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Ryan Meili

on 30 September 2014

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Transcript of Upstream

Institute for A Healthy Society
New Theories
Primary Research
Media Reports
Partner Feedback
Social Media
Policy Changes
Government Decisions
Core concepts
Pick battles, win them. Train and capacitate. Mobilize and motivate.
The Stream
The School
The River

Imagine you are standing on the shore of a river. A
flailing, drowning child comes floating by. Without
thinking, you dive in, grab the child, and swim to shore. Before you can dry off and recover, another child comes floating along. You dive in and bring her too safely to shore. A crowd of curious onlookers gathers around.

Another child drifts into sight . . . and another . . . and another. Inspired by your bravery, people take turns jumping in and fishing the children out. Before long, some thoughtful person asks the pertinent question: who keeps chucking these kids in the water? Hopefully, they head upstream to find out.

Whether it’s treating illness instead of keeping people healthy, incarcerating troubled youth rather than rehabilitating them, or mopping up environmental disasters instead of avoiding them, we spend far too much time, energy and money on downstream solutions, reacting to crises rather than preventing them.

There is a better way, and it is up to us to change. We are the crowd at the river’s edge. We are the ones struggling to pull the drowning children from the river without asking who chucked them in. We are the ones who can choose to do better.

A Healthy Society

To make that choice, we need to have an idea of what better looks like, what kind of a society we want to live in. What better goal than creating the conditions for all people to enjoy true health — complete physical, mental, and social well-being? And what better measure of its success than the health of the people?

First, we have to see beyond health care to what really makes us ill or well – income and its distribution, education, employment, social supports, housing, nutrition, and the wider environment – the social determinants of health. Examining our decisions through the lens of optimal health allows us to focus our efforts on what makes the biggest difference in our wellbeing.

This also allows us to stop seeing investment in people as a cost. When we take into account the economic and social benefits of a healthy, educated population, we see that by doing nothing to address the factors that make people sick, we ensure that more and more kids will come down the river, and that many of them will drown.


Upstream is a movement to change the current conversation. We aim to make the mainstream look upstream, helping citizens to demand a healthy society, and to understand the best ways to get there.

By using the best evidence to invest in what really determines health, we can identify what we want and want we need. And we can make it happen.

By sharing stories of successful initiatives, we can inspire action.

By measuring and communicating the results, we can evaluate progress and change direction as needed.

This is how the Upstream dream becomes a reality. This is how we can build a truly healthy society.
Business leaders
Social media
Viral support
Nationbuilder tracking
Inbound Marketing

Evidence-Based Communication
- define and target audience
- track response
- follow-up contact
- A-B testing
Governance structure established

Committees / Working Groups

1st campaign issues identified


Internal communications
Kickstarter, soft launch

fb page

pre-launch buzz

Database of partners
(individuals and organizations)

Other grants

charitable status

Begin 1st video?
Hard launch
Full transcript