Are we ‘Too many cooks spoil the soup’ or ‘Stone soup’? (Stone soup is the fable where the hungry soldier puts a stone in a pot of water and convinces the townspeople to add to the ‘delicious’ stone soup by adding a turnip, a potato, a carrot, until it really does become a delicious soup for the whole town.)
Too many cooks spoil the soup when egos get in the way, everyone wants to push their one great idea without looking at what is also out there, not being willing to adapt their idea, or resisting forming partnerships for a stronger idea with a broader reach. It happens when research is not widely shared. It happens when groups of professionals agree on a message and then some continue to undermine the decision of the group publicly. Water is complex. It is unreasonable to expect that everyone will agree and that feelings won’t sometimes be hurt. But, it is critical that we all keep the end goal in mind - end drowning.
Making stone soup means understanding that the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. Admittedly, making stone soup out of all the components that go into water safety and drowning prevention requires one huge cauldron to hold all the issues and a veritable United Nations of seasoning to cover the culture and geography that water touches. We can’t limit our ingredients to ‘just’ drowning prevention issues either, or the soup will be lacking in depth and complexity. We need to align with the groups working on clean water, safe and accessible water, sanitation, water conservation, women’s and children’s issues, and education.
Two great example of some critical ingredients for our Stone Soup are the recent support by the National Association of State Boards of Education for International Water Safety Day (IWSD) every May 15. For a copy of the letter, click here.
The IWSD initiative was created to spread global awareness of the ongoing drowning pandemic and educate children and youth on becoming safer in and around the water. It was recently approved by the U.S. House of Representatives to be included in the education of American schoolchildren.
The second example is the Int’l Open Water Safety Guidelines. An excellent move towards consistent messaging on a global level. For a .pdf of the Guidelines in a number of languages or information on how they were developed, click here.
We have the ingredients, we need to add water and serve.