Someone Who Is Different

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sunrise over manhattanWords have a power to move. Which direction that movement takes is important to consider. Too often, especially as is seen at the moment, people are polarised by the words of others. Is this reasonable, and is this right?

Jacqueline Novogratz, the powerful force behind the founding of the New York based organisation Acumen, made this comment during the week and I thought it was important to share: “Within all of the division we feel around us, what can we each do for someone else today? What conversation can we have with someone who is different? Inspired by Shaw…

She went on to share a quote from the playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950). I have had this quote in my mind for a few years, and it is appropriate at the moment having just arrived in Hiroshima.

Tomorrow, I’ll write more about its relevance, but for now I think you can glean the meaning without the need for any further explanation:

This is the true joy in life, being recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of nature instead of a feverish clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for a moment. I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

Your thoughts? I love to hear your comments if you would share them below!


What exactly is ‘bridging’?

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A tale of two bridges. Looking north to Kaesong from South Korea.

Thanks to the inspiration of friends who just keep me going. Most of the time, you never see the difference you make. Especially, a big thank you to Mahei Foliaki for sending this video around which gives a good demonstration of what I am calling ‘bridging’.

Things don’t always work out the way you would like…

We can’t always go it alone. We are stronger together. Sometimes, reaching out for help comes easily, other times not so. A bridge needs supports on both ends…it is not just about one side taking all of the load.

In this case, it is about child mortality. I have been watching things unfold for the last 10 or 15 years, and there is good progress, but too much leaning on too few people doing the work. And too much potential and opportunity going wasted. What if we were to bridge together- our ideas, our resources, ourselves. Could we make more of a difference?

Here, the father comes to the son’s aid. “We’re going to finish together.”

In September 2010, I set out to run the 10 City Bridge Run. So far, things didn’t work out as I had planned. I have learnt a lot in the process, about myself and about how to do/not to do something.

I ended up in 2010 physically damaged so that it was not possible to run through overtraining, and also financially stretched…both situations that were unintended and undesirable. Many people had supported me to that time, and I also believed that the issue was worth pursuing.

So here I am again, lining up and ready to undertake this task commencing 10 October this year.

Never give up. There is work ahead for all of us to do. Join me on this journey. Please do. I am asking you to build a bridge together with me and the rest of the world. Are you in?

Bridging relationships to reduce child mortality.

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It begins with me and you

This is a picture of me with my mother when I was much younger- I guess around two years old. We are standing on the nature strip of our old house in inner-city Melbourne. Great photo isn’t it!

Today is my mother’s birthday. Happy birthday Mum! I have come a long way since this photo. A lot has happened in the years between.

The 10 City Bridge Run is about bridging relationships to reduce child mortality.

Life is fragile. Most child mortality tragically is influenced within the first 48 hours of birth. Similarly, maternal health is influenced by the health available during pregnancy and at birth.

The risks of pregnancy and child-birth remain despite our technology. We are just better prepared, educated and equipped to ensure a high proportion of births. In Papua New Guinea where I recently visited, they experience the second-highest rate of child mortality in Asia Pacific. It is something that doesn’t attract much publicity. It is just plain sad.

Building bridges to reduce child mortality is difficult enough to understand as an abstract concept, let alone to do in reality. There are almost too many challenges to consider, but I believe if we together on a global scale focus on relationships to reduce child mortality then change can occur.

Bridging relationships between two people is where this starts. Sure, the ultimate result is across a global stage, but the important start is here between you and me. It is about us. It takes work, more work than wearing a wrist band. It is not always going to be easy, but it will be worthwhile.

Tomorrow I will show you the first small collection of photographs of human bridges that I have taken to communicate how together we can bridge relationships to reduce child mortality. Join me by helping me build this collection and contributing your own photos.

Let me start leading by example with this photo of my mother. Bridging conversations that sometimes seem unbridgeable. Together, we can show that the seemingly impossible really is possible.

I can’t trust him.

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Dan Pallotta at National Convention 2010
Dan Pallotta

Let’s face it: we have unspoken chatter in our heads which is an obstacles to good relationships. Do we see other people as a human being first, or as a threat? Dan Pallotta calls us on this in his recent blog. He quotes: “The unsaid is the most important part of language when it comes to performance,…What’s already there prevents anything new from happening.

The only way to overcome that is to build a bridge, a human bridge between the two people. Each bridge will look different. In fact, it might not give the physical appearance of a bridge at all. The bridges will enable us to show interest in the other as a person. Our interactions become richer and more productive.

The 10 City Bridge Run focused on a global design challenge of building human bridges to help close the gap on poverty that results in atrocious levels of child mortality. How on earth are we going to reduce child mortality as a problem if we can’t even move past distrust and harboured grudges in our own little communities and workplaces? Building human bridges gives an opportunity for some important self-work in our own lives.

So why care, and why build a human bridge? Dan Pallotta sums it up best in his own words speaking about ‘anti-communication’ leading to misunderstand:

Combine the perils of communication technology with our predisposition not to want to talk about the stuff that’s in the middle of the room, and you have a perfect storm of anti-communication. It is the source of all misunderstanding. And misunderstanding is the source of 99% of our problems.

To me, there is no more important issue in business, or in life, than this, because it is the issue that underlies all others. And the good news is, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to fix it. Fixing it is as simple as the phone call my colleague and I had together. Whether it’s in the construction of a conference call, or considering that there might be a point of view other than our own, the answer is simple: Human beings just have to be human to one another.

Our failure to communicate, and our own misunderstands are evidence of the poverty in our own lives. This has nothing to do with how much money is in the bank account.

As my friend Maureen always loved to say: “Darling, just build a bridge and get over it!

Visit Dan’s blog here.


Why a bridge?

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The bridge is an important metaphor for joining people, institutions, conversations, ideas, communities and places together. The bridge is a universal metaphor. Everyone understands the purpose of a bridge is and how it is used. A bridge has multiple functions, including:

  • Crosses a gap. Overcomes differences.
  • Joins two or more communities that otherwise are separated.
  • Gives more options.
  • Makes travel easier.
  • Connects cultures, ideas, differences.
  • Requires work from both sides for it to be structurally sound.
  • Good foundations needed, along with spans of the right material and length, as well as stable supports.
  • Allows help to be given. Allows someone to accept help when offered.

We seek to build a bridge between the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) (specifically Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality) and the G20 (19 largest economic nations and the EU). This bridge requires the participation of many people to make this happen.

What is a human bridge?

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Ummm…this isn’t what I had in mind, but it is impressive. Could there be any other reason more important to build a bridge than this? I think so!

One Tribe

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Image via Wikipedia

Music interlude provided by the Black Eyed Peas.

Go on! Switch off for 4:41 and relax!

Together we can build a bridge to a better world.

Architecture is a story

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Daniel Libeskind

Daniel Libeskind uses 17 words to argue that architecture is a story; a story against improbability in this inspiring TED Talk.

This is a great construct for design and innovative thought. Some of the key themes which relate to the 10 City Bridge Run:

  • You have to believe in the future to be a successful architecture.
  • Design is visceral, not intellectual.
  • Power comes from good design and through it leverage to transformation.
  • It is about creating a space that has never been.

Watch the talk here:

Here are his 17 words. Listen to his description- well worth finding 19 minutes for this:

  1. Optimism
  2. Expression
  3. Radical
  4. Emotional
  5. Inexplicable
  6. Hand
  7. Complex
  8. Political
  9. Real
  10. Unexpected
  11. Raw
  12. Pointed
  13. Memorable
  14. Communicative
  15. Risky
  16. Space
  17. Democratic

Women Are Heroes

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The power of the photograph and film is evident here.
From this year’s TED Prize winner, JR.
Engaging, emotional, inspiring.
Watch it now.

The 10 City Bridge Run aims to influence child mortality through a creative process of inquiry. This is a human challenge- child mortality. Money and aid are important, as is institutional involvement. I believe that ultimately what the collective global citizenry do matters most.

Together, we can influencing the outcome of Millennium Development Goal 4 by building a bridge to the G20. The G20 has the political will to make global change happen very quickly, if it chooses to do so. But to do so requires effort and participation from us.

Help us to build the bridge. Thanks for the inspiration JR!

Stop and listen to someone else’s story: Be the bridge

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Image representing Kiva as depicted in CrunchBase

Get inspired!

Each one of us can do amazing things in the world. Take the time to listen to another today- build a bridge to understand them better.

We all have an enormous capacity for love. Void if not used before use by date (death).

Jessica Jackley co-founder of Kiva tells her personal story here at TED. It is an emotional appeal.

How can you be the bridge for another today?