and meet-ups. Instead of constraining the creativity of participants as most traditional NGOs do, 1KG opens it up. This is as if opening the source code to developers, enabling the maximum utilization of resources and expertise. Touched by 1KG volunteer Sicilia’s charity book sale, two volunteers named Bai Wei and David launched a mini-campaign in March 2009. The campaign calls for people who can’t participate in 1KG trips to pick ten kids out of a pre-defined list, sell ten children’s books to their family members and friends, have book buyers designate a book receiver out of the ten and write down wishful messages on the book, and then mail books to the kids. Successful examples such as this are constantly shared on 1KG’s website and many other online channels, inspiring more people to join the cause.

Design: Looking into a Sustainable Future

Andrew Yu has a dream. A dream that instead of being purely a charity project, 1KG will one day transform into a type of culture or lifestyle through which the brand can have a sustainable future. With much work ahead, his center of focus is set on “design”.

In the traditional sense, design is about “developing concept and making models for something new that will be made by someone else.” However, modern design goes far beyond that with a craving for experience. When applying the idea of “design” to 1KG, it helps tremendously to re-visit and re-define the role of charity organizers in a collaborative world. Having exhibited an open-source characteristic, 1KG poses even more challenging tasks than common causes for Andrew and his co-workers. How can the team help to deliver volunteers joyful and refreshing experiences time and time again? It is essential that adequate support on information, tools, and methodologies can be provided. Even more importantly, how can the team create an effective and efficient platform where volunteers may share meaningful experiences and get inspired? How can the team identify best practices from the community that will serve well for other volunteers? How can the team design mature processes for such best practices that will eventually enrich the 1KG brand?

“Sometimes knowing nothing is lucky”, Andrew once said. When he get started, he hadn’t even heard of NGOs; However, with a good eye and an open mind, Andrew was led accidentally onto the volunteer-driven approach, which later turned out to be quite a success. He possesses the right type of self-confidence and humility attributes which are deemed important from design and branding point of view. Going forward with a staying hunger and staying fool attitude, 1KG would most likely jump onto the right wagon and go on a sustainable track.

As a 1KG team member once said: “When every individual is involved, the world can be changed.” Let’s all wish Andrew and his team the best of good luck!

References:

[1] http://www.thinkcs.org/2010/01/chinese-corporate-philanthropy-index/

About the Author

Jia Liu (刘佳), Senior Coordinator at Global@TEDtoChina Group

Born in Hunan, China, Jia Liu is obsessed with food, culture, and languages. With an M.A. degree in Integrated Marketing Communication, she has marketing agency experiences in new media strategic planning and research for the B2B industry. Her ultimate passion lies in brand consulting with regards to health and sustainability. Currently she resides in Boston, selling localization services for a China-based outsourcing vendor.

Email: Global at TEDtoChina dot com
Blog: www.liujia.me

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TEDxBeijing: Ben Tsiang

Ben Tsiang
CEO and Co-Founder, CNEX
Former Co-Founder, SINA

Ben Tsiang is the co-founder and CEO of CNEX, a 3-year-old social enterprise with the mission of making 100 documentary films in 10 years about contemporary Chinese society. The films he produced in the past 2 years have been widely nominated in 35 international film festivals, and the current work 1428, a documentary film about the Sichuan Earthquake in China, just won the Venice Film Festival’s Orizzonti, The Best Documentary Film Prize, this year.


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Previously, he was one of the co-founders of SINA.com.

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TEDxBeijing: Steven Schwankert

Steven Schwankert
Founder, SinoScuba

Steven Schwankert is founder of SinoScuba, Beijing’s first professional scuba diving operator, and a member of The Explorers Club. In 2007, he led the first-ever scientific expedition to dive Mongolia’s Lake Khovsgol.


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His book on a groundbreaking China maritime discovery, The Real Poseidon Adventure, will be published in 2010.

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TEDxBeijing: Stefen Chow

Stefen Chow
Photographer, Mountaineer
NIKON Professional 2009

Stefen Chow is a photographer and mountaineer. Stefen summitted Mount Everest in 2005, becoming one of the rare individuals to document the journey.


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His works have been published and awarded internationally, and was named a ‘Nikon Professional’ in 2009.


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Stefen is currently working on a fine art project, ‘Imperial Awakening’ surrounding the dialogue between China’s royal history in today’s world. The series will be showcased at the Photo Miami and Photo Los Angeles in late 2009.

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TEDxBeijing:Kaiser Kuo

Kaiser Kuo
Writer, Columnist
Rock Musician

Kaiser Kuo is a writer, rock musician, and culture/technology commentator. He previously worked as Director of Digital Strategy, China, for Ogilvy, as China Bureau Chief for Red Herring magazine, and as a freelance reporter. He is the author of Ich Bin Ein Beijinger, an anthology of columns written for that’s Beijing/The Beijinger magazine since 2001.


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A 15-year Beijing resident, he was co-founder of China’s first and most successful heavy metal band, Tang Dynasty, and remains active in the rock scene in Beijing as lead guitarist for Mandarin metal band Chunqiu.

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TEDxBeijing:Kristie Lu Stout

Kristie Lu Stout
Kristie Lu Stout
CNN International Anchor
and Correspondent
Founding Member, Sohu

Kristie Lu Stout is an award winning anchor/correspondent for CNN International. Recently named one of Forbes magazine’s ‘Nine Women to Watch’ in Asia, and winner of a prestigious Asian Television Award as “Best news presenter or anchor”, Stout hosts the evening edition of the network’s “World Report” news program from CNN’s Asia Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong.


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She has conducted in-depth interviews with some of technology’s biggest newsmakers including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, Linux creator Linus Torvalds and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. She was one of the first employees to join the Beijing-based Internet portal Sohu.com and worked for Reuters’ new media division in China.

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