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Embracing Otherness: Bunker Roy

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Thus far, the TEDGlobal cluster that I curated and have described here at PAT CONNECTS has featured personal and political stories. We ended with looking at how we embrace the otherness of millions of  people around the world we know as "the poor."

In spite of billions spent every year to reduce the numbers of people living on less than one dollar a day, there are millions more every year, poorer than ever. But in rural India, one man has embraced the potential of the poor and built a college that is for them, and built on the knowledge that the poor themselves posses on how to move out of poverty. His name is Bunker Roy and his Barefoot College in Rajasthan begins with an amazing story of his own choice to leave a life of privilege and prestigious education to essentially learn from the poor.

After realizing how many resources (energetic, intellectual, cultural) the poor already possessed, Bunker helped them share what they knew with other poor communities. In this way, the poor are not an intractable problem, but a solution to all kinds of other problems. He told the story of barefoot, uneducated architects building the college, making it completely solar powered, of school children going to school at night and running a government of their own, of illiterate grandmothers being trained to become solar engineers and electrifying villages all over India, Afghanistan and now, Africa.

What a story and what hope the Barefoot College and Bunker Roy's vision offer to the world! We must embrace and see the great potential in the otherness of the poor and fully engage them in every aspect of problem solving. Some of the most profound insights about changing the world are so elemental, aren't they? As I recently wrote in a guest post for the Acumen Fund, Bunker proves again that great leaders are great listeners and learners. Plain and simple.

Here's your chance to learn and listen from Roy himself:

Watch the TEDTalk.