The Tale of the Hummingbird

At Global Ideas we come from many backgrounds, but we’re united by our passion for health for all. Health for all is not just a practical goal, but a shared belief in global justice. A belief that where gaps in health outcomes exist that are preventable, they are unjust and we must work hard to close them. It’s a call to action to ensure no-one is left behind.

Too many people in our region are unable to meet their most basic health needs. Let’s compare the health of Australians with one of our closest neighbours, Timor Leste. If we take the crudest measure of health; how long you might expect to live at birth, then there is a 13 year gap between Australia and Timor Leste (81.5 years versus 68.7 years, both sexes combined). What causes these premature deaths? In Timor Leste the top two causes of premature death are lung disease and diarrhoea. Children and young adults are dying right on our doorstep because they lack access to healthy food, clean water and clean air as well as clinics and medicines. Many of these deaths are preventable. These burdens of disease affect the extent to which each person in our region can flourish as a member of their family and community.

Therefore, if you believe that health is a basic building block for a fully flourishing life, then too many people in our region and across the globe are missing out. This places obligations on us, move us out of our comfort zones, it compels us to do more. This is why I work in global health. It is the belief in the idea of a shared humanity, a belief in the capacity for human progress and a belief in global justice. And most importantly, a belief that we can, and should, do what we can to close these gaps. Let me share with you the tale of the hummingbird:


(Original video: AMSA Global Health Conference 2010)


You’ve heard the story before, the tale of the Hummingbird. At least the archetype. She stares into the face of overwhelming adversity, she’s driven by a powerful belief that she can make a difference for the better, she chips away, does the best she can. Despite her peers thinking that she’s mad. The problem is too huge, they say. Stop wasting your time, they say. But she persists, her belief is undiminished, she does the best she can. Which character are you in this story? The hummingbird or the voice in the crowd?




Here we see a busy London street. People out shopping, some on their way to work, others socialising with friends. Can you see yourself in this picture? These are our lives. Lurking in the background, hidden in plain sight are the big issues of our time. Environmental destruction, climate change, worsening inequality, poor health outcomes for those left behind. When out shopping on a winter afternoon, these issues seem very far from the front of our minds. They seem really hard to deal with. They seem like other people’s problems, people who are supposedly “in charge”. It’s easy for us to be the voice in the crowd.


The future-2


But as Margaret Mead has said; “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” While the scale of problems we face in the world can be overwhelming, if we become overwhelmed, then we will most certainly fail to tackle them. Just as the hummingbird faced the fire, if we all do what we can, by acting individually and collectively, we’ll be able to achieve transformative change.

Global Ideas is here to help you make a start. At Global Ideas Forum, you’ll meet people who are already creating change, through building social movements, social enterprises and social innovations; they’re doing what they can and leading the way. Global Ideas Labs will help you take a deeper dive to more fully understand an issue impacting global health. And finally, the Global Ideas design challenges will see you at your most creative, applying the tools of human centred design to help communities in our region make practical improvements to their own health. In this way, by growing our diverse community of global health innovators, we’ll together build the skills and networks required to catalyse action for healthier communities, healthier lives and a healthier planet. I hope you can join us.


lloyd nash, chair and co-founder