Almost everyone has watched a TED talk at some point and been inspired. What many people don’t know is that the TED organization, which is home to over 2,500 free TED Talks online, also has a TED Fellows program that’s in its ninth year, and offers extraordinary individuals from across the globe the tools they need to bring their visions to life.

These Fellows are in the first part of their careers and are all profoundly impacting the world through technology, science, art or activism. This year 18 new Fellows spoke at TEDGlobal in Tanzania, and their stories moved an audience of over 700 to numerous standing ovations, many tears and most importantly countless moments of hope, inspiration and the chance for collaboration. Here are the 18 Fellows you need to watch in 2017 and how they are changing the world.

Nighat Dad (Pakistan)

Lawyer and Digital Rights Activist

About: Pakistani founder of the Digital Rights Foundation, a research, and advocacy NGO that protects women and minorities from cyber harassment and defends their online freedom of expression.

From Nighat: “I fight for the digital rights of those who are discriminated and abused on the basis of their gender, race, class, religion, or sexual orientation. I believe that women and marginalized groups who are constantly oppressed should have the same liberty to access the online spaces as anyone else, and that this is especially important in otherwise patriarchal societies like Pakistan.” 

Kyle DeCarlo (USA)

Policy Influencer + Healthcare entrepreneur

About: American healthcare entrepreneur and co-founder of the Deaf Health Initiative, a nonprofit working to improve healthcare delivery and health outcomes in deaf and hard of hearing patients through advocacy, policy changes, and the creation of new medical devices.

From Kyle: “In medicine and academia today, medical professionals operate under the illusion that for a deaf baby to be successful, we need to give them access to sound (via cochlear implants or hearing aids). This is a flawed mindset. The solution is not giving a deaf baby access to sound. The solution is giving a deaf baby access to language. And language acquisition comes from sign language exposure.”

Abdigani Diriye (Somalia | UK)
Tech Entrepreneur + Innovator

About: Somali scientist and tech entrepreneur catalyzing the Somali tech scene and developing innovations for Africa.

From Abdigani: “Innovation and technology is playing a pivotal role in Africa, but more support is needed to empower, train, mentor and invest in entrepreneurs and startups. By successfully implementing the first incubator and accelerator in the country, I work to support and foster new startups in Somalia that are tackling some of the country’s major problems.

Mennat El Ghalid (Egypt/France)

Research mycologist

About: Egyptian microbiologist studying human fungal infections in an effort to understand their causes and develop new treatments and co-founder of ConScience, a non-profit organization dedicated to science education.

From Mennat: “Fungal infections have emerged over the past decades as a considerable threat to human health; today, it has been estimated that deaths associated with fungal infections, about a million annually, rival those due to malaria and tuberculosis. The efficacy of the current therapies in the management of those infections is limited.

 Susan Emmett (USA)

Otologist (Ear Surgeon)

About: U.S. public health expert and ear surgeon studying global hearing health disparities in 15 different countries and Indigenous groups around the world in an effort to fight preventable hearing loss.

From Susan: “Hearing loss affects 1.1 billion people worldwide. Over 80% of these individuals live in low- and middle-income countries, where accessible hearing care is virtually nonexistent. I’m a surgeon who is often awake at night thinking about the fact that half of the global burden of hearing loss – and its lifelong impact on children and adults around the world – is preventable. I partner with collaborators around the world to study new pathways for prevention, with the goal of stopping hearing loss before it ever starts. Cell phone-based screening and telemedicine are a few of the strategies we use to identify affected children early and connect them with care, no matter how remote the village.” 

Dr Victoria Forster (UK/Canada)

Cancer researcher

About: UK scientist researching new treatments for pediatric cancer, drawing on her own experience with leukemia to investigate the devastating side effects of current therapies.

From Vicky: “I am using my own experience as a survivor of childhood cancer to connect patients, scientists, and medical professionals in order to raise awareness of what it is like to be a cancer survivor and to prioritize research that is important to survivors. There are millions of cancer survivors in the world today and the number pleasingly continues to grow. 

Robert Hazika Photo Credit: TED 

Robert Hakiza (DRC/Uganda)

Refugee activist + urban refugee expert

About: Congolese co-founder of the Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID), which empowers refugees and builds community through vocational education, English classes, access to sports and computer literacy skills.

From Robert: “Currently, most refugees live in the cities, with urban refugees representing 60% of all refugees worldwide. To provide sustainable solutions for these individuals, it’s crucial to focus on empowerment, not sporadic charity. Refugees know their communities better than anyone else, and they understand the challenges and opportunities they face to become self-reliant.”  

Miho Janvier (France)

Solar storm scientist

About: French astrophysicist who works to predict “space weather” by studying the nature of solar flares and space storms, and how they impact planetary environments in our solar system and beyond.

From Miho:  The Sun is our planet’s primary source of energy, but its connection to our everyday life is even more complex: solar flares, massive explosions occurring in the Sun’s atmosphere, can disrupt human technology such as satellite and navigation systems, aviation, electricity grids. By combining numerical simulations and data from space telescopes, I work towards building a generic model of how flares and solar storms occur and impact the planets of our solar system. In the future, you might wake up to new kind of weather forecasts: ‘Sunny, with a chance of space storms!’”

Marc BAMUTHi Joseph (United States)


About: US artist and curator investigating cultural erasure through performance, ranging from opera to dance theater.

From BAMUTHI: “My theatrical signatures are as much of Othello as they are of Obama. Through my work, I want to inspire, raise the temperature in the room, haunt, reflect, stay present, and look to the future. In a society built on systems that incarcerate and deport its own inhabitants, I want my work to address the question: how can we design systems for freedom?”

Adong Judith (Uganda)

Director + Playwright

About: Ugandan director and playwright creating theater that promotes social change and provokes dialogue on issues from LGBTQ rights to war crimes.

From Adong: “There is no reason why social change art shouldn’t also be highly creative and hilariously entertaining. Whatever medium the story chooses to be told in – theater, film, poetry or oral performance – I tell social change stories without compromising their creative and entertainment values. With my work, I aim to reel in and move humanity on taboo issues, ones for which often ‘Silence is Golden’ is the rule of thumb.”

Katlego K Kolanyane-Kesupile (Botswana)

About: Motswana ARTivist using writing and performance art to sensitize and educate on gender and sexual minorities.

From Katlego: “Being an ARTivist is the perfect marriage of my classical artistic training and my passion for education and community development. My work is based in the Setswana practice of communal consultancy and rooted in the valuing of language as a tool for development. Queer Batswana are not a new occurrence, but we are still robbed of roots because of a dearth in localised contextualization of our stories and our lives. Not only do we need to find ways of seeing ourselves, but also ways to allow others to understand where they fit into our history – rather than the other way around.” 

Kasiva Mutua performing at TEDGlobal 2017 Photo Credit: TED 

Kasiva Mutua (Kenya)

About: Kenyan female percussionist working to elevate the place of the woman in the music industry while preserving her culture.

From Kasiva: ”I am a female percussionist breaking the ice by venturing into what was formerly a male dominated field – playing drums and percussion. I tell the stories of our people through playing a rich array of traditional instruments, each of which tells a different story and was played at a specific time. By so doing, I intend to inspire the younger generation to preserve our culture and motivate other African women to diversify their positions in music.”

Carl Ncube speaking at TEDGlobal 2017  Photo Credit: TED 


Carl Joshua Ncube (Zimbabwe)

Comedian and artist

About: Zimbabwean artist and standup comic who uses his creative work to approach culturally taboo topics on the African continent.

From Carl: “I want the world to look at me as a creative, and not what is wrong with my country. The world seems to push a false narrative on African creatives, encouraging us to tell a story of famine, corruption, etc. I am a creative not because I find it the most impactful way to question my country’s government, but because I love to create – that’s why I tell jokes, cook, and inspire young people to follow their dreams. It’s better to focus on building creatives and let the creatives make better decisions to fix our countries.” 

Walé Oyéjidé (Nigeria / USA)

Fashion Designer + Artist

About: Walé Oyéjidé is a lawyer turned fashion designer. As the founder of the apparel company Ikiré Jones, he threads the needle between the cultural and contemporary by marrying African-inspired textiles with classic European art. Walé’s designs use fashion as a vehicle for conveying stories about under-represented populations to the Western world.

From Walé: “By using fashion as a medium for visual storytelling, I work to put an elegant face on the immigrant and African experience. In Western media, it’s rare for people of foreign descent to be displayed in a positive light.  My work is a continuing effort to rebrand the idea of Africans and immigrants in the Western world, by showing a more nuanced view of who we are.”

Christian Rodríguez ( Uruguay)

Storyteller, Independent Documentary photographer, filmmaker and activist .

About: Artist who explores themes related to gender and identity, working with communities all over the world. He is currently developing a long term project titled “Teen Mom” about adolescent pregnancy in Latin America.

From Christian :

Adolescent pregnancy is a widespread and growing issue in Latin America that must receive greater attention. With my current project “Teen Mom,” I aim to give visibility to the realities of adolescent pregnancy in Latin America, while also creating an education platform to teach teenagers about premature sexual activity and responsibility. 

Edsel Maurice T. Salvana, MD (Philippines)
Molecular Epidemiologist, Infection Doctor, HIV Activist

About: Physician fighting a nascent HIV epidemic in the Philippines on all fronts – treating patients; preventing infection through media awareness and rock concerts; and dissecting the virus’ genetic material with cutting-edge molecular tools to trace its origins and predict response to treatment.

From Edsel: “The Philippine HIV epidemic is a microcosm of the world’s experience with HIV. As one of the few places in the world where the epidemic is only beginning to take off, we have another crack at using the things we learned since HIV’s discovery to save countless lives – another shot at San Francisco, where in the 1980’s thousands died while they were trying to figure out what was happening.

Pratik Shah (USA)
Medical Technology Scientist

About: Physician fighting a nascent HIV epidemic in the Philippines on all fronts – treating patients; preventing infection through media awareness and rock concerts; and dissecting the virus’ genetic material with cutting-edge molecular tools to trace its origins and predict response to treatment. 

From Pratik: “My team and I have designed AI algorithms that use extremely small amounts of data and minimal computing resources to predict outcomes of clinical trials and discover new drugs and vaccines, enabling genuinely inclusive and democratized technology development.” 

Are you interested in being a TED Fellow? TED2018 Fellowship applications are open until September 10.