From Masterclass to Mae Sot: a TEDx experience goes global

TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh 2013 speaker Frances Barclay shares her journey from student to ‘master’ as she journeys across the globe. (see original post here)

Frances speaking at TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh – 22 February 2013

Frances speaking at TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh – 22 February 2013

I recently began a 7-week summer internship with a local healthcare NGO in Mae Sot, a Thai town just east of the border between Thailand and Myanmar. As an almost-fourth-year Neuroscience undergraduate with very little experience of public health (as well as a distinct lack of Thai language skills), I wasn’t convinced I was going to be a particularly useful intern. However, after just a few days in the office, I realised I was exactly where I wanted to be.

As the political situation in Myanmar gradually stabilises, Myanmar-serving NGOs currently based in Thailand are under increasing pressure from international donors to move their offices “inside”. This has created many promising opportunities for convergence and cooperation between different groups, and thus effective communication has become the name of the game.

Thanks to the incredible opportunity I had to speak at this year’s TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh event, I have had the privilege of learning from leading experts in the field of public engagement and communication. Although no-one who knows me would deny that I have always enjoyed talking, it wasn’t until meeting TEDxUoE Masterclass trainer Michael Hargreaves that I realised public speaking is an art that has to be taught and refined.

With various new tips (and diaphragm-strengthening breathing exercises) under my belt, I was able to thoroughly enjoy my TEDxUoE experience. I am sincerely grateful to Michael, as well as to Beltane and all the TEDxUoE team, for teaching me such incredibly valuable skills. Since arriving in Mae Sot, I have come to realise that the tricks of the public speaking trade are a universally hot commodity, and the ability to share and pass on what I’ve learned has become the basis of my internship this summer.

I am thrilled at the opportunity to help facilitate communication and cooperation at the frontline of humanitarian aid

Using the TEDxUoE Masterclass notes and the Beltane Online Toolbox for public engagement as my main resources, I will be spending my remaining time here training office staff in the skills of public speaking, presentations and networking. I am thrilled at the opportunity to help facilitate communication and cooperation at the frontline of humanitarian aid, and I owe it all to my TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh experience. It is such a privilege to share what I have been given with these incredible people who are dedicating their lives to global change and development. As I get stuck into my teaching I am finding myself more and more captivated by the world of public engagement. What could be more exciting than engaging with change-makers around the world?

The importance of effective communication has become especially apparent to me as I try to teach and learn from people for whom English is not their first language. It is easy to take the ability to communicate for granted when we are surrounded by people who easily understand us. But the skills of understanding and being understood by people of different nationalities are becoming increasingly important as our social and professional networks spread across the globe. Here in Mae Sot, the need for these skills is particularly obvious as policy makers, aid workers and local communities try to work together to secure a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of Myanmar.

From a masterclass to Mae Sot, TEDxUoE has taken me on a journey of both self- and global-discovery. I believe everyone has ideas worth sharing, and I have discovered the joy of helping to facilitate that sharing process, wherever in the world I happen to be.