Of Pokémon Go, Spivak and the future of Health Systems Global

My vision for a contemporary and future Health Systems Global is that we become a meeting place of diverse and independent thinking equals

Of Pokémon Go, Spivak and the future of Health Systems Global

By Karen Daniels, HSG Board Candidate 2016

Right now our household is in the throes of Pokémon Go fever, with my 17 year old being an active participant in the global craze. Even though I’m little past 17, I can see the attraction. Pokémon Go combines fabulous graphics, GPS, and virtual reality, with experiential learning. If, like my son, current players first played when they were kids, then they already know the rules and are well programmed to play the game. Using GPS, the program or perhaps more accurately, the programmers, direct players as to where to go within their own physical geographical vicinity, so as to catch Pokémon. On Sunday this fever was elevated in Cape Town through a Pokémon Go event at which hundreds of people turned up. My 17 year old lovingly explained that these events involve ‘lure modules,’ which act like magnets to attract masses of Pokémon. I said to my 17 year old, “You do realise that Pokémon aren’t real and that you were the one who was attracted”. His response: “Why do you have to deconstruct everything Mom!”. If only he knew that all of this had me thinking about how to apply the lesson elsewhere.

Last week, during our online strategic planning for Health Systems Global, a key issue discussed was how to attract not only more members, but also how to attract members from a diversity of sectors and geographical locations. Now, we as Health Systems Global could go the Pokémon Go way, and find our equivalent of lure modules, attracting members across the globe, on the basis of some shared experience, who already know the rules of the game, so that they may act in exactly the way we want them to, without even knowing that they’re being controlled. At present, our organisation remains close to the academic world, and we all know about the kinds of lure modules and controls of this world – chasing academic prestige as scored through publication numbers and impact factors, winning big grants and the allure of global recognition. But that to me is not what Health Systems Global is or should be about, and so another weekend event had me thinking even further about what it is that we are about …

On Friday night some of us in Cape Town attended a lecture by the renowned Prof Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. She started her talk with the lesson that “to be equal is not to be the same,” an idea which to me has deep resonance with how I envision the future direction of Health Systems Global. What was clear from our strategic planning discussions last week, is that although many of our members are researchers, Health Systems Global is not a professional body organised around a hierarchy of academic rules. Instead this is an organisation of health policy and systems practitioners; including policy makers, civil society, media and communications, along with researchers. Embracing this diversity, I believe that everyone, within our organisation, should be equally valued. Every voice, every experience grounded in engaging with health policies and systems, is of equal value and should be included and respected. However, it doesn’t end at just recognising each other as equals in our attempts at achieving improved health policies and systems. Instead, reflecting on Prof Spivak’s lesson, our richness, comes not from having everyone who is equal be exactly the same – we are after all not pre-programmed video game players. Our richness comes from our diversity; not from an attempt at cloning, where persons from well-resourced settings teach persons from less resourced settings how to be, nor for policy makers and civil society taking their lead from researchers. As we embrace and encourage this diversity, we need to find new ways of engaging, innovative processes of sharing. I believe that the health of our globe will begin to improve when we as a diversity of equals come together and listen to each other. It will improve when we act on what we learn from each other, within the spirit of a belief in the collective global good. My vision for a contemporary and future Health Systems Global is that we become a meeting place of diverse and independent thinking equals.

I am standing for election as a Health Systems Global Board member. With this blog, I share some of my values and invite you to look not only at my profile, but that of all the candidates.

Thank you!

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