Child survival

Happy Birthday

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The first 100 days of a child’s life decide the likelihood of survival to adulthood.

I restart the journey I began in 2010 today, committing the next 100 days to asking how might we use our networking to improving the delivery of child survival.

Join me. Together we can take the next steps to make a difference and change the world.

Here is a short video I took when out training the other night which explains what I intend to do and why.

Another ‘Talking Shop’?

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Bono was sublime in his criticism of efforts to address issues of child mortality back in 2011 at Davos where he talks about moving past having just another ‘talking shop’. Watch from 27:00 to 32:00 where he exhorts us all to strive for a 10 out of 10.

Crossing the River of Myth

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The avuncular Hans Rosling was back recently staunchly arguing why child mortality is more readily overcome now than ever before. He shows that it is our dated perspective mistakenly informed through myth we cling to that which holds us back. We are closer to a solution than we think or know.

Let Hans tell the story himself below:


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Janne Ryan & Adam Spencer | TEDxSydney 2013
Adam Spencer  (Photo credit: TEDxSydney)

Celebrate with us! We are ReLaunching the initiative 10 City Bridge Run on Thursday 24 October 2013 at The Lansdowne Hotel in Sydney and want you to join us. Click here to RSVP or just come on the night.

The 10 City Bridge Run is a citizen-led initiative focused on asking how we can use our networks to help improve the delivery of child survival. This is a massive problem with more than 6.4 million children under the age of five dying this year from mostly preventable disease.

Adam Spencer has kindly agreed to emcee the ReLaunch. Most of you will know Adam already from his role as a broadcaster with the ABC. He describes himself as “Geek, Dad, Comedian.”

Thursday 24 October 2013, 6-9 pm. Free to attend.

The ReLaunch will be a relaxed evening to make connections and open a few new circles.

Thanks to everyone has been involved to date. It has been a long journey already which began in 2010. There has been a lot of learning. Come and hear about the journey to date, and our vision for the future and how you can get involved in making a difference.

Collaboration can produce powerful results. Please join us!

Race against time

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Half marathon
Half marathon (Photo credit: bostjan_rudolf)

Does it really matter if the Millennium Development Goals are not achieved? Of the eight goals set, there are a few that will be achieved (or have already been satisfied) before the 2015 time horizon. Others might not cut it.

Child mortality is one of those measures that is looking doubtful of meeting the 2/3 reduction of 1990 measurement of under-five death before 2015.

It is a race against time, and we as a global community as close to halving the 1990 level. Reduced from around 12 million deaths of under-five children in 1990 to an approximated 6.4 million deaths in 2013.

The stunt which frames the 10 City Bridge Run will illustrate this through running across two distances:

  • 2.4 km. A participative run involving a large group running 2.4 km together across a bridge. There are 2.4 million children too many dying this year in 2013 above what is required to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 4 (reduce child mortality by 2/3 from 1990 levels before 2015).
  • Half-Marathon. 10 half-marathons will be run in 10 cities across 10 countries as a stunt to show we have halved 1990 levels, and while that is good, it is now a race against time in this marathon journey to end child mortality.

This running is framing the conversation asking: “how can we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

There are a lot of people who have been working hard on this issue for more years than I have been aware of it. How can we find, learn about, then share best practice to make a difference in the lives of literally millions of people where the need is at its greatest?

This is a race we want to win. Together.

Begin with the End: Focus on Kenya

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Dressed up Maasai warriors
Dressed up Maasai warriors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Begin with the end in mind. Before looking at the running in other locations, we are going to get a tighter plan around Kenya which will be the last country visited as part of the 10 City Bridge Run.

The maturing focus on the 10 City Bridge Run itself is a great advancement from the largely idealised and abstract concept which it began as back in 2010. It is an enormous undertaking, and the timeline and the plan we have going forward is much improved.

The first task is perhaps grounding the 10 City Bridge Run in a particular activity. Thanks for good friends in Kenya and around the world, there has been much discussion about what shape the run in Kenya might take next March. We will begin our initial planning there, and work to address some of the more immediate issues in other cities a little later in June.

Already there has been great input as to what form the run should take. We are looking at an out and back course. It will be open to international participation. And there is still a lot to organise.

Asking good questions before has been helpful. We have been able to identify that covering a marathon distance is not desirable for a number of reasons. Despite the narrative that is built around this, it might be that running a half-marathon distance is preferable to a 24 km distance. We welcome your feedback as to whether you would favour a half-marathon. Whether it is 24 km or half-marathon, all runs across the 10 cities will cover the same (or approximately the same) distance.

There are a still a lot of people we need to speak with to get this done. Please register your interest to support the Kenya Run here as either a runner or as someone who has some specialty knowledge to assist with planning, organising or marshalling this event. If there is someone or some organisation we need to speak to, please pass on their details or make an introduction.

Enter the form here to register your interest. Thanks for working together! Harambee!

Running for a cause

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World Athletics Championships 2007 in Osaka - ...
World Athletics Championships 2007 in Osaka – Marathon winner Catherine Ndereba on her last 50 metres (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People run for many reasons. Among the most common reasons are: (1) because they can, (2) because of the feeling of freedom, (3) because they get to challenge themselves, and (4) just for the enjoyment of it all.

More recently, now at any road race or fun run you attend you will see that many people are also doing it to raise money. “It is for a good cause.” This has been an innovative money spinner for many not-for-profits, and why ought they not to benefit? It is a good thing.

Since 2010, I have been working on running for a cause. The running serves as a stunt to open a conversation asking: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

This is an important question because of the magnitude of child mortality alone. If the entire Australian cities of Sydney and Perth were completely wiped out this year, it would be a figure less than the number of children under the age of five who will die this year alone. That is just wrong. Worse, many of the deaths are from preventable disease.

The running is to raise awareness. It is not a ‘charity’ run in itself. It is seeking to create social impact by opening a conversation where best practice can be gathered and then shared, especially to the people where it matters most. Note that this is a difficult problem. A lot of people with money can fly to New York and have the same conversation, and a lot of good will come from that. My sense is that in some cases the problem remains unabated. This is my point: we need to improve our capacity for delivery.

What I am proposing is an enormous undertaking. So too is improving child survival. Maybe you might say it is unreasonable to try to tackle too much (which I contend to be possible). I say it is unreasonable to do nothing more than raise a few thousand dollars for charity. Because we have the capacity to do more, we must also act. We really are the privileged few…

The outcome is all important. Designing a ‘wellbeing-wiki’ to help those most in need to improve the delivery of child survival. A series in Design Forum in each city visited (along with gathering advice and information from around the world) will shape out capacity to find best practice, and determine how this is best shared. It is the running that opens this conversation. That is why in this case running is important. That is why in this case it is running for a cause.

There a three distances to be run:

  • 2.4 km: A highly participative run to engage groups in different locations running the same distance. This idea to involve collage students across the world came from a conversation from my running coach Bob Williams. While 100 people running 2.4 km in under 30 minutes illustrates that many people coming together can run the distance I will travel across 10 countries, there is a more meaningful symbolism here. ‘2.4’ is an approximation of the number of under-five deaths to be reduced before 2015 to meet the Millennium Development Goal. 2.4 million. The focus is to run this in mid-September from New York ahead of the United Nations General Assembly which is coincident with what I have called ‘Mortality Overshoot Day’: the date in 2013 when we as a global community exceed the number of child deaths aimed for in 2015.
  • 24 km: the 10 City Bridge Run is organised with 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km run in 10 cities across 10 countries. ’24’ relates to the mortality rate from 2008 which in 2010 (when this idea was hatched) was the cited figure for child mortality. The good news is that we are making progress. Hans Rosling, the avuncular statistician, has even demonstrated that it might be possible yet to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The 10 countries where the running will occur are among those where child mortality is at its worst, or where the capacity to leverage child survival is at its best.
  • Marathon (42 km): This is the reason for this blog. There are two wonderful women both called Zipporah in this story, both from Kenya. My Facebook friend Zipporah back when I first announced the countries to be run asked why didn’t I have more focus on Africa. That has since changed. The second Zipporah is a friend I met on the recent Commonwealth Study Conference. She was very insistent that I go to Kenya and invite runners from elsewhere in Africa and the world to join us there. I have been encouraged by other friends, such as John Thuo also from Kenya. During all of these conversations, what emerged was the idea of finishing the 10 City Bridge Run off with a full distance marathon in early March 2014. It is a way of celebrating: celebrating the completion of the 10 City Bridge Run journey, celebrating progress made in improving child survival, and the running community celebrating a sense of unity coming together to make a difference. It would have a proposed international entry. The question this blog seeks to have answered is whether it is desirable or necessary to run a full-length marathon? Wouldn’t it be less trouble and make more sense to complete the 10th leg as also a 24 km distance?

And yes, there are a lot of questions to which we don’t have answers.

There has been some excellent discussion and contribution, and the reason for this post is to put those questions on the table for everyone to talk about and pick apart. We want to hear your thoughts. Good ideas, bad ideas, trouble and problems. Also opportunities.

This is a little clunky because we are all around the world, but it is also part of the task we are on. Thanks to everyone for your views:  Warra Thahla Mpondo Ncipha, Victor Flores, Eduardo Antonio Marquez Vera, Robert Malseed, Korgoren Erick, Emma Tepha ,  Muthaura Purity, among others for your help. Here is a list of four questions- there are more, but this is a start:

  1. Is running a marathon in Kenya in March 2014 achievable? Noting the additional marshals, distance and logistics, would we be better to run a 24 km distance instead? It might make more sense to keep the 24 km distance: less stress on athletes who might be training for other races, less burden to organise. The only real advantage of keeping the marathon is that Kenya and other countries in Africa are well known for their runners across marathon distance. I think we could safely kill off the marathon, and still uphold the spotlight on African athletic reputation. Let’s come to a decision quickly!
  2. Where is the best city/village in Kenya and route to chose? This will obviously depend on the length. Again, 24 km makes all of the organisation much easier.
  3. If the run was across 24 km, it would be a ‘challenge’/’fun run’, but not a championship race as very few other runs cover this same distance. What are your thoughts as to the purpose?
  4. What prizes structure would be best to organise? This will impact on how sponsors are approached, and this will be affected by our relationship by organisation with Kenyan Athletics. Again, there are some first order questions to be addressed: distance, location and purpose. Once these are addressed, we can open a more meaningful conversation with sponsors and Kenyan Athletics.

So there is a lot of work to do. I just looked at the Marathon 2014 website and something caught my attention. I believe it speaks to the unequal distribution of focus which itself directly impacts our ability to understand what poverty is and its impact.

In 2014, there are zero marathons planned to be run in Kenya according to the site. I don’t know if this is correct, and I haven’t asked Toby Tanser about it. But it is interesting to note that in the US or UK or even Australia there are a wealth of marathons people can attend.

To end, one last comment. Let’s not reinvent the wheel. We are part of a global running community, and should all help each other. If there is an existing race that this can be part of, or if we can partner with someone to make this easier to organise, then let’s talk about how that is possible. There is a particular focus to what we want to achieve here, in improving the delivery of child survival globally. But let us be open to what each other has to say. Harambee!

What if women held the answers?

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Young girl. Papua New Guinea
Young girl. Papua New Guinea (Photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection)

It has been over a month since I last posted, and in that time I have been busy. Busy thinking.

In March, I attended the Commonwealth Study Conference (known by its acronym CSCLeaders) across London, Glasgow and Oxford for what turned out to be an extraordinary gathering of 100 leaders from around the Commonwealth.

I was profoundly influenced by women I met at the recent CSCLeaders conference, especially those from across Africa, India, Pakistan, other parts of Asia and the Pacific.

Returning to Sydney, I attended a conference at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute which focused on Papua New Guinea. Again, there I was influenced greatly by the women who I spoke with.

Often, my conversation turned to the issue of child survival. These were seemingly ordinary women, and most of them mothers. Few of them were ‘experts’ in child mortality- there experience was found in other areas, but all of them had expert advice to offer.

I made me think:

What might this look like if women held the answers?

This is not to say that men have nothing to contribute. Far from it. It is an equally relevant question for men to address as for women. So much so, that the orientation of the design forum for the 10 City Bridge Run will be framed using this question.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts too. Do you think this question is helpful? Could it be expressed better?

Reframe: Improving Child Survival

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Child in slum in Kampala (Uganda) next to open...
We need to find the stories of hope. The stories of possibility. Stories to reframe this narrative.

My last post was a month ago, but in that space of time I have covered a very large distance in many different respects. I wrote as I travelled from Sydney to London to attend the Commonwealth Study Conference, otherwise known as CSCLeaders. That trip proved to be a turn-key moment in gaining a new sense of clarity about this initiative.

It has taken me some time to process everything that has taken place. One month in fact. There is much to share, but here I just wanted to start with one brief comment.

I have reframed the 10 City Bridge Run following the input of many people and much reading over the last month. The emphasis, I believe, needs to be placed on child survival not child mortality.

Let me explain why:

  • Child mortality is easy to explain, and is a very tangible and very troubling measure.
  • The 10 City Bridge Run is an initiative about how we might use our networks for the better.
  • I have come to the realisation that together we cannot actually reduce child mortality. Larger organisations and countries can through their effort, but even then the reduction of child mortality is a lagging indicator of their success in something else.
  • Where we can have success is in improving child survival. Through increased child survival, the result is a reduction of child mortality.

This is a subtle shift, but an important one. It means the entire effort goes towards working out what we can do to save lives, rather than spending time recording facts about deaths. Yes, the two go hand-in-glove, but as for directing the efforts of a network, we are better focused on documenting what is best practice in child survival.

Already, there is good data. It is shared widely. But we are still falling short.

This is not about reinventing the wheel, but rather bringing the considerable resources of an extended network of bridge builders to bear on working out where we can best make change to improve child survival.

Just over ago in this blog, I wrote these words:

Changing the name doesn’t change the facts. We are still falling short, and there is more work to be done. But with a renewed focus, maybe at least we can have a clearer view on where our emphasis is best placed.

I didn’t recognise this insight at the time, but now can see that what I had instinctively observed. We are working towards compiling a sharable resource documenting best practice in child survival. This is our journey. Let’s go together!

This video, produced last year, explains this concept well:

From child mortality to child survival: what’s in a name?

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Same the world over (Photo credit: Save the Children)

Ok, so there seems to be a new phrase entering the lexicon of child health.

‘Child mortality’ is being used less frequently in favour to the use of ‘child survival’.

What’s in a name? Does this really make a difference at all? I think it does. It is a more optimistically framed language, which sets our minds looking towards the solution, rather than the seemingly impossible wall of death to overcome.

Changing the name doesn’t change the facts. We are still falling short, and there is more work to be done. But with a renewed focus, maybe at least we can have a clearer view on where our emphasis is best placed.