Eric Knight

Five Books For Change

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IMG_4655Last December, I was standing on a bridge crossing the Clyde River n Glasgow which was completely shrouded in fog. I stopped a moment to record a short video to Bill and Melinda Gates, and asked them for their recommendation of five books to help make change happen.

Maybe you saw this video if you were following my journey. It was the day after I had run the eighth leg of the 10 City Bridge Run that concluded in January this year where I ran across 10 cities as a stunt to open a conversation about improving child survival.

The video is below, and while I have forwarded it through social media, I don’t now that I have exhausted every avenue to pass the message to Bill and Melinda Gates. And even if it did reach their gatekeepers, there is no guarantee that they would see it personally, or even have the time to respond.

IMG_4657Well, I haven’t given up on them, and will keep looking for ways to send this “message in a bottle” to them.

In the meantime, I made my own list of Five Books For Change that have most influenced my thinking as I worked through the 10 City Bridge Run epic quest ahead of a series of Design Forums to ask “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

And here is the list, and in no particular order. They are all great books!

IMG_4658There were other books as well that I had to cut from the list. I asked Bill and Melinda Gates for five books, and so I limited myself to five books too.

You might have a different opinion, or some other books that I didn’t consider. I hope you do, and I hope you might share them here too! Write a review of your favourite book for making change happen as it relates to improving the delivery of child survival, and I’ll add it here on the blog (you write the blog and I can post it without editing it).

As for getting in touch with Bill and Melinda, well I’m sill trying. You can help by forwarding this blog, and the video message to the Gates’ is shown below. Personally, I like the list I have already, but this journey is about building a conversation and sharing how we see the world, so it would be nice to know how they think and what they would recommend we read!

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Reframing Kony? How to solve the world’s trickiest problems

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Kony  2012

Kony 2012 is a recent campaign uploaded onto YouTube by Invisible Children. It was posted on 5 March 2012, and already has enjoyed a wide circulation. Invisible Children’s mission is stated on their website as ‘using film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in Central Africa to peace and prosperity’.

Watch the 29:59 minute documentary explaining the campaign here:

It is a compelling story, and a cause that is troubling. Especially when seen from the normalcy and comfort of a Western household. How can we respond in any way other than to be shocked?

So much sadness and suffering in the world. Must we prioritise our response? Do we have to chose ‘our favoured cause’ above others? What difference does it make anyway…in the long run, will any of it make any difference?

Before looking at some of the criticism to the Kony 2012 campaign, I argue that we can all agree on one thing: taking no action is wrong. It is wrong ethically because we enjoy so much. Action can be small as much as it can be significant.

Here are two thoughtful blog posts which give a considered critique of Kony 2012 and are worth reading. Read them yourselves rather than me summarising them in detail. My friend Cathie McGinn presents The questions we should be asking about the Invisible Children viral in her mUmBRELLA post. Patrick Wegner argues that “the Kony 2012 campaign is a reminder why we should see advocacy campaigns to interfere in conflicts with some scepticism, no matter how good the cause” in his Justice In Conflict post.

Last night, I attended a book launch for Eric Knight’s first book “Reframe: how to solve the world’s trickiest problems.” Eric’s book is a worthwhile read. He argues that often we miss the real cause of a problem, and so are then are unable to create a workable solution. I would suggest that he might respond the the Kony 2012 issue by applauding its action, while at the same time questioning whether the root cause has been addressed. Does dismantling Kony’s authority or freedom guarantee an end to the terror visited on so many African children?

This blog is not a criticism of Kony 2012 in itself. I would encourage people to get involved rather than criticise from the sidelines. I would also suggest that it does not in itself solve the problem. Focusing a social action campaign to mobilise the deployment of 100 military advisors is probably failing to recognise the impotence of our action in such circumstances. Intriguing to see the earlier indifference from the US Senators, and now to find their earnest commitment (cynically one might say timely following recent discovery of oil reserves in Uganda, as well as during a time of withdrawal from two larger campaigns in Iraq and now Afghanistan.)

Through the 10 City Bridge Run, I am asking “how can we use networks to alleviate child mortality?” Importantly, I do not believe that this is a stove-piped issues, nor is it something that can only be addressed at the expense of giving attention to another cause. Developing a more robust collaborative spirit of social action is required to make a difference. The lines of what causes poverty are blurred at the edges. Raising awareness of injustice itself is a good start to making the right choices in more areas than a person might have first intended.

This is the first blog I have written for almost 11 months. It has been a long recess. Writing this blog has been a good start point to come back into the conversation. Please join me as I prepare to start running in September. I am going to ask for your help before then by taking photographs.

In the meantime, we need to get better at working together from the ground up in order to solve the world’s trickiest problems. Kony 2012 is a great example of what is possible. Does it really matter if it is not a silver bullet?