There’s an often-told story in public health school about a group of villagers near the shore of a river who suddenly see children being swept downstream. After they form a human chain to save the children from drowning, one man decides to go upstream to stop whoever is throwing children into the river.

It’s a classic example of the importance of “going upstream” to take a systems-change approach by addressing the root causes of a problem, rather than focusing on providing services that simply address the symptom.

The challenge of systems change is revealed, however, when the man in the story arrives at the next village upstream to find the water there so muddy and brackish that it’s suffocating the fish near the shore. As a result, the young fishermen must wade deep into the racing waters of the river to catch fish, where they risk being swept downstream. The man learns from them that the excessive tree-cutting to build ever bigger homes in his village downstream caused the soil-run off that is destroying this neighboring village.

Read the full article about going upstream by Crystal Hayling at Medium.