Child Poverty

The Slippery Target

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IMG_24582015 is fast drawing to a close, and with it the culmination of the Millenium Development Goals.

Among the eight MDG, Goal 4 which was to Reduce Child Mortality made progress but failed to be achieved.

The Sustainable Development Goals replace the MDG for the period 2016-2030, and continue with a more ambitious reach to continue to address the impact of poverty.

My good friend Trish shared this document today The Slippery Target for Child Survival in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development from the Health and Human Rights Journal. It is a short document that is well worth reading to see how difficult it is to set targets in a world where there is great discrepancy in levels of child mortality between countries.

Information worth noting. It helps define the challenge before us.


Let’s Collaborate!

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IMG_1733We are going to experiment with different process, platforms, and formats.

Platforms for collaborative exchange. There are many and this is just the start. So let’s begin with Google Hangout. There will almost certainly be some platforms that have better features, and some are suited to other tasks better than others. Part of the conversation will be working out what tools work best, and also how to coordinate the involvement of people together so that collaboration can occur optimally. This is not a simple question, and will involve trail, testing and error.

Process for problem solving and engagement. We will adopt a variation of Design Thinking known as Human Centred Design. We can play around with that as there are many variations, and it can develop and become modified according to our need. But neither should this become doctrinaire or a distraction from the task at hand. The process, much like the platform, is a tool, not a silver bullet.

The format for the Design Forum to be adopted is a little more involved. Roughly speaking, a framework of a hackathon is what I have thought might be best to adopt, but there are many different ways of executing a hackathon. We can look at other initiatives and model the best they offer. Creativity and invention that we also bring to the table are important to combine with what we like best in the work of others we model. Some start points could be among the following, where ‘the best of’ is combined for optimal value:

  • Super Challenge Hackathon in Seoul this past week
  • The HackOsaka Hackathon
  • Davos, the World Economic Forum
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Annual Letter
  • Playing For Change
  • The Your Turn Challenge
  • Skoll World Forum
  • Humans of New York

This list is far from exhaustive. The aspiration ought to be that the final Design Forum in Seoul brings together the best of what we have created together to generate meaningful impact as the next steps to make a difference in improving the delivery of child survival.

The 2015 Fuller Challenge gives us a guiding framework as to how to ‘measure impact’ for both the Design Forum and the outcomes of what flows from the next nine months activity. The culmination of the Introduction to Human Centred Design course which examines the process of Design Thinking will be close enough near completion when the Fuller Challenge is due, and this will both give us some clarity of how coherent our plan for the following nine Design Forums is towards meeting an objective, as well as a credible timeframe to gather together a team who are share a similar passion towards pursuing a question about child survival.

Here is a little bit about the inspiration behind the Fuller Challenge:

Buckminster Fuller led a prolific life of research, invention and social engagement, a practice he called comprehensive anticipatory design science. He established a set of rigorous design principles and ecological aesthetics. Fuller’s intention was to design new systems in which all of humanity could live lives characterized by freedom, comfort and dignity without negatively impacting the earth’s ecosystems or regenerative ability. He emphasized that the technology and knowhow exist to successfully surmount global challenges and advocated the creation of strategies that “do more with less” by increasing the overall performance of the resources invested in a system.

In all of this, when the size of the beginning might seem small compared to the juggernaught of institutional activity which typically defines this space, we would do well to remember the words of Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The one thought I want you to consider today

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Bridge in fog- hard to see the far bank

Where does the time go?!

Dear reader, thanks for your patience- it has been now about a week since I made my last post. A lot has happened in that time, and many ideas and thoughts to write about. I will endeavour to share some of that with you later today, but not everything at once.

A few updates about the 10 City Bridge Run.

Firstly, I’m pleased to say that enough funding through sponsorship has been received to make this endeavour possible, that is to commence the journey. While the first hurdle is cleared, there is still a fair distance down the track to cover.

Secondly, a quick note about date changes. The date for the commencement of the 10 City bridge Run has now slipped twice. I want to be open about the planning to share with you the challenges and difficulties I am encountering. I think to present the vulnerabilities and uncertainties, for all its lumpiness is important in learning to take the crunchy with the smooth as Billy Bragg might say. Let’s be clear that this is an ambitious and difficult venture with a deliberate tagline of “Is the seemingly impossible possible?” At the same time, for as much of the experiential learning that might come from this to mirror an understanding of the challenges to eradicate extreme poverty, it also should be acknowledged that there is a difference between the two. We all have a choice to some degree of what difficulties that come into our lives: those in extreme poverty do not.

The reasons for the date changes relate to a number of issues. The most significant is the clearance of funding through PayPal. This issue has been resolved, although may still have some impact on successfully initiating the run on 8 October. Make no mistake: the run is going ahead, and the objective to present a pictorial petition to the G20 Summit remains a key outcome.

There are two institutional events framing this initiative- two bridge supports if you like. The United Nations Conference which commenced on 20 September and the G20 Summit in November. The last date to commence the running is 14 October should the time need to slip another few days. This would involve an (already identified) curatorial team in Seoul compiling the petition and presenting it to the G20 Summit on our behalf prior to the last leg of the 10 City Bridge Run coinciding in Seoul with the last day of the G20 Summit.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts about how the 10 City Bridge Run might be better organised, communicated and presented. I am particularly interested to know what your response is to the changing of dates. If it frustrates you or disappoints you, if you feel let down or if it challenges your confidence, or if you see this as an unwanted but inevitable part of attempting something that is difficult. Or maybe you are happy to just watch it unfold without having an opinion- that is fine as well.

Just a thought from me I ask you to consider: if you are disappointed by these date changes which have minor consequences apart from how to organise the delivery of the petition, how did you feel after the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, and how will you react in 2015 when the United Nations is called to report on the Millennium Development Goals?

24,000 children died today, and yesterday, and will also tomorrow…

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UNICEF reported in 2009 that 8.8 million children under the age of five died during 2008. Tragically this would be the same as 24,000 children dying every single day. For comparison, it is worth noting the stark contrast that 50% of these deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa while only 0.1% occur in the “Industrialised Countries”.

UNICEF, the United Nations funding agency for the relief of children in need, is a reliable source of information. In their November 2009 publication The State of the World’s Children Special Edition: Celebrating 20 Years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child gives insight into how different the lives of others can be, and how great their need can be often in comparison to our own. For example, UNICEF report that in 2008:

  • 2.5 billion people lacked access to improved sanitation
  • 1 billion children were deprived of one or more services essential to survival and development
  • 148 million children under the age of five in developing regions were underweight for their age
  • 101 million children were not attending primary school, with more girls than boys missing out
  • 22 million infants were not protected from diseases by routine immunisation
  • 4 million newborn babies worldwide died in the first month of life
  • 2 million children under 15  years of age were living with HIV
  • 8.8 million children under the age of five died, equivalent to more than 24,000 children dying daily
  • 500,000 women died from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth

(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)

Anup Shah produces a website with much of this information presented clearly for easy reading and can be found here.

How should we respond to this information? Shock, disbelief, vigilance, anger, compassion, sadness?

Maybe the bigger question is what are we prepared to do about it.