Activism

The Personal Is Political

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freida
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser, 1940, Oil on masonite, 59,5 x 40 cm, Private Collection. Licensed Replica: © Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008

I remember back to my university days where I elected to study feminist theory during much of my foray into Art History. It was probably one of the most formative academic influences in my life, and the lessons I learnt from long hours absorbed in the beautifully illustrated books under that great dome of the La Trobe Reading Room in Melbourne’s State Library.

This week, I emailed a good friend with some unresolved feelings about what The Personal Is Political actually meant for me.

After crafting many an essay where the expression was deployed with aplomb, I was brought to a halt with the realisation that my understanding might not have penetrated much deeper than a strong intellectual resonance.

My brother’s death and the 10 City Bridge Run which is the epic journey that this blog relates to were intertwined through his son Xander who died an early death as an infant.

I was observing the media circus coveting an exclusive release from the very serious and tragic Lindt Cafe incident. If you think my description of circus is callous, look no further than the exclamation of ‘Congrats!’ from one well-known person in the wake of the heartbreaking conclusion to the siege.

So why was this such an issue? I was taken back to the how the media and government played out the MH17 incident. On board that flight was my uncle with three of his grandchildren.

The resources that CNN alone poured into getting me onto the line were astounding. How was I to make sense of this in my personal life, and then express that to a public audience of friends. To be honest, it had me stumped for a while.

The Personal is Political. More than ever, we have seen this being expressed through taglines such as #illridewithyou. Laying of flowers was a very personal thing to do, but it could be equally interpreted as an expression of defiance against threats to pour good society. The discussions that were waged either side of this often became slagging matches between the Left and the Right.

Harsh? Unfair? Insensitive? Not at all.

It is the tragic events that draw us closer to appreciating what we value most. As painful as that can be, it is a very human experience that we should be open to so as to listen.

The Personal is Political. The activist becomes effective when they move beyond being fuelled by an anger that is distant to their own personal experience. The activist must connect to what matters to them, and know why it matters for them. It doesn’t mean they must be anger, but it often is a by-product of passion.

The Personal is Political. For too long child mortality has been represented by statistics and information stalls giving away showbags full of bookmarks and PostIt Notes. Unless we connect to what matters, and why it matters to us, these Design Forum will be a flop and a waste of time.

I have had a lot of time to think during some of this running. Contemplating why? Getting to that point of thinking maybe I have it all wrong, and I should leave it to the ‘experts’. Those doubts are natural in taking ownership of what an issue means for you. It has to come from within. The Personal is Political.

It is the passion that comes from knowing The Personal is Political that enabled me to get other my hesitation and push the publish button on the campaign to fund this epic journey to honour my brother’s legacy. Please visit the page at this link, share it, and if you are able please contribute.

Whatever you do, just remember one thing. The Personal is Political.

 

50 hour challenge

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Mariko Kuribayashi jumping for joy with Jui PijaDa at the Global Launch on the Sydney Harbour BridgeI’m nominating you for the 50 Hour Challenge. Will you accept?

It doesn’t involve any ice or any buckets, and will only take seconds of your time.

The 50 Hour Challenge involves you forwarding this message to three of your friends.

This is about the 10 City Bridge Run, which is an epic journey involving a stunt running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries, to open a conversation asking: ‘how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?

You can read more, and also support this journey at www.igg.me/at/10citybridgerun.

Right now, I am seeking a little help from just over 50 ‘bridge builders’ to help cross the imagination gap by each contributing $1 for each kilometre I am running during the 10 City Bridge Run.

If ever this stunt had meaning, it is now. Less than 50 hours remain to successfully fund the remaining journey for the 10 City Bridge Run.

The 10 City Bridge Run is grounded in an idea that it is through the triumph of imagination that we are able to achieve new possibilities. Bill Shore in his 2010 book: “The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men” describes a “narrow but vitally important space between the impractical and the impossible” which he calls the ‘imagination gap’. He writes:

The imagination gap is a place where hope lies waiting to be discovered, and cannot be extinguished once it has. Most failures in life are not failures of resources, or organisation, or strategy or discipline. They are failures of imagination.

All funds receive directly support the 10 City Bridge Run and the mission to improve the delivery of child survival through the running of the stunt itself, culminating in a series of Design Forum that will occur through 2015 to unpack this question of improving child survival. Supporters to the 10 City Bridge Run are in effect pre-purchasing a copy of the book ‘Life Bridge’ featuring a photo-essay of 100 photos of ‘human bridges’ that illustrates the importance of connection to design solutions to difficult problems such as improving child survival.

Please support this cause. Together, we can make a difference that matters by crossing the imagination gap.

An idea that changed the world

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This image was selected as a picture of the we...
I am become death, the destroyer of worlds…

Global Zero seeks to mobilise people to join a movement with a seemingly impossible objective. The achievement of zero nuclear weapons held on earth by the year 2030.

Seriously? Yes, seriously. Impossible you say. But take note: aspirational goals are worth setting, even if the degree of stretch is well beyond our view and reach.

But is it impossible? It would be an idea that changed the world. Every change begins with an idea, with imagination.

This is where there is similarity with the 10 City Bridge Run. An initiative fuelled by the believing that a triumph of imagination is possible. The other similarity is that presently there are 17,000 nuclear equipped warheads in arsenals held on earth. There will also be 17,000 children who will die today, and tomorrow, and the next day. That number is decreasing, but it is an obscene amount.

There will never be a ‘zero’ count of child mortality. Death is part and parcel to being alive. But present levels are too high, and they shape a terrible over-populated future with health issues with a food and water security crisis if not addressed. We can’t see that problem now, but it awaits us if nothing changes.

Food for thought. Take a look at the short clip from Global Zero below. Impossible: what is in a word?

Our networks are possibility factories

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Anthony Lake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Making change happen, real change, change that matters, requires more than a simple signing of a petition.

Petitions are important, because our networks are possibility factories. Alone, few people take the hard yards required to change something. But every movement, every change begins inside someone’s head, it moves into a conversation, and soon others become involved. The network is engaged and a tipping point is reached.

Our networks are possibilities factories indeed, and petitions provide a signal to these networks of where action should be mobilised. Not all of these efforts are successful, but that is not the point. Some are, and we should be careful in what we measure as success. Innovation requires having a stomach for the bitter taste of failure, and the tough mindset to build again and tweak what didn’t work the last time failure was encountered.

Anthony Lake, the Executive Director at UNICEF spoke about how we should get involved through a petition which was launched last September called ‘A Promise Renewed’. It is a good initiative, and takes the form of a pledge.

Here is what UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said to explain the pledge:

Sign the pledge, which will mean you’re pledging to do what you can to change behavior in your communities — you’ll encourage local NGOs to sign the pledge and to work harder, you’ll pledge to advocate your governments to follow through on their pledges and make real progress. You can make a difference.

Read that again. Everyone signs the pledge, and we can make a difference? Well no, it does imply that someone is doing the work, and puts the emphasis reasonably enough on NGOs and governments. Assuming that they are working hard to solve the problem and not just working hard to maintain brand and reputation.

What is at stake? Tony Lake’s closing words are worth noting. These are strong words, and I hope used for more than just dramatic effect at the conference in New York where they were spoken last September:

[We should all] start advocating with [our] governments to live up to their commitments to do everything we can to save children from what is a moral abomination. If we don’t do it, shame on us.

To paraphrase Georges Clemenceau: “A moral abomination is too important to be left to our governments.” We must act as well. Our networks are the possibility factories. This is the premise of the 10 City Bridge Run.

The Not-So-Coffee-Free Friday: Part 2

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Please support me for the cost of a coffee on Friday!

Today, I have rescheduled my training, and will run six laps between Pyrmont Bridge and Anzac Bridge (4.2 km one way) to cover a 24 km distance. Along the way, I am hoping to stop by for a quick coffee with my good friend Annette Higgins (caffeine is a good stimulant for increasing athletic performance). Consider sponsoring me $4 (you only need to do it once ever)- the cost of a coffee- while I am running.

You can do this through the link here at http://www.pozible.com/lifebridge. It is a crowdfunding site, which means many people contribute small amounts to fund a creative project.

Next week, I will run 20 laps of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (1.2 km one way) during a training run. You are welcome to join me for the whole distance or just one lap. Happy to slow to a walking pace (for one lap) if that suits you best!

Times are tight. I know that. But would you play a small part in my journey by sponsoring me $4?

Actually, there are no small parts in this journey. Everyone has their place, and even $4 makes a big difference to the outcome: helping to alleviate child mortality. Read more about how I believe I can make a difference with your help at the link above.

Thanks for coming on the journey.

Coffee Free Friday?

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Please support me for the cost of a coffee on Friday!

Okay, maybe not go without coffee. I share your pain. But would you consider supporting me for the cost of a coffee in my crowdfunding project? I would love you to join the journey.

Check out my new video, but better still visit the Pozible site here at http://www.pozible.com/lifebridge and check out the right hand column.

On Friday, would you be open to supporting me for $4?

Go on, help make this journey possible and changing the narrative for child mortality.

…and could I ask one other thing too? Please ask those you are also having coffee with you support too. Yes, you can do it on your smartphone. And why wait for Friday? Thanks for your support!

If only it was this easy

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Little Chestnut saved by Ze Frank

Ze Frank recently completed a Kickstarter crowdfunding exercise. I helped out responding to his offer of saving one of fifty babies from toy sharks and lions. The photo is here on the blog post, or click on this link to see all of the babies saved.

Is it alright to include this in a discussion about child mortality? Does it present something overly flippant?

In this case, no. I think it is fine. I don’t intend to make light of a serious problem, but only to suggest that all too often our efforts at ‘saving babies’ are not much more involved than with Ze Frank’s stunt. Neither was he addressing this issue of child mortality.

Rather, it is a reminder of what has been referred to as the ‘White Savior Industrial Complex‘ by Teju Cole in an article that is well worth reading (click the title for the link). Addressing complex social need goes beyond the simplicity of the emotionally charged presentations like we see in Kony 2012 or when we are accosted by charity muggers.

If only making change was this easy. It is hard work. That is part of the metaphor involved in the 10 City Bridge Run running stunt: 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries all inside of one month. Much more palatable just to write someone a cheque, but that is not how things get done.

Ze Frank Is Saving Babies

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Image representing Ze Frank as depicted in Cru...
Ze Frank

Child mortality is a serious issue. This week I have seen two different approaches, both clever, toward raising awareness and building collaboration which help to save the lives of children.

The first is Kony 2012. Read my previous post Reframing Kony? How to solve the world’s trickiest problems for a critique of that campaign. I think that will continue to emerge as a case study in progress that will divide the activist community as to whether it was the right thing to do.

The second is Ze Frank‘s recent Kickstarter campaign to raise money for his next show. Already well oversubscribed above 250%, it shows the strong following and appeal that he brings to his audience. I subscribed to save plastic babies from the sharks he has inside a toy landscape.

See the video at Kickstarter here or watch below:

Ze Frank is not making a joke out of child mortality, and neither am I.

I am contrasting different methods for creating an effect for positive social change. Is one better than the other, or are they just different? Can one leverage a better result in the long term more than the other? What do you think?

Reframing Kony? How to solve the world’s trickiest problems

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Kony  2012

Kony 2012 is a recent campaign uploaded onto YouTube by Invisible Children. It was posted on 5 March 2012, and already has enjoyed a wide circulation. Invisible Children’s mission is stated on their website as ‘using film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in Central Africa to peace and prosperity’.

Watch the 29:59 minute documentary explaining the campaign here:

It is a compelling story, and a cause that is troubling. Especially when seen from the normalcy and comfort of a Western household. How can we respond in any way other than to be shocked?

So much sadness and suffering in the world. Must we prioritise our response? Do we have to chose ‘our favoured cause’ above others? What difference does it make anyway…in the long run, will any of it make any difference?

Before looking at some of the criticism to the Kony 2012 campaign, I argue that we can all agree on one thing: taking no action is wrong. It is wrong ethically because we enjoy so much. Action can be small as much as it can be significant.

Here are two thoughtful blog posts which give a considered critique of Kony 2012 and are worth reading. Read them yourselves rather than me summarising them in detail. My friend Cathie McGinn presents The questions we should be asking about the Invisible Children viral in her mUmBRELLA post. Patrick Wegner argues that “the Kony 2012 campaign is a reminder why we should see advocacy campaigns to interfere in conflicts with some scepticism, no matter how good the cause” in his Justice In Conflict post.

Last night, I attended a book launch for Eric Knight’s first book “Reframe: how to solve the world’s trickiest problems.” Eric’s book is a worthwhile read. He argues that often we miss the real cause of a problem, and so are then are unable to create a workable solution. I would suggest that he might respond the the Kony 2012 issue by applauding its action, while at the same time questioning whether the root cause has been addressed. Does dismantling Kony’s authority or freedom guarantee an end to the terror visited on so many African children?

This blog is not a criticism of Kony 2012 in itself. I would encourage people to get involved rather than criticise from the sidelines. I would also suggest that it does not in itself solve the problem. Focusing a social action campaign to mobilise the deployment of 100 military advisors is probably failing to recognise the impotence of our action in such circumstances. Intriguing to see the earlier indifference from the US Senators, and now to find their earnest commitment (cynically one might say timely following recent discovery of oil reserves in Uganda, as well as during a time of withdrawal from two larger campaigns in Iraq and now Afghanistan.)

Through the 10 City Bridge Run, I am asking “how can we use networks to alleviate child mortality?” Importantly, I do not believe that this is a stove-piped issues, nor is it something that can only be addressed at the expense of giving attention to another cause. Developing a more robust collaborative spirit of social action is required to make a difference. The lines of what causes poverty are blurred at the edges. Raising awareness of injustice itself is a good start to making the right choices in more areas than a person might have first intended.

This is the first blog I have written for almost 11 months. It has been a long recess. Writing this blog has been a good start point to come back into the conversation. Please join me as I prepare to start running in September. I am going to ask for your help before then by taking photographs.

In the meantime, we need to get better at working together from the ground up in order to solve the world’s trickiest problems. Kony 2012 is a great example of what is possible. Does it really matter if it is not a silver bullet?

Listen to me please, some things need to change.

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UT Austin 2004 Synthetic Biology competition p...

Hello world, Me again- I’m back!

I hope you haven’t felt neglected since I last wrote. Yes, it has been a while, but rest assured I have been thinking of you a lot in that time.

I suppose you are wondering what is going on with the 10 City Bridge Run. In fact, maybe you are asking is anything going on with the 10 City Bridge Run?

The last couple of months have been a much needed source of reflection and reorientation, and the answer the question above is unequivocally ‘YES!’

Let me spell what that is in more detail in the blogs that follow. Importantly, we must both understand that some things need to change. You an I both know that.

Sure, the vision needs to be more clearly articulated. And the site is very busy with information.

But I am talking about something much bigger than that. You and I need to get to the heart of what this is about: bridging relationships to reduce child mortality.

There is some work ahead I am going to ask you to join me in doing. Taking photos of human bridges. But it’s ok, it is not a big ask, but I do need your help.

I can’t do it without you. I have only come this far already because of your support, even if you didn’t know that.

Please don’t give up on me now! Thanks for your follow. It means the world to me!

Matt

PS. Would you RT or repost? I can’t tell everyone this myself.