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Returning To The Ordinary World

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imageMy first visit to Papua New Guinea was life-changing. I was taken to villages on islands that were a million miles from where I existed, and found people that lived lives of contentment but without the trappings of infrastructure that we take for granted. I’m not taking a romantic view here, and appreciate that their existence is also not without problems.

Have you been there before? Not necessarily to Papua New Guinea, but somewhere where you were taken out of the Ordinary World. It changes you. That is the great thing about travel.

Being taken out of the Ordinary World happens in darker times too, when you don’t actually leave the familiar surroundings of home, but when events conspire to wreck and ruin your world. You leave and return to the Ordinary World you once knew. And again you are changed. Hopefully for the better, but not always. There can be pain and loss involved. Being changed means that things are not the same as they were before.

It is in this experience that we find the Hero’s Journey that was defined best by Joseph Campbell. You have to both leave and return to the Ordinary World to complete The Hero’s Journey. This post is about returning.

It is now more than 10 days since my last post here. A long time. Why the delay?

I’ve come to realise that I am on the return from the Hero’s Journey. The return doesn’t happen when you clear customs at the airport. It is more intrusive than that. And I think that accounts for the delay.

Partly, it was because I spent some time with my family in Melbourne. That was a very good opportunity and connect, especially in the wake of my brother’s recent death.

But I am also back from the epic quest of the 10 City Bridge Run. Ought it not to be Full Steam Ahead pushing ahead into the Design Forum to unpack this question “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” Well, the answer to pushing ahead Full Steam Ahead is both yes, and no.

Yes, it is Full Steam Ahead, and this question about child survival is being examined with a number of teams working using the framework of the Acumen Fund/IDEO Introduction to Human Centred Design online course to start giving some definition to where we should go next.

But I found it was on a personal level time to wind myself back from being in a Full Steam Ahead mode. I needed to change gears a few times. Reflect on what happened. And then finally last night, it was clear to me that I was on my way home, returning to the Ordinary World. That is part of the Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey is not something that is behind me, and this is an administrative requirement to find my own way home after passing through the pageantry of the finish line.

There is nothing mechanical about The Hero’s Journey. And I think there is a need to distinguish a fine line between ‘The Hero’s Journey’ and ‘an heroic journey’. Both are intriguing, and often they overlap, but in reality our appetite for media fuels our hunger for a straight diet of heroic journeys, and we shy away from The Hero’s Journey because it forces us to confront questions about ourselves that are better left undisturbed. The Hero’s Journey is far more entertaining to enjoy from the comfort of the audience watching the latest instalment from Hollywood.

I’m a little sceptical of workshops that take you through this process, allowing the exploration of a Special World from a sanitised and fluorescent-lit room. Far from being cynical, I’m instead suggesting that if we are serious about story-telling and exploring the Special World’s that adventures calls us to explore, then we should open ourselves to that journey. Be vulnerable. Abandon the Ordinary World for a moment.

So what has helped me return? Three things.

Firstly, it was spending time with my family. That was important.

Secondly, it was taking time to review where I had been and where the rest of this year is likely to take me, and in doing so looking beyond this obsession with the Design Forum. I still have a lot of things to write about the trip away and the Design Forum to come, but one thing at a time.

And thirdly, it has been the opportunity to share part of this journey with friends. One way that is being done is through the 10 o’clock Club. You can join us there too. It is free, and happens every night at 10 pm in your time zone. Post a photograph of where you are and what you are doing onto Twitter at 10 pm using hashtag #10cbr . Share your journey with us. We might not know it at the time, but you could well be documenting part of your own experience throug your own Hero’s Journey there too!

Looking forward to seeing you at the 10 o’clock Club!

Shame

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imageShame: it is such a strong, taboo word. Many people won’t even open this post because of the demons conjured up by the word shame.

I amended the title of this post from ‘Home’ to ‘Home, and insights into shame’. Here is the earlier blog post.

But in fact there is nothing demonic about shame. It is just a word. And far from about conjuring, it is about being open to express your own feelings of vulnerability which is a big step needed towards moving in the direction of creativity, innovation and collaboration.

Watch the video from Brene in the post, especially from 16:30, and then reflect on that for a while. Give it some thought. You don’t have to leave a comment, but I think you do owe it to yourself to work out what this word shame means to you.

And here is the video from Brene Brown:

Home, And Insights Into Shame

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Sydney Harbour Bridge meets Sydney Opera HouseThursday last week I arrived home. It had been a long journey. Longer than I anticipated.

I found I was exhausted in many ways after the trip and needed some rest. ‘Rest binge’ apparently is an expression the speaker Brene Brown has used to described this sort of self-care. I didn’t send any emails. There was no writing on this site. I rested.

Ultimately, I had been successful on the journey. I achieved more than I bargained for. But things didn’t go to plan. It was messy. It was tough. It was very difficult on a personal level.

My brother’s death during the journey came at a point where I was stuck. His final words to me urged me to continue and so I did. But the difficulties on a personal level I mentioned above don’t specifically relate to the circumstances of his death.

So why was it difficult on a personal level? The answer to that question underpins my reticence to engage the media during the journey. The vulnerability I exposed myself to by undertaking this journey was intense. Mostly, I have been able to keep most of that vulnerability private. But was that the right thing to do? I think it is a Catch-22 scenario. After the event, people will applaud the courage to have been vulnerable. At the time, I feared that if I had expressed it too clearly, it would have scared too many people. Come back from the edge. Be safe. Please be normal.

In some ways, it is as though I have returned from The Hero’s Journey. You know the one, the monomyth which Joseph Campbell wrote so much about. It was heroic, but in a classic sense. There was transformation and a prize, but the rewards weren’t material. And if I am now home, then perhaps that is only to make an unmistakable Call To Adventure to you among others who might take the risk to come with us as we embark on this next journey into the unknown. It is a journey called ‘Design Forum’. And there will be challenges. Stick to your knitting, or come with us at change the world by seeing to improve child survival? Your turn to chose.

And so I am home. But first I had to complete this journey. And now I think I owe it to myself and to you to speak a little about this vulnerability. Not now. Not here in this post. Maybe a little later when I understand it better myself. Brene Brown has spoken about ‘shame’ which is perhaps the closest thing I can find to explain the flavour of this vulnerability. The video at the bottom of this post gives some insights. Listen particularly from 16:30.

Learn From Failure. Reflections On Week 1: Introduction To Human Centred Design

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IMG_0940I want to give you the opportunity to come on this journey. “So many journeys, Matt…which particular journey are you describing now?”

This journey I am referring to is the entry point  to the second phase of the 10 City Bridge Run. The journey is in 10 parts, consisting of 10 Design Forums. These Design Forum won’t be necessarily singular events. For example, the first of these Design Forum commenced earlier this month, and was focused around using a hackathon in Osaka as a case study for designing the rest of the Design Forum series. But the real work to this first Design Forum is taking place across the next seven-weeks as we ‘Design the Design Foum’ with a particular focus on the culmination of the journey in Seoul this October.

It really is not the end of the journey that is being designed. We are not focused on the trimming and bow that will wrap up the experience along the way. No, this is about everything that happens to get us to that point. Including failure. Things that we try that doing work, and that we learn from to then make a second, third, fourth, and umpteenth iteration to improdve. That is part of the design process.

Last week, hundreds of thousands of people around the world commenced the IDEO/Acumen Fund free, online, seven-week course that provides an Introduction to Human Centred Design. Among those many, many thousands are a small number of people who have chose to use this opportunity as part of the ‘Design Forum 1′ of the second phase of the 10 City Bridge Run.

For those who are new to the story, the 10 City Bridge Run is an impossible journey, or at least should have been impossible, but one I completed earlier in January this year. The reason I was able to complete it, and the reason it became possible, was because of people like you who shared the struggle in small ways. The purpose of  the 10 City Bridge Run is to ask “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

And so in this first journey, we are Designing the Design Foum. The Design Forum becomes a vehicle for this question about child survival. Most people just want the punchline: “come on already! Tell us how we can solve child survival!!” Well, I’m not sure we can ‘solve’ child survival because it is part of life, but we can help reduce child mortality and improve child survival. Our part will be a small part in a much larger effort. But let’s also dream big. Small parts can be important too.

The next series of posts will focus on what I am learning from the Introduction to Design Forum course, and to share these with people who can’t spare the time to join us, and importantly also to help guide those wonderful people who are sharing this journey together. Thank you for your time, and I hope it is a rich experience for you as well!

“Learning from failure” is one of the themes of the Introduction to Human Centred Design. Failure is something we don’t really like to focus on much. But let’s dwell a little about the lessons to come from failure. Field Marshall Sir William Slim famously once wrote that the lessons from failure (defeat) were more than those that came from victory.

What Did We Learn From Osaka?

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imageHackOsaka wrapped up last night successfully, and defined an event which clearly marked out the first in a series of ten Design Forum. The first Design Forum is still underway with the conduct of a free online course which provides an Introduction to Design Thinking.

Given that Osaka was to provide an event to observe, the natural question to ask is “what did we learn?” Well, what did we learn?

Quite a lot, actually. There were many lessons that came from observing Osaka, especially in the context of having participated in a hackathon in Korea the week before.

Presently I am in transit back to Sydney, but once arriving I will upload a more detailed post with some more considered information that can be used to help in the first Design Forum which is focused on Designing the Design Forum.

And one postscript: if you have been hanging back on the sidelines, but would like to get more involved, it is not too late! You can still enrol in the Introduction to Human Centred Design course, and take as big or as small a part in helping to Design the Design Forum. We would love you to be part of the team!

Life Bridge: true voyage of discovery

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This photo I took on the island of Bagabag back in 2011 out to sea from the north coast of PNG is what captures a 'Life Bridge' for me: the bond between a mother and her healthy child. That doesn't mean it will be in the book, and doesn't mean it is a standard by which to judge others. It is about your imagination and revealing your universe with its narrative about the importance of connection through a photo.
This photo I took on the island of Bagabag back in 2011 out to sea from the north coast of PNG is what captures a ‘Life Bridge’ for me: the bond between a mother and her healthy child. That doesn’t mean it will be in the book, and doesn’t mean it is a standard by which to judge others. It is about your imagination and revealing your universe with its narrative about the importance of connection through a photo.

The vision for the 10 City Bridge Run was ambitious. Ridiculously ambitious, but even though it is taking longer than first thought, I believe that delay is acceptable towards achieving a far better outcome and lasting legacy.

The initial concept from when it was first conceived in 2010 is unchanged. The execution has differed, but only in ways so as to improve the journey. There are three parts to that concept:

  1. Running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries as a stunt to open a conversation about improving child survival (completed successfully!)
  2. A Design Forum to address the conversation asking “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” (commenced, in progress, culminating at the end of October 2015)
  3. A book with a working title ‘Life Bridge: the importance of connection’ which will feature 100 photos of human bridges to illustrate the importance of our connection which is necessary to both flourish and also to solve any problem

The concept for Life Bridge is simple enough. A human bridge might be a photo which would describe the importance of connection in the mind of the photographer, maybe in collaboration with the subjects. Each photo is a design project in its own right.

While the concept is simple, organising this task has taken time. It is a collaborative effort. Soon we will be underway.

I will be the first to admit that the delay in the book Life Bridge is unwelcome, but I also acknowledge that the space which has been created because of the time has helped to mature the concept defining the book. Presently, I see the curation, design and distribution all being events which will compliment and contribute towards the conversation that is unfolding through the Design Forum.

I just finished reading a book which I highly recommend by Alan Gregerman called “The Necessity of Strangers: the intriguing truth about insight, innovation and success.” He opens the book with a quote from Proust which succinctly frames the concept for Life Bridge:

“The only true voyage of discovery would not be to visit strange lands but to posses other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them holds, that each of them is.” 

The 10 City Bridge Run involved a journey, and through the Design Forum we are learning to see. And not just to see, but to do.

Life Bridge will be an important book. It is a call to action for all who read it, by being stimulated by the imaginations of the holders of one hundred universes. It will be beautifully published in Korea, and present itself as a fitting coffee table book, but one with a difference. My hope is that every time anyone reads Life Bridge, it will change the world beginning with the reader.

By way of thanks, I also wanted to clarify that everyone who has contributed to this journey will receive a copy cod this book. I don’t regard your engagement as transactional, but it is the tangible thing which many have effectively pre-purchased by supporting this journey. There is no more you need to contribute to receive the book. And thank you for your patience as we uncover the alchemy to weave together these one hundred universes seen through the eyes on another.

Human Junk

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imageReturning to Osaka, it was like coming back to visit an old friend. That’s the effect of running around a city. Long distance runners will know the feeling. The city opens up its secrets. Back streets and observations of life that pass the ordinary visitor. Osaka is a lovely city, with lovely people, a proud history and natural beauty.

It was with this in mind that I wondered what to make of the small community of people who I gathered with on Sunday morning after arriving on Saturday evening. Inside an austere hall, they greeted me warmly as I arrived. I hadn’t met them before, and someone might have been excused for thinking that there was nothing at all special about their very-ordinariness at first glance. How might they be described by others? Lonely misfits, trash, human junk, cripples. Not world beaters.

But within a few minutes, I saw a different side to them all. Warm, friendly, generous, talented. Not trash. Not junk. Gifted.

And while I had experienced the friendliness of the city on my previous visit when I ran in Osaka last October, this community showed me a hospitality I previously hadn’t recognised here.

To write anyone off as junk is more than unkind. Similarly, to think that to solve important social problems is only for those with a certain talent or income is equally as wrong. Bill and Melinda Gates have become poster idols for making change happen, but they are not unlike you or I. We are all human, and we all have the same capacity to care. Money has little to do with the equation. It is a question of commitment.

Who is invited to the Design Forum? Only the beautiful people? Just innovators, thought leaders, and forget the rest? No, there is no qualifying credentials required. Everyone is welcome.

The Design Forum is an ambitious journey of its own. It is the destination of the 10 City Bridge Run, and defines a conversation asking an important question: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

Drop in at anytime. Please bring your manners. And your imagination.

The conversation is about child survival. That is keeping children alive and flourishing past their fifth birthday. UNICEF calculates there are over 16,000 children under the age of five every day, and a high percentage those deaths occur within the first 48 hours. And we really have to ask ourselves: do these deaths really matter? Can we really be concerned? Or are these babies are just human junk and trash?

Do we care enough to act? I’m not talking about a donation to UNICEF or any other aid agency. Can we really take action to make a difference? Can you? Will you?