Ideas for a liveable future

The future can be better than we currently imagine: that was the core message to come out of the second TEDxKanzlerPark conference held on 9 November 2021. Doers, change-makers and innovators from around the world met digitally in a COVID-compliant manner to discuss the challenges in the years ahead – and to highlight the opportunities to effect the changes that will be experienced by every single individual. Because in contrast to many other formats, events arranged under the TED label (Technology, Entertainment, Design) don’t focus on raising issues – but rather on pointing out solutions.

The programme included a total of ten short presentations by experts from Brazil, India and Russia. They are all currently or they were previously in Germany as part of a German Chancellor Fellowship awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to pursue independently designed projects. Their proposals for constructive transformation of the economy and society extend from climate protection in the everyday life of all citizens to improved data management for governments.

Using citizen science to assist researchers

The conference was subdivided into three thematic sections: one focused on the potential of collective intelligence and group behaviour, another called for a change in perspective and the third dealt with digitisation. Alexandra Borissova Saleh, for instance, made the case for greater reliance on citizen science. This involves citizens collating the data that researchers urgently need, but can only obtain through massive effort by conventional means – such as the precise snow composition in different regions of Russia, population characteristics such as ethnic origin, or even a catalogue of the different animal species in a particular habitat. ‘I firmly believe that science can shape a better future’, Saleh declared. ‘Although if it loses touch with society, then it will find it difficult to deliver results that are relevant.’ It would therefore be expedient to include the population within the research process.

Other speakers at the KanzlerPark conference also see the power of the collective as an important aspect in relation to future concepts: since this increases our sense of togetherness and the impression of being able to make a difference together, as was stressed in various presentations. Finance market specialist Tamara Ferreira Schmidt asserted the benefits of crowdfunding projects in surviving the ‘valley of death’ – that early phase of a start-up in which the young company still has to take a product to market maturity and which entails the greatest risk for investors, while Alice Amorim Vogas demanded the integration of climate protection into every single political decision, at the same time speaking out for greater involvement of women.

Platform companies could shape the work of the future

The TEDx talks switched between concrete and abstract issues. Elizaveta Fakirova impressively explained the significant interrelation between the annual heat deaths in cities and the sealing of surfaces – and how planted roofs could easily compensate for this effect; Fabio Fornari dealt with the role played by tourism in climate debates; and Vineet John Samuel outlined a dystopic world, in which everyone becomes self-employed in the service of platform companies like Uber, Deliveroo or MyHammer, and is subjected to massive stress in light of the fierce competition. ‘Experts predict that the gig economy will generate a turnover of 455 billion US dollars by 2023’, the Indian author explains – this form of work is now widespread, especially in his home country. ‘92.4 per cent of the population in India work unofficially’, he says – a huge market which the facilitating online platforms are said to mercilessly exploit. And the numbers are continuing to rise. ‘This cannot and this must not be the future of work’, Samuel laments.


In line with its motto ‘ideas worth spreading’, the non-profit organisation TED (‘Technology, Entertainment, Design’) provides a platform for experts to present their ideas. A key prerequisite is that the speakers give short presentations lasting no more than 18 minutes, which are subsequently published as online videos. They should also advocate constructive approaches that can serve as a basis for further exchange.


German Chancellor Fellowship

The German Chancellor Fellowship is aimed at graduates from Brazil, the People's Republic of China, India, South Africa, the Russian Federation and the United States. They should have international ambitions, and have initial experience in a management position. Fellowship applicants can among others include prospective decision-makers from politics, administration, business, society and culture. These fellowships include a one-year stay in Germany. They provide the opportunity of networking with other aspiring leaders from around the world, who are also being assisted by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, as well as of finding new solutions to global problems. Further information is available via the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s website.



Author: Thomas Kölsch

Photos: Luisa Bonin

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Talks of the TEDx KanzlerPark Conference in 2021:











January 2022

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