Awareness

Barometric Reading

Posted on

Matt: "That's hot!"
“That’s hot!” At the beginning of the 9 City Bridge Run journey in San Francisco in 2009.

I can almost hardly believe that I am still yet to deliver on this idea of a Human Bridge.

I have learnt that when I fail to deliver on something it is worthwhile listening more closely to myself. Performance is the best barometer of capability. While that sounds elementary, also like a barometer measuring weather, having an accurate measure of capability allows us to ask why to determine what is causing the change or in some cases the lack of change.

Admittedly there are many things I could have done prior to this moment to have delivered on this idea of a Human Bridge. Those things I could have done include cancelling the idea entirely and putting it behind me as a failed undertaking.

The Human Bridge is only an idea, but it is an idea. Everything begins with an idea, but what is important is the execution. There is an irony that I have not delivered to date on an idea which is based on the concept of collaboration to frame the idea of a human bridge. That irony is that I have failed to adequately grasped the idea to bring the participation of other people into the project.

And that failure, that being to have failed in grasping the concept up to this point, is the only failure that matters. Cancelling the idea as a failed undertaking would have been an unacceptable failure because it would have surrendered to the difficulty of building a human bridge.

There is no “bad” reading on a barometer. It is a relative measure of air pressure. I need to learn to adjust my behaviour to match my capability so as to best influence performance.

I can’t change the weather any more than I can change the reading on a barometer simply by walking around with an umbrella as if willing it to rain. I need to adjust to the reading of my capability, and use that as a guide to adapt to improving my performance.

I’m beginning to learn how to read this metaphorical barometer. It shouldn’t be too much longer before I can work out how to deliver on the task to deliver on the idea of a Human Bridge.

Last Stand

Posted on Updated on

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.

Keep pushing and take some risks

Posted on

IMG_1864Getting closer to the last four legs of the 10 City Bridge Run has presented its own challenges. The cost of living and travel to UK, Canada and US are significantly higher than the Asian cities where most of my time has been spent to date.

By itself, that ought to not be cause for concern, except that I am travelling on a very tight budget. Extending myself increases risk, and to a point that is not acceptable.

My earlier intention was to travel through New York to run on UN Day, 24 October. But it was a bridge too far, as it were. On 22 October this week, I was clear this wasn’t going to happen.

I held on to the possibility of achieving this plan of running in New York as scheduled until the afternoon before the day I was due to travel. The last safe moment. By then, it was clear that not only was I not going to make it to New York on 24 October, but because that is where my focus had been my preparedness for a contingency was only lightly developed.

There have been enough delays since 2010 with faltering attempts to start the journey. I was well aware of that. This was a stunt to inspire the imagination, not a catastrophe.

I don’t propose to apologise for a changing schedule. Yes, there are ways this initiative could have been better executed. But guess, what? This is me..

I’m flying to Seoul tonight, arriving in time for UN Day, but arriving at the airport, I recognised I was not prepared to run. Physically I am good. But the preparation on the ground is not as it should be.

24 October had become a distraction. Yes, it is good for the narrative. But no one really gives a second thought to the date. I will use this opportunity to get better organised, connect with a wider network I have yet to engage.

Seoul is a great city to run in. Let’s go, get organised, and enjoy this run.

The Runners

Posted on Updated on

IMG_0261Filmed on the same location across different seasons, this really isn’t a film about running. It is a film about life.

I think we can all relate to this. You don’t need to run. You just need a heartbeat.

Stop and watch this tonight.

The inserted image was of two sisters in Port Moresby taken just before I took the first steps on this journey for the 10 City Bridge Run. Papua New Guinea is an amazing country for its diversity and beauty, but has struggled across the last 39 years in the face of corruption, exploitation from foreign ownership, compounding invidious conditions that have reinforced poverty that the country is striving to escape. It is likely that none of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals will be achieved by Papua New Guinea before the end of 2015.

How much do we all take for granted? It would be nice if these sisters who live in a country rich with natural resources might enjoy the same opportunity as you and I.

Photoessay: Committing to Child Survival

Posted on

Huellas de Vida | Footprints of Life
Huellas de Vida | Footprints of Life (Photo credit: victor_nuno)

Here is a beautifully presented photo-essay by UNICEF that helps to tell the story about what work is going on around the world to combat child mortality. It doesn’t cost you to look a these photos, except for your time.

Take a look through this link here which opens the photoessay. Leave a comment below with what your favourite frame was and why.

The 10 City Bridge Run is funded through the pre-sale of a book called ‘Life Bridge’ which will feature 100 photographs of ‘human bridges’. Describing a human bridge in words is best achieved through drawing inspiration from a quote by Ophelia Dahl, cofounder of Partners in Health and daughter of renowned children’s book author Roald Dahl, quoted Adam Hochschild who wrote about the importance of “drawing connections between the near and the distant”:

Linking our own lives and fates with those we can’t see will, I believe, be the key to a decent and shared future… Imagination will allow you to make the link between the near of your lives with the distant others and will lead us to realise the plethora of connections between us and the rest of the world, between our lives and that of a Haitian peasant, between us and that of a homeless drug addict, between us and those living without access to clean water or vaccinations of education, and this will surely lead to ways in which you can influence others and perhaps improve theworld along the way.

You too can join this journey but supporting this effort, and receive a copy of the book Life Bridge when it is published early next year. Please visit www.pozible.com/lifebridge. Your support is important.

Tiffany Eyes Off Grace’s First Birthday Cake (…meanwhile, somewhere in Sierra Leone…)

Posted on

Tiffany wants Grace’s cake

My good friends Nick and Liz have a daughter. Her name is Grace, and last weekend we all gathered in their backyard to celebrate her First Birthday Party. It was a beautiful day, lovely weather, too much food to eat, and many friends (old and new) to mingle with.

You can see from the photo that her friend Tiffany perhaps enjoyed it more than anyone, while she eyed off the birthday cake. I imagine she was thinking: ‘If everyone is looking the other way, would anyone notice if I just had a little taste of this cake before it was cut?’

Most of us have been to this sort of party before. Many of you will be parents who have had the pleasure and privilege to celebrate this occasion for your own child or children.

Such a stark contrast with other countries that for one reason or another don’t make it onto the radar of what gets printed in our newspapers. It is a tragedy unfolding every day.

We live like royalty in comparison. Even with problems we all encounter: the boss is a jerk, coffee was too bitter, missed the 7.05 bus, caught in a traffic jam for 45 minutes this morning.

Here is some food for thought. I hope this brings some perspective as to why I am about to run 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries all inside of one month. To open a conversation asking how might we use our networks to alleviate child mortality. Consider these facts:

  • About half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries:India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, and China.
  • India (24%) and Nigeria (11%) together account for more than a third of all under-five deaths.
  • The highest rates of child mortality remain in sub-Saharan Africa where 1 in 9 children dies before the age of 5. That is more than 16 times the average for developed regional (1 in 152).
  • By 2050, 1 in 3 children will be born in Sub-Saharan Africa, and almost 1 in 3 will live there, so the global number of under-five deaths may stagnate or even increase without more progress in the region.
  • The proportion of under-five deaths that occur within the first month of life (called the ‘neonatal’ period) has increased 17% since 1990, from 36% to about 43%. This is because progress in reducing the neonatal mortality is slower than that in the mortality for older children.
  • Almost 30% of neonatal deaths occur in India.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest risk of death in the first month of life and is among the regions showing the least progress.
  • Historical trends show that for most countries progress has been too slow and that only 15 of the 66 countries with a high under-five mortality rate (at least 40 deaths per 1,000 births) are on track to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4.

This information is taken from the 2012 Report Levels and Trends in Child Mortality developed by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation published in 2012.

There is some good news. Sub-Saharan Africa has in the last decade seen a faster decline in its under-five mortality rate, with the annual rate of reduction doubling since the decade before. We are making progress, much work attention is needed, and now.

Happy birthday, Grace.

12.12.12 Design Forum

Posted on Updated on

Seoul, Korea.
Seoul, Korea. (Photo credit: Jaako)

The journey taken during the 10 City Bridge Run will culminate in a Design Forum held in Seoul on 12 December 2012 (12.12.12) to crowdsource good ideas, and to listen and learn from four key questions.

* Q1: What is best practice, and how is that is having an impact? Who is succeeding and why?

* Q2: Is best practice contextually specific? Can good ideas be shared into different and unpredictable environments?

* Q3: What is not working well? Can we map the negative factors that prevent innovative change?

* Q4: How might a human bridge be part of a solution? What might this look like?

An outcome from the Design Forum will be to determine a list of lessons from failure and success titled “10 Tangible Ways To Make A Difference.”

This is a framework to work from, and over the coming three months before the 12.12.12 Design Forum, there will be plenty of good ideas to improve this approach. The Design Forum will be picking up on a great idea from my good friend Kelley Joyce, and looking at ways of how this can be inclusive of other locations outside of Seoul using social media.

Plenty of good ideas. I’m sure you have some of your own. Care to share?

Be the difference that makes the difference

Posted on

Every 3 seconds, a child dies from extreme poverty
Don't wait for Bono to tell you this is cool- act now!

I am asking for your help. Please join me on this challenge – the 10 City Bridge Run – only by working together can we build a bridge to close the gap on poverty. Child mortality is not a new problem; sadly, neither is extreme poverty.

There are four distinct areas I need your help. I think it would be awesome if you could help me even if only in one of these areas:

  1. Build a human bridge and send a photo for inclusion in the petition.
  2. Join our ‘design community’ to help unpack this design challenge.
  3. Step up as a ‘Local Connector’ to help communicate, coordinate, organise, and manage this process
  4. Help fund the journey through sponsorship: purchase a copy of the book “Life Bridge”.

This is not a charity. This is charity! The sale of this book funds the 10 City Bridge Run. Sponsorship starts at $24.

The book “Life Bridge” will reflect the the “life bridge” presented as a pictorial petition to the G20 Summit in Paris. The intention is to gather 24,000 copies of ‘human bridges’ photographs as a pictorial petition to appeal to the leadership at the Paris G20 Summit in June 2011. Together we can create a ‘life bridge’ that “focuses on concrete measures…to make a tangible and significant difference in people’s lives“ by making specific mention of child mortality in the Final Declaration when mentioning extreme poverty.

Please be the difference that makes a difference. Unlike fund raising campaigns, this is not about raising hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. The 10 City Bridge Run will operate on the scent of an oily rag. What we need is for many like-minded individuals to step up, and together we can be the difference that makes a difference. The Butterfly Effect in action.

10 Reasons to Care

Posted on

mother and children
We are hard-wired to care.

Franklin D. Roosevelt argued “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough to those who have too little“.

Bill Shore in his book The Cathedral Within writes: “The paradox of our time is that while wealth is being created at unprecedented levels, it is not reaching those in greatest need. If anything, it has created a complacency, a comfort with the status quo, an assumption that a rising tide will lift all boats.” The tragedy is that prosperity masks extreme poverty. This is why bridges are necessary – as much as for us to see what needs exist as much as for those who need help.

Is it worth asking whether we have have gone too far in the commodifying ‘doing good’ such that we see charity as a noun (an organisation) and not as it should be regarded which is a verb (the action of helping others in preference to our own needs)?

Citizen engagement is the new philanthropy. Philanthropy is not necessarily only in the giving of money. Civil society is the difference that makes a difference. We should return to philanthropy’s original meaning as ‘love of humankind’. We have a lot more we can each contribute through our time and talents.

There are no shortage of problems in our lives and in the world. Caring about one problem does not need to occur at the exclusion of others as well. Consider that building a bridge to improve the lives of millions can enrich our own lives through serving the needs of others far outweighing any cost to ourselves.

The need to address child mortality ought to be self-evident to us all. Caring for those people on the planet who have no voice, choice or influence on where and when they are born into extreme disadvantage. Just in case you need further argument, here are 10 reasons why we should care:

  1. Decent thing to do. Caring for other humans on the planet who are in need.
  2. Humanitarian intervention. It is wrong to allow suffering when it is within our ability to prevent it occurring at no disadvantage to ourselves.
  3. Avoids population crisis. All evidence shows that a reduction of child mortality also reduces birth rate, which also reduces the potential of an unsustainable population size in the coming decades.
  4. Improved environment. Many deaths are caused from simple reasons such as poor water supply and sanitation. To reduce child mortality requires an improvement to disgraceful environmental conditions.
  5. Preventing disease epidemics. Malaria remains one of the largest killers of children across the world. Improved prevention of disease leads to reduced child mortality. Vigilance against epidemics far worse than malaria is important for everyone.
  6. Maternal health. 350,000 women will die in labor each year, with most of these deaths occurring in the region defined as sub-Saharan Africa. Reducing child mortality leads to a reduction in birth rate, which lessens pressure on already inadequate medical services and leads to an improvement in maternal health.
  7. Female education. There is a direct relationship between birth rate, child mortality and female education. Improving female education, which remains at outrageously unacceptable low levels in many countries, results in the reduction of birth rate and child mortality through better care of babies.
  8. Extremist views. We can only imagine the impact a high child mortality must have in creating a sense of injustice, creating a ripe potential to be exploited by extremist and radical militant groups. This is a time bomb we must diffuse more out of compassion than through a pursuit of our own security.
  9. Moral responsibility through mining and trade. Many mining interests take place in some of the resource rich countries that ironically experience among the highest rates of poverty. Mining companies are businesses, not charities, but it could be argued that it is in their shareholders direct interests to ensure the best conditions exist for business operations through sound civil order.
  10. Partnerships. Reducing child mortality requires closer partnerships, which generate other benefits for us all.

Let the dataset change your mindset. This is a question of urgency. We can influence child mortality, but it will require action and not just talk.

Small Change? “Why the revolution will not be tweeted”

Posted on

Malcolm Gladwell speaks at PopTech! 2008 confe...
Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell’s recent The New Yorker article Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted argues we have lost a true sense of activism through a hyper-networked digital world. Thanks to my friend Kim who recommended this article.

Gladwell doesn’t really provide an alternative. That is not his point. Instead he is arguing against the assumption that a world with greater participation through social media such as Facebook will not bring the same radical flavour in activism in the ‘rights-based’ movements of past decades.

Is Gladwell onto something?… and why does this matter? Does this have anything to do with the reduction of extreme poverty?

Gladwell argues that hierarchy and organisation, not just an extensive network enabling participation, is needed to effective activism to bring about change. He favours the term “…with military precision” as though the military has somehow magically already secured all of the right answers. Having spent close to two decades in the Australian Army myself, I am hesitant to just accept that statement but I do understand the point he is making.

Have advocacy organisations lost the art and ability to be true activists? Has this inadvertently become a PR and brand war instead? Gladwell might say that it misses the mark because none of it is ‘new’, for all of the glossy brochures distributed and talks we attend, all the websites we click onto and the campaigns that engage our attention.

He uses an example illustrated earlier by Clay Shirky about the recovery of a mobile phone lost in a taxi in New York (read the article). Gladwell highlights the lameness of modern day faux-activism:

What happens next is more of the same. A networked, weak-tie world is good at things like helping Wall Streeters get phones back from teen-age girls.

How do we know we are really making a difference? A good question to ask.