The power of collaboratively sharing our knowledge

An invitation from the folks at the Barefoot Guides arrived in my email this morning and reminded me that I haven’t yet written about these amazing publications. So I thought I would remedy that today.

Barefoot Guides illustration

They’re starting work on their latest Barefoot Guide – on Climate Cooling – and they’re looking for people who have knowledge to contribute or who want to help ‘writeshop’ the guide.

They would like to hear from you if you:

  • Know about natural systems and how to work with regenerative practices to address climate change;
  • Have lived experiences and practice of mitigating or adapting to climate change through working with nature (soil, air and water cycles);
  • Have worked with communities on behavioural change in how they relate to climate change and the earth; or
  • Are an illustrator or graphic artist who wants to help develop creative insights and compelling images about climate change and climate cooling.
“Climate change is not an abstract concept,” they explain. “It is already changing the livelihoods, lives and future potential of everyone, and will particularly impact on the lives of children and young people. While the urgent need for carbon (CO2) reduction is well known, the potential to mitigate, adapt, and even cool the earth through regenerative practices has not been widely discussed or shared.”

“There are people, organisations and communities all over the world who are working with soil and water cycles in natural systems to transform harmful practices and restore Earth’s health. We want to share these stories, practices and approaches that have the potential for climate cooling with as many people as possible.”

The Barefoot Guides are immensely practical, readable, and source the knowledge of people who are working in social change around the world. You can download them for free. I used them as readings when I taught practical field skills for students in human security and peacebuilding because they are the kind of resources designed to be used by ordinary communities worldwide – no academic language here.

Along similar lines is another wonderful resource, the Hesperian Foundation guides. The very first one I ever heard about was “Where there is no doctor”, which is the ‘most widely-used health care manual for health workers, educators and others involved in primary health care and health promotion around the world”.

But the foundation’s library has expanded dramatically since then in terms of topics and languages. There are now 20 titles, spanning women’s health, children, disabilities, dentistry, health education, HIV, and environmental health. They also have a wiki which you can consult.

Like the Barefoot Guides, Hesperian’s guides are developed collaboratively and start with learning what people want to know, how they look for health information, and how they plan to use it. Their goal is to make sure the information is relevant, easily understood, and will be used by the people they want to serve.

“To fulfill our mission of bringing health information to the greatest number of people possible, we prioritize translation that has made our materials now available in over 85 languages,” says Hesperian. “We work with translation partners around the world to shape the communication of our health information to suit diverse cultural needs and varied contexts.” Their information is available as books, booklets, e-books, online content, and apps, and it’s regularly updated to include new approaches to health and the latest advances in medicine.

People in 221 of 230 countries and territories have used its materials.