It’s no wonder the TED Prize got my attention. My husband’s name is – well, you guessed it – Theodore. Ted for short.

If you’ve never heard of it, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. Each year, TED gives out $100,000 in prizes to people with big ideas to help them bring their ideas to fruition and make their dreams come true. These winners make a wish, and with the help of other TEDsters and professionals, they attempt to do nothing less than change the world.

TED (as in the prize, not the one I share my life and bathroom with….although “Ted” might argue that he’s my prize…) came into my awareness last year when Jamie Oliver – a.k.a. The Naked Chef – won the prize for his goal to help change the way humans eat – especially kids. (Jamie Oliver’s recipes rock, by the way. Take it from someone who has tested them.)

This year, a French photographer known mysteriously as “JR” has taken the TED prize.

JR exhibits his photographs in the biggest art gallery on the planet. His work is presented freely in the streets of the world, catching the attention of people other than those who would be found in a museum.

Mixing Art and Action, JR is street savvy. He approaches common people all over the world – sometimes your typical neighborhood thug, other times, people divided by war-torn conflict – and asks them to create their own caricature, on the spot. His subjects distort, widen, pinch and exaggerate their features, and JR snaps their photo. He then plasters city billboards and neighborhoods with these larger-than-life caricatures – and creates more impact than you would guess.

Here’s a man who is out there fostering community and peace with Funny Faces. It’s brilliant. He deserves the prize.

More about JR (who prefers to remain anonymous, by the way…points for adding to the intrigue):

In 2007, with business partner Marco, JR did an exhibit called Face to Face, which some consider the most illegal photo exhibition ever. JR and a grassroots team of community members posted huge portraits of Israelis and Palestinians face to face in eight Palestinian and Israeli cities, and on both sides of the security fence/separation barrier. It caused quite a scandal, as you can imagine.

Check out the trailer for his latest film project: Women Are Heroes, which reveals the inner dignity of African women who are targets of conflict. The film received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival.

More about TED (the Prize):

Started in 1984, TED has grown into a series of global conferences that bring people together to talk about ideas―big, transformative ideas. TED solicits presenters and speakers from all walks of life to discuss world-changing innovations, and to try to solve intractable global problems. Every year, more than one thousand people attend the main conference in Long Beach, California, to hear industry leaders and information pioneers talk about their plans to effect change through the dissemination of these groundbreaking ideas.

More about Ted (the Husband):

Ted Fawcett was born in Rhode Island and made his early home in Pittsford, New York. After a decade-long stint in Maui as a boat captain, surfer and private pilot, Ted is now using his natural charm and dedication in changing the way America does energy. He is currently a Solar Accounts Rep for Sungevity, an Oakland-based company that provides solar  leasing to homes and dealers all over the country (it was Sungevity’s recent pitch to Obama that led the White House to say Yes to Solar).

In his spare time, Ted enjoys surfing, biking, stand-up paddle boarding, snowboarding, and knitting. (Just kidding about the knitting part.)


What’s your BIG IDEA?? If you had a $100,000 to do something worthwhile, as in, world-changing, what would it be? Granted, $100,000 isn’t a billion, but it’s a start.Let’s get the conversation started.

Showing 6 comments
  • Rick Jones

    So why doesn’t Ted (the husband) knit? I used to knit.

    You’re right, $100,000 isn’t much to do something world changing. Especially with something almost 7 billion people in the world. So I will begin with the first sentence of Wittgenstein’s “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus”: “The world is all that is the case.”

    That is to say, the world is the sum of the facts.

    If that be true, then changing one fact amounts to changing the world. So what one fact would I endeavor to change?

    Somehow I would target a kid, or kids. Maybe fund a year of something worthy for a group of impressionable 5 or 6 years olds. Maybe put the $100,000 in an interest bearing account, and funding something worthy for the group throughout their teens.

    Or perhaps set up some sort of scholarship…announce it to a group of first graders…track them through high school, continually announcing it and ensuring they all remain eligible…and then fund some post-secondary education or training.

    Something like that.

    • Elaine

      Thanks for your comment Rick.

      I’m definitely not knocking knitting. I tried it once – it was short lived. Challenging but rewarding. I’m still proud of that pot holder.

      You’re onto something by targeting kids with that hypothetical $100K. I think I would do the same.

      I recently had an opportunity to do some research and writing for the National Center on Family Philanthropy on early childhood care and education, and how important it is to get kids reading by the end of the third grade. All kinds of studies out there point to the fact that if kids aren’t up to snuff in their literacy by then, they have a harder time ever catching up. Funders like the Annie E. Casey Foundation have shown how the ability to read by this age affects a child’s success in school, in his or her life-long earning potential, and the ability to – of course- make a decent wage. Children from low-income families have it the hardest.

      What’s also interesting is that illiteracy among 18-year-olds is so common, apparently, that the military is actually turning recruits away. According to a recent Casey Foundation press release, “The Defense Department estimates 75% of Americans aged 17 to 24 are ineligible to join the U.S. military because they are poorly educated, involved in crime, or physically unfit. Even with a high school diploma, 30% of potential recruits fail the entrance exam due to inadequate math and reading skills.”

      I guess I just took reading for granted when I was kid. I had access to books, libraries, good public school teachers and a mom that read to me. I never knew that words and books were things that I had access to – I assumed they were available to everyone.

      What I’ve learned is, for an alarming 6.6 million kids in our country, words don’t come free.

      Self promotion alert: The publication, titled Ready to Learn: Family Philanthropy Supports Early Childhood Learning and Literacy, debuts tomorrow at the Council on Foundations conference in New York. I’m headed there now – love the in-flight Wi-Fi.)

  • The Prize

    Whoa…Ted/Theodore/TED sounds uh…may…zing. I like him already.

    Hope drives all that’s possible. I like the idea of funding something for kids, and might add that my 100k would go towards getting them doing things they might not otherwise have the opportunity to do – like surfing, flying, snowboarding, mountain biking.

  • thebingli


    Thanks for sharing this, the photo really caught my eye and brought back memories from my time volunteering in Palestine- What a brilliant idea to post those funny photos! Being able to ‘meet’ with someone face to face with someone can be so powerful. There is a chapter in the book ‘An Ordinary Man’ By Paul Rusesabagina (Hero of Hotel Rwanda) where a man confronts someone who is threatening to kill him directly- and it is probably only because he did that did the potential killer backed down. Its hard to hate someone that you can relate to.

    Your husband is doing such important work with the solar power, I really admire people that will fight for things that are good for ecology and for our future-in some ways it’s such a complicated subject in other ways it seems ridiculous that most people don’t care more. It seems like we’d rather wait until the problems are more immediate.

    I definitely agree on the importance of reading, it makes a world of difference. I just wonder what is the best way to maximize benefit of the 100K, perhaps if there were some way to put it into a project that could continue funding itself through donations or whatnot. If I didn’t have a good plan myself, I would probably donate it to an organization that has an efficient system and could use the money. Right now I don’t have the luxury to think about how to donate/use 100K but hopefully someday I will!

  • toemailer

    I have seen some of the most inspiring videos from the TED conferences. They really are doing amazing work, just like JR’s images are just wonderfully conceived. I would love to see all outdoor advertising banned and replaced with simple pictures of someone somewhere in the world just smiling, and that’s my simple naive idea on changing the world 🙂

    • Elaine

      Not naive…it’s a great idea! We could all use more visuals of people smiling (and laughing). Thanks for your comment.