Month: November 2014
Among my favourite shows is 런닝맨 or ‘Running Man’ in English.
Yoo Jae-suk is the ringleader of this improv comedy featuring some excellent Korean comedians and performers who unfold a storyline filled with a series of challenges that they have to address as a team competing against half of the remainder of the panel. It is a timeless show, and can be found playing on reel in most Korean hotel rooms.
Enjoy the inserts below. I think you will get the idea pretty quickly, although be warned, it can be addictive.
Why is he so significant? He smashed the existing world record in 1935 for marathon running 2:26:14, beating the previous record which had stood for the previous 10 years. After setting the record in 1935, it stood for another 12 years until one of his trainees set a new time at the Boston Marathon in 1947.
Son Kee-chung is best known for winning the marathon at the 1936 Berlin Olympics where he ran under the Japanese flag because of the colonial annexation of Korea in 1910. Defiantly, at the medal ceremony, Son Kee-chung sought conceal the Japanese flag on his uniform and remains a political act of Korean patriotism that continues to be widely celebrated in Korea.
He went on to become an exceptional coach, not only training Suh Yun-bok for his 1947 win, but also ensuring first, second and third places to Korea in the 1950 Boston Marathon, as well as Hwang Young-cho who won gold for South Korea after winning the marathon at the 1982 Barcelona Olympics.
His legacy is one of inspiration. Visiting Son Kee-chung’s old primary school in Seoul that has been turned into a Memorial Centre, the Manager summed up Son Kee-chung’s legacy in one word as: “challenge”.
It is the adaption of a quote from Son Kee-chung that inspires the theme of a human bridge for the book Life Bridge which will help to illustrate the importance of our connections in overcoming challenges. Son Kee-chung said, and I have adapted the words to replace his mention of ‘the human body’ with ‘the human bridge’:
The human bridge makes incredible things possible when supported by strong commitment and passion.
I will be running the seventh leg of the 10 City Bridge Run here in Seoul on this Sunday at the Son Kee-chung Marathon event.
That is good news by any measure.
Meanwhile, the Millennium Development Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality which was agreed to by all United Nations Member States in 2000 to reduce 1990 levels of child mortality by two-thirds before 2015 has acheived favourable progress, but will likely fall short of its objective.
A reduction of 3% was needed year by year to achieve the MDG4 goal.
Achieving the required reduction in child mortality would have saved millions of lives, and reduced the burden on developing countries significantly by addressing population, health, environmental, infrastructure and corruption issues.
One of the problem of the G20 declarations is that they are very broad on commitment to specific issues such as child survival. But it is not a case of either/or. We can lift global GDP by 2.1% above 2018 levels and work to improve child survival too! The good news is that both complement each other, and so are symbiotic goals.
How might we do this? That is the discussion to unfold during the Design Forum next year. In the meantime, good ideas about how to improve child survival are welcome.
The G20 has been widely criticised in past years as being all talk and no action. When first framing the 10 City Bridge Run ahead of the Seoul G20 Summit in 2010, I asked “Will the G20 cut it?” at this link.
In the wake of the wash-up from the Brisbane G20 Summit, this question still is worth asking. What did we learn from Brisbane? Here is my analysis in four lessons:
Firstly, it is important to recognise that the G20 is a global economic institution. This means that the language will largely be around issues of trade, employment, debt, taxation and monetary policy. This does also include development issues relating to poverty as key to this equation. The G20 Development Working Group begins the 2014 Brisbane Development Update with a statement that is more than just a throwaway line:
Development remains a key element of the Group of Twenty (G20) agenda.
I sense that the G20 recognises both its ability and limitation to influence development through strengthening economic growth and resilience. This is at the heart of economic thought: how to best allocate the distribution of scarce resources.
The opening line from the G20 Leaders’ Communique flags the core priority of the G20, and consequently overshadows dilemmas this might bring in addressing issues of development:
Raising global growth to deliver better living standards and quality jobs for people across the world is our highest priority.
Secondly, the Summit is to some extent a forum of theatrics. It is misleading to think the G20 Summit as a dynamic roundtable to discuss all of the issues in detail. There is a lot of preliminary and behind-the-scenes discussions and negotiations that take place outside of the limelight to resolve how members of the G20 will orientate their national interest with the agenda for the Summit. It is more than a photo opportunity, and such gatherings are important.
Theatrics serve a purpose, and they also signal what people are keenly focused on. In focusing on one thing, they also steal a lot of the oxygen out of the occasion to more freely discuss a broader range of issues. In Brisbane, the theatrics was mainly seen through the grandstanding of and by Putin around the Ukraine incident. That is signalling how the Ukraine is fast becoming a place of heightened strategic value for leaders to communicate their sovereign will and power. The consequences of this grandstanding will not be immediately clear, but ripple through events that are yet to unfold.
Consequences are important, and the issue that receives the limelight will be at the expense of others that do not get discussed in depth. Obama flagged his theatrics publicly at a university address prior to the G20 to gain most favourable media attention to help sway his agenda.
Thirdly, wording is important and will ultimately drive action. The concluding G20 Leaders’ Communique and supporting documents give guidance for the future. If an issue doesn’t make the list, that would be troubling for those who see it as important. The question becomes one of what concrete and practical action will actually trickle down from this wording?
The 2014 Brisbane Development Update was quite clear about what that G20 sees as an important priority, quoted here directly from the document:
Our work has continued to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Further, we reaffirmed our strong support for the ongoing intergovernmental efforts in the UN to conclude an inclusive and people-centred post-2015 development agenda and for its effective implementation. We reaffirmed the commitment of the international community to poverty eradication and a coherent approach to sustainable development, which integrates its three dimensions in a balanced manner. We underlined the central imperative of poverty eradication and are committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency. We look forward to the third Financing for Development Conference to be held in Addis Ababa in July 2015. We reaffirmed our commitment to ensure that G20 activities beyond 2015 are coherent with the post 2015 development agenda.
The wording from the G20 Leaders’ Communique shows that this responsibility is one that is for the United Nations to resolve, but one which has the support of the G20 for an ambitious post-2015 agenda: We support efforts in the United Nations to agree an ambitious post-2015 development agenda. The question of how an issue will strengthen economic growth and resilience is important to address to receive more attention.
Fourthly, who actually holds the G20 to account for their words? The declarations made at the conclusion of each Summit are not so much binding as aspirational guidance. The Seoul Consensus for the 2010 G20 Summit shown at the link at the beginning of this blog helped shape this central theme of a human bridge which supports the 10 City Bridge Run. The Seoul Consensus showed its priorities framed in the following statements:
We, the Leaders of the G20, are united in our conviction that by working together we can secure a more prosperous future for the citizens of all countries… The Seoul Consensus complements our commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and focuses on concrete measures … to make a tangible and significant difference in people’s lives.
There is consistency between what was written in 2010 and most recently in Brisbane yesterday. This is comforting to know, and no small measure for optimism as we look to address child survival in the context of economic growth and resilience. Recent statements from Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop about embracing a new paradigm of development assistance through looking for innovative ideas is consistent with this as well to build concrete measures to make a tangible and significant difference in people’s lives through improving child survival.
The case for taking action is an ethical issue. It is a good thing to do and the right thing to do, as well as being just. It doesn’t need the imprimatur of the G20 to take action. As global citizens, the outcome from the G20 Summit in Brisbane indicates that the institution is something to be readily engaged with on this issue because we both share a common objective. Opening the conversation with countries from the G20 is an important step towards the Design Forum in 2015.
Last night’s efforts to find a shirt and hat with the Running Man logo for the Korean improv comedy didn’t work out after a couple of weeks of searching. And I was so close!
Towards the end of the journey, I sensed I was trying to push a square peg into a round hole. Not an easy way to do anything…
Rather than seeing it as a fruitless effort, the story from this search gave me some good lessons:
- Collaboration underpins the Design Forum for the 10 City Bridge Run seeking to improve the delivery of child survival.
- Framing the Design Forum process with the thematic mantra for the Dongdaemun Design Plaza of “Dream Design Play”
- Challenging outcome will mostly be difficult. The impossible takes a little more time and effort.
This wasn’t failure. It was an outcome.
I have rescheduled the Seoul run until next Sunday (23 November) when I will participate in the Sohn Ki-chung marathon. Sohn Ki-chung was the great marathon runner who broke the 2:30 barrier by smashing the world record in 1935, then winning the Berlin Olympics Marathon in 1936. As a coach, he was successful, and in 1950 achieved first, second and third placing for all Korean runners in the Boston Marathon.
Sohn Ki-chung also gives inspiration for the photo-essay of human bridges to make the book ‘Life Bridge’, adapted through his words: “The human bridge makes incredible things possible when supported by strong commitment and passion.“
On 17 July 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was destroyed over the Ukraine killing all on aboard in what was a global tragedy.
My uncle Nick Norris was a passenger aboard that flight, along with three of his grandchildren. For me, continuing the 10 City Bridge Run has become a silent tribute Nick’s legacy because of his influence on my thinking. Nick was a fiercely independent thinker who challenged what was possible through his ideas. Nick’s legacy remains a driving force to keep me moving forward when the journey gets difficult.
Three cities remain following Seoul in this running stunt. Each of those cities are critical in threading together the intellectual engagement of this question: ‘how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?’ Glasgow, Toronto and New York are all critical cities renowned globally for their thinking.
For the time being, it would seem that those three cities are immediately out of reach. The sensible thing would be to postpone the journey until it is financially viable and less of a personal risk to myself.
Ought we to play it safe and accept what is reasonable? George Bernard Shaw would advise otherwise: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
This image of a human bridge which inspires the photo-essay in the book ‘Life Bridge’ is in part inspired by words adapted from the legendary Korean marathon world champion Son Ki-chung who broke the world-record in 1935 and won the 1936 Berlin Olympic Marathon: “The human bridge makes incredible things possible when supported by strong commitment and passion”
Holding the remaining three cities in abeyance until 2015 is an option, and still allows for forward movement. But perhaps our frustration with an incomplete journey ought to inspire us to push harder to make incredible things possible now. Completing the running stunt directly from Seoul is an outcome that is not possible within my current resources, but achieving it would give an inspiring context to the Design Forum in the knowledge of a completed running stunt that the seemingly impossible is possible. This is why I am appealing for help from a select group of ‘bridge builders’.
The proposed schedule for the Design Forum would engage with a broad community of partners and stakeholders for participation proposed as follows:
|Proposed Schedule for Design Forum|
|Framing the problem: Focus on Papua New Guinea||Osaka||February (middle)|
|Port Moresby||February (late)|
|Global context, ideation and opportunity||Glasgow, London and Oxford||April|
|Implementation, delivery and moving forward||Johannesburg||August|
The importance of ‘bridge builders’ to support this initiative immediately is that it enables preparation of this schedule with confidence.
The willingness of people to support something that is risky and uncertain shows a real spirit of generosity. Without this support, together we could not have reached this point that has enabled us to look ahead to the journey that follows.
Every dollar raised has had a meaningful impact on this initiative. 137 supporters since 2010 have together contributed less than $12,000. This has been critical to develop this idea and commence the journey to this point. Every supporter deserves an individual special note of thanks here for making this possible.
More often than not, we underestimate the influence of our encouragement. Even seemingly insignificant actions such as ‘liking’ a post on Facebook, offering advice, or just checking in with a friendly word of encouragement, are all actions that have a big impact.
This might seem trivial, but it is not. More importantly. it shows that small interventions might be among those actions that are most important which we can do through our networks to improve the delivery of child survival. What are those interventions? The Design Forum will seek to identify those meaningful interventions that can lead to lasting impact.
Please, never underestimate the power of your encouragement. For everyone who played their role to date, thank you very much. Your support has had a huge impact on me personally, and together enabled us to weave this epic journey.
There were many things I could have done differently to influence a more successful outcome to the previous crowdfunding campaign. I take responsibility for falling short. There are many things I don’t do well.
The anxiety I have felt about the viability of the journey was perhaps reflected in the earlier conversations about this initiative during the crowdfunding campign. Unintentionally, striving towards a financial goal placed a lot of pressure on myself, on top of other considerations relating to preparation, fitness, logistics, and my overall ability to commence the journey.
Unexpectedly, as the crowdfunding campaign drew to a close I felt the pressure being taken off me, and the conversation shift in terms of participation. We transitioned from the question of ‘can you support?’ to ‘how might we work together to create the next steps?’
The question of ‘can you support?’ is unhelpful because it can solicit a guarded response. Importantly, focusing on ‘how might we work together to create the next steps?’ opens the conversation to a fuller participation.
The 10 City Bridge Run is not about reinventing the wheel. We respectfully want to play our part in the ecosystem of those vibrant communities already actively involved. The reason why the 10 City Bridge Run is necessary is that there is huge untapped potential which can only be accessed through a much larger conversation echoing the words of Bill Gates: “I’m convinced that getting our brightest minds to focus on our biggest problems will save lives and make the world a better place.”