About Irfan

Bio

Co-founder of TEDxCinemaNairobi, TEDxUSIU & TEDxBraeburnSchools.
Co-founder of Karibu Homes Initiative, an affordable housing social enterprise which enables low income families to own homes.
Co-founder of Honey Care Africa (www.honeycareafrica.com) and Galu Beach Retreat (www.destination-adventures.com).
Advisor to the Hawkers Market Girls Centre (www.girlscentre.com).
Director of the White Rose Group (www.whiterose.co.ke)

Academic: B.SC.Eng. in Environmental Engineering from Queen's University, Canada 1994; Masters in Business (MBA) from University of Oxford 1998; Advanced Management Programme at University of Oxford (Colin Mayer Award Scholarship) 2008

TED Conference

TEDActive 2012

Areas of Expertise

Social enterprise, Retail, Franchising

An idea worth spreading

There is a hidden long term value in aiming at a target profit that works WITH consumers, rather than a super-normal profit at the EXPENSE of the consumer (substitute 'consumers' in this sentence with environment, earth, community or any thing you want). The obvious questions is what is a fair profit? For that matter, what is a fair salary? Hard to answer, but should we be thinking of how to approach these questions. Business used to work for us, now we work for it. We used to work for the earth, now the earth works for us. We continue this trajectory because we've stopped thinking.

Knowing what is "enough" is liberating. Money, like food, is a means and not an end in itself. If one has an understanding of what amount of money is enough, it frees them from dedicating their lives to accumulation, and allows them to be givers to society rather than takers from society. We can get to the moon, but can't feed, house or clothe all our people... that is a shameful situation

I'm passionate about

Social enterprise, creating opportunity and choice at the bottom of the pyramid, affordable housing, human dignity, shifting value add to the grassroots, exploring new ways of thinking - TED!

Talk to me about

Affordable housing, building communities, beekeeping and beehives, BoP, community ownership, ways to shift value-add to the grassroots, humour, biking, spiritual retreats.

People don't know I'm good at

Juggling

My TED story

My wife and I started a weekly event called TEDxCinemaNairobi, and a monthly event called TEDxKilimani. Why? We need to intelligently reassess our systems of governance, education, and cultural narratives, and creatively think about the roles of morality, technology, human behaviour and collaborative civil society in our world. This event creates a space for open, exploratory dialogue to understand these issues, to ensure the diversity of our peoples and their thoughts are a source of intelligent constructive creativity rather than conflict.

I met Jacqueline Novogratz in Nairobi... she said something that made me realize even though we commonly measure poverty in terms of income, what's more important is poverty of choice, hope, opportunity, and I suppose ethics, morality and more... it features at all levels of a society.

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

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Irfan Keshavjee
Posted over 4 years ago
Wadah Khanfar: A historic moment in the Arab world
Wikileaks, Facebook, Al-Jazeera, Twitter... the combination of these emerging news-makers have more influence than ever before, and need to think deeply as they ‘manufacture consent’ of the masses. As we’ve seen in Egypt & Libya, the implications are revolutionary. The role of the media in this quiet revolution? Publicize the problems, Protect the people, police the perpetrators. In generic terms, Wikileaks alerts an individual to the wrongdoings of a person in power, the individual shares their feelings on Facebook where they unexpectedly find others who feel the same way, sharing the same disappointments, and who desire the same change. Unfortunately they fear the response of an authoritarian regime if they were to hit the street together in demonstration. But hold on... Al Jazeera's reporters are on the ground, with cameras showing the world what the regimes response is... the people are protected. As one Tahrir Square demonstrator said: "if you take away the cameras, we'll have a genocide". At this point, the universal values shared in the virtual world spill over into the real world and they decide to demonstrate. And then? The regime is held back from using force, if they do, the world will know, and if they try an underground movement, Wikileaks will probably find out too. Wikileaks alerts the people, Facebook connects them, Journalists cameras protect them, and the morality of the virtual world can spill over to the real world. Yes... this is an idealistic comment. Outcomes can be violent, and drawn out. Does it create a short term fragility for long term stability? Who knows, but there's something liberating about it.
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Irfan Keshavjee
Posted over 4 years ago
Neil Pasricha: The 3 A's of awesome
We see happiness in all walks of life, not just wealthy people, or well-fed people, or those living in functional nations. To date, many of our TED Talkers have approached happiness from different angles… Martin Seligman argues that happiness is based on my alignment of talents with meaningful and engaging work, Mihaly Czistmihaly suggests that happiness lies in being in a state of flow, and Dan Pink suggests that it lies in having autonomy and purpose in life… but when you observe society, what you see is that that happiness lies in the ability to experience joy the simple everyday activities in which everyone partakes, not just those activities that are restricted to the privileged. Makes me re-consider what makes me happy...
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Irfan Keshavjee
Posted over 4 years ago
Charles Limb: Your brain on improv
If you liked this, you'll probably like the following fantastic TED Talk: Robert Gupta: Music is medicine, music is sanity | Video on TED.com - Robert Gupta, violinist with the LA Philharmonic, talks about a violin lesson he once gave to a brilliant, schizophrenic http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/robert_gupta.html
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Irfan Keshavjee
Posted over 4 years ago
Barry Schwartz: Using our practical wisdom
Hi Jan. In case you haven't already seen it, Brene Brown's TED Talk about vulnerability explores just this. Be vulnerable, know yourself better, develop an ear for your inner wisdom, and you'll be free of externally imposed societal norms and morality.
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Irfan Keshavjee
Posted over 4 years ago
Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability
In the 20th century, after 2 world wars, and substantial uncertainty, majority of the population was understandably concerned with plain survival and (perhaps irrational) accumulation. This society may have needed strict rules, conformity to externally defined social norms, and a central morality – since survival is competitive and arises out of scarce resources. But today, especially in more affluent societies, where basic needs are met, and life becomes more about self actualization (finding and nurturing your innate talents, and using them for the benefit of society), then the rules, norms and external morality are hindrances to growth. Being vulnerable is a way to know yourself deeply, listen to your internal voice of morality, and sets you on the path for self actualization.
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Irfan Keshavjee
Posted over 4 years ago
Jessica Jackley: Poverty, money -- and love
It continues... "...You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving." The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish. Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you. And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream. And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving? And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed? See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving. For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness. And you receivers... and you are all receivers.. assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives
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Irfan Keshavjee
Posted over 4 years ago
Jessica Jackley: Poverty, money -- and love
This talk reminded me of a poem by Khalil Gibran: "...Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable? There are those who give little of the much which they have--and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome. And there are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty. There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward. And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism. And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space. Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth."
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Irfan Keshavjee
Posted almost 5 years ago
Robert Gupta: Music is medicine, music is sanity
Music is a magical interface between the logical and intuitive minds. Consequently, it has the power to bypass the left-brain’s linear gatekeepers and allow space for creativity. It speaks to us ways mere language can never capture. It's a form of magic that can transmute suffering into insight, rigidity into flexibility, separation into connection. The power to heal the heart and free the mind. I just thought I'd share this adaptation from Steve Bhaerman's essay on humour
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Irfan Keshavjee
Posted almost 5 years ago
Robert Gupta: Music is medicine, music is sanity
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." - Nietzsche Maybe sometimes a mental 'disorder' just requires the 'order' of music for a little while. Especially after watching the TED Talk on cymatics which showed the 'ordering' ability of sound, I wonder what else music does to the mind.
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Irfan Keshavjee
Posted almost 5 years ago
Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius
This talk reminds me of a neat Rumi poem about surrendering your own mind to the collective geni(e)us... We sometimes make spiderwebs of smoke and saliva, fragile thought- packets. Leave thinking to the one who gave intelligence. In silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and watch how the pattern improves. - Rumi (The Soul of Rumi - Coleman Barks)