November 2011’s TEDx conference in Pittsburgh brought together a dynamic mix of highly accomplished academics, researchers, musicians, filmmakers, social entrepreneurs and civic leaders all under the theme of Power – in its many manifestations. Power, often associated with sheer human or organizational strength, took on a broader meaning at the conference, as the region’s preeminent thought leaders presented ideas and innovations that intend to bring about or inspire positive, powerful change.

One of the presenters, Daniel Schnitzer, a Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. candidate, spoke about his work to eradicate energy poverty. Throughout the world, more than two billion people lack access to modern energy sources, Schnitzer remarked.  As a result, these people rely on expensive, inefficient and environmentally detrimental fuels such as charcoal and kerosene to cook their meals and heat their homes.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Modern, cleaner-burning energy technologies exist right now that are – in the long term – cheaper. What’s at issue then? Access. The supply chains needed to deliver these energy technologies to the people who need them most simply aren’t in place in many areas around the globe.

To combat this, Schnitzer founded Earth Spark International an organization that works to develop the supply chains needed to bring clean, energy efficient technologies to the people who can most benefit from them. Watch his TEDx Pittsburgh presentation below to learn more.

In his talk, Pitt’s Political Science Department Chair Barry Ames citied the once oft-heard quip, “Brazil is the country of the future and always will be.”  How times have changed for the world’s fifth largest country.

Today, Brazil is viewed by many as a modern day success story, a country developing rapidly in a world defined by vast uncertainty. Across a number of measures – from educational opportunity to poverty numbers to energy exports – Brazil is operating at unprecedented levels. The country’s economy is now the world’s seventh largest, and it weathered the recession better than most nations.

How did South America’s largest nation get to this point?

Ames argues that the answer cannot be found simply in Brazil’s successful economic policies or its strong political institutions. Rather, the answer lies in the way institutions, society and history have interacted over time. These complex interactions allowed positive change to take effect in a country that, among many other successes, is now a world leader in renewable energy.

Keep a lookout for more TEDx Pittsburgh talks in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, check out our post from Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky and Bayer Corporation’s CEO and President Greg Babe for their thoughts on innovation and transformation as they relate to the region and the nation.