Anthony Lake

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.


An Open Letter To Anthony Lake

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Anthony Lake
Anthony Lake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anthony Lake is a man I admire and respect greatly. We all should. He has earned it, and continues to demonstrate exceptional leadership and influence in his public role as Executive Director of UNICEF, as a further contribution he has made to a wide range of peace building initiatives since the early 1960s.

In September last year in New York during the ‘Social Good Summit’, Anthony Lake rightly described child mortality as both a moral obscenity and moral abomination. These are strong words, but justified. Today alone, 17,000 children will die across the world, mostly from one of five easily preventable causes. More must be done.

What follows is an open letter to Anthony Lake. I post it here only because I need him to act on it in the next 24 hours. Six degrees of separation holds us apart. Together, can we bridge this gap and get this letter in front of people who have the capacity and the will to influence this outcome in the interests of us all? I have no guarantee that he will read it, or act on it. Others can help. If it is within your capacity to influence the outcome I seek, would you please take action to help? This letter, while addressed to Anthony Lake is an open letter to us all.

You can help by sharing this post. Few of us can send it directly to Anthony Lake, but if we can activate the network, then we might have a chance. Help us to show that networks are our possibility factories. Help us to show that the seemingly impossible is possible, if we put our minds and hearts behind the cause.

Please forward this open letter in any way you can: share this post on Facebook, RT on Twitter, send through email, deliver in person, blog on social media. A hard copy of this letter has been printed out in New York by friends who will do their best to try to deliver it in person as well. Please help this letter get to the right person who can help make a difference. We have a short time, but an incredibly connected network capable of more than we might appreciate.

This is perhaps the first step we are taking together in opening this conversation asking: “how can we use our networks to reduce child mortality?

Thank you for starting this journey with me.
Let’s recall that African proverb:

“If you want to go fast, travel alone; If you want to travel far, then let’s go together.”


Dr Anthony Lake
Executive Director
3 United Nations Plaza
New York, New York 10017
United States

Dear Tony,

I am very excited to have been recently selected to attend the ‘Commonwealth Study Conference‘ which commences in London this weekend.

This forum provides extraordinary access, engagement and development potential. It includes a reception at Downing Street, and dinner with HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne). The focus is on fellow participants, described as being 100 of the brightest, best and most senior leaders drawn from governments, businesses and NGOs across the 54 countries of the Commonwealth. The real benefit for myself in attending the Commonwealth Study Conference is in the creation of an enabling environment for the 10 City Bridge Run such that it has the capacity for real impact in helping to reduce child mortality.

The 10 City Bridge Run is an initiative I created in 2010 that will involve me running 10 sub-marathons, each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries. The running is a stunt is to open a conversation asking: “how can we use our networks to reduce child mortality?” I have uploaded a short video describing the 10 City Bridge Run at

I agree with your assertion that child mortality is indeed a moral abomination of our time. We must embrace new and innovative approaches. When combatting moral abomination, can we really afford to allow small efforts to fail when the cost is relatively negligible? We must be relentless in this fight:

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, and for want of a horse the man was lost.”

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.”

The 10 City Bridge Run draws inspiration from a quote by Ophelia Dahl (cofounder of Partners in Health and daughter of renowned children’s book author Roald Dahl) taken from a graduation speech when she quoted Adam Hochschild who earlier wrote about the importance of “drawing connections between the near and the distant”:

“Linking our own lives and fates with those we can’t see will, I believe, be the key to a decent and shared future… Imagination will allow you to make the link between the near of your lives and the distant others and will lead us to realise the plethora of connections between us and the rest of the world…and this will surely lead to ways in which you can influence others and perhaps improve the world along the way.”

I have yet to commence the 10 City Bridge Run journey because of issues related mostly to funding and injury, but remain undeterred as I recognise the importance of this initiative. The Commonwealth Study Conference opens an ideal window to finally begin this journey. My intention is to commence running in London at the end of March, and finish in New York coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly at the end of September, with the journey being divided into three separate legs.

I have been accepted to the Commonwealth Study Conference on a part-bursary basis which means that I am responsible for contributing £1,000 to the programme, along with paying for international airfares (UK in March, India in June). All other costs (food, transport and accommodation) are met by the programme organiser, along with the remainder of the cost of the forum itself (£10,000)

To date, I have raised money to undertake the 10 City Bridge Run through the pre-sale of a book containing 100 photographs of ‘human bridges’ called Life Bridge. This crowdfunded approach has sought to encourage a broad base of participation with books being sold for $24 (soft-cover) or $240 (hard-cover). While I have raise sufficient money to start the journey, I have yet to secure enough funding to see the journey through to its completion, and am asking for your help.

I have a deadline by Thursday to raise a small amount of money to enable me to commence this journey, enhanced through attendance at the Commonwealth Study Conference to amplify the conversation.

I now face an immediate challenge where I have an unique opportunity, but lack the necessary funding to act. Given the urgency child mortality presents as a moral abomination, to delay the 10 City Bridge Run would be a lost opportunity to increase our collective capacity for action, influence and impact through a conversation asking how can we use our networks to reduce child mortality.

I am asking for your help both in your capacity to influence in your current position at UNICEF, and perhaps more importantly in your ability to respond as a fellow human being who cares about the lives of millions of children which hang in the balance. I need to raise $5,000 in the next 48 hours in order to undertake this journey.  Can you help? Please help me to help you to help others.

I invite you to join this journey through your support of the 10 City Bridge Run. Would you please visit where you could pre-purchase a copy of the book Life Bridge for either $24 or $240 that will enable this journey? Alternatively, because of the time constraint, a deposit could be made directly to my account with a follow up email to ensure transparency for funds received (Matthew Jones, BSB 062220 , Account Number 10127834).

This is an enormous task, and I cannot do it alone. Please help to make this journey possible so that we might together work to reduce child mortality through the use of our networks. Thank you for your consideration and your support.

Yours sincerely,

Matthew Jones
Matthew Jones

Sydney, Australia
12 March 2013

Our networks are possibility factories

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Anthony Lake 0c175 7744
Anthony Lake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Making change happen, real change, change that matters, requires more than a simple signing of a petition.

Petitions are important, because our networks are possibility factories. Alone, few people take the hard yards required to change something. But every movement, every change begins inside someone’s head, it moves into a conversation, and soon others become involved. The network is engaged and a tipping point is reached.

Our networks are possibilities factories indeed, and petitions provide a signal to these networks of where action should be mobilised. Not all of these efforts are successful, but that is not the point. Some are, and we should be careful in what we measure as success. Innovation requires having a stomach for the bitter taste of failure, and the tough mindset to build again and tweak what didn’t work the last time failure was encountered.

Anthony Lake, the Executive Director at UNICEF spoke about how we should get involved through a petition which was launched last September called ‘A Promise Renewed’. It is a good initiative, and takes the form of a pledge.

Here is what UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said to explain the pledge:

Sign the pledge, which will mean you’re pledging to do what you can to change behavior in your communities — you’ll encourage local NGOs to sign the pledge and to work harder, you’ll pledge to advocate your governments to follow through on their pledges and make real progress. You can make a difference.

Read that again. Everyone signs the pledge, and we can make a difference? Well no, it does imply that someone is doing the work, and puts the emphasis reasonably enough on NGOs and governments. Assuming that they are working hard to solve the problem and not just working hard to maintain brand and reputation.

What is at stake? Tony Lake’s closing words are worth noting. These are strong words, and I hope used for more than just dramatic effect at the conference in New York where they were spoken last September:

[We should all] start advocating with [our] governments to live up to their commitments to do everything we can to save children from what is a moral abomination. If we don’t do it, shame on us.

To paraphrase Georges Clemenceau: “A moral abomination is too important to be left to our governments.” We must act as well. Our networks are the possibility factories. This is the premise of the 10 City Bridge Run.

Take the Pledge: Slactivism or Game Changer?

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Anthony Lake
Anthony Lake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UNICEF last month announced a breakthrough new initiative: they would ask everyone to visit ‘A Promise Renewed’ website and take the pledge to help reduce child mortality.

I was especially intrigued when I heard of this campaign. Intrigued because this is completely aligned with what I am seeking to achieve through the 10 City Bridge Run. Or maybe to rephrase that better, in light of their initiative, I am completely aligned with the campaign ‘A Promise Renewed’.

Let me tease this out a little first. Follow me here: I am being objective in my thinking. These initiatives must be able to stand up to scrutiny. It ought not to be a case of everyone just drinking the Kool-Aid.

So what is this pledge all about? Let’s start with that.

It works on the premise that governments can’t do it alone. Making change happen in not something that can be only left to the G20 or the G192. We are all in this together. My thoughts: No problem with that – I think everyone would agree with that assertion.

Here is what UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said to explain the pledge:

Sign the pledge, which will mean you’re pledging to do what you can to change behavior in your communities — you’ll encourage local NGOs to sign the pledge and to work harder, you’ll pledge to advocate your governments to follow through on their pledges and make real progress. You can make a difference.

I think that too is sound. It is not saying that people have the power to make change themselves necessarily, but the corporate act of persuasion that leveraging your voice is not to be discounted.

There is some further wording in their release which gets a little wishful. That is where they hope that by posting videos, that some of them will go viral. My thoughts: The truth is that no one really knows what makes a video go viral. ‘Going viral’ is really mostly outside of our control. I think that Anthony Lake got it right when he placed emphasis on advocating for change.

His closing words are worth noting. They are worth reading twice, because they are easily to just read past the first time. I agree with him:

[We should all] start advocating with [our] governments to live up to their commitments to do everything we can to save children from what is a moral abomination. If we don’t do it, shame on us.

So will we? This is where the fine line between slactivism and game changing behaviour comes along. If it is just a few thousand people doing it along with their friends, there is a lot of feel-good value in that, but not enough force to change the game. If a significant amount of the global population are involved because people care enough, change will happen.

Moral abomination. Those are strong words. Will you just click off this page, or click onto this link and make the pledge? “If we don’t do it, shame on us.