A Promise Renewed

Progress

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all greatness
All Greatness Stands Firm In The Storm

It’s been a while.

How many times have I begun a post like this here? Many. Too many? Hard to say, except one thing I do know is that progress matters, no matter how slow.

There is a case for speed, and not going too slow. The problem being addressed through this project is time sensitive, in as much as delays result in opportunities lost. The stake that is on the line is the wellbeing and lives of many people who live life unseen in poverty.

And that is the balance. Too hasty, and there will be an outcome, but maybe without impact. Too slow, and it results in a perfect solution, although too late. Paraphrasing General Patton:

A good plan now is better than a perfect plan hatched from within the walls of a prisoner of war camp.

This project is about an idea hatched in 2010. It led to the completion of an epic quest at the beginning of 2015. What remains is the publication of a book to help frame a ‘Design Forum’ to discuss this issue about child survival with the broader context of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Most of those delays have been my responsibility, and largely related to my ability to extend myself because of resources at hand. Some might say, including myself, that it indicates a failure of imagination not to proceed, but there is also a need for pragmatism and balanced risk. Things don’t always work out. Sometimes we need to constrain ourselves waiting for a better day.

The important thing is that progress is being made. As if within a cocoon, most of that progress is unseen by others. That metaphor is useful, and I really need to turn the inside out in order to make a difference.

Here is what I have to report on as of now:

The book which was to underpin the journey already completed through pre-sales is in the process of being written. The book, Life Bridge, is a photo essay and will feature 24 artists each with a contribution on the theme human bridge. I expect that these artists will all come from Korea, for no other reason than there is a particular aesthetic towards the collective and design which is interesting from Korea. Seeing a broad range of contributions will also be easier to compare and contrast if generated from a similar background. From the perspective of addressing poverty Korea is also an interesting case study. It is a country which has overcome the wreckage of war, and while now by no means perfect, does give some clues to how best to proceed with progress.

The Design Forum will take place in May 2018. Before that can be organised, there is some preliminary work that is required. More on that soon.

Today is the anniversary of the Armistice signed in 1953 which brought to a temporary cessation hostilities on the Korean peninsula. That too was progress, but also unfinished business.

In the meantime, I’ll begin to blog more frequently on a daily basis and get this back on track.

For all those who have supported this effort to date, thank you.

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The Next Step

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It’s been a while, in fact too long.

I’m not sure I posted since December around the time I completed an art work that was on display at the local art gallery. The work titled “All Greatness Stands Firm In The Storm” was part of an exhibition themed “Turning Point”.

This art work featured my interpretation of the naval signal flag for “I require assistance (non-distress)”. This flag is identified by a red diagonal cross over a white background. The point of the work was that through the painting and exhibition of this canvas, I was signalling my acceptance that I could not do this journey on my own. It was an admission that I need help.

I need help. Three words that are easy to write, but difficult for me to express. As a statement, it is fine. As a request, it is as though I even need help to ask for help. I think that qualifies me for the category of lost causes and basket cases…

More on that painting later. Not in this post, but later. Here, I want to talk about what I have been doing in this past few months, and update you about this project: the 10 City Bridge Run.

So firstly, what have I been doing? I have been taking stock of a few things, as if I needed to allow the momentum of the previous journey to reach its culmination and come to a halt along that trajectory before riding the fresh movement towards the the next steps. That sounds like complete claptrap, and if that is what you are thinking then you are probably mostly right. Those who know me best would sense my idiosyncratic avoidance.

So why avoidance? Why didn’t I hoist the painting on this blog?  What was holding me back?

All good questions, and to be honest I don’t have a satisfactory answer. I do know, deep down. There has been some make and mend needed. But epic questions are epic because they are inherently hard. If there was no struggle, it wouldn’t be worth writing about. Hiding from difficulty is I think a fairly common experience among humans. I’m guessing that you might have done this too at some point in time. If that is the case, then maybe you can relate to what it is I am trying to describe here.

The painting is still here. It is sitting in my living room, and as I promised I will write about that soon, but not right now.

I want to tell you what else I have been doing in relation to this journey.

If you have been following this blog in the past, you might remember that I was going to describe this past journey with 100 photographs. It became an overwhelming aspiration, and clearly that has not yet happened. In fact, that tapestry of 100 photographs ended up becoming the simply expression of the artwork featuring the naval signal flag for “I require assistance” which I mentioned above.

And so what happened to the 100 photographs? Well, those have taken the form of a book I am writing that reflects on what I have learnt from this journey to date. I am probably about half-way through, and I am keen to finish the book before the end of May, which is possible to do. The book features 100 chapters that outline the motivation for what became the 10 City Bridge Run, a commentary of the journey itself, and a third part which examines some of the lessons I have learnt about seeking to do something in order to make a difference.

I was going to wait until it was complete before I started sharing this writing, but I now realise that in the spirit of the collaborative process, that it is much better to put some of what I have written out there here for you to read as I set about this task. I welcome you to read, comment, correct, share, add to, and even help illustrate with you own examples or art.

My aim in sharing this book here is to write with more gusto, knowing that some people are reading. I am writing it for you, not essentially for me. I would like to have this book finalised and published, ready for launch at the end of June. I think that is ambitious, but achievable.

And secondly, what has become of the 10 City Bridge Run? Let me again first express my thanks to everyone who has supported this journey. None of this was possible without your help. Thank you.

At the beginning of 2015, I completed the running journey for the 10 City Bridge Run. I have yet to publish the book “Life Bridge” which I owe all of the supporters. And I am less than satisfied that I have been successful in convening the conversation to address the question: “how might we use our networks to deliver on the promise to improve child survival?” That conversation was the point of the whole endeavour. I see the journey as still a work in progress, even if that means it is long overdue.

So what comes next? This book I am writing turns out to be necessary for me to complete in order to allow the other things to happen. It is a big undertaking, and I believe it is worthwhile. Thanks for giving me this space to explore this territory.

Without linking this to a timeline, the book “Life Bridge” will be completed this year and distributed to all the supporters. I also see a renewed effort taking place to pick up this conversation about child survival, again using running as a stunt to draw attention to what needs to unfold. At this point in time, that is all I want to say about what is ahead. The only other point is to say that the journey continues, and that it could not have been possible without your help.

I need your help. That is both a statement and a request.

Thank you. Let’s get to work.

Last Stand

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All Greatness Stands Firm In The Storm
All Greatness Stands Firm In The Storm

The Lansdowne is closing.

It is a venue which much history, known to many for a thousand and more personal memorial and recollections. Memories that are often grounded in the performance of a certain band, rather than specific moment in time.

My memories are from different venues, actually multiple venues, and bands that defined a moment. As I think through the list, the memories become more and more lucid, and the list grows longer and longer. Hunters and Collectors, The Angels, Machinations, INXS, Divynals, and on and on the list grows.

Many of those venues where those memories are from are either closed, or it was so long ago that what happens there bears absolutely no semblance to what went before. The place has lost that magic from that night many moons ago. This is not about nostalgia or showing my age. Rather, it is recognising that things that went before make us who we are now, and they are very much in the past. Not to be returned to.

And so the Lansdowne is closing. And it will close. And in many respects it has already entered into that place of ‘remember when’ for many. That is not good or bad. It just is.

It will close, and something else will open. Now, we are being told that a student accommodation facility will stand in its place. It is less the sign of progress, but more the allure of profit that drives this decision.

Speaking to the staff the previous weeks, their disappointment is palpable. Their morale is shot, in part because they will be looking for new jobs, but I would say that it is more because they are grieving the loss of a friend.

My friend Fay tells her stories of being a barmaid in the Lansdowne in years before many of those staff were born. It is the same venue, and no doubt she will feel the same sense of loss knowing that the taps will be shut off and cleaned for one last night in the coming week.

But let’s make a distinction. This is something that is closing down, not a last stand.

A last stand invokes a sense of defiance. It is a gnarly expression of resistance to the inevitable, It is a critical and defining moment in time.

I had launched the 10 City Bridge Run at the Lansdowne. To be honest, the launch was pretty crappy compared to what was possible. That was my fault and no a reflection of anyone else. At the time, there was a lot of stuff going on that was distracting me from doing my best in other areas. Stuff that doesn’t need to be explained or discussed here. Just stuff.

But launch the 10 City Bridge Run we did. And without the people who attended, it would have been crappy, but they made it special. It is always the people who make it special.

When I learnt that the Lansdowne was closing I was in Seoul. It had been many months since I had concluded the 10 City Bridge Run, at the conclusion of which I was exhausted. It took a few months to make sense of what I had done. Much like the launch, many parts of the 10 City Bridge Run were also crappy, but in its entirety it made something that was worth noting.

I explored a decision to hold a ‘Last Stand’ gathering at the Lansdowne. The idea was a little half-baked, but worth pursuing. The response from people was good and supportive. The venue was receptive, although the manager seemed to be accommodating but less than enthusiastic. I considered the time I had available to me. Not enough, but I wouldn’t really know unless I tried.

Good friends who are hip hop artists were behind the idea, and willing to perform. The delay seemed to be in the response from the venue manager. I was left uncertain of some arrangements that we had emailed about. My hesitation in following up the email conversation was perhaps a reflection of the circumstances.

This was going to be an afterparty for the 10 City Bridge Run. Not a wake. It was not a Last Stand.

No, this is not a Last Stand. The afterparty for the 10 City Bridge Run is going to be a celebration. A celebration of the next steps ahead in our pursuit of delivering on the promise to improve child survival.

So, this is a long winded apology for a half-hearted effort to gather a performance at the Lansdowne on 10 September. It is a Thursday night, and I will be there. You are welcome to join us too, but it is likely to be a quiet night.

My secret hope is that a few people with guitars might turn up, maybe even a melodica. The stage is ours for the evening if we want it. But at this stage, I think it will be a few people sharing a few laughs around a bar that has seen better days.

There will be a long-overdue afterparty for the 10 City Bridge Run on 10 October, and more details will be coming soon. It won’t be half-hearted, and won’t be crappy. And I hope you can join us as we take the first of many next steps ahead.

But for now, the Lansdowne is closing. I’ll be there on Thursday night. Join me for a beer, and to share some stories. If we can gather some interest, who knows, there might even yet be a Last Stand to be had.

Checking In

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IMG_4100It’s been a while. It’s been a while since I last posted. I didn’t check, but maybe it was back in February when I last posted. That’s a while between then and now. But since then, I have been thinking a lot about you, our supporters, and also our mission here which is to ask a question: “how might we use our networks to deliver on the promise to improve child survival?”

And it’s also been a while since I first put this idea out there on this website back in 2010. I remember that day well. It was in August, and my friend Kelley was visiting from the US. She patiently sat and listened while I explained my doubts, and after I had finished talking she told me bluntly in her best Bostonian-New York style to just do it already.

Many of you will know how the journey has progressed. I commenced a stunt running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries last September in Port Moresby and then finished the running in New York in early January this year on a cold, dark and wet night. That stunt frames the question we are going to be asking in order to help improve child survival through a series of Design Forum.

There are still a lot of uncertainties as to how the future will play out, but we are forming a good foundation to engage on this question. The hard work comes now: it is ahead of us, and I want you to be part of that journey. How that will play itself out, as well as an explanation for my recent delay, will follow in the coming days and weeks, but for now I have posted a video to check in with our supporters and let you know we are still well and truly in the game.

The video was in Luoyang, Henan Province in China. I refreshed while away, and am coming back stronger. Thanks for being part of the team. Let’s get to work.

Things Can Be Better

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IMG_0351This year in their Annual Letter, Bill and Melinda Gates included a short phrase which I think underpinned the whole of their document seeking the dispel three myths of development: “Things can be better.”

It was a clear signal of optimism, and the leadership Bill and Melinda Gates bring development is far and beyond the capacity that is afforded through their financial clout. Having money helps, but shaping the conversation through influence counts for much more.

A similar sentiment was expressed by Tony Lake, the Executive Director of UNICEF, in a post recorded for the ‘A Promise Renewed Initiative’. You can see it below. It is only short and goes for less than two minutes.

Tony Lake is an interesting character. I have never met him, but would love to sit down over a meal if ever I had the opportunity. Search his name on wikipedia and you will see he has a very interesting past. Kudos to him for turning his energy to addressing the needs of those most in need.

His statement: “We gotta do better”.

These statements actually rely upon each other to be complete. They are almost the same message, but not quite. Without both of these, it is either a case of striving without a sense of what is possible, or a view of what could be without the driving motivation to act.

We are very lucky to have Bill and Melinda Gates and Tony Lake expressing so much passion for a worthy cause.

A Promise Renewed. Inspired already?

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IMG_0224Every bit counts. Really it does.

Is it just me, or does this message seem a little hollow?

Last year, a positive campaign was launched in partnership with UNICEF called ‘A Promise Renewed’. It resonates and is a strong message.

My concern is that corporate communications are often unintentionally sucking the life out of a human message by sanitising things to such a well-read script that there is little in the way of a sense of personal engagement with the person delivering the message.

Government and bureaucracy play an important role in addressing child survivial. Very important, and this should not be diminished. The problem I see with addressing child survival is that meaningful citizen-led initiatives are hard to come by. I am sure they are out there, and most probably go unseen because they are busier doing the work than pushing out well crafted videos.

The 10 City Bridge Run exists to amplify and improve upon efforts like this. Not to compete, and not to reinvent the wheel. But there is loads of potential that goes wanting that can be engaged through a wider citizen movement.

Watch this video, and ask yourself: what is good about this, and what can be improved? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Celebrations of Independence

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IMG_0275Papua New Guinea celebrated its 39th year of independence on Tuesday. This is all but a historical footnote in the minds of many Australians, as many of us have forgotten the close association between both countries that began 100 years ago this month when Australia seized the German territory at the commencement of the First World War.

IMG_0277Much has changed since then.

The grand vision of Sir Michael Somare of the opportunity to run their own country has yet to be fully realised with the last two decades chequered with constitutional crisis and at times significant civil unrest.

IMG_0262Extractive industries have become a significant feature of foreign interests in Papua New Guinea since 1975, and corruption has sadly often impacted on the distribution of income.

IMG_0258The country has dropped considerably down in the country ratings of UN Human Development since 1975, and Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed earlier this year how she was troubled that PNG was not likely to meet one of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals before they are due at the end of 2015.

IMG_0283It could be easy to look at PNG and focus only on a grim picture.

IMG_0313What I saw when I was beginning the 10 City Bridge Run in Port Moresby painted a different picture. There were many expressions of national pride, concurrent with alignment with which one of the 32 provinces people originally came from. It is a country with over 840 different language groups, and with just over 7 million people, national unity is an amazing achievement.

IMG_0330Indications is that the country is looking towards good leadership and a bright future. Let’s hope so, because the region needs leadership from Papua New Guinea now.

IMG_0381Enjoy these photos taken of people during Independence.