Absurdity of Focusing on Outputs- Does Aid Matter?

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City of Sydney discusses MDG

Injustice and oppression is at the heart of poverty. Ultimately, collective action and social activism is key to making a difference rather than billions of dollars of money.

This would be a summary that I would make from attending the City of Sydney event last night focusing on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Three excellent speakers presented thoughtful and engaging addresses followed by a short time of question and answer.

The speakers were:


  • Prof. Stuart Rees, Director Sydney Peace Foundation
  • Steve Killelea, Founder Global Peace Index
  • Mark McPeak, Director Childfund Australia

There was a general consensus of the reality that the MDG won’t be met by 2015. These were aspirational goals from the outset in 2000. Nobody really expected success, and progress that has been achieved should be celebrated.

Good points were made:

  • MDG have proved a good tool for cooperation and focus
  • Success in the MDG is influenced by the bias in figures resulting in progress in India and China

One concern is the degree to which money that has been pledged hasn’t been received. Of the US$25 billion pledged to Africa from the G8 Countries, only 40% has been received. Who then do we blame for lack of progress in Africa, for the best of death that extended across sub-Saharan Africa? I don’t think it is as easy as to say: “It is the fault of the rich countries. They all should have given more.” Would that really have solved the problem?

The problem in this respect really is the grand statements that are made by political leaderships of such countries followed by no delivery of the money to back it up.

Consider this figure cited: that the fiscal stimulus over the last 18 months given to banks exceeds the total amount of aid given to Africa ever. Fair? Reasonable? Complex.

Mark McPeak raised an interesting point about the absurdity of focusing on outputs. Using the example of solving hunger, he argued that if on 1 January 2015 every food vender made sandwiches on that day and we then distributed them globally, we would have ‘solved’ hunger…. Yes, but for how long.

Hunger. There are other needs we all need than just the next meal. The next meal is important, but there is more needs to life than are measured by such outcomes.

Stuart Rees made a good point that when organisations had little money from grants and aid, people would cooperate like mad. Now with so much competition for funding, brand and messaging have become all important. Time to step back from the commodification of ‘doing good’.

The evening ended on a positive note. This is a contested space. It is up to us to fix it. There will be more problems and challenges to face in the future. Let’s start by developing a better understanding the ‘other’ which is an essential step of making the world a better place for all.

Please support this through sponsoring the 10 City Bridge Run for $24.




6 good reasons to start in sydney

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A 19th century engraving showing Australian &q...
Bridges Needed for 'Closing the Gap'

Good friends of mine asked why I hadn’t planned to start running in Sydney. Their argument was compelling and so I changed my plans to begin my journey here and then travel to New York. Here are the six main reasons that changed my mind:

  1. It reflects the originating point of the 10 City Bridge Run
  2. Many people have contributed to the birth of this project from Sydney in all sorts of ways, including the Global Launch event the previous week
  3. Australia is an important country from within the G20
  4. Before talking about poverty elsewhere, we should first note what happens in our own backyard
  5. The bridge metaphor is powerful in demonstrating the need to “close the gap”
  6. I can observe the United Nations conference on the Millennium Development Goals (20-22 September) from Sydney and get a sense of what impact, if any, it has for Australia

“Closing the Gap” is a phrase that has been used in relation to the comparative disadvantage between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. For example, average life expectancy differs by 17 years. Why?!

The metaphor of the bridge is a powerful way of communicating that to ‘close this gap’ it takes effort on the part of all of us, not just policy from governments and money from corporate organisations or philanthropic institutions.

Granted, the situation of extreme poverty is different from that of Indigenous disadvantage in Australia. Is it possible to see similarities in the root causes?

The question to address now is: where to run?

24 km Sydney Harbour Run 2009

Sydney provides plenty of choice, and there are two courses which I favour. Let me know which you prefer, or of another if you can think of one:

  • Sydney Harbour Bridge Run, covering 24 km and crossing 7 bridges. A spectacular run along many of the best kept secrets of Sydney. This is the same course as I ran last year for the 9 City Bridge Run.
  • The Spit Bridge to La Perouse, covering a longer distance than 24 km and crossing two prominent bridges. I like this option suggested many months ago by Peter Lain. It is slightly longer, but gives a good voice to the bridge metaphor by finishing in La Perouse where Captain Cook first landed in Sydney

Welcome your feedback! Interested in a creative and challenging run that shows the character of the city, an historical perspective as well as a contemporary context of the issue.

Training log: 12 September. 8 km circuit harbour run

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8 km Sydney Harbour Run

Perfect day for running around the harbour on Sunday with a glorious course looping Circular Quay starting at Hyde Park. Passing Mrs Macquaries Chair, and around the Sydney Opera House before taking the Cahill Expressway Overpass footbridge, and then circling back around through Hickson Road passing back through the ferry terminal. Returned to Hyde Park along Macquarie St.

This is a good high speed route with variation of direction and elevation. I maintained overall time of the run, but no heart-rate data.

Stretched before and after the run which was important and left me feeling limber and in good shape.

Global Launch, Sydney- 10 City Bridge Run

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Join us for the global launch of the 10 City Bridge Run.

100 people running or walking 2.4 km from Sydney to Milsons Point, meeting for breakfast afterwards just across the bridge.

11 September at 8 am meeting on the Bennelong Lawn, immediately inside the Royal Botanic Gardens, opposite the Sydney Opera House Forecourt. There will be a short brief of what it is about, and how to get to breakfast, then we will set off at 8.30 am. For those who are running, it is a fast course but all uphill climbing all of the way past knockout views of Sydney. If you are walking, enjoy the same view, but it will need to be a brink walk to come in under 30 minutes but easily achievable.

Free to attend. You can register via Eventbrite.

There is a little bit more to just meeting for coffee involved here, so please take time to read the following and also the objectives of the 10 City Bridge Run.

This is the beginning of a journey to frame a pictorial petition to be given to the leadership at the G20 Summit to be held in Seoul this November. In 2015, world leaders and the UN will want to report on their achievement of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and progress to date has been slow even falling short of what is needed in some areas. If Copenhagen is any measure of what we can expect, leaving important issues only to institutional authorities might lead to further disappointment.

The 10 City Bridge Run is a creative process of inquiry.

Over the course of 30 days later this month I will run 240 km, as detailed in the text a little further below.
To launch on 11 September, 100 people are gathering to run or walk 2.4 km together in under 30 minutes.
This is a symbolic gesture to show that collectively, we can do the same work as one unit in far less time and with far greater collaborative reach.

Starting in New York on 24 September 2010, I will commence the 10 City Bridge Run- a global endurance challenge to raise awareness of the possibly to eradicate extreme poverty affecting children in our current generation.

Running 10 sub-marathons in 10 cities across 10 countries inside of 1 month.
Actually, this project is about much more than just running. Each run is representative of the 24,000 children under the age of five years of age who tragically die daily on average based on the 2008 mortality rate for that year (8.8 million children).

So join us on 11 September. Be part of the difference that makes the difference.

If you are not in Sydney, let us know if you are able to connect with us in one of the other cities where we will be visiting between now and the end of October, and we can hook up with details of dates and locations:

  • New York
  • Toronto
  • Brussels
  • London
  • St Petersburg
  • New Delhi
  • Jakarta
  • Banda Aceh
  • Shanghai
  • Tokyo
  • Seoul

This is important.
Please take time to ask why you should care.

Thanks for taking time to give this your consideration- see you on the journey!

Training log: 2 September. 9 km slow jog

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Sydney Harbour looking south-east

Was scheduled to run 7 km today, but stepped out on a slow jog and clocked 9 km in total. At the outset I felt fresh although my calves experienced mild discomfort probably due to less than adequate stretching over the past few weeks. I have been stretching for 20 minutes at the end of each session, and feel this is making a difference already.

Given the way my calves were feeling, I took it slow and felt fresh throughout the whole distance. Starting at Hyde Park, I ran down Macquarie Street to circle the Sydney Opera House and run up to the Cahill Expressway overpass. Running to the beginning of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I descended the stairs and headed to where Hickson Road goes underneath the bridge. I ran along Hickson Road, up to the picturesque Millers Point past the Pallisade Hotel, and rejoined Hickson Road just before Darling Harbour. Continuing to the Sydney Entertainment Centre, I headed up to Liverpool St and finished at Hyde Park.

I did not record time or heart-rate for the run, but did measure weight going out and returning.

Would you prefer if I displayed a map with these blogs of my training log?

Training Log: 1 September. 8 km easy pace.

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Heading out from Hyde Park down Macquarie Street then around the Sydney Opera House, the harbour and city lit up like jewels. My run snaked across the Opera House forecourt, on the Cahill Expressway overpass, then crossing the bridge to Milson’s Point. Back on the bridge and retracing my steps again enjoying the night air and  the stillness brought to the water by the dark. Once across the bridge, I headed down the stairs toward ‘Nurses Walk’ onto George Street and back up through Martin Place finishing at Hyde Park.

I ran an easy pace, and felt relaxed and in good condition. I recorded no time or heart-rate, but measured weight going out and coming in to see how much was lost to sweat. I spent a good 20 minutes stretching afterwards, leaving me in good shape for training tomorrow.

Training Log: 31 August. 8 x 400 m sprints

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From Cook and Phillip Pool, I ran down to Sydney Harbour’s gorgeous foreshore at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair located at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Sydney would have to be one of the most scenic cities in which to train.

Measuring out a 400 m stretch, I pounded out the eight laps required by today’s schedule.

I wasn’t wearing a watch or heart-rate monitor, so ran for maximum effort on each lap.

Commencing the running I had some soreness in my lower calves and ankles from the past week’s training, but this soon loosened up allowing me a free stride.

Sprint training can be hard work when your fitness is low. As your fitness improves, the ability to continually run at pace becomes an engaging challenge within one’s self.

The reward from tonight’s training was a spectacular sunset spilt out across a chequer-board pattern of clouds in the sky. Did anyone capture the sunset on camera? Send me a photo, and I will upload in the blog.