Edumacation

October 15, 2010 at 5:58 am Leave a comment

One of my favourite websites is TED.com because it’s the one place to go where you’ll regularly encounter a whole lot of pretty cool people talking about some pretty darn awesome ideas that are usually definitely worth spreading far and wide and upside down. Thai humanitarian Mechai Viravaidya’s talk How Mr. Condom made Thailand a better place is no exception:

Here’s a guy who understands that if you want to change society, preaching isn’t the way to go. Instead, make the learning experience fun and, yes, even funny. Thanks to his team’s efforts, he claims the incidence of AIDS has decreased by 90%. That seems pretty high to me but even if his work has achieved only a fraction of that, he’s clearly having an impact.

I find myself often struggling with an ingrained sense that I’m not allowed to enjoy work. I don’t know what it is: I think a lot of us are brought up to think that we have to divide our lives into two streams – work and play. Work comes coupled with responsibility and money and security and accountability. No laughing matter, any of these. Play, on the other hand, is where we go to escape from the pressures associated with work. We compartmentalize our lives and rarely stop to wonder whether it’s paying off.

I realize that there’s a lot of stuff in this world that are ugly and not funny at all. All the more reason to find ways to mitigate the ugliness with humour. Viravaidya faced some pretty intimidating social challenges in Thailand. He and his team consciously used playfulness as a tool to teach the people they were serving better ways to live. Their message spread and Thai people’s health improved as a result.

Viravaidya illustrates, among other things, that laughter is a great transformative tool. He presents an alternative model for how to approach seemingly insurmountable obstacles. An important component of his approach was to integrate playfulness into the solution. That, and his focus on empowering everyday people to change their own communities. Surely what worked in Thailand can work in other places too. Maybe we need to take a moment to think of ways we can integrate a similar playful attitude into how we face the challenges in our own lives.

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Entry filed under: Business, Social Change, Technology. Tags: , , , .

Wise words for the wicked The packer

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