Behind TEDxBarcelonaWomen and the driving force of Storytelling

26 Apr 2015 15:41 | Armelle Loghmanian

Back to PWI Magazine- Q1 2015 edition

Behind TEDxBarcelonaWomen and

 the driving force of Storytelling,

interview with Aurélie Salvaire


by Corina Ciechanow


Aurélie Salvaire

Social entrepreneur, connector and catalyst.
Curator of TEDxBarcelonaWomen

You are deeply involved in the organization of TEDxBarcelonaWoman , taking place this June in Barcelona.  Could you tell us why and what this event is about?

What I love about TEDx events is that it gives visibility to people who bring solutions to our world, in a very media-friendly and appealing way.

I know many women doing great things and men who also work towards a modern society. I like to give them visibility, to get them known and heard by other people, and be inspired by them.

Why do I care about women? Because it’s ‘The topic’; it's still a battle.  Even if you may think that now it’s ok, it’s not.  For me it’s also a personal subject: I grew up in the south of France where women had to fight to have a voice, and if you had a strong opinion then you ran the risk of being ostracised.

At the time I worked for Oxfam, in Ethiopia, most of the camp refugees were women, men were fighting or hiding.  Women were very impacted by the conflict. We tried to involve them in our decisions, usually about sanitary issues such as where to put the latrines or water points, to calm them and give them back some sense of responsibility and control over the situation. Having had that experience, my first TEDx event in December 2012 was about Mediterranean women who changed their world. Women explained the different projects in their countries and we had around a hundred people, mostly women, attending. That’s when we realized that we needed men in our speakers and in our audience in order to change something regarding gender balance.

So in December 2013 we organized the second TEDx event specifically on the topic of getting men involved in gender equality. We had 50% men, 50% women, but the men who came were already working in that field, changing the role of boys and men and their perception of manhood.

For this year, our third event, we followed this reasoning: what are the leverages that really can shift the balance?  We came up with 2 things: money and media.  So we added them to the previous one and we now have 3 special topics for June 2015 on TEDxBarcelonaWomen: Money, Media and Men.

For the first topic, we want to show that investing in women is not only a question of human rights, not only a question of social good, but that it is economically profitable. We’ll showcase different initiatives at employee, board and entrepreneur’s level (crowdfunding to invest in women, investment funds for women entrepreneurs and projects that have an impact on girls)

Our second topic is based on the idea that if we change the perception of women in media a lot will change.  Geena Davis, actress of Thelma and Louise film, launched the Institute on Gender in Media with the motto:  ‘If she can see it, she can be it’. There is also a gender gap in the filming industry, with 1 female character out of 3, so I would like to put it my way: you can’t be what you can’t see.  To change the balance, we want to show female role models in movies, TV, journalism and photography.

The third topic ‘Men’ is, as before, intended to showcase men involved in gender balance.

It will be the biggest event I organize in Barcelona, with 900 participants.  And the day after, we will try to use all the brain power or the speakers and do workshops to shape solutions.

As you told us, this is not your first TEDx event, how did you get involved in this?  Please tell us about your journey.

Like many of us, I watched many TEDx.  In 2011, I was on holiday with a friend in Salvador de Bahia when I met 2 ladies that were all day long with their computers.  Curious, I asked them what they were doing, and they explained to me that they were organising a TEDx event.  We sympathized, they showed me how it was done and they invited me to the event.  That triggered the idea of doing one in Barcelona, where I was (and still am) living, so I did my first TEDx event in 2012.  I think it was more than just a coincidence, I met the right person at the right time, but nothing is random in life, is it?

I am French, I was born in the south of France, in the Pyrenees, and I studied in Paris at the HEC Business School.  After graduating I moved to Barcelona in 2002, and began working in  management consulting in the Health sector . I was helping hospitals with their strategy and management, but even though hospitals were helping people, I found that I was lacking a direct social impact; I wanted to contribute to create a better world.  So I looked at the non-profit organisations and switched for Oxfam . I helped them to design and implement the processes and policies for emergency situations, where there is a need to act fast in the field. I did that for 3 years, coordinating the implementation of the plan in 10 countries from Barcelona.  It was pretty exciting and I loved it, so I asked them to move to the field, and went to Ethiopia to work in a camp they had at the border with Somalia. 

Back at home I wanted to work with a more bottom-up approach as it is done with social entrepreneurs, and not  so much in larger NGO’s that have more of a top-down management system.  That’s when I joined Ashoka , which is a network of entrepreneurs who want to improve the world.  I read a great book ‘How to change the world’ by David Bornstein, who went around the world interviewing social entrepreneurs. This was a key moment for me, because I realised that you don’t have to work for an NGO to do something good, you can create your own project to improve your local reality. Previously I thought that there was a gap between the ‘good’ people working in NGO’s and the rest of the world. At Ashoka I learned that we can ALL change the world wherever we are.

I collaborated with Ashoka in Paris, and it’s with friends from there that I travelled to Brazil and learned about organizing TEDx events, as I just mentioned.  With that ‘aha’ moment in mind, I looked for my license to organize TEDx events in Barcelona, and then setup my own consulting activities. 

What else do you do in real life apart from TEDx events?

I coach companies about diversity and how to develop men and women's full potential. I also train people in storytelling.  This is particularly important for women entrepreneurs and leaders to bridge the voice gap. It helps them communicate better and be more confident, to dare raise their hand for action pickup.

As I connect with many people from profit and non-profit organisations, Tedx speakers, entrepreneurs, I organize what I call ‘Learning journeys’: I set up events for managers with one particular type of leader having the place of honour, so they get to know her or him and be inspired.

You mention ‘storytelling’. Being a good presenter is an essential skill nowadays as people's attention is so in demand. People just don’t have the time nor the patience to hear your proposal if you don’t captivate them from the beginning. And not only we, women, are lacking that skill. Could you tell us more about it?

As you said, we now have an attention span of 10 minutes, so we really need to capture the attention of people. Storytelling is definitely a key skill for that. And a second aspect is that I think that we lack meaningful conversations, there are so many people speaking because they are used to talking, they occupy the space but they're not actually saying anything. It is really important to reconnect with our emotional side, to what make us social beings. 

When I do a workshop on storytelling, I don’t coach so much on presentation techniques but more on that emotional aspect I mentioned, to help them be more connected with the audience. I make them identify the reason why they do what they do, the profound meaning behind the actions. That’s what’s interesting for the public, to know why you do what you do, what are the values you pursue. The audience can relate to you when they know what is moving you. Because we are all an individual representation of a more general story.

For me, the trick when creating your story is to put yourself out there and say what YOU think about the situation you are talking about, what YOU believe in. This is much more powerful to communicate to others. 

Storytelling is powerful not only because people like your speech, but also because it makes you change the perception you have of yourself. When writing your story, if you write it well, it can make you change the way you think about yourself. The way you portray yourself to others is intrinsically linked to how you see yourself. This is extremely powerful. I have seen social entrepreneurs working with kids victim of violence, making them change the way they perceive themselves by saying to them: what happened to you is your strength, not your weakness. They rewrote their story from a different point of view. This is a very powerful tool!

What are you planning for the near future?

Basically the idea for me is to combine my different activities: to coach different companies, to visit the balanceshifters all around the world, to finally produce a book or video series.

I started a blog, 'Shift balance' , to publish the portraits of men and women that are shifting the traditional balance. I am planning a ‘Shift-balance’ tour this year in different countries, interviewing men and women, doing storytelling workshops for companies or universities, and doing it pro-bono for women who need that and may not be able to afford it. 

And I’ll be speaking about what exists around the world, because there are solutions that exist, that we should diffuse to shift the balance. I'll also be demonstrating that we can all be change makers.  I strongly believe that we all have a role to play in changing the world around us and especially for gender balance, because the tools may be as simple as changing words on an everyday basis. We have so many cheap tools in our hands that have the power to make a difference. I want to be a change maker.

Thank you Aurélie for this interview, we appreciate what you are doing and keep us informed about your new developments. We wish you a great success on shifting the balance around the world!

Short Biography

Aurélie Salvaire

I am passionate about bringing change to the world through social innovation. Strong advocate of gender equity, I shine light on solutions against prevailing stereotypes. I believe in hidden gems, and a new-world order where emerging countries are perceived as a nest of innovation!

I was born in the South of France, but Barcelona stole my heart when I moved here after graduating from HEC Business School and an exchange program at Thunderbird School of Global Management in 2002.

In my spare time, I love diving, especially in wrecks and caves. I also really enjoy traveling to remote places like Uzbekistan or Eritrea and sharing my experiences through my personal blog that I’ve been writing for 7 years now. My prized possession is my library: full of books from all over the world.

Contacts Details

Impact HUB Barcelona

Plaça Reial 18, 1º, 08002  
Barcelona – SPAIN 


Founder of The A Factor  and Shiftbalance
Curator of TEDxBarcelonaWomen  and TEDxBarcelonaEducation


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