Sounds fun… right?! Last month on top of getting to spend time in Tanzania (my happy place), I got to spend 4 days with a group of 700 really fascinating, driven individuals keen to learn, grow, and make this world a better place at the TEDGlobal Conference. Outside of the fact that I was sleep deprived, I was stoked about all that I learned and the incredible community of smart people I met. These people were willing to take their talents and share them in hopes of improving the state of our world.

The TED brand is known for their concept of “Ideas worth spreading”; many of you will have watched a TED talk or two online. The expert speakers share on technology, education, business, science, design, and the arts. TED believes “passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.”

As a lover of learning, I embrace the idea of people who know a lot more than me sharing passionately something that wakes them in the morning and moves them to act.

Workshop: Creating internet access for everyone with Eric Hersman at TEDGlobal 2017 – Builders, Truth Tellers, Catalysts – August 27-30, 2017, Arusha, Tanzania. Photo: Callie Giovanna / TED

David Sengeh, a Biomechatronics engineer, is creating next generation healthcare solutions for the developing world using artificial intelligence (AI). He is based in Kenya and works for IBM Research Africa. He is also the co-founder of Global Minimum which develops platforms to foster innovation and learning through making. This really helped me start to understand how AI can be incredibly valuable solving many challenges we currently face.

Su Kahumbu Stephanou is the CEO of Green Dreams TECH and the app iCow. Her app supports farmers caring for livestock so they can access livestock calendars, track fertility cycles of their animals, as well as guide them on breeding, nutrition, and milk production. The app has helped farmers increase productivity and incomes. The fact we can use mobile telephones to enable millions of farmers’ access to crucial information that isn’t accessible or difficult to find really got my wheels turning. If we can do this for farmers, what can we use with this same technology to support teachers and build their capacity throughout Tanzania. Africa has 1 billion mobile phone subscribers; reaching people through their devices is the way forward.

TEDx Group Photo at TEDGlobal 2017 – Builders, Truth Tellers, Catalysts – August 27-30, 2017, Arusha, Tanzania. Photo: Callie Giovanna / TED

These two speakers are just scraping the surface of what I was able to see and learn from. When you see art start conversations and bridge divides, solutions to solve the global food crisis presented, and drones making supply chain networks more efficient to deliver blood and medical supplies you can’t help but be hopeful. Dig deeper here.

Hosts Chris Anderson and Emeka Okafor at TEDGlobal 2017 – Builders, Truth Tellers, Catalysts – August 27-30, 2017, Arusha, Tanzania. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Our world and the people who live in it are pretty incredible. While I have gotten to surround myself with so many intelligent, well meaning people, I have seen the dark parts too. I know the reality that exists for many of my students and other of the world’s most vulnerable people. It hurts, but I choose to live optimistically. I choose to come in and out of these sort of conferences or settings reinvigorated with a belief of what is possible. Take a moment to go out of your comfort zone and meet someone who knows a lot about something you know nothing about. Find the builders, those who speak truth to power and are catalysts in your community. Ask them questions, understand their world, and maybe, just maybe, a bit of their passion will seep into you. Maybe their fire will ignite something in you, and that desire to make the world a better place can continue to spread.