Month: October 2010

One Tribe

Posted on Updated on performing with Black Eyed Peas at O...
Image via Wikipedia

Music interlude provided by the Black Eyed Peas.

Go on! Switch off for 4:41 and relax!

Together we can build a bridge to a better world.


What Can I Do?

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Jacqueline Novogratz of the Acumen Fund in closing a conference at The Aspen Institute asks perhaps the most important question in influencing extreme poverty: What Can I Do?

She observes the most important thing is our human connectedness. Participation. Collaboration. Bridge building.

Elsewhere in her book titled The Blue Sweater, Novogratz tells a story which symbolises how we are all connected.

This clip gives five pragmatic actions anyone can participate in to make a difference. Her sense of urgency and passion for this situation is evident.

The ability of the individual to influence extreme poverty is what the 10 City Bridge Run seeks to address. Not with lone souls fighting against poverty, but rather together building bridges to make a difference through collective action.

Stop and ask yourself now, yes now, seriously- stop and ask yourself:

What can I do?

Shooting Poverty

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Oxfam Canada
Image via Wikipedia

Oxfam explore communicating poverty through film. This is a great initiative shared by my mate Ted featuring a short film: Bang for Your Buck.

In Burundi, Africa, a grenade costs the same price as a pint of beer.

Check out this clip and share it to rate the video. It is a story worth telling.

How can we use creative expression as a way of communicating complex themes, particularly to an audience whose attention is difficult to reach? The audience I am addressing through the 10 City Bridge Run is the leaders of the G20 member states. This is about collective action and collaboration- it is not something I can do on my own, and it represents the voice of many individuals coming together.

How might we best capture ‘human bridges’ on photograph for use as a pictorial petition?

Tell A Story- Your Story

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Cropped image from this file. Ridley Scott in ...
Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott gives good instruction in this clip below titled Life In A Day. It was part of a collaborative video project he started earlier this year.

Scott gives two good pieces of advice in telling a story through capturing an image:

  • It must be personal.
  • Capture what appeals to you as the photographer/curator.

The 10 City Bridge Run is about participation. Not a spectator sport. It is about bridge-building. During the 30 days that I am running I will be seeking 24,000 photographs of ‘human bridges’ which will then be collated and sent to each leader of the G20 member states as a pictorial petition to appeal for action to reduce child mortality as a way of influencing extreme poverty.

What we do matters. It is not about waiting for the G20 countries to act- that is largely outside of our immediate influence. We can determine our actions, and make them meaningful.

Build the bridge. This is a powerful metaphor. How are you going to tell your story of a human bridge and what this means to make a difference?

More from Suzuki: Think locally, act locally

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David Suzuki at a rally for the Global Day of ...

Thoughts from David Suzuki speaking at the Sydney Opera House continue to resonate through this week.

He challenged one of his earlier assumptions in the talk. The previous cry of “Think global, act local” he suggested was well-intended but ultimately ineffective.

To be effective on a global level, he suggested the power of collective action when we “think locally and act locally”.

An important part of this is not being deluded by large brands, government and the allure of the economy. He summed it up this way:

Politicians work within a political cycle. People don’t.

Dissonance in Community Wellbeing

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Reading a number of corporate website over the last few weeks I sense an incongruous use of the terms ‘Community Wellbeing’ and ‘Sustainability’. Have a look yourself. Visit four or five large corporate brands and see if you agree.

‘Greenwashing’ is a term used for the promotion of sustainable strategy with no real substance, or concern for brand and reputation above impact. I would argue there is a similar trend with respect to corporate social responsibility in general.

Who decides on the boundaries for defining community? Where does our responsibility begin and end? Granted that we can’t be respond to every problem or need, and have our own concerns to address.

We live in an connected world. Is there a point of decency as humans where for humanitarian reasons alone we will not allow unthinkable suffering to occur? Or is it just not our problem? Should we just look to the wellbeing of our own community?

What will Africa look like in 2050? How does this question challenge your understanding of the term ‘community wellbeing’?


Africa- A Difficult Place to Do Business

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Satellite image of Africa, showing the ecologi...
Satellite image of Africa

Extreme poverty and business development strangely enough go hand-in-hand. Effective business development can help to replace the burden on aid, but it is by no means a silver bullet.

Writing in the Financial Times, Michael Keating last week provided a good reflection about perceptions. This picks up an idea which the Swedish statistician Hans Rosling speaks about often- that is, the term ‘developing country’ is less relevant now than it was in the past. More so, looking at continents are ‘developing’ or ‘developed’ is just plain inaccurate.

The explosive growth of commercial activity in Africa, both local and international, cannot hide the reality that the continent remains a difficult place to do business.

Africa tends to get a worse press than it deserves, much to its own business community’s frustration. No one talks about Asia as a homogenous block in business terms, lumping Myanmar in with Malaysia, or South Korea with Nepal. Africa is equally diverse. Business conditions vary widely among its 52 countries.

Understanding ‘the other’ is an important step towards the eradication of poverty from our world.

Bono: “Rockstar/Arsehole”

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President George W. Bush shakes hands with Bon...
“You have to do both”: Bono (image: Wikipedia)

What should we make of Bono? Pin-Up for causes like Make Poverty History. What do you see- authenticity or dissonance?

In December U2 will bring the ludicrously ambitious U2 360º tour- described as the largest rock show of all time- to Australia. Andrew Murfett writing in the Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The numbers behind the show are mind-boggling. The tour costs about $750,000 a day to run; its stage, which weighs 390 tonnes, requires two 50 tonne cranes, 180 trucks and six chartered cargo-only 747s to transport.

Murfett goes on to write that the show’s aim- to create an intimate relationship between the band and the 90,000 people each night is regularly achieved.

“Being successful is a lot easier than being relevant” is a claim Bono makes.

Bono is remarkable. Along with U2 they have been recording music which has drawn wide acclaim since 1980 when their first album Boy was released.

Bono says an important part of his role is understanding the world his songs occupy and, if he can, attempting to help shape those issues. When U2 were in Russia for their first concert eight weeks ago, Bono had a 90-minute meeting with the President, Dmitry Medvedev. The U2 concert in Russia was controversial the next day not least for them bringing Russian dissident Yuri Shevchek on stage. Murfett writes that Bono has an unparalleled ability to parlay his profile into helping causes. Bono says:

You have to do both. You have to be able to speak with the government and also those who are the enemy of the government. That’s our gig.

So how is he regarded outside of the adoring coterie of fans who also champion his causes? “Generally it’s more ‘rockstar/arsehole’. It’s ‘Oh, that’s Bono, he’s the rockstar/arsehole'” is how Bono describes it.

I found it interesting to reflect on this after David Suzuki spoke at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday night. Different methods to achieve the same point? Consider it this way: what would the world be like without the Bono’s and Hugh Jackman’s who roam the world raising profile of these causes?

Raising awareness is a long and slow process. My mate Matt da Silva described the process as involving “Cut-through. Telling stories. Engagement. Stamina.” during the week. I though that was insightful.

Let’s give the last word to Bono:

I just like getting things done.

Participation- A Broad Overview

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Our Global Challenges:  The Millennium Develop...
Image by CSIS: Center for Strategic & International Studies via Flickr

How will the 10 City Bridge Run play out? It is about participation, but to the extent this occurs is not up to me, but the contribution of others. Here is a broad overview of how I see the initiative taking shape.

This might seem a little wordy, but a workable framework is needed for something that is a little complex. If you see a way to simply this, or just drop stuff off the list please let me know!

While this is an overview to work from, the initiative will be taken ‘one step at a time’.

This is a creative process of inquiry. Your participation is welcome at every point.

  • Observing: The 10 City Bridge Run began with observing the United Nations and the MDG, culminating at the late September New York Millennium Development Goals (MDG) High Level Plenary.
  • Designing: Prior to commencing the 10 City Bridge Run, a design process will occur to optimise participation and challenge what is expected to be achieved.
  • Listening: The November G20 Summit will be monitored closely to hear what decisions are being made influencing development and child mortality.
  • Carrying a message: From the time the G20 commences until the conclusion of the 10 City Bridge Run a month later, the 10 City Bridge Run will officially commence in earnest with the running of 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries. Each country is a member of the G20, and each city tells a story in the narrative. Each run is representative of the 24,000 children that die every day around the world.
  • Bridge Building: During the running, the intention is to collate 24,000 photographs of human bridges. We want these to be meaningful, expressive and have impact.
  • Petition: After the run, the photographs of the bridges will be sent to each leader of G20 member states to express our collective appeal for action in reducing child mortality. The petition will applaud the leaders commitment to making change happen. The petition will hold the leaders to account for decisions influencing extreme poverty they make at the G20 Summit in Seoul.
  • Framework: Publish a co-created list of 10 actionable items to make a difference without needing to spend money with a working title of “10 Steps to Social Alchemy”. This will provide a framework for participative engagement during 2011.
  • Communication: 24,000 copies of a book with a working title of “Above the Line” containing 1,000 photographs selected from the photographs in the petition will be published and distributed to sponsors, schools and stakeholders.
  • Collaboration: Throughout 2011, collaborate with others using the framework “10 Steps to Social Alchemy” and the book “Above the Line” as an inspiration for engagement and action. The focus is on partnerships and enabling change. This embraces an idea shared by Steve Killelea that reducing the emotional distance between ourselves and ‘the other’ who we do not know is the first step to removing stereotypes and achieving a peaceful world where we can begin to make a difference.
  • Learning: $24,000 invested into water and sanitation directly through a selected organisation, as well as $24,000 invested into anti-malarial measures through the distribution of 10,000 mosquito nets will provide an opportunity to learn about the effectiveness of aid. How much is needed? How much is enough? Is there a point below which it is does not make a difference?
  • Accountability: Holding G20 countries accountable for their actions at meetings in 2011 as well as the 4th United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries to be held in Turkey during June 2011.

Did you find this made sense? Clear? Too process orientated? Too complicated? Would you take a minute to give me your feedback?

Thanks for your consideration.


Do you need a permit?

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Author Seth Godin at PDF 2007
Do it now before he changes his mind! Seth gives us his permission!

Where, precisely, do you go in order to get permission to make a dent in the universe?

This is the question Seth Godin asks us in his blog the previous week. Here is more of his blog comment- I think it is worth taking a minute to read. Subscribe to his blog here.

The accepted state is to be a cog. The preferred career is to follow the well-worn path, to read the instructions, to do what we’re told. It’s safer that way. Less responsibility. More people to blame.

When someone comes along and says, “not me, I’m going down a different path,” we flinch. We’re not organized to encourage and celebrate the unproven striver. It’s safer to tear them down (with their best interests at heart, of course). Better, we think, to let them down easy, to encourage them to take a safer path, to be realistic, to hear it from us rather than the marketplace.

Perhaps, years ago, this was good advice. Today, it’s clearly not. In fact, it’s disrespectful, ill-advised and short sighted. How dare we cheer when a bold changemaker stumbles? Our obligation today isn’t to spare the feelings of our peers from future disappointment. It’s to establish an expectation that of course they’re going to do something that matters.

If you think there’s a chance you can make a dent, GO.



You have my permission. Not that you needed it.

How did you respond to what he had to say?

I reflected on the journey that the 10 City Bridge Run has taken me on. Uncertainty and doubts at different points, moments where I didn’t have ‘enough’ and so plans had to change or be postponed, and thankfully hearing the encouragement and support from friends and strangers alike when I might have quietly been expecting someone to say something along the lines of: “that’s ridiculous/ it will never work/ have you asked the ‘authorities’?

In a world so consumed with brand, and where we measure success in how social media is ‘liked’ by ‘friends’ it is an empowering act to just start something. It is messy and raw- a lot of time is perhaps wasted trying to work out where it is supposed to be going. It reminds me of the decorating the children did when their ideas fell short captured in my earlier post titled “Tinkering…Come Play!“.

How big is the dent you are currently working on? Did you ever stop waiting for a permit?