Optimistic Daredevils for Social Change

Posted on April 19, 2012

The filmmakers and stars of the ITVS-funded documentary The Revolutionary Optimists were models for social change at TEDxChange and the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, where they introduced Map Your World, the new transmedia project inspired by the film.  

A short piece from the film was created for TEDxChange, an event co-hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and TED in Berlin on April 5, 2012, where participants were encouraged to apply new perspectives to pre-existing big picture issues. The short, introduced by Melinda Gates, showcased the evolution of Map Your World, a cross-platform project inspired by the documentary. 

The Revolutionary Optimists follows “The Daredevils,” a group of youths in one of India’s most notorious squatter’s colonies, who have made a dramatic improvement in the health of their community, a place that cannot even be found on a map of the region. Determined to make a geographic and meaningful map of their colony, the Daredevils have been painstakingly tracking and collecting data around health issues that directly impact them – water, sanitation, and infectious diseases. In 10 years, they have made dramatic improvements in their area: They’ve turned a trash dump into a soccer field, lobbied for electricity, and decreased diarrhea and malaria rates in their neighborhood.

Salim reviews the map he and his fellow Daredevils made of his community in India.

Thousands of people — at the event and online — were able to follow the Daredevils as they worked together to “map their world” by putting their small community on the map and using GPS technology to track and record polio vaccination. The filmmakers behind The Revolutionary Optimists, Nicole Newnham and Maren Grainger-Monsen, have spent the past couple of weeks with the subjects they filmed years ago. In addition to the TEDxChange, Grainger, Newnham, social entrepreneur Amlan Ganguly, and 14-year-old Daredevils Sikha Patra and Salim Shekh, were invited to the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford in late March.

Sikha doing some field testing with a water survey for Map Your World.

The 2012 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship focused on seizing momentum and driving change, aptly themed “FLUX.” The Forum invited delegates to explore the “dynamic environment within which social entrepreneurs navigate uncertainty in their pursuit of large scale change.” The Revolutionary Optimists crew participated in the “Stories of Change" event presented by the Sundance Institute, celebrating film’s role in advancing knowledge about social entrepreneurship. It was Salim and Sikha’s first appearance outside of their native India. 

According to Newnham, “[Salim and Sikha] were so poised and eloquent, inspiring many social entrepreneurs to come up to us and say that seeing them was inspiring and brought them back to the core of the work they were doing.” The Skoll Foundation also invited the teens to speak on a panel dedicated to youth leadership, “Young People - The New Superheroes Leading Social Innovation.” The panel featured individuals who are making significant changes and are inspiring a new worldview for all. Subjects ranged from sex trafficking to the continued establishment of social media to support the youth movement in Egypt.

Sikha, Salim, and Amlan traveled from India to Oxford to present at the Skoll World Forum.

Rounding out its European tour, this weekend the film will be screened at a special event in Geneva. The 2012 Geneva Forum on Social Change will provide a platform to discuss and showcase models of development in times of economic crisis and persistent social divides. 

Learn more about the Geneva Forum on Social Change. 


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