No one will be left behind...

In Geneva at the Department of the Director General for a meeting with the Sustainable Development Goals Lab to share humanKINDER’s mission, purpose and aspiration to amplify silenced voices for systems change. The SDG Lab was the brainchild of Director General Micheal Moller in 2016 - who together with the results of a mapping exercise by the International Institute for Sustainable Development - recognised that the organisation needed to move from single focus to look across all issues, finding solutions across systemic horizons. This hybrid innovation lab model sits in the office of the Director General and has all the benefits that come with that, but significantly does not have to adhere to legal protocols which gives it more flexibility. 

Peace, United Nations in Geneva, May 2019

Peace, United Nations in Geneva, May 2019

Before the SDGs, the UN aspired to the Millennial Development Goals, but with a focus on just “developing countries”: this unsurprisingly caused a divide. The SDGs are now applicable to all countries in the world - an approach which very much resonates with the whole systems approach of humanKINDER. They encompass a framework to address many of the themes emerging during last week’s World Health Assembly - gender, equality, empowerment, communities  - which are held precious to us at humanKINDER too.

The SDG Lab regularly hold ‘So What’ sessions which explore a couple of goals and their interrelationship in depth. For example Peace & Development or Gender & Sustainability. A main focus is bridging boundaries and building bridges - sometimes literally - in programmes of work which cut across different departments and areas of work. For example a recent project brought together members of the private financing district on the left bank of Lake Leman in Geneva together with professionals from the UN offices on the right bank. It had been a challenge to bring these two together, notably across the divide of water, but now they have a successful new programme of work which is already seeing new products in the fields of impact investing and blended finance models for good. 

The SDG Lab approach very much reminded me of my work in SILK, and notably the challenges of working using design-principles for horizontal human-centred work within the context of siloed teams/organisations/cultures/industries. It was reaffirming to share experiences, limitations and possibilities within this context, sharing the reasons why I felt it important to 'break out' from the institutional setting in order to go TO people rather than expect them to come to us.

For us at humanKINDER it is particularly important to understand what the SDG Lab and the UN mean by ‘inclusion’. We discussed this in depth within the framework of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Transforming our World; notably the pledge from 193 countries to ensure that “no one will be left behind”.

It was and inspiring and intriguing in similar measure inside the Palais des Nations, notably the historical weight of the Council Chamber where the League of Nations had first convened and where the walls were covered with the incredible works of Catalan artist José Maria Sert: studies of War and Peace, Progress of Humanity, Justice and International Law.

Mural by Catalan artist José Maria Sert, League of Nations Council Chamber

Mural by Catalan artist José Maria Sert, League of Nations Council Chamber

Source: www.humanKINDER.UK

Word on the street from 72nd World Health Assembly, Geneva, May 2019

Last week I was in Geneva for some of the side events at the 72nd World Health Assembly. The WHA is the supreme decision-making body for the World Health Organisation, attended by delegations from all 194 member states. There was big buzz around the event as people from all over the world convene to discuss global health solutions in our current turbulent world.

I was there to network, discover and test out some humanKINDER concepts against the ideas presented here, taking full advantage of all the great minds and organisations hosting side events at the WHA72. The days proved fruitful, providing plenty of contextual information for a couple of collaborative bids we have in the pipeline, one for Dundeed and the other an application for a panel at SWSX 2020 in the US next year. 

I often find the side ‘chat’ equally revealing and this time proved no different. In the street outside the Palais des Nations: “you know the reason they have the fountains in the square in front of the United Nations is to stop the protestors…” But the water did not stop the good people of Venezuala and Kurdistan who I saw one day out in force in front of the Palais Gates. Another day a very loud and disturbing mobile phone conversation from a self proclaimed Christian Fundamentalist - with “full coverage of the US airwaves" - which made my jaw drop. That moment was perhaps the closest I have had into first-hand insight of the moral blindness which evidently accompanies such fundamentalist thinking.

Financing sustainable community health for all: the importance of Women Leaders, WHA72, Geneva

The trip started with a superb evening session celebrating and making the case for 'Financing Sustainable Community Health for All: The Importance of Women Leaders' organised by a partnership between Centre for Global Health and Diplomacy, Communities at the heart of UHC, Living Goods, Last Mile Health and the What to Expect Project.  The key message, which was emphasised by the Honourable Dr Ruth Aceng, Minister of Health for Uganda was that universal health coverage begins and ends in the communities. The first thing she did was emphasise the importance of listening and learning from the experiences of the frontline community health workers from Liberia and Uganda who had been first to speak.

Dr Aceng was keen to point out that there is a limit to voluntarism. Everyone wants to be able to put food on the table. This is what we are pushing for in Africa to the government. The community health workers must be a paid workforce. A motivated workforce, but with the support of complimentary volunteers. Emphasising the critical role of women she said that when they are fired up they will get things moving. Really pleased to hear that this week she has received a Heroine of Health Award from Women in Global Health.  

Geetha Tharmaratnam Partner for Africa and Head in Impact for LGT Impact shared an key insight that  where women are 30% more in senior leadership, these investments have outperformed. She said it is clear that the numbers and principles speak for themselves. Marie-Ange Saraka-Yao  raised close to $18 billion US dollars for Gavi between the years of 2011-2015. Our bottom line is saving lives she explained, explaining her work in setting up innovation incubators, raising funds for vaccinations, and testing the use of drones for the delivery medical essentials across Africa. Her closing words: Believe in your vision, be audacious, be innovative and be bold. 

The following morning I attended a Breakfast panel hosted by the World Economic Forum and chaired by Marie-Ange (Gavi) to explore Globalisation 4.0: shaping the future of health and healthcare. One of the opening remarks which had particular resonance with me in light of my own recent experiences travelling Europe with The Welcome Tent, was from Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of The Wellcome Trust. The British passport comes with uncertainty and circumstances which now seem beyond our control, but which we profoundly regret.

Yet it was pleasing to hear that despite that weighted comment, he had chosen to focus on reemphasising the positives. Look at the progress we have made. The global health community are good at focussing on the challenges rather than on the progress. Don’t underestimate the ingenuity of people and communities… the youth, the drive the energy. Don’t give into the populist agenda. 

Nancy Brown Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Assocation said that many in the US are troubled by the inequities of the healthcare system and Marie-Ange responded that in her recent experience travelling around the world there is a now a common aspiration in every country for equal access to health care. 

Farid Fezoua, President and CEO , GE Africa and GE Healthcare Africa said it is essential to engage commercial lenders/donors in different ways, notably PPPs in Africa especially Kenya demonstrate an appetite for this approach. He shared a programme of work focussing on the task shifting and education of midwives to address maternal and newborn health, explaining how technology can be leveraged to break down the barriers of distance and cost by focussing on design. 

The Director General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control emphasised the importance of agile leadership and financial savings where dispersed teams can prevent small outbreaks from turning into big outbreaks. Investing in a network of people as leaders, across the space - teams that can think, react and respond enables the optimisation of staff across the network. He reflected that of course this approach should expect some resistance from the status quo as it goes against the hierarchy and warned that change will not happen overnight. This issue particularly resonated with my experiences leading SILK in the UK, the first social innovation lab within UK government.  

His final heartfelt comment was significant. When receiving an invite from a group of young people in the organisation, he realised that the under 35s were organising a forum to support themselves, outside working hours. This nearly brought tears to my eyes he said because they are realising the responsibility that they have, realising that they have to have the confidence and competence to lead themselves.


I next took a side step away from ‘Health’ into our other current field of work supporting and amplifying the experiences of displaced and refugee communities across Europe. If there was one criticism that could be leveraged against the WHA72 was that there was not enough diversity in the disciplines represented… With my social innovation hat on, I imagined what potential there could be if multiple perspectives - social scientists, urban planners, gamers etc - could all be brought together around global health issues.

It seemed rather appropriate that one of the first things I saw at the UN Refugee Agency was a photo of the refugee that is Einstein.

We cannot solve problems using the same thinking we used when we created them

Albert Einstein

I was glad to be able to attend an educational workshop led by Luc Brandt, Special Advisor, about his role and activities for the UNHCR. He shared a film about the history of the organisation, the legal framework for displaced and refugee communities and his personal experiences of working on the ground in Burundi. His talk was in French, of course, as Geneva is in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and the one comment that really stood out for me and which I wholeheartedly agree with was “le système est en crise”. This was my first, but definitely not the last time I plan to visit.

Next I found myself in another building with iconic humanitarian status, the Museum of the Red Cross, for the launch of Prevention in an Ageing World by Baroness Greengross, the CEO of the International Longevity Centre, UK. The story behind the museum is fascinating and significant in humanitarian history. While on a business trip to secure a water concession with Napoleon III in Italy, Henry Dunant a Swiss Businessman found himself near the site of the Battle of Solferino on 24th June, 1859. Deeply shocked by the state of the wounded, and the fact no one was coming to their aid, he decided to treat them with the help of the local population ensuring each person was given the same care, regardless of their nationality. His memoirs inspired the creation of the International Commitee of the Red Cross (source Céleste magazine, Beau-Rivage, 2019).

Source: Céleste magazine, Beau-Rivage, 2019

Source: Céleste magazine, Beau-Rivage, 2019

Next was a Panel Discussion at the beautiful Beau-Rivage Hotel with its 160 Angels overlooking Lake Leman, hosted by Alzheimer’s Disease International and discussing why we all need to do more about dementia. Paolo Barbarino, CEO of ADI shared their new report From Plan to Impact II, the urgent need for action.

A highlight for me was a heartfelt presentation from Dr Salih Ali Al-Marri, Deputy Minister @MOPHQatar who shared his personal experiences of family members living with dementia. I can always feel their emotions whenever they are happy or whenever they are feeling their ups and downs. Dr Al-Marri has been the driving force behind Qatar being the first country in the world to have a National Dementia Strategy and Plan adopted after being a pilot country in the World Health Organisation Global Observatory in 2015.

Sharing  The Dementia Diaries  at WHA72

Sharing The Dementia Diaries at WHA72

From Plan to Impact II: the urgent need for action, Alzheimer’s Disease International, 2019

From Plan to Impact II: the urgent need for action, Alzheimer’s Disease International, 2019

From Plan to Impact II: the urgent need for action, Alzheimer’s Disease International, 2019

From Plan to Impact II: the urgent need for action, Alzheimer’s Disease International, 2019

From Plan to Impact II: the urgent need for action, Alzheimer’s Disease International, 2019

From Plan to Impact II: the urgent need for action, Alzheimer’s Disease International, 2019

The prevalence of dementia is not diminishing and it was this point that was captured so eloquently in the concluding remarks from Australian Kate Swaffer, Human Rights Activist and Founder of Dementia Alliance, the global voice of dementia, an international advocacy agency run by and for people living with Dementia.

We want to see action, not reports that sit on shelves

Kate Swaffer, Founder Dementia Alliance

Because for people living with dementia, their families and their loved ones, every day and every moment counts. Kate added that optimism is really important and that we must never give up - if Edison had given up we wouldn't have lights on in this room. It was a real honour to meet Kate and find out she already has a copy of our beloved book The Dementia Diaries which was co-developed with the grandchildren of people living with dementia in Kent, UK in 2013. We are currently working with Sophie Okolo to find a way to get this life-affirming educational resource into every school in California, US.

Source: Céleste magazine, Beau-Rivage, 2019

Source: Céleste magazine, Beau-Rivage, 2019

But it was only the next day after leaving this magical hotel that when reading the Beau-Rivage Hotel Magazine I found out something truly remarkable. Eleanor Roosevelt had actually drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights while temporarily living there in the 1940s. Wow.

I had picked up the magazine because rather fortuitously I spent those days in Geneva without a mobile phone. Because in our current world of chaos - information, data, fake news, institutionalisation, viruses, crashes - I have found myself caught up and sucked in by the screen. So I found it hugely helpful - liberating even - to remove myself from this and find myself next to a statue of Gandhi sitting and contemplating quietly in the park facing the gates of the Russian Embassy with the Palais des Nations over his shoulder.

May your actions speak so loud that I cannot hear what you are saying

Honourable Dr Ruth Aceng Minister of Health for Uganda

Photograph by Emma Barrett Palmer

Photograph by Emma Barrett Palmer

Source: www.humanKINDER.UK

The Dementia Diaries, finding its feet in Los Angeles, California.

Great to talk this week with Matthew Snyman and Sophie Okolo, calling in from France, UK and Los Angeles, California.

Watch this space for a revival of our groundbreaking resources for families living with dementia, with particular acknowledgement of the growing number of younger carers - notably millennials - who are finding themselves in caring roles for their loved ones in our ageing society.

You can see a short film of the families who kindly shared their stories and participated in the project advisory and editorial board here.

The specification we received at the time from young carers of family members with dementia was: “we want something like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, where the facts are true and the feelings are real”. Thanks Jack, we hope we did justice to your original words.

We are so proud that this project - the book and learning resource for children, families, communities and society - will now be finding its feet in the United States. If you are interested in collaborating, or able to offer any financial support for these next steps, we would love to hear from you.


“Dirty man …v…Wild Birds” [i]

This oh-so-appropriate title is handpicked from an article back in 2016, framing the potential implications of “Brexshit” within the context of Environment Law in the UK and Europe. Reading the report from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change on the impacts of global warming rising above the 1.5°C target, this hugely comprehensive piece is forebodingly more relevant then ever:

Scientists might want to write in capital letters ‘ACT NOW IDIOTS’, but they need to say that with facts and numbers… and they have, said Kaisa Kosonen from Greenpeace[ii].

After many thousands of miles living on the road in the last year from Calais to Greece - cooking ‘recipes of HOPE’ with displaced humans across Europe in The Welcome Tent - our home (as economic migrants or Brexitfugees?) now overlooks Mont Blanc and the Chamonix Valley in the Alps. We see the impact of this environmental “catastrophe” everyday, looking out the window at glaciers melting at a rate arguably only possible with global warming? The stark reality of our current situation is so much closer than many perhaps care to think, but with eyes glued to our screens, the sales of Merel boots with their Polar Bear logo continues to rise, while the existence of real live Polar Bears becomes ever more precarious.

My passion lies in human rights and equitable participation for everyone on this planet. Yet, with no planet there will be no rights to fight for. It really is that serious. No single industry, discipline or person can solve the complex problems we face in this age: the issues are all consuming, inter generational, conscious and subconscious, too overwhelming, fear inducing or just being plain ignored.

This past year, I can now say with evidence, that many of the issues presenting themselves around the world have foundations in the colonialism of our past – and present - from which our ancestors and current public administrations continue to rape and reap the rewards. Indeed as much as I support a welfare state, many of our government and public service systems are a clear demonstration of exploitation by design, only remaining intact due to our collective and complicit silence in the face of injustice. As we look for a scape goat for our current catastrophic situation, the finger of blame points to ‘Those Black People in Boats’ - already silenced by public systems so shamelessly outdated that one can conclude these systemic failings must be orchestrated.

People fleeing war, conflict and environmental conditions – legally entitled to protection under international law - are literally dying to get to safety in Europe. Thousands of people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in recent years and many more returned notably to the Libyan coast under the hugely criticised Italian and wider European Migration policy changes. Human Beings - care workers, engineers, farmers, business owners, mums, dads, children. Human Beings who should and could be welcomed as part of a Loving and Living Europe.

Instead, the “powers that be” are pumping finances into a shameless Media which is continuing to fuel hatred, misogyny and prejudice and a divide-and-rule contractual, avoid-all-liability, immoral approach to just about everything from selling weapons of war, the rise and rise and rise of technology and health, social care and support service contracts which enable the “haves” and perpetuate the marginalisation of the “have nots”.

I used to lead the first social innovation research lab in UK government. I quit when I started to volunteer in Calais in the winter of 2015. The hunches, the guesstimates, the theories that I kept to myself, because They Could Not Possibly Be True, I now know are Absolutely True. “White supremacy” is the plague of our time, debilitating conditions created by those who have decided on our behalf – to pitch us as mere mortals against each other, like cocks in a ring – while the Winners of Capitalism sail off into the sunset.

I argue therefore that the saving of ‘civilisation’ cannot be left merely to politics. Many, if not most, of our public, government and larger agencies (from across sectors) are demonstrating Deliberate Moral Amnesia while chasing the money, clearly visible in their malpractice within frameworks of consent, globally. This is Colonialism demonstrated through abuse of the “how” of Exploration, of Cooperation, of Collaboration, of Agreement.

Until CEOs from across ALL Sectors understand the simple difference between “doing with” or “doing to”, current leadership models will fail us. The reality is that “land grabbing”, “pussy grabbing” and “contract grabbing” are all one and the same: all likely to increase as those with limited intelligence and weak hearts fear losing their control over the finite resources in this world.

So at this absolutely-beyond-critical-moment in the history of humanKIND, who indeed does have the answers? What is our Plan B? For sure we have Tech and Artificial Intelligence, Genetically Modified crops, insurance scams and Robotics as well developed “saviours” to future-proof our bubble lives. Yet the important question for me is will they merely keep us alive - in a slowly dying-inside type of way - or will they keep us alive and LIVING, nourishing us in a way which makes the stars twinkle in our eyes and songs of freedom dance in our souls?

I have met everyday people forced to flee their homes due to war, people in detention without trial, people forced to be sex workers, people who have lost loved ones far too young, people living with terminal illness and irreversible health conditions. I know people who have experienced none of the above, and still day-to-day is a struggle. A screen works for a while as escapism and then eventually can become addictive. Yet, what makes the difference for every single person that I have met is not a screen, but the simple humanitarian act of a hand up – not a hand out – a real human connection that gives the gift of hope in return for a smile.

If we have any chance of a future, based on the evidence in the 1.5°C report, we must learn how to grow together. Not by commodifying food and knowledge and selling it on at a fat profit, but through genuine consensual agreement, where all parties are beneficiaries. We must learn from people already connected intrinsically with nature, living in harmony with the land, with the earth. We must learn from the knowledge, wisdom and courage of people whose lives have already been in battle, who have the scars, the testimony and the strength to prove it. Perhaps we will find that these are the same people?

We must learn not only to tread lightly on Mother Earth, but nourish her as we nourish our children. We must re-educate ourselves about ‘herstory’ as much as history, because unless we go forward collectively with action and not merely words, all of our children will fight and die together in each others’ arms. 

So where’s the revolution we all need? Across Europe, it is the volunteers and displaced people I have seen “on the frontline” that, while dodging the further policy changes to criminalise their actions, continue to offer a humanitarian response – a hand up - beyond and despite the existing political system. Brave and humble people who have decided to hide their own tears by helping others, voting with their feet and acting with their hearts in this, the Age of Aquarius, which will be infamously known as the age which revoked the licence to rescue.  

if your feminism isn’t intersectional it ain’t shit” (IG punsn.roses).

How can all of us – together – share the one goal of saving the planet so my son’s generation will have a home in 50 years and so our descendants can exist for the next million years? Dividing our causes is a misuse of our resources: we must prioritise collective action by finding a way to harness separate energies and campaigns into whole system synergies. Unification around that one goal requires interconnection of ecological and humanitarian strategies at a global and local level, enabling us all to survive and thrive, while simultaneously learning coping strategies for enduring the shocks that are coming.

Reenergised with stories of commUNITIES already working towards this noble goal, I continue to look for cracks in the system, connecting the brightest stars. Indeed as Leonard Cohen sang:

There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”.