Opening access to Red Cross knowledge: an interview with John Willinsky, Public Knowledge Project, Stanford University

Reda Sadki Writing

Why are scholarly journals not obsolete? How does a journal contribute to learning? Why would the Red Cross need a scholarly journal? A lively conversation with John Willinsky from the Public Knowledge Project, recorded at the Third Conference on Scholarly Publishing in Berlin, Germany, on 28 September 2011.

Chronology of a new transit camp on the Tunisian border (Part 2 of 2): Going live

Reda Sadki Published articles

Part 1: Like clockwork | Part 2: Going Live

10:45 – The distribution of relief items starts

At the far end of the camp, four volunteers led by Arturo, a logistics specialist from the French Red Cross, get basic relief items ready for distribution. The items are NFIs, as we call them, or non-food items.

11:00 – A clean bill of health for the camp’s youngest baby
Omar is just 20 days old. If the International Organization for Migration (IOM) can find the funds, he should be out of the transit camp and back in his home country before he turns one month old. His sister, four-year-old Khadija, cries as Boutheïna talks to their parents, Aïcha and Mohammed. “She’s scared,” they explain. It turns out her lip is cut and hurting.

Aïcha will also sit down with Marwa Ben Saïd, 22, a fourth-year psychology student from Bizerte, who meets them in the psychosocial support tent. The camp’s children will also be called back to be checked for vaccinations and overall health. The camp’s emergency tents are now up and running 24/7, with an impeccably clean and well-organized pharmacy and space to receive up to four people at a time.

11:25 – Families under the tents
Khaltouma and Admadaoud are part of an extended family of 24 people. They have settled into six tents and next to each other so that they’re not separated. They lived in Libya for nearly two decades, raising children and building their lives. Khaltouma’s husband had a steady job as a driver. “We left because of war,” she explains. Last night they managed to
make it to the border. “When will we be able to go home?” is her first question.

13:30 – A news agency visits the camp
The national press agency Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP) arrives at the transit camp. Journalist Boutar Raouda stops at several tents to listen to people’s stories. She also meets the

14:55 – A new era for the Tunisian Red Crescent
The transit camp waits for more arrivals. Moaz, the tent builder, has been a volunteer for almost half his life. He is here to help, but also because he hopes that the dramatic events of 2011 will lead to a new era for his National Society.

15:00 Another bus arrives
The next bus arrives with 19 young men. There are no hiccups.

15:30 – Water, please
Inside the kitchens, Selhouah, 50, and Imane, 25, women from the local community, have joined Livia, Mulass and Layna. Outside, Marco, a water and sanitation engineer, gets the water purification system ready.

15h40 The first house call (or tent call)
An anxious young man walks into the health tent. His cousin is sick and has trouble walking. So Dr Chem Chem Abdelnour visits their tent, and finds an older man, who is obviously exhausted. “His head hurts,” they say. The doctor invites him over to be examined. There are already two more people waiting for care back at the tent. Boutheïna welcomes them and keeps track of patient intake.

15:52 – “Camp is now live”
“Camp is now live. Tx to all for all the hard preparation.” The text message arrives via SMS. It’s from Roger Bracke, the IFRC’s head of operations. If everyone had not been so focused on their work, a loud cheer might have been heard rising above the hubbub of life in the transit camp.

18:30 – Last bus of the night
One more bus arrives before nightfall, bringing 27 new arrivals to the transit camp.

19:30 – Dinner is served
The kitchens serve their first meal, as the camp starts to wind down for the night. There are now 123 people at the camp with 13 families and a total of 28 children under the age of 13, and 4 elderly people over the age of 60. Almost everyone is from Chad (106), with 16 people from Mali and 1 Ghanean.


Chronology of a new transit camp on the Tunisian border (Part 1 of 2)

Reda Sadki Published articles

Part 1: Like clockwork | Part 2: Going Live

06:00 – Base camp wakes up
Base camp wakes up. A cool breeze has risen along with the bright sun, whipping up sand and dust. The first crews of volunteers move out to the transit camp at Ras Jedir. Some of the volunteers, like 32-year-old Moaz, have spent the last four weeks installing tents that are now ready to provide shelter.

“We learnt on the job,” he explains. Together with a group from the Finnish Red Cross, he carried out his work by referring to guidance manuals. But all the hard work has paid off and today, Moaz is proud that the tents are ready and safe. In total, 20 National Societies – from Algeria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Iraq, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Luxemburg, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Palestine, Qatar, Syria, the UK and US, and, last but certainly not least, Tunisia – have contributed to building the transit camp.

Six and a half kilometres away, people have gathered at the Tunisian border crossing. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) will be shuttling them to the transit camps at Shousha and, for the first time, here. How many will arrive? Will there be many families? And, most importantly, how long they will have to wait before they can go home? Money is drying up both for the transit camp and for the repatriation efforts. Just as the camp is opening its doors, funding is desperately needed to meet the needs of those arriving.

08:00 – The volunteers are ready to go
Small groups of Tunisian Red Crescent volunteers leave base camp for the transit camp. Boutheïna is a 25-year-old prosthetist, the eldest of three sisters who all volunteer for the Tunisian Red Crescent. In fact, Boutheïna declares that her family, her job and the Red Crescent are the three most important things in her life. She is looking forward to working with the medical team today to welcome families and anyone needing health care. Her only regret? That she won’t be able to stay longer.

08:20 The Red Cross Red Crescent kitchen crew gets cooking
The Italian Red Cross kitchen crew arrive. Livia is a 23-year-old Italian psychology student who joined the Red Cross after the earthquake in Italy last year. She joins Mulass and Layna, both nurses, to start preparing the first meal to be served tonight at 19:30. They will work alongside fellow volunteers from the Algerian Red Crescent and with women from the local community.

09:10 – The registration crew is ready and waiting
The convoy of new arrivals is now leaving the border. At the registration centre, the volunteers wearing fluorescent yellow and orange jackets get ready. They have undergone intense training to be ready for today.
Atef mans one of the desks that will welcome newcomers. He is a 26-year-old first aider from Ben Ghardane, the town closest to the border on the Tunisian side that lives from trade with Libya. Until 22 February, he had been working across the border, but his company immediately brought him home. Six weeks later, he decided to come to the transit camp. “I’ve been there,” he says. He wants to help.

09:28 – The first bus arrives
The first bus arrives safely. The IOM delegates introduce themselves to the Red Crescent volunteers. People trickle out of the bus. They retrieve their luggage from a separate pick-up truck. There are huge suitcases, bags and boxes in all sizes, shapes and colours. Marhababikou”m” (welcome) is heard over and over, and quickly the new arrivals understand that they may soon be able to, at last, get some rest.

The first children clamber off the bus. They are on their guard, like their parents, but there are no tears. Mohamed and Imane queue with their daughter Zina, age 3, and Tahar, a strong-built 17-year-old boy. Then come Hassen and Hossein, six-year-old twins dressed in matching red outfits.

“They are real twins,” their father, Ousmane, explains proudly. A young man just turned 30, he has come with his wife, the twins, and Radhia, their two-year-old daughter. There is no more time to talk, as everyone lines up for registration.

09:33 – Registration starts
Working in two separate tents, over a dozen volunteers sit down with each family one at a time. Questions are asked and answered, mostly in Arabic, but also in French and English. Tickets are handed out to each person or head of household.

A family from Mali explains that they lived in Libya for ten years. Their eight children – ranging from the eldest Awa, age 10, to Fatma, who is just 2 months old – were all born in Libya. But now this family wants and needs to go home. They want to know when they’ll be able to leave. And that is a question that keeps being asked.

10:15 Registration ends
All 80 people are now registered, and many have already made it to their tents. The children settle in, playing in the family quarters. Today marks a new chapter, not only for the new arrivals, but also for this new camp and all those who have worked hard to make it happen.

NextPart 2: Going Live

Ras Jedir: feverish early days and freezing nights

Reda Sadki Writing

ZERZES, 4 April 2011 — “We stopped everything we were doing”, exclaims Mahfoud Bessah, the 39-year-old community-based programme coordinator at IFRC’s regional delegation in Tunis. On 21  February, he headed over to the eastern border immediately upon hearing the first reports of people crossing over. The Tunisian Red Crescent and UNHCR were already discussing how to respond. Together with Fadhel Goudil, a first aid doctor, Bessah arrived in Ras Jedir, fearing the worst.

What they found was staggering. Up to 15000 people were crossing the border from Lybia into Tunisia every day. Equally impresive was the response: spontaneous solidarity and generosity, with the local population organizing “khafila” (caravans) to carry food and other goods to those arriving at the border, whatever their origin. It is this spirit of solidarity and volunteerism that saved the day, Bessah believes, as the international community had just begun to understand the significance, scale and scope of what was being set in motion.

Two immediate challenges had to be faced. First, the near-freezing weather for border crossers with little or no shelter. Second, the very spontaneity that got things moving resulted in some logistical challenges. A gentle euphemism for what Bessah says was “n’importe quoi” (nonsense). Storage for donated goods was in short supply. People were everwhere, with nowhere to go, some carrying ridiculously large suitcases or anything else they managed to escape with.

Shelter had to be improvised. Bessah had to travel to Mednine to find a factory that could provide enough blankets. The first tents were 12 by 12 meters, intended for use during weddings or other festivities — not exactly SPHERE standards. But at least people gained some protection against the cold.

Once again, it was the spirit of volunteerism that got the tents up. Tunisian Red Crescent members did much of the heavy lifting, propelled by a sense of great urgency.

Unfortunately but somewhat predictably, these rollercoaster and sometimes haphazard early days — combined with the fact that no one in the region had ever had to deal with such a situation — have had lasting consequences.

In his initial recommandations, Bessah insisted on the fact that there was no life-threatening emergencies, no dead or dying among the “walkers” arriving: “We have to be calm, but act quickly” is how he summed it up.

Six weeks later, the flow of people crossing the border has slowed, and international media attention is now focused on the Lybian conflict itself. But the work continues as thousands more arrive. Most worrying is the fact that fewer and fewer are able to repatriate, adding pressure even when conditions are slowly improving. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is running out of money to fund repatriation, and donor fatigue appears to be setting in. “Uncertainty characterizes the situation”, sums up Gérard Lautredou, Head of the Regional delegation. “Right now, we’ve got around 2500 people arriving each day, but what will happen if events provoke a sudden upsurge?” he asks.

IFRC is slated to open its own transit camp on 6 April, to relieve some of the pressure on the main camp, Shousha, and to allow for that camp to be reorganized to address some of the underlying causes for tension and difficulties. Nevertheless, uncertainty looms. For those ready and willing to return home, the uncertainty most difficult to bear is probably not knowing when they might be called to Djerba airport. And the fate of those convinced that going home is not an option due to fear of persecution will not resolved in the short term. All of this makes the daily work — now out of the limelight — of improving living conditions and organization even more important, whatever the numbers may be, today or tomorrow.

Reda Sadki

TOC Frankfurt Ignite! Presentation: Of Emergencies, E-Books, and Literacy

Reda Sadki Writing

In this session, Reda Sadki, will examine his own organisation’s non-profit publishing activities. With 750 publications given away each year in print and on the web, he has initiated an effort to rewire a traditional publishing workflow into a digital one, including the use of XML for layout automation, print-on-demand (POD) and e-books.

Reda Sadki is the Senior Officer for Design and Production of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the world’s largest humanitarian organisation. For over 15 years, Reda Sadki has worked with U.N. organisations and international and local NGOs to improve visual communication by implementing high-impact design and cost-effective production workflows. The premise for his design work is that visual design and brand management for a cause are fundamentally different from mainstream advertising whose sole motive is profit. Reda has overseen design and production for numerous high-profile global reports on public health issues, including seven successive editions of the World Health Report (2001-2008). In addition, he has helped organisations improve how they organise publishing activities through careful planning and cost management of all aspects of production.

On Air

Celebrating life to fight racism, poverty, and disease in the poor suburbs of Paris

Reda Sadki About me, Audio, HIV advocacy

Click on the audio player’s right arrow to listen to the radio show.

Arab and African families were hit hard by the AIDS epidemic in France. They were amongst the first to be diagnosed in the early 1980s. The conjunction of poverty and racism then resulted in thousands of infections that were preventable and deaths that – once combination therapy became available in mid-1990s – were avoidable. It is estimated that men, women, and children of Arab and African origin account for half of the 35,000 AIDS deaths during the first two decades of the epidemic in France.

Survivre au sida (Surviving AIDS) is a weekly radio programme and web site created by Reda Sadki in 1995. The show is now produced by the Comité des familles, the organization he founded in 2003 to mobilize families of all backgrounds facing HIV. But Reda stayed at the helm until 2010, when he hired a young journalist he had trained to continue his work.

Although broadcast from a small, community-access radio station in Paris, in 2005 over 150,000 unique visitors each month came to the radio show’s web site. Half of them are from France and other European countries. The other half are from countries in West Africa where French is spoken. There are also listeners in Haiti and Canada.

First public demonstration by Arab and African families facing HIV in France in 2002 (Photo: Reda Sadki)
First public demonstration by Arab and African families facing HIV in France in 2002 (photo: Reda Sadki)

“It’s not a radio show about AIDS. It’s about speaking to the needs of people living with HIV,” explains Reda. It’s about living with the virus, loving with the virus, and having healthy children despite the virus. “In 1995, when I started, the virus was still equated with a death sentence. Yet, a clinical trial had already demonstrated that antiretrovirals could prevent mother-to-child transmission. And the power of ‘harm reduction’ to reduce infections amongst injectors had just been recognized.”

Today, the radio show celebrates the progress of medicine and its impact on the lives of families facing HIV. To love and to be loved. To have children and grand-children, knowing that (with a supportive doctor and good insurance) you will see them grow up as you grow old.

Crossroads radio show on celebrating life with HIV in the poor suburbs of Paris

This report by Michel Arseneault for Radio France International (RFI), first broadcast on 11 December 2006, is the only time an English-language journalist documented this singular story of how families facing HIV, poverty, and disease responded to a radio show’s call for empowerment by speaking for themselves, in their own names, and for their own needs.

George Siemens at TEDxNYED (3 June 2010)

A few of my favorite excerpts from George Siemens’s Knowing Knowledge (2006)

Reda Sadki Theory

My own practice (and no doubt yours) has been shaped by many different learning theorists. George Siemens, for me, stands out articulating what I felt but did not know how to express about the changing nature of knowledge in the Digital Age. Below I’ve compiled a few of my favorite excerpts from his book Knowing Knowledge, published in 2006, two years before he taught the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with Alec Couros and Stephen Downes.

Learning has many dimensions. No one model or definition will fit every situation. CONTEXT IS CENTRAL. Learning is a peer to knowledge. To learn is to come to know. To know is to have learned. We seek knowledge so that we can make sense. Knowledge today requires a shift from cognitive processing to pattern recognition.

Figure 5 Knowledge types

Construction, while a useful metaphor, fails to align with our growing understanding that our mind is a connection-creating structure. We do not always construct (which is high cognitive load), but we do constantly connect.

We learn foundational elements through courses…but we innovate through our own learning.

Figure 17 Learning and knowledge domains

The changing nature of knowledge

The Achilles heel of existing theories rests in the pace of knowledge growth. All existing theories place processing (or interpretation) of knowledge on the individual doing the learning. This model works well if the knowledge flow is moderate. A constructivist view of learning, for example, suggests that we process, interpret, and derive personal meaning from different information formats. What happens, however, when knowledge is more of a deluge than a trickle? What happens when knowledge flows too fast for processing or interpreting?

Figure 23 Knowledge as process, not product

Knowledge has broken free from its moorings, its shackles. Those, like Francis Bacon, who equate knowledge with power, find that the masses are flooding the pools and reservoirs of the elite. […] The filters, gatekeepers, and organizers are awakening to a sea of change that leaves them adrift, clinging to their old methods of creating, controlling, and distributing knowledge. […] Left in the wake of cataclysmic change are the knowledge creation and holding structures of the past. The ideologies and philosophies of reality and knowing—battle spaces of thought and theory for the last several millennia—have fallen as guides.

Libraries, schools, businesses—engines of productivity and society—are stretching under the heavy burden of change. New epistemological and ontological theories are being formed, as we will discuss shortly with connective knowledge. These changes do not wash away previous definitions of knowledge, but instead serve as the fertile top of multiple soil layers. […]

Or consider email in its earlier days—many printed out a paper copy of emails, at least the important ones, and filed them in a file cabinet. Today we are beginning to see a shift with email products that archive and make email searchable and allow individuals to apply metadata at point of use (tagging).

Knowledge has to be accessible at the point of need. Container-views of knowledge, artificially demarcated (courses, modules) for communication, are restrictive for this type of flow and easy-access learning.

Everything is going digital. The end user is gaining control, elements are decentralizing, connections are being formed between formerly disparate resources and fields of information, and everything seems to be speeding up.

“Know where” and “know who” are more important today that knowing what and how.

Figure 16 Know Where

Once flow becomes too rapid and complex, we need a model that allows individuals to learn and function in spite of the pace and flow.

We need to separate the learner from the knowledge they hold. It is not really as absurd as it sounds. Consider the tools and processes we currently use for learning. Courses are static, textbooks are written years before actual use, classrooms are available at set times, and so on.

The underlying assumption of corporate training and higher education centers on the notion that the world has not really changed.

But it has. Employees cannot stay current by taking a course periodically. Content distribution models (books and courses) cannot keep pace with information and knowledge growth. Problems are becoming so complex that they cannot be contained in the mind of one individual—problems are held in a distributed manner across networks, with each node holding a part of the entire puzzle. Employees require the ability to rapidly form connections with other specialized nodes (people or knowledge objects). Rapidly creating connections with others results in a more holistic view of the problem or opportunity, a key requirement for decision making and action in a complex environment.

How do we separate the learner from the knowledge? By focusing not on the content they need to know (content changes constantly and requires continual updating), but on the connections to nodes which continually filter and update content.

Here is what the connectivism implementation cycle looks like as a mind map. (Click on the image to download the PDF).

Connectivism implementation cycle (George Siemens, 2006)

Source: George Siemens, Knowing Knowledge (2006).