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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 June 2005, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
How to change the world
By Lucy Wilkins
BBC News

Guantanamo Bay
One visionary wants the closure of the US camp at Guantanamo Bay

Changing the world sounds an impossible task, but 1622 people thought they had an idea of how to do it.

They responded to an appeal by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust for "visionaries," with seven being chosen to receive 37,500 each a year for five years.

During that period their world-changing visions involve such diverse ideas as improving the world's health via mass media and closing the US camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Announcing the "visionaries", broadcaster Sandi Toksvig said: "You are about to throw little pebbles that will make ripples and ripples and ripples."

The brief was to suggest radical solutions to problems, addressing the underlying causes rather than ameliorating them, said trust secretary Stephen Pittam.

For human rights lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith that means shutting Guantanamo Bay - "a lawless enclave and a model for human rights abuse around the world".

Clive Stafford-Smith
I've had a fantasy that someone will come along and fund [this work]
Clive Stafford-Smith
Human rights lawyer
A fierce critic of the US government's justice process regarding terror suspects, Mr Stafford-Smith said: "Closing Guantanamo Bay could easily happen in five years - I'll bet money on it.

"The question will be: will the US take their nefarious operations elsewhere?"

He said influential voices were also trying to close the camp, referring to US Senator Ted Kennedy and former president Jimmy Carter.

"They've said it should be shut down - it's been a long time coming, they should have said that on the day it opened."

Hundreds of alleged terrorism suspects have been held at the camp without charge for up to three years.

Despite widespread criticism, US Gen Richard Myers said the camp was "essentially a model facility".

"Visionary" Roy Head wants to harness the power of international media to improve the world's health.

Having worked for eight years at the BBC World Service Trust, he is aware that the spread of information can halt the spread of disease.

While doctors and drugs were essential, the mass media in the developing world is key to teaching and encouraging people to "create a healthier future for their country".

High-profile campaigns such as the Make Poverty History gain his praise, but he emphasises that action can be taken now.

"A campaign to influence world leaders is wonderful, but it is possible to do things before eliminating poverty.

"You don't need an end to poverty to tell people to wear a condom, you don't need an end to poverty to teach people that leprosy is not a curse from god.

Roy Head
Knowledge can improve health, believes Roy Head

"It only needs knowledge."

In five years, he hopes to have concrete results from his vision.

His success will be measured in how far people's knowledge of life-saving issues has improved; how people's behaviour has changed, e.g. by wearing condoms or washing hands; and whether mortality and morbidity have declined.

What the money allows these "visionaries" to do is concentrate on their plans.

"I've had a fantasy that someone will come along and fund [this work], so now it's incredibly liberating, as I won't have the distraction of trying to raise funds," said Mr Stafford-Smith.

"It's the problem with people who are infatuated with one idea - they're not so good with finances."

Former diplomat Carne Ross has started a service called Independent Diplomat - "a diplomatic service for those who need it most".

He used to be on the other side of the table, as he puts it, the side of "power and privilege" that was the British Foreign Office and the United Nations.

United Nations
The elite and complicated diplomacy world needs to open up, says Carne Ross

Now he wants the voice of the under-privileged to be heard in the "elite, closed and unnecessarily complicated" world of diplomacy.

His idea is for a global network of experts to help governments who need to get their voices heard.

He is coy when asked how much authorities in Kosovo are currently paying him for his advice on diplomacy.

"Even though they can afford it, I would like to do it for free, but I can't manage that at the moment," Mr Ross said.

Closer to home is Karen Chouhan's vision to "radically overhaul Britain's race equality framework".

After 25 years working in the field, she says she has seen little progress.

She highlighted the influences of black culture and people in Britain - Olympic running champion Kelly Holmes, boxing champion Amir Khan, the winner of Mastermind Shaun Wallace and reality TV show The Apprentice Tim Campbell.

It has extended to fashion - "black clothes" - and foods such as curry.

But still "black communities are always 'problematised'".

She wants a more positive, two-way communication, with "equality in our lifetime", not just in terms of the language used to describe black communities but also improved representation in Parliament.




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