Poverty

Progress

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all greatness
All Greatness Stands Firm In The Storm

It’s been a while.

How many times have I begun a post like this here? Many. Too many? Hard to say, except one thing I do know is that progress matters, no matter how slow.

There is a case for speed, and not going too slow. The problem being addressed through this project is time sensitive, in as much as delays result in opportunities lost. The stake that is on the line is the wellbeing and lives of many people who live life unseen in poverty.

And that is the balance. Too hasty, and there will be an outcome, but maybe without impact. Too slow, and it results in a perfect solution, although too late. Paraphrasing General Patton:

A good plan now is better than a perfect plan hatched from within the walls of a prisoner of war camp.

This project is about an idea hatched in 2010. It led to the completion of an epic quest at the beginning of 2015. What remains is the publication of a book to help frame a ‘Design Forum’ to discuss this issue about child survival with the broader context of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Most of those delays have been my responsibility, and largely related to my ability to extend myself because of resources at hand. Some might say, including myself, that it indicates a failure of imagination not to proceed, but there is also a need for pragmatism and balanced risk. Things don’t always work out. Sometimes we need to constrain ourselves waiting for a better day.

The important thing is that progress is being made. As if within a cocoon, most of that progress is unseen by others. That metaphor is useful, and I really need to turn the inside out in order to make a difference.

Here is what I have to report on as of now:

The book which was to underpin the journey already completed through pre-sales is in the process of being written. The book, Life Bridge, is a photo essay and will feature 24 artists each with a contribution on the theme human bridge. I expect that these artists will all come from Korea, for no other reason than there is a particular aesthetic towards the collective and design which is interesting from Korea. Seeing a broad range of contributions will also be easier to compare and contrast if generated from a similar background. From the perspective of addressing poverty Korea is also an interesting case study. It is a country which has overcome the wreckage of war, and while now by no means perfect, does give some clues to how best to proceed with progress.

The Design Forum will take place in May 2018. Before that can be organised, there is some preliminary work that is required. More on that soon.

Today is the anniversary of the Armistice signed in 1953 which brought to a temporary cessation hostilities on the Korean peninsula. That too was progress, but also unfinished business.

In the meantime, I’ll begin to blog more frequently on a daily basis and get this back on track.

For all those who have supported this effort to date, thank you.

2030 Agenda

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New World Order...
New World Order…

Did you hear about the plan the United Nations has for world domination? Apparently, the Illuminati are involved there somewhere as well. Yes folks, the New World Order is finally arrived…

Watch the video below. The guy makes some alarming and stunning claims. If they are true, we are truly doomed. I suspect we might yet be in good hands.

In actual fact, the 2030 Agenda is the subtitle for the United Nations for their ambitious plan to replace the Millenium Development Goals which are due to expire at the end of 2015. From the beginning of 2016 through until 2030, the United Nations will be focused on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The proper title I think is: “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Once upon a time and many years ago, I served in the Australian Army for many, many years. Most people know that ‘military time’ is read using a 24-hour clock. That is to say that 8.30 pm would be read ‘2030 hours’.

During my time in the Army when I was a young gunnery officer, there was a gathering we used to have when young gunnery officers on course at the old School of Artillery. Come 10 pm, we would drop our studies and meet in the bar for a few drinks and to share a laugh with a bit of a ribbing.

Recently, I had suggested that we could reconvene the 10 o’clock Club on Twitter by posting what we were doing and where we were at on that evening at 10 pm as if gathering for the 10 o’clock Club. It worked to some degree, although with less pick-up than might be seen as successful.

Now, with the change of this new agenda for a global partnership, or the imminent rise of a New World Order depending on your worldview, it is appropriate that the 10 o’clock Club should also reflect this change. Consequently, I’m inviting you all to the 2030 Agenda every evening at 8.30 pm. Post every evening with something that comes as close to addressing the issue of child survival with the #2030Agenda. I will be posting every evening (as often as I can) at 8.30 pm on Twitter (in whatever time zone I am in). I hope to see you at the #2030Agenda soon!

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!

Few Will Have The Greatness To Bend History Itself

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IMG_4100“Who are you doing this for?” This is perhaps the most frequently asked questions of me as I set about the epic journey which I had called the 10 City Bridge Run. I ran 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries. I wasn’t doing it for myself, and I wasn’t doing it for an organisation. Truth be told, I was doing it for the many millions of children born and unborn, along with their parents and communities to give them hope and the enjoyment of a good start to life by combatting child mortality. Audaciously, I proposed that through this crazy stunt that we could open a conversation to improve the delivery of child survival.

Initially, I did think this question about “who or which organisation was I doing it for?” was entirely reasonable. I now look back and see that instead that question is based on a flawed premise that it is only through having the juggernaut of a fundraising institution behind you that our efforts might have any credibility. We don’t need anything other than our own sense of daring and will to make change happen. It doesn’t mean will will be successful, but then again, not everything the large institutions do is successful either. Certainly there are questions about probity that need to be addressed, but that is also a matter of trust between those that might support me and my own personal integrity and conduct.

Can we really give ourselves permission to tinker a little as individuals collaborating together so as to put a dent in the universe?

Yes, it is about us as individuals and what we will do together. This thought returned to me as a startling epiphany today while I was re-reading “The End of Poverty” by Jeffrey Sachs. “The End Of Poverty” is a great treatise on how poverty can be eradicated by 2025 from the perspective of an economist. What struck me as profound in Sachs’ book is the final paragraphs are dedicated not to how the UN or the IMF or the World Bank will save the day, but he writes very pointedly:

In the end, however, it comes back to us, as individuals.

He amplifies this comment by quoting Robert kennedy:

Great social forces, Robert Kennedy powerfully reminds us, are the mere accumulation of individual actions.

And he goes on to end his book with a powerful quote from Kennedy, repeated below:

Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence… Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation…

It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different enters of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

I’m inviting you, asking you, challenging you, and imploring you to do something that maybe you might not have done before. Do something daring. Go ahead and take action, become an activist. Do it as yourself, an individual representing yourself, but as part of a collective experience. What that something daring is will to some degree be up to you.

We need your participation in the series of Design Forum that are unfolding. Let your little droplets of activity send out tiny ripples of hope, so that together we will build a current that will sweep like a tsunami of activity that might even bend history itself.

I dare you.

No fireworks tonight

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Fireworks Finale
Finale and new beginnings

Actually, the big cities of the world will be full of fireworks this evening at the time zones move past midnight- there will be plenty of fireworks.

Not so for many of millions of people.

Should we not spend the money on the fireworks? Is that a real solution to the problem of poverty? And if so, where would such a frugal spirit end?

Enjoy the evening if you have a great view of the fireworks, but spare a thought for those without the same privileges. Commit to doing something about it in the new year- not just a resolution, but real action.

Wishing you all a blessed new year full of peace and happiness. Bring on 2011!

Complexity and Simplicity: Avoiding the ‘Too Simple’

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Alan C. Kay
Image via Wikipedia

The problem with ‘poverty porn’ is not that it is actually ‘porn’. If that were the case it would be the most appalling failure of care meaning that aid agencies would be distributing inappropriate pictures of the vulnerable in order to pull heart-strings to make money.

So what is the problem with ‘poverty porn’? I think Alan Kay, with his brilliant scientific mind, presents this idea clearly in this TED Talk A Powerful Idea About Teaching Ideas. He is not talking about poverty, he is talking about how we might better educate young minds.

When we reduce the complex to an over-simplified explanation it is just as unhelpful as making it unnecessarily over-complex. Much of the discourse of reduction of extreme poverty has been reduced to sound bites that make a good pitch for fund raising events. Einstein said:

Things should be a simple as possible, but not simpler.

Thinking like a child is an important skill that Kay presents as benefitting understanding. Creating a pictorial petition through the 10 City Bridge Run of 24,000 images using the human bridges people themselves capture on photograph is an attempt to present our ability to intervene into poverty into a pragmatic and meaningful form. Please join us on this journey.

Children are the future we send to the future… Children need mentors.

Incongruence and empty seats

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A rural worker drying cow dung in Bihar, the p...
A rural worker drying cow dung in Bihar, the poorest state in India

 

Unhappy with the “still unsatisfactory” public attendance at competition venues, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), on Saturday, launched an investigation into complaints of unavailability of tickets despite many seats lying vacant at some stadiums.

At a Press conference on Saturday, CGF chief Michael Fennell made his stand clear when he interrupted OC Secretary General Lalit Bhanot while he was answering a question on the ticketing issue, and said it was decided in a meeting that the matter would be investigated and the report submitted by Sunday.

When asked if blackmarketing of tickets was resulting in unavailability at counters, Bhanot said, “I don’t have any information on that…”

The report titled Irked by empty seats, fennell launches probe published today (10 October 2010) in the IndianExpress.com.

What should we make of this and does this have anything at all to do with extreme poverty?

Consider that there are more people living in poverty in India alone than in Africa. So says BBC News on 13 July earlier this year.

Eight Indian states account for more poor people than in the 26 poorest African countries combined, a new measure of global poverty has found.

That is not a derogatory reflection on India. Great progress has been made in India moving people out of poverty, and this trend should be applauded and supported. There was also much media attention given to the state of the Commonwealth Games facilities prior to the opening of the current competition. I would suggest this has less to do with Indian technology, ingenuity and workmanship, but might be more related to what some have described in their opinion as a prevailing culture of corruption.

The games are part way through, and the Commonwealth Games Chief has ordered an investigation.

My response is what a completely incongruent response! In a city where the cost of food to eat out is measured (in Australian currency) in cents, and where the livelihood through income of many people is measured in the single figure digits of US Dollars.

There are better things we could be doing with our time, money and attention that worry about why the horse has already bolted. Could the frustration which Michael Fennel has rightfully expressed be more constructively leveraged elsewhere I wonder?

Complex

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Macquarie Park Ticket Hall
Macquarie Park Ticket Hall

I was speaking with my friend last night, Armen, who lives in a part of Sydney known for its relative poverty. The area around Macquarie Park has changed radically over the last 11 years. Now there is a train line nearby, and with the university and shopping centre a short walk away you would hardly think it was once among the worst areas for crime and social neglect.

We spoke about poverty for some time, and about how complex this issue is to understand. Armen made a distinction between a physical poverty and spiritual poverty, and how this is sometimes overlooked. People can see the obvious signs of physical poverty so clearly.

Does this distinction matter when the physical needs of extreme poverty are so profound?

The Big Divide- Rich and Poor

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These key indicators of human well-being have ...
Image via Wikipedia

The Sydney Morning Herald reported a story titled The big divide: the super rich versus struggle street. I thought it was worth looking at this further from a perspective of extreme poverty. Is there any correlation? Is this part of the conversation?

A short answer would be ‘No’.

The conditions of those in extreme poverty is so atrocious, it beggars belief. Try and comprehend 4,000 children dying daily from diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation.

Just as this is not the ‘fault’ of someone else having a lot of money (or little money), it is not ultimately solved by more money or more aid being directed at the problem. Neither is ‘more awareness’ on its own going to solve the problem. Same for ‘more education’.

These are all pieces of how the problem should be addressed. Aid given through foreign policy could be targeted as much as the ‘super-rich’. It also becomes a big ethical question of what is super-rich and how should ‘they’ respond? Should being able to have a manicure (the opening example in the article) necessarily entail obligation and responsibility and more for someone who is less able.

My friend Virginia challenged me on how is the 10 City Bridge Run going to make a difference. I believe it will do this through leverage. And it is at its core an intellectual challenge. This does not mean that we all sit around and think our way out of extreme poverty. That would be nonsense and action is required.

How might this change things, really? That is a good question. Imagine many people (many in the thousands) who each change how they think about this issue a little bit, not just one but on a regular or occasional basis over the course of a year, and with their thinking their actions also change.

This is what I believe needs to occur. Maybe meeting the Millennium Development Goals is impossible. Noises from New York would already indicate that the global financial crisis is the convenient reason to explain why these targets have not been met.

If the conversation about extreme poverty is only measured in money and aid, rather than actions and outcomes my fear is that the end of poverty will be a long, long way from us yet. To create a change, we first need to change our thinking, and very quickly after that have our actions reflect this change in mindset.

If anything, the conversation about the ‘super-rich’ and ‘struggle street’ is an unwelcome distraction from what constitutes extreme poverty. Good for selling newspapers.

A demographer at KPMG, Bernard Salt, said rising inequality was beside the point as most Australians were better off than they were 20 years ago.

”If there is a divergence emerging it is because the super wealthy are doing so much better. I don’t think it’s because the battlers are going backwards. Everyone did well, it’s just that the upper end did well better,” he said. (quoted from the SMH article)


Philanthropy at work

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City Union Railway Bridge
Image via Wikipedia

The 10 City Bridge Run is philanthropy at work.

Philanthropy doesn’t mean Not-For-Proft. It means doing good in the interests of others.

Please sponsor the book “Above the Line” for $24 and help make a difference to poverty in our world.

This will enable awareness to be raised, a petition to be present to the G20 Summit, and leverage to fund projects that address the two biggest killers of children globally. Diarrhoea (through water and sanitation) and malaria (through mosquito netting).

The 10 City Bridge Run is an initiative of Social Alchemy, a social business established in 2006.  It is cause-driven, otherwise defined as for-benefit and for-purpose. No profit made by the organisation is able to be distributed in the form of dividend.