Extreme poverty

24 hour Crowdsourcing Challenge

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Make Up Your Own Mind

Please help make the 10 City Bridge Run a reality and become a sponsor through pre-purchasing the book “Above the Line” through the Social Alchemy website as part of our 24 hour Crowdfunding Challenge.

10 City Bridge Run: I start running in Newark on 24 September at 10:24 am heading toward Harlem. Can I successfully achieve the impossible with the 24 Hour Crowdfunding Challenge before 10:24 am 14 September in New York (midnight tonight)?

Special thanks to the friends and supporters who have sponsored me to date. Like everything in this creative process of inquiry, the stakes are real- it is not just talk. I take the death of the 24,000 children who die everyday seriously, and I want this to be perceived by everyone else who comes with me on this journey.

What about you: what do you think? Is the seemingly impossible possible?

Commencing tonight in Australia (13 September), and over the next 24 hours, we will find out, at least as it relates to a small matter of raising a few thousand dollars.

Please read the Sponsor page to learn more. Will you take action or leave it up to someone else?

10 City Bridge Run- Objectives 1, 2, 3.

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Display inside UN NY: Malaria kills 700,000 children every year. Child mortality is complex with many causes

There are three objectives for the 10 City Bridge Run:

  1. Raise the awareness of an individual’s capacity to act to positively influence the eradication of extreme poverty from our world.
  2. Make representation of a global ‘pictorial petition’ to the G20 leadership at the 2010 G20 Summit to be held in Seoul as well as to the United Nations Secretary General. The ‘pictorial petition’ will be in the form of a book featuring 24,000 photographs of people as ‘bridge builders’- connecting with each other symbolically to raise the awareness of this issue.
  3. Identify 10 actionable items which people across the globe can participate in which will make a difference over the next five years to help in the eradication of extreme poverty. These action items are not pre-determined, and will be arrived through a crowd-sourcing process during the month of running.

Join us on the journey: be part of the difference that makes a difference.

Is the seemingly impossible possible? Muhammad Yunus and the idea of a ‘poverty museum’

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Debris in the streets of the Port-au-Prince ne...
Streets of Port-au-Prince following recent earthquake: comparatively, the loss of child mortality is equivalent to an incident like Haiti occurring every 10 days.

Professor Muhammad Yunus who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, during the Skoll World Forum of Social Entrepreneurship held at Oxford earlier in 2006 spoke of his idea of a ‘Poverty Museum’ to be built in the future when extreme poverty is finally eradicated. As I listened to him speak, I remember thinking that this was an interesting idea, but maybe too fanciful, even impossible. But think again: we can now read Charles Dickens and learn about a form of poverty that is all but historical in the UK, or we can visit a museum in South Korea and learn about the poverty experienced after the 1953 Truce across a country which had a GDP the same as Ghana in 1960, and is now recognised with a strong economy.

Much has been written about this issue. Not everyone agrees with each other.

Five years short of the 2015 reporting date for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and how is our progress?

In 2008, 8.8 million children died before their 5th birthday. 0.1% of these deaths were in the “Industrialised World”. A staggering 50% of the deaths occurred in  sub-Saharan Africa alone.

This equates to more than 24,000 children who tragically die every day.

The silent killer is preventable illness caused from the effects of extreme poverty.

What might this be compared with?

To put this into some perspective, consider that this might be seen as equivalent with:

  • 1 child dying every 3.6 seconds
  • More than 16 children dying every minute
  • A 2010 Haiti earthquake occurring every 10 days
  • A 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring every 10 days

(Source: UNICEF The State of the World’s Children Special Edition: Celebrating 20 Years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, November 2009, p.18-19)

It is not all bad news either. Taking a longer term view, since 1960 (when child mortality numbers were first being recorded) the annual number of child deaths has more than halved, from 20 million in 1960 to just 8.8 million in 2008. However, even though child mortality figures have shown a declining trend across the last 25 years, the situation which the world faces compounded by multiple systemic crises is still nothing short of outrageous: the effects of climate change mixed with the hyperinflation of world food prices, complicated by a looming economic stagnation of the West…

Progress has been made, but it is unevenly distributed. We continue to live in an imperfect world. Neither the UN nor the G20 has any magic wand to solve problems. The allocation of aid on its own will not solve this problem. Money makes a difference, but it is far from all there is. This year, natural events in places like Haiti and Pakistan show the constant demand for aid and support. Realistically, how much of this issue will be tackled by the G20 in the short space of time the leaders have together? How much impact might a ‘pictorial petition’ have with leaders meeting around an agenda influenced by complex issues with significant momentum? We could always do nothing and just complain about what a mess the world is in…

Let me provide an alternative and suggest you join us and become a bridge builder. Contributing a photograph while this crazy ’10 City Bridge Run global endurance challenge’ is being conducted might not seem like much, and might well represent nothing more than a symbolic act. However, what is the cost to you? It takes no time, and besides it is free. So snap off a photo and send it to us for inclusion in the book. And while you are at it, maybe open a conversation about this issue with others. More than likely, this is already something you are working on or have contributed towards. We recognise that many excellent initiatives are being undertaken by humanitarian workers quietly and selflessly making a difference. We would love to hear you thoughts.

Read about the outcome we hope to influence and the outputs we will be crowd-sourcing and co-creating through crowd-funding the necessary financial resources to make this work.

Pause and reflection: musical interlude on 9/11

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Sydney Harbour Bridge IMG_5264
Sydney Harbour Bridge

This morning we launched the 10 City Bridge Run with a spirited gang of runners and walkers rejoicing in glorious Spring weather to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge to Milsons Point. Photos and more details later this evening.

Today is also the 9th anniversary of 9/11. What a decade! Some writing over the past nine years has spoken about the importance of eradication of extreme poverty because of the strategic gain it presents in the so-called ‘War Against Terrorism’. While this might be a desirable indirect consequence, our efforts to eradicate extreme poverty should have the aim of ending needless suffering so unevenly distributed across the world.

Here is a musical interlude from The Black Eyed Peas reminding us that too many Bridge Builders is never enough. The is still much more work for all of us to do.

Its time to change the narrative, and a positive outcome is truly within our reach. The Millennium Development Goals provide a useful framework through which to work toward the eradication of extreme poverty. The journey ahead over the next 42 days for me is as much a process of learning and inquiry- I don’t have the answers, let alone a few comprehension of the issue in its entirety.

Please join me in learning more about the issue of extreme poverty and what is actionable to make a meaningful difference through our own actions.

Did you read the news today!!! It’s all over! Poverty ends for ever!

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Well, maybe not just yet…

Check ou this video that the guys at the Global Poverty Project have come up with. It is a little fun, and provokes some thought.

What is clear from this video is that there is a lot of other great stuff happening all over the place already. This is not about one initiative standing out above another, but together all of these efforts can make a difference, just as together our tiny voices can be heard.

What do you think: Do your actions really count?

Come and join us for the global launch of the 10 City Bridge Run tomorrow meeting at 8 am just behind the Sydney Opera House for a 2.4 km run/walk across the bridge to Milsons Point. Maybe we might fall short of the 100 people, but that is not the point. Much like the Millennium Development Goals, there is still a lot of work to do. How can we improve and achieve what is the desired standard (of 100 people together running 2.4 km) before the G20 Summit begins in Seoul?

We do have a good crowd running. Come and join us. Be present at the start of this journey.


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The Last Days of Lehman Brothers
The Last Days of Lehman Brothers

What defines success? The absence of failure?

Dealing with doubt and uncertainty is all part of trying to start or do something. No one wants to fail publicly.

What is worse is not to try.

There are some more recent examples of spectacular failure which resulted in the loss of billions of dollars, which for most of us is a figure that is difficult to comprehend. During the early months of the global financial crisis the collapse of many companies saw billions of dollars of value ‘wiped off’ the stock exchange. Lehman Brothers is seen as a scapegoat, but terms like ‘toxic debt’ were frequently used to describe the situation many companies faced. Some of those companies no longer exist.

Is there a correlation between the failure of the world’s financial and banking system which led to the global financial crisis, and the situation confronted in less glamourous places across the world where the conditions of extreme poverty are inescapable and oppressive? I contend that there is a wider spiritual failure cultivated from seeds of greed that contributes to both.

Throughout the 10 City Bridge Run I am and will be confronted by my own real sense of failure in a different sense.

The core focus on the 10 City Bridge Run is the publication of a book to be presented as a ‘pictorial petition’ to the G20 Summit leadership in November. With a working title of “Above the Line”, the book will feature 24,000 photographs of people who are posing to create a bridge using themselves and another person or people. We are encouraging people to be as creative as they would like in achieving this- our best response so far is from a village chief in PNG lining up his 200 elders to form a massively long human bridge.

The metaphor of a bridge communicates our connectedness, among other things. This is important. Help us raise this issue to the G20 Summit so that the issue of aid is not sidelined by a focus on addressing structural reform to the global banking system.

The run, the logistics, the photographs, the book…surely you might well be shaking your head in disbelief and muttering that while it sounds intriguing, it also would appear impossible.

Is the seemingly impossible possible? is the tag line to this event, and although inherently problematic (and truthfully is far from ‘a walk in the park’), it is achievable which I intend to demonstrate before the G20 Summit commences.

Put into perspective, my sense of failure is manageable and the consequences are not fatal. Sadly, this is not true for a child born in a community experiencing extreme poverty. What can we do about this? I don’t have the answers, but I am going to try to create a shift through along with other people through the 10 City Bridge Run.

Join us. Please sponsor the book and build a bridge into the G20 Summit.

Hugh Jackman in SMH: Help people to help themselves

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Hugh Jackman taking time out from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, to comment about extreme poverty

Check out the article written by Hugh Jackman in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: “The best development programs help people to help themselves“.

Hugh talks about his “crash course on poverty and how it can be overcome”.

His conclusion?

History has shown development is possible, but not inevitable. Our challenge in the developed world is to help people to be more productively involved in the economy, to raise themselves out of poverty, and achieve a life with choices for their children – all without handouts. From what I have seen, economic development projects do work. They are the best answer to one of the biggest social issues of our time.

More interesting perhaps are the range of views in the comments trailing the article.

Achieving the impossible…just a matter of belief and perspective?

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While running in Oxford last year, I passed the track where Roger Bannister broke the 4 Minute Mile in 1954. This was a surprise to me, as while I knew he had done that in the past, I didn’t know where it had occurred.

Stop and think just how much of the technology in our world today is made up of what was once considered impossible. The claim that a 4-minute mile was once thought to be impossible by informed observers was and is a widely propagated myth cooked up by sportswriters and debunked by Bannister himself in his memoir, The Four Minute Mile, 1955.

“This race made me realise that the four-minute mile was not out of reach,” Sir Roger Bannister, 2 May 1953 after running 4:03.6 and shattering previous 1945 standard record.

The complexity of extreme poverty is not something to just wish away. The human cost is staggering. The amount spent on aid across the last 30 years beggars belief.

This year is a critical moment to grip up the situation of extreme poverty affecting children in our world. The United Nations is committed to a 2015 timeline. The US has today announced the end of American combat operations in Iraq. The G20 Summit being held in Seoul can take a more informed view of the past and projected impact of the global financial crisis.

Five years might sound like a long time, but it will pass very quickly. There is a great sense of urgency with which we as a global village need to address this problem of seeking an eradication of extreme poverty looking first at a time horizon of 2015. It is one of many problems to address. In Australia, the state of Indigenous health and gap in life expectancy remains a disgraceful legacy of the past. The competing demands across our global village are so complex it is sometimes difficult to comprehend.

“Are you crazy!?” some people ask me about this global endurance challenge, recognising the difficulty in what I am seeking to undertake, just from a logistical perspective alone. I agree, it is definitely a “stretch goal”.

Is it possible:

  • to achieve the 10 sub-marathons inside one month
  • to successfully finance the journey
  • to coordinate the book “Above the Line” so that it is published in time for the G20 Summit
  • for a copy of the book to be delivered to each world leader attending the G20 Summit…

While these things might seem fanciful and far removed from the earnest consideration of the reality of extreme poverty, I believe they also are powerful ways to communicate the ability to achieve what is believed to be outside of our grasp.

I can’t do this on my own, and I seek your support. Please consider sponsoring the development of the book “Above the Line”. Together, we can make a difference.