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50 hour challenge

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Mariko Kuribayashi jumping for joy with Jui PijaDa at the Global Launch on the Sydney Harbour BridgeI’m nominating you for the 50 Hour Challenge. Will you accept?

It doesn’t involve any ice or any buckets, and will only take seconds of your time.

The 50 Hour Challenge involves you forwarding this message to three of your friends.

This is about the 10 City Bridge Run, which is an epic journey involving a stunt running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries, to open a conversation asking: ‘how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?

You can read more, and also support this journey at www.igg.me/at/10citybridgerun.

Right now, I am seeking a little help from just over 50 ‘bridge builders’ to help cross the imagination gap by each contributing $1 for each kilometre I am running during the 10 City Bridge Run.

If ever this stunt had meaning, it is now. Less than 50 hours remain to successfully fund the remaining journey for the 10 City Bridge Run.

The 10 City Bridge Run is grounded in an idea that it is through the triumph of imagination that we are able to achieve new possibilities. Bill Shore in his 2010 book: “The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men” describes a “narrow but vitally important space between the impractical and the impossible” which he calls the ‘imagination gap’. He writes:

The imagination gap is a place where hope lies waiting to be discovered, and cannot be extinguished once it has. Most failures in life are not failures of resources, or organisation, or strategy or discipline. They are failures of imagination.

All funds receive directly support the 10 City Bridge Run and the mission to improve the delivery of child survival through the running of the stunt itself, culminating in a series of Design Forum that will occur through 2015 to unpack this question of improving child survival. Supporters to the 10 City Bridge Run are in effect pre-purchasing a copy of the book ‘Life Bridge’ featuring a photo-essay of 100 photos of ‘human bridges’ that illustrates the importance of connection to design solutions to difficult problems such as improving child survival.

Please support this cause. Together, we can make a difference that matters by crossing the imagination gap.

Keep pushing and take some risks

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IMG_1864Getting closer to the last four legs of the 10 City Bridge Run has presented its own challenges. The cost of living and travel to UK, Canada and US are significantly higher than the Asian cities where most of my time has been spent to date.

By itself, that ought to not be cause for concern, except that I am travelling on a very tight budget. Extending myself increases risk, and to a point that is not acceptable.

My earlier intention was to travel through New York to run on UN Day, 24 October. But it was a bridge too far, as it were. On 22 October this week, I was clear this wasn’t going to happen.

I held on to the possibility of achieving this plan of running in New York as scheduled until the afternoon before the day I was due to travel. The last safe moment. By then, it was clear that not only was I not going to make it to New York on 24 October, but because that is where my focus had been my preparedness for a contingency was only lightly developed.

There have been enough delays since 2010 with faltering attempts to start the journey. I was well aware of that. This was a stunt to inspire the imagination, not a catastrophe.

I don’t propose to apologise for a changing schedule. Yes, there are ways this initiative could have been better executed. But guess, what? This is me..

I’m flying to Seoul tonight, arriving in time for UN Day, but arriving at the airport, I recognised I was not prepared to run. Physically I am good. But the preparation on the ground is not as it should be.

24 October had become a distraction. Yes, it is good for the narrative. But no one really gives a second thought to the date. I will use this opportunity to get better organised, connect with a wider network I have yet to engage.

Seoul is a great city to run in. Let’s go, get organised, and enjoy this run.

The Runners

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IMG_0261Filmed on the same location across different seasons, this really isn’t a film about running. It is a film about life.

I think we can all relate to this. You don’t need to run. You just need a heartbeat.

Stop and watch this tonight.

The inserted image was of two sisters in Port Moresby taken just before I took the first steps on this journey for the 10 City Bridge Run. Papua New Guinea is an amazing country for its diversity and beauty, but has struggled across the last 39 years in the face of corruption, exploitation from foreign ownership, compounding invidious conditions that have reinforced poverty that the country is striving to escape. It is likely that none of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals will be achieved by Papua New Guinea before the end of 2015.

How much do we all take for granted? It would be nice if these sisters who live in a country rich with natural resources might enjoy the same opportunity as you and I.

Things Can Be Better

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IMG_0351This year in their Annual Letter, Bill and Melinda Gates included a short phrase which I think underpinned the whole of their document seeking the dispel three myths of development: “Things can be better.”

It was a clear signal of optimism, and the leadership Bill and Melinda Gates bring development is far and beyond the capacity that is afforded through their financial clout. Having money helps, but shaping the conversation through influence counts for much more.

A similar sentiment was expressed by Tony Lake, the Executive Director of UNICEF, in a post recorded for the ‘A Promise Renewed Initiative’. You can see it below. It is only short and goes for less than two minutes.

Tony Lake is an interesting character. I have never met him, but would love to sit down over a meal if ever I had the opportunity. Search his name on wikipedia and you will see he has a very interesting past. Kudos to him for turning his energy to addressing the needs of those most in need.

His statement: “We gotta do better”.

These statements actually rely upon each other to be complete. They are almost the same message, but not quite. Without both of these, it is either a case of striving without a sense of what is possible, or a view of what could be without the driving motivation to act.

We are very lucky to have Bill and Melinda Gates and Tony Lake expressing so much passion for a worthy cause.

A Promise Renewed. Inspired already?

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IMG_0224Every bit counts. Really it does.

Is it just me, or does this message seem a little hollow?

Last year, a positive campaign was launched in partnership with UNICEF called ‘A Promise Renewed’. It resonates and is a strong message.

My concern is that corporate communications are often unintentionally sucking the life out of a human message by sanitising things to such a well-read script that there is little in the way of a sense of personal engagement with the person delivering the message.

Government and bureaucracy play an important role in addressing child survivial. Very important, and this should not be diminished. The problem I see with addressing child survival is that meaningful citizen-led initiatives are hard to come by. I am sure they are out there, and most probably go unseen because they are busier doing the work than pushing out well crafted videos.

The 10 City Bridge Run exists to amplify and improve upon efforts like this. Not to compete, and not to reinvent the wheel. But there is loads of potential that goes wanting that can be engaged through a wider citizen movement.

Watch this video, and ask yourself: what is good about this, and what can be improved? I would love to hear your thoughts.

The face of child survival

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IMG_0266In many respects, for a person who has spent their entire life within the confines of the Western world, the Millennium Development Goals which are soon due to expire can best be measured in images.

IMG_0313The eight MDG are simple and easily defined, which is their best feature.

One of the problems with the MDG has been the need for education of what they actually are. Still today, if you walked down the main street of any capital city of any large Western economy, most people in the street wouldn’t know what you were talking about if you mentioned the MDG.

IMG_0300Too much time and money has been spent explaining and educating these MDG. Most of the publicity campaigns I have seen appeared to look something akin to massive, extravagant, community cake stalls. What outcome was really achieved by all of that?

IMG_0294Like it or not, systemic change requires some degree of education. This is the cost of a new idea.

IMG_0351But here I want to talk about child mortality, the reason behind the 10 City Bridge Run. We are focusing on child survival: the positive side of child mortality.

IMG_0378What does child survival look like? Healthy children. Rather than celebrate it, we take it for granted.

IMG_0283Child mortality largely goes unseen. My friends from Sierra Leone, all who I have met outside of their country in different parts of the world, all are well educated, eloquent, intelligent, and seemingly no different to you or I. There is not a tag around their neck that proclaims they are from the country with the highest rate of child mortality.

IMG_0277This has been one of the failures of the MDG. They have created an image of something created by large NGOs involved in helping to address these problems through a series of well selected photographs to tug at the heart strings and wallets of people in the West who might fund their causes. It becomes the tool for the charity muggers who provide the customer facing face of these organisations as their massive fundraising and messaging campaigns ramp up.

IMG_0261The stories told through these campaigns create a narrative of the issue. The statistics take on a life of their own. ‘What might that look like?’ we ask ourselves in our mind’s eye.

This post is not about trying to fight the system. Rather, it is about celebrating images of healthy children with healthy mothers. That is the work of the 10 City Bridge Run. There is enough misery to go around. Let’s celebrate life instead.

Post 2015 Development Framework

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United NationsThe United Nations General Assembly is meeting again this year, this week.

The agenda, as usual, is full and widely ranging.

Anyone who has ever worked for the United Nations can attest to a shared sense of frustration and optimism about what outcomes might be realised.

Success or failure? Dysfunction and broken beyond repair, or best available outcome with seeking consensus among such a disparate collection of global citizens? The answer to these questions will never be settled, but one thing is for sure is the massive convening power that the United Nations has brought since its inception many years ago on 24 October following the end of the Second World War.

The Millennium Development Goals are an aspirational list of eight objectives unanimously agreed upon by all member states in 2000 to reduce 1990 levels of poverty by two-thirds before 2015. The deadline is next year, and the writing is already on the wall in terms of success that has been achieved.

The result is more than simply a pass/fail scorecard. The goals were always aspirational in nature, but within reach. One of those goals, Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality, is the key focus on the 10 City Bridge Run.

In many cases, there are great stories of progress and success, but the distribution of this is unequally experienced. The results in some countries remains troubling.

Papua New Guinea is one country which is unlikely to meet its stated objectives.

Other countries remain at high levels of poverty, despite being extremely rich in minerals. Sierra Leone has the highest rate of child mortality, but is the biggest producer of diamonds in the world. How can this be? It doesn’t seem to make sense.

My friend Edison, who was a journalist from Sierra Leone, and spent time in jail for his political views, has spent a little bit of time telling me about the background to conflict in the country, and helping me to try to understand why problems there should be so bad. What was the cause of so much ill-health and poverty, I wondered? Now, also with Ebola to contend with.

His answer surprised me. What one thing is the biggest problem?, I asked, expecting him to provide some answer like fresh water, or medicine. “Corruption” he said. “It is the biggest killer, the biggest problem. While corruption is still there, nothing will change.”

The same answer is true to for child mortality. If that is the case, then how to improve the delivery of child survival? This is a question we are hoping to contend with across the next couple of months.

Meanwhile, the United Nations are discussing the Post 2015 Development Framework.

This doesn’t change the fact that child mortality is a problem.

Why does it matter how things are measured beyond 2015? Why not just keep the old MDG and push a little harder?

United Nations is preparing a new sustainable development framework with its member states as the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) will get end in 2015. Speakers also urged to adopt a strong, inclusive and legitimate Post 2015 framework to success the Millennium Development Goals.” But what does this actually mean, or is it just a room full of well-dressed bureaucrats word-smithing a strategic document?

It does matter, and it is not just a word game.

The outcome will need to be focused on rights, transparency, addressing corruption, and a framework that is grounded in sustainability. The question will be whether countries will use their diplomatic jockeying for other issues of a security nature to influence or block resolve and consensus for a strong and cohesive result. It might sound like a lot of hot air, but these will be a guiding strategic tool for the next couple of decades. The work in New York this week is important, make no mistake.

To give an insight into the complexity, here is the extract from a recent press release. You can see from reading this, that the simplicity of eight MDG was remarkable when now looking at the intricacies of competing ethical concerns. All are important, but if it has everything it risks being meaningless, and if it is reduced to a couple of bullet-points, it risks being toothless.

“The post 2015 framework must reinforce international human rights commitments, laws and standards, fight injustice and address how its goals will allow for a progressive realization of rights. It must embrace a rights-based approach to development based on equality, equity and non-discrimination, and ensure the rights of people to participate fully in society and in decision-making, Ahmed Swapan emphasized.

Ahmed Swapan also said that developed countries must comply with their commitment to provide 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) and the unfinished business and they should align and harmonize their activities to avoid competitions and to be refraining from service overlapping. There should also be more transparency and accountability in delivering services to the communities for whom development is meant.

Pratima Paul Majumder said that United Nations must emphasize women rights in the Post 2015 development framework. She also demanded that government should include gender equality and women rights as priority area in new framework. The post 2015 framework must recognize the global resource constraints and aim at a more equitable distribution of resources, including how it meets the rights and needs of future and present generations.

She urged to ensure decent work environment and living wages for the women labour. She questioned the present mode of corporate based development which is unfavorable for realization of women rights. This model has particularly worsen life and livelihood of rural, indigenous and migrant women.

The Post-2015 framework must be underpinned by the strongest, most robust and comprehensive accountability framework possible, incorporating the commitment to monitor and report on progress and share learning and knowledge.

Alison Subrata Baroi focused on reducing inequality within and among countries which is essential for transformation while he proposed for ensuring progressive taxation and tax governance as a way out of challenges mobilizing own resources for financing development in post 2015. Alison also said that the Post-2015 framework cannot afford an approach that promotes growth at all costs without considering human rights and environmental implications. The framework must demonstrate coherence and integration across the environmental, economic and social dimensions of different goals and targets. He also emphasized access to justice and governance that should be enshrined in Post 2015 framework.”