Month: February 2015

Map Check: preamble to the Design Forum

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IMG_1461The 10 City Bridge Run Design Forum is a series of 10 events that will be convened in the 10 cities where running took place during the 10 City Bridge Run. The entire focus of the Design Forum is to address the central question to the 10 City Bridge Run which asks: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

Making decisions, and working out how to collaborate are two key tasks which we will need to work out how to do together. There are some obvious difficulties with that: we are in different time zones, we are not in the same location, not all of us speak the same language, access and ability to use technology is not evenly distributed. But we all share one trump card that can help us overcome any challenge: our imagination is the freely available resource that will make this possible.

Success will really come down to imagination. Imagination will drive the solutions to challenges of communication, collaboration, decision making. Resource issues, access to people, gaining information and knowledge are practical challenges and very real, but will also be overcome through imagination.

How to communicate and collaborate, and the platforms we might adopt to best enable this, remains the biggest immediate question to answer.

It is not simple, but it is possible.

At the conception of this idea back in 2010, it was an impossibility at that time. Now we are closer to making it happen. And if we can come this far, how much more can we achieve that we don’t know is possible from where we stand now?

This post provides some preliminary thoughts to a framework for the Design Forum which follows in the next post. This post is like a map which we can refer to. But what is important is that we don’t confuse the map for the territory. The plan will be amended and change. Ideas will emerge that are more expansive than we know now.

There will be 10 Design Forums. Well, there may in fact be more should people take the initiative to organise their own in a location other than the 10 key locations which this post relates to. The structure and conduct of each Design Forum can be, and possibly should be, distinct from those which precede it. The length of time (in days and hours) for each Design Forum is almost unimportant. We will need ‘enough time’ to do what we need to do, and this will depend on having clarity on a desired outcome at each step of the way.

The Design Forum are a conversation. Anyone can join, at anytime. We all have busy schedules, and so it is completely expected that people might drop in and out of the conversation. It is across a duration of nine months, and many personal events will take place in that time, some good and some less so. As a community, it is reasonable to expect that we can celebrate and if needed to commiserate  in the news of others. The focus is child survival, but it is also a very human experience, and we should acknowledge that too.

During the Design Forum, we will look elsewhere to learn and to model what has worked and what hasn’t worked. While the subject is ‘child survival’, examining what happens in other disciplines will also be important. Inspiration might be found in unexpected places.

Before describing the framework for the Design Forum, I want to note two unfinished or unanswered items of business to date:

  • A petition has been made for submission to The Hon Julie Bishop MP, the Australian Foreign Minister, to act as the official Champion for the Design Forum. That petition stands and will be accompany the conduct of the Design Forum, and be reframed to request her to be the official Champion for the final Design Forum in Seoul towards the end of October. Regardless of events that may or not unfold in the coming weeks in Australia, she will remain the person who the petition is addressed. You can read (and share and sign!) the petition in its current draft here.
  • A video request has been submitted to Bill and Melinda Gates asking them to recommend a reading list of five books that might help to frame the issue of child survival. Even with the release of their recent Annual Letter, this has merit as Bill and Melinda Gates are two individuals who through their advocacy on this issue have developed a good degree of knowledge that deserves to be more widely shared through a reading list. As far as I know at the moment, this remains an unanswered request. I do think that more could have been done to make sure the video reaches them personally, and shortly I will write directly to them with a letter asking for their consideration. You can see the video here.

The biggest failing in my performance to date is my inability to engage media. There are many reasons for that and some of them relating to computer access or the serviceability of equipment, but it is worth noting that this is something I haven’t done very well. Based on that observation, it is a fair expectation that it will remain an area which I am not well suited to managing as we move forward.

I hope you might see from reading this post that this is a big task. Even before we get to talking about the Design Forum as a series of individual events, we can identify discrete tasks that perhaps can be better shared and managed across our team. How we organise ourselves for that is a task in itself, and let’s start to leverage our collective strength by each taking up a small piece of the strain so the effort is less for all as we put our shoulders to the wheel.

What’s The Plan, Stan?

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Matt with friends in Timor Leste
Matt with friends in Timor Leste

What’s the plan, Stan?” With these words, the familiar, raspy voice of one of my senior soldiers would ask what was happening next.

The radio squawked a low, crackly hum breaking the silence of the bush surrounding an unseen force of camouflaged men crouching patiently nearby. A dispassionate look on his face was challenged only by the steely glare of his eyes.

Rifle in hand, he looked relaxed, waiting for me to work out where the plan we just received was to take us next. Dragging back on a roll-your-own cigarette he held between his fingers, the lit end facing in toward his palm, he watched as I placed a map on a cleared space on the ground at the centre of the our small team that had gathered together.

That was then. An army works on command and control, orders and reports, and when it is at its best is like a finely-tuned machine with a mind of its own, responsive to any stimulus.

But this is now. The 10 City Bridge Run was a ridiculous stunt to frame a conversation that is shortly to follow. I ran 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries to gather attention so as to open this conversation asking “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

Unlike the army, there is no authority given for me to do this. I just made it up and did it. Much of the time I was making up the journey not long before taking the next step.

It was only made possible because of the support of a community which had joined in, each with their different reasons to see th quest arrive at its destination which is the Design Forum.

The 10 City Bridge Run is driven by passion, imagination, leadership, vision, inspiration, collaboration and trust. It might have seemed that the journey to date was a one-man journey, but in fact it was a collective effort.

More so, the Design Forum which follows beginning next week is all about collaborations and collective effort. Individuals provide a background to the focus on a community which grows in the centre of this picture. It’s about us.

Shortly, I will post my thoughts about how the Design Forum might unfold. And then together we will navigate the way forwards.

Who is ‘we’ exactly? The ‘we’ is the team that is making this happen. I am part of the team, and you can be too if you want, but I can’t make that decision for you.

This is an invitation for you to join that partnership, this collaboration, our community. Upend the M and me becomes we. But if you do join the team, I want you to know one thing. In as much as you might be looks to me for inspiration for the next steps that follow, I will just as likely be asking you how it should unfold by asking your thoughts to answer the challenge before us: “What’s the plan, Stan?”

Conception Comes Before Birth

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IMG_0351A nine month journey will begin shortly. It will be uncertain, full of expectation, and at the end of which there will be the emerging of something which at the time of writing this post was only a glimmer in my eye.

It is a journey that starts with an intimate partnership of sorts. That part, the union with others, is unavoidable. It will be messy, fun, maybe full of passion. But for the nine month journey to be successful at the conclusion, at the beginning something must be created.

During this process, a new entity will be woven together, in a process that creates new life. It is an astounding feat, many would describe as a miracle.

Yes, we are birthing an idea. And I want you to be more than just a casual observer. Coyly, I’m asking you to help conceive this with me. Would you….?

Perhaps this description is comical, and maybe more dramatic than is needed. Commencing next week is the beginning of a nine month epic journey called the Design Forum where we will address a question asking “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

I was describing the vision for the Design Forum that would follow the epic journey that was the 10 City Bridge Run on the eve of the final leg in New York to my good friend Kelley when she identified that it was a journey of nine months. She questioned whether gender played a role in how the Design Forum unfolded. It was a good question: guys and girls think differently. We bring different life experience to the table. Biologically there are core differences which shape our function.

This doesn’t mean that we have ‘male’ roles and ‘female’ roles. That would be too limiting and prescriptive. What it does do though is open the process of the Design Forum to be seen as taking place across loosely the equivalent amount of time that it takes for human pregnancy.

Together, we really are engaging on the process of an idea. Actually, many ideas. And the metaphor extends beyond that further. This endeavour is about enabling life, not so much creating life, but preventing death in order to sustain a flourishing existence. This is important beyond the reasons that would appear obvious. Reducing child mortality is counter-intuitively the best way to contribute to the ending of extreme poverty, and by doing so to improve quality of life, improve health and infrastructure, and these things lead to opportunities for education where currently there are few, and ultimately contain population growth.

Improving child survival is too often the punch line of a funding appeal from an institutional aid agency, but what does it actually involve? There are few silver bullets, and it will involve a lot of hard work. But one thing we can know for sure: it all begins with the birth of an idea sewn from our imaginations.

Designing The Design Forum

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The 10 City Bridge Run Design Forum is a series of 10 events that will be convened in the 10 cities where running took place during the 10 City Bridge Run. The entire focus of the Design Forum is to address the central question to the 10 City Bridge Run which asks: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

The design for the Design Forum is for us to decide. Us, not me.

I have plenty of ideas and thoughts, and will continue to lead by defining and shaping these events with a credible structure that can then be influenced and improved by the interventions of us who are together on this journey. Making decisions, and working out how to collaborate are two key tasks that are all part of this mix. Sharing ideas is simple, but will also present challenges. This post is not going to dwell on the difficulty of how we organise this effort, but more outline a structure which provides a start point for this journey ahead. It might be that is structure is sound, and it is more in the execution as to how we design the Design Forum needs the most attention.

Design Forum 1 – Osaka: “Designing the Design Forum”

This will be a likely humble start to a larger conversatio which will grow over the next  nine months.

An overview describing the entire nine months journey ahead follows in the next post!

Design Forum: what is it, and why does it matter?

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The first step. This is what I saw when I looked down at the start point of the second leg of the 10 City Bridge Run on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 20 and a bit laps later I would complete the 24 km and prepare to move on to Singapore.

I’m on an epic journey. It is a quest. But it is not about me. It is about us. Together.

This is about you, not me.

Only you can say that we are on this journey together. It is your decision, not mine. I’ll write more about what that journey is shortly, but first let me explain why the decision you make is important.

This is a quest.

This is a quest to make a difference. Quests come in all shapes and sizes. This one is to improve the delivery of child survival.

This is about child survival.

So let’s begin there. I have loosely defined child survival as enabling children to flourish past their fifth birthday. Not just live, because I don’t think that is enough, even though we seldom stop to think twice about the opportunities that life brings us. If you are reading this, you really are one of the fortunate on this one earth we all enjoy. You can read which means you have had the privilege of education, and you have access to a computer, which means you have access to electricity. If you have access to education, technology (a computer), and infrastructure (electricity), it probably suggests you enjoy a wide range of other benefits that a majority of the human race can only dream about. Yes really, everyone else is not just like you. You are special.

This is about building bridges.

My good mate Scott O’Brien has an idea he is working on to connect the top billion with the bottom billion on the planet. It is the ultimate bold endeavour in building bridges. There has been a lot of interplay in the ideas he and I share. And I really enjoy the challenge and inspiration that comes from hearing near ideas or having my old ideas questioned. That is how we find new horizons. It is how we make progress collectively, and it is how we grow individually.

This is about philanthropy.

My question to you is what will you do with the privileged status you have inherited. Yes, there may well be every reason to complain: job security, relationship issues, too little money, health is not where it should be, stressed to the max, and maybe even your latte arrived cold. Those are real issues. Even the latte. But compared with others, you are fortunate and special. Philanthropy is described as having a concern for human welfare, and mostly this definition is associated with giving away money. But here I want to challenge that definition. What about if we consider other resources we enjoy that we can draw upon to use to good effect to benefit human welfare? True philanthropy. Using your time, your talents, your networks, your imagination. Connecting with others so as to help address someone else’s problem in the interest of their welfare is a selfless act of generosity. It is also shown to be the best, fastest, and most reliable way to obtain a sustainable state of happiness. That is, happiness comes from working toward the betterment of others. And don’t worry, the way the world work, these things come back you you in spades. To paraphrase Churchill: “it is by giving that we get.”

This is about making a difference.

UNICEF calculate that every day more than 16,000 children under the age of five die. That figure is called child mortality. Most of those deaths occur within the first 24 hours of life. Many of these deaths are preventable. So why don’t we just prevent them? Can it be that hard? Bill and Melinda Gates have used their recent Annual Letter as a stunt to bet that this figure will fall below 8,000 in the next 15 years. That is good news and would represent the fastest rate of benefit to humanity in history. But this won’t just happen on its own. Yes, significant progress has been made across the last 10 years especially, but let’s not leave change to chance. Innovation comes about through intervention. We need to act to bring about this difference. Returning to the point about philanthropy, this is about more than just giving money. Some of us don’t have money to give. The most valuable contribution any of us can make is through the collective genius of our shared imaginations. Are you going to hold back on us?

This is about us.

This is getting to the part that I said I would come back to. This is where you need to make a decision. I am no longer on this journey alone. Together, a larger community has formed, and we are now ‘us’. The question is, are you coming with us on this journey. Many reading this post know they are. It is easy to get involved if you haven’t done so already. You just have to make a decision to join us, to make a difference together.

This is about a journey.

This is about the 10 City Bridge Run. An idea hatched by myself in 2010 to run 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries as a stunt to address an important question asking: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” It took a while to commence this journey, and it was far from easy. I began running in Port Moresby on 16 September last year and concluded the running late on a dark, wet and cold night in New York on 3 January this year. But the running was merely the device to get us to the beginning of this epic journey. This journey is actually marked by a series of Design Forums that will be held in all of the 10 cities where running took place as a way of addressing this question about improving the delivery of child survival. You can join at any time. You don’t need to come with us every step of the way. That is the advantage of the ‘us’. We share the labour. We call all reach the destination, and no matter the effort you could contribute, we can all say with much satisfaction “we did this together!”

This is about Design.

We are going to use a method called Design Thinking to address this question about improving child survival. Come as you are, you don’t need special qualifications. We will draw upon the wisdom of the crowd for knowledge. We need your imagination to help us in the process of designing a better future for many.

What does this look like? Read the posts which follows (and a link will be added shortly), to talk about what is involved. There is no cost. You don’t need to travel. You can do it within whatever constraints you currently have. But first you need to decide. You can watch and observe, but why not participate?

We need you to bring whatever magic that makes you special to the table. You are more than enough just as you are. Let’s see what alchemy we can create when we literally put our minds together.

Please join us on this epic quest as we prepare to embark on the Design Forum so at the end of the journey we can all look back with satisfaction at what we have achieved and say: “we did this together!”

Resolve: The Sound of One Foot Slapping or The Dance of the Dominoes

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Back in 2011 I did a couple of writing courses with a friend at the WEA (adult education provider) in Newcastle in an attempt to get myself writing. It worked a charm for a while and I must have been doing morning pages (I mean actually getting up early in the morning and writing whatever came to mind for 20 minutes) as I’ve found this note from July of that year:

 “Today’s morning pages…aka What’s fallen out of my brain while I’ve had a pen in my hand for two minutes

There are bits of me all over the place, in various work books, on a receipt in my glasses case and spilling out behind me – I’m not sure if that’s like Hansel and Gretel’s crumbs and I’ll be able to scoop myself back together, or whether in fact it’s more of a pied piper feat and I’m…

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