Design Forum

What I Am Still In New York?

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IMG_3421It would be understandable that some people might be asking what am I still doing in New York now that I have completed the running stunt framing the 10 City Bridge Run. Or to put that another way, what happens now that the running is concluded?

It was my intention to have already left New York so as to travel to Melbourne where I need to spend some long-overdue time with my family in the wake of my brother’s death. It wasn’t my plan to be away this long.

There has been a delay, as if there weren’t enough delays already encountered with getting the 10 City Bridge Run to this point. Right now, I am waiting for the dispersement of funds raised during the final legs of the 10 City Bridge Run to be deposited into my bank account. The fundraising concluded on the evening of 1 January (US time), but the dispersement wasn’t put into effect until about 24 hours ago. Put simply, those funds are needed to enable me to take the next steps, which includes leaving New York. In many respects, and in a very real sense, I am stuck until that money clears.

IMG_3493But just as delay and obstacle encountered during the running stunt of the 10 City Bridge Run gave rise to opportunity in unexpected ways, I am likely to return to Australia a little later than anticipated again, and travelling via a circuitous route that goes via Osaka and Seoul.

One reason for the extended route home is that it is cheaper. It actually works out cheaper (and less painful in terms of flying hours) to travel with a broken journey via Asia. The cost is slightly less than a single flight from New York to Australia.

How this opportunity to travel via Asia to Australia rather than going direct from New York came about was trying to resolve how I might attend a scheduled appointment I have in Seoul on 21 January. Additionally, my concern was how to best coordinate planning for the first of the Design Forum to be held in Osaka during the period 10-12 February 2015.

IMG_3589Talking about something as a foreigner to that city might sound interesting, but it needs to be followed up with credible action for people to take you seriously. Having the opportunity to return to Osaka for a couple of days allows a requisite degree of consent and consensus from the host organisation in Osaka. It would be entirely unreasonable to fire off a couple of emails and expect for things to fall into place.

I will fly to Seoul after Osaka, which will be an opportunity to build some interest among possible satellite organisations who could participate in the first Design Forum from a location other than Osaka. Having one organisation agree to participate creates a model for others to follow.

Seoul is also the location for the final Design Forum, and so provides an opportunity for meaningful discussions around what might be possible and what might be needed to make the possible happen.

This first Design Forum is important to build momentum and a sense of identity for the conversation that follows. In the coming days, I will frame my vision of what that might look like, and welcome your involvement, steering and participation to make it a good event.

My friend Mary raised an idea a few weeks ago which was to explore ways of schools getting involved in the Design Forum. I think her idea is brilliant, and we are looking for other opportunities like that to expand and grow the opportunity for the Design Forum as a coherent and scalable conversation to address the important question driving this process asking: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

In the meantime, I have very cheap digs at an idiosyncratic New York flop-house, and will be using the few days I have remaining in the city to build support here and other cities as we move forward towards achieving this epic quest.


A Worthy Resolution for 2015

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IMG_26392015 is the year that a series of long-awaited Design Forum convened to open a conversation where a central question will be addressed: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

This is the culmination of a running stunt called the 10 City Bridge Run which involved me running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries. Right now as I type this post, I am standing on the verge of the ninth leg here in Toronto. The weather is cold with some snow flurries, and at -9 degrees celsius, there is every possibility it could snow while I am out running. I will be running between the cusp of two years: setting off when the new year turns in Sydney, and ahead of the new year here in Toronto. Bridging the years.

The resolution is to improve child survival.

One way you can help now is by signing this petition to The Hon Julie Bishop MP, who is Australia’s Foreign Minister, where together we will be asking her to be the official champion for this series of Design Forum.

I made two videos along this journey which give a little more information below. Happy New Year!

Why Glasgow?

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At the Glasgow Olympic Games site with colleagues from Commonwealth Studies Conference
At the Glasgow Olympic Games site with colleagues during Commonwealth Studies Conference

Of all the cities in the UK, why on earth would I pick Glasgow? Why not London which is such a global hub with some key hospitals and organisations that have made enormous contribution to innovation, design and technology relating to child survival?

I had the chance to visit in 2013 as part of a Commonwealth Studies Conference. We had excellent access to this city which was a mercantile hub at the turn of the century, but fell into hard times as industry changed in UK. Today, it is a city that is rebuilding, and is strong like its people.

I was on the study tour with an eclectic assortment of leaders from across the Commonwealth. Three of the five countries with the largest proportion of child mortality are members of the Commonwealth and represented on the programme: India, Pakistan and Nigeria. Additionally, Sierra Leone is a Commonwealth member state with the highest rate of child mortality globally.

I was there not long after my brother was diagnosed with Leukaemia, and had just commencing his initial chemotherapy. I filmed the video below from Strathclyde University where we pad a tour through their research facility within the Public Health Department. Amazing people and exciting breakthroughs. It was stuff my brother would have loved, and taps into an important aspect of child survival which is combatting disease.

Strathclyde University is an old institution with impressive fresh thinking which is being recognised globally for their ability to steward entrepreneurial and innovative thinking. Additionally, Glasgow boasts a strong tech-med community with global reach. The answer to child survival is not going to be found in medicine, but public health is a broader discipline which probably bests describes the arena where the question: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” can be mapped.

IMG_4813The conversation will unfold in London before leaving the UK in April next year. Save The Children originates from London, and there are many best-practice hospitals in London that focus on child and maternal health. Additionally, London is a place where ideas thrive.

It is my intention to convene the Design Forum in Glasgow and London in April, straddling the Skoll World Forum to be held in Oxford. I attended the Skoll World Forum for many years in its early days since 2005 when it was free to attend by invitation. The conference has changed a lot since then, and has gained profile but maybe lost something by becoming a little exclusive in some regards.

Gathering people and coordinating the conversation for the Design Forum will be challenging, but is not impossible.

Design Thinking with colleagues in Oxford
Design Thinking with colleagues in Oxford

The Design Forum that will be held in UK will frame the conversation going forward after the initia hackathon which is to be held in Osaka in February, then a Design Forum in Port Moresby to get a better understanding of the problem itself.

Glasgow, Oxford and London will be important opportunities to bring important ideas into questioning ‘how might we’ improve the delivery of child survival. There is a lot of experience and workable ideas to benefit from. There is a lot of information. It won’t be easy, but it is important.

This is essentially why the running stunt is required. It is a very long way of going about building a conversation, and a way of threading together cities that otherwise have little in common of this issue of child survival. The discussions don’t have to be huge, but they will need to be effective. Making this happen will be the biggest challenge yet and will need the collaboration from many.

Will the G20 Cut It? Four Lessons From Brisbane

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Tony Abbott and Vladimir Putin meet koalas before the start of the first G20 meeting in Brisbane. Photograph: Andrew Taylor/AFP/Getty Images
Tony Abbott and Vladimir Putin meet koalas before the start of the first G20 meeting in Brisbane. Photograph: Andrew Taylor/AFP/Getty Images

The G20 has been widely criticised in past years as being all talk and no action. When first framing the 10 City Bridge Run ahead of the Seoul G20 Summit in 2010, I asked “Will the G20 cut it?” at this link.

In the wake of the wash-up from the Brisbane G20 Summit, this question still is worth asking. What did we learn from Brisbane? Here is my analysis in four lessons:

Firstly, it is important to recognise that the G20 is a global economic institution. This means that the language will largely be around issues of trade, employment, debt, taxation and monetary policy. This does also include development issues relating to poverty as key to this equation. The G20 Development Working Group begins the 2014 Brisbane Development Update with a statement that is more than just a throwaway line:

Development remains a key element of the Group of Twenty (G20) agenda.

I sense that the G20 recognises both its ability and limitation to influence development through strengthening economic growth and resilience. This is at the heart of economic thought: how to best allocate the distribution of scarce resources.

The opening line from the G20 Leaders’ Communique flags the core priority of the G20, and consequently overshadows dilemmas this might bring in addressing issues of development:

Raising global growth to deliver better living standards and quality jobs for people across the world is our highest priority.

Secondly, the Summit is to some extent a forum of theatrics. It is misleading to think the G20 Summit as a dynamic roundtable to discuss all of the issues in detail. There is a lot of preliminary and behind-the-scenes discussions and negotiations that take place outside of the limelight to resolve how members of the G20 will orientate their national interest with the agenda for the Summit. It is more than a photo opportunity, and such gatherings are important.

Theatrics serve a purpose, and they also signal what people are keenly focused on. In focusing on one thing, they also steal a lot of the oxygen out of the occasion to more freely discuss a broader range of issues. In Brisbane, the theatrics was mainly seen through the grandstanding of and by Putin around the Ukraine incident. That is signalling how the Ukraine is fast becoming a place of heightened strategic value for leaders to communicate their sovereign will and power. The consequences of this grandstanding will not be immediately clear, but ripple through events that are yet to unfold.

Consequences are important, and the issue that receives the limelight will be at the expense of others that do not get discussed in depth. Obama flagged his theatrics publicly at a university address prior to the G20 to gain most favourable media attention to help sway his agenda.

Thirdly, wording is important and will ultimately drive action. The concluding G20 Leaders’ Communique and supporting documents give guidance for the future. If an issue doesn’t make the list, that would be troubling for those who see it as important. The question becomes one of what concrete and practical action will actually trickle down from this wording? 

The 2014 Brisbane Development Update was quite clear about what that G20 sees as an important priority, quoted here directly from the document:

Our work has continued to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Further, we reaffirmed our strong support for the ongoing intergovernmental efforts in the UN to conclude an inclusive and people-centred post-2015 development agenda and for its effective implementation. We reaffirmed the commitment of the international community to poverty eradication and a coherent approach to sustainable development, which integrates its three dimensions in a balanced manner. We underlined the central imperative of poverty eradication and are committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency. We look forward to the third Financing for Development Conference to be held in Addis Ababa in July 2015. We reaffirmed our commitment to ensure that G20 activities beyond 2015 are coherent with the post 2015 development agenda.

The wording from the G20 Leaders’ Communique shows that this responsibility is one that is for the United Nations to resolve, but one which has the support of the G20 for an ambitious post-2015 agenda: We support efforts in the United Nations to agree an ambitious post-2015 development agenda. The question of how an issue will strengthen economic growth and resilience is important to address to receive more attention.

Fourthly, who actually holds the G20 to account for their words? The declarations made at the conclusion of each Summit are not so much binding as aspirational guidance. The Seoul Consensus for the 2010 G20 Summit shown at the link at the beginning of this blog helped shape this central theme of a human bridge which supports the 10 City Bridge Run. The Seoul Consensus showed its priorities framed in the following statements:

We, the Leaders of the G20, are united in our conviction that by working together we can secure a more prosperous future for the citizens of all countries… The Seoul Consensus complements our commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and focuses on concrete measures … to make a tangible and significant difference in people’s lives.


There is consistency between what was written in 2010 and most recently in Brisbane yesterday. This is comforting to know, and no small measure for optimism as we look to address child survival in the context of economic growth and resilience. Recent statements from Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop about embracing a new paradigm of development assistance through looking for innovative ideas is consistent with this as well to build concrete measures to make a tangible and significant difference in people’s lives through improving child survival.

The case for taking action is an ethical issue. It is a good thing to do and the right thing to do, as well as being just. It doesn’t need the imprimatur of the G20 to take action. As global citizens, the outcome from the G20 Summit in Brisbane indicates that the institution is something to be readily engaged with on this issue because we both share a common objective. Opening the conversation with countries from the G20 is an important step towards the Design Forum in 2015.

Running Man

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running man logoEver had that experience of looking for something and not finding it?

Last night’s efforts to find a shirt and hat with the Running Man logo for the Korean improv comedy didn’t work out after a couple of weeks of searching. And I was so close!

Towards the end of the journey, I sensed I was trying to push a square peg into a round hole. Not an easy way to do anything…

Rather than seeing it as a fruitless effort, the story from this search gave me some good lessons:

  • Collaboration underpins the Design Forum for the 10 City Bridge Run seeking to improve the delivery of child survival.
  • Framing the Design Forum process with the thematic mantra for the Dongdaemun Design Plaza of “Dream Design Play”
  • Challenging outcome will mostly be difficult. The impossible takes a little more time and effort.

This wasn’t failure. It was an outcome.

I have rescheduled the Seoul run until next Sunday (23 November) when I will participate in the Sohn Ki-chung marathon. Sohn Ki-chung was the great marathon runner who broke the 2:30 barrier by smashing the world record in 1935, then winning the Berlin Olympics Marathon in 1936. As a coach, he was successful, and in 1950 achieved first, second and third placing for all Korean runners in the Boston Marathon.

Sohn Ki-chung also gives inspiration for the photo-essay of human bridges to make the book ‘Life Bridge’, adapted through his words: “The human bridge makes incredible things possible when supported by strong commitment and passion.

Lesson Eight. Keep moving forward

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IMG_1388Three cities remain following Seoul in this running stunt. Each of those cities are critical in threading together the intellectual engagement of this question: ‘how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?’ Glasgow, Toronto and New York are all critical cities renowned globally for their thinking.

For the time being, it would seem that those three cities are immediately out of reach. The sensible thing would be to postpone the journey until it is financially viable and less of a personal risk to myself.

Ought we to play it safe and accept what is reasonable? George Bernard Shaw would advise otherwise: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

This image of a human bridge which inspires the photo-essay in the book ‘Life Bridge’ is in part inspired by words adapted from the legendary Korean marathon world champion Son Ki-chung who broke the world-record in 1935 and won the 1936 Berlin Olympic Marathon: “The human bridge makes incredible things possible when supported by strong commitment and passion

Holding the remaining three cities in abeyance until 2015 is an option, and still allows for forward movement. But perhaps our frustration with an incomplete journey ought to inspire us to push harder to make incredible things possible now. Completing the running stunt directly from Seoul is an outcome that is not possible within my current resources, but achieving it would give an inspiring context to the Design Forum in the knowledge of a completed running stunt that the seemingly impossible is possible. This is why I am appealing for help from a select group of ‘bridge builders’.

The proposed schedule for the Design Forum would engage with a broad community of partners and stakeholders for participation proposed as follows:

Proposed Schedule for Design Forum
Theme Location Date (2015)
Framing the problem: Focus on Papua New Guinea Osaka February (middle)
Port Moresby February (late)
Global context, ideation and opportunity Glasgow, London and Oxford April
Toronto May
New York May
Evaluating prototypes Sydney June
New Delhi July
Implementation, delivery and moving forward Johannesburg August
Nairobi August
Singapore September
China (TBC) October
Seoul October

The importance of ‘bridge builders’ to support this initiative immediately is that it enables preparation of this schedule with confidence.

Lesson Seven. We underestimate the influence of our encouragement

Lesson Nine. Expressing a silent tribute

Read all Nine Lessons here in a complete PDF attachment

Overcoming a dilemma: building a bridge

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AI USA Maternal Death Clock Launch
I thought this was an unusual photo. Pointing to the Amnesty International “USA Maternal Death Clock” at the launch. I wonder how it is going, the clock that is? (Photo credit: Amnesty International)

In my last post I wrote about a dilemma I faced. Come too far to stop, but not enough backing to start running on 12 December 2012. It was a real dilemma. I had been training hard to make this journey possible since early 2010. Many false starts, many injuries, but not yet enough of what I needed to begin the journey.

The journey involves a stunt. I will run 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km each in 10 cities across 10 countries all inside of one month. The stunt is to open a conversation about how might we use our networks to help reduce child mortality within the context of the Millennium Development Goals.

Every time I had delayed the start in the past was a difficult decision. I felt as though people who were supporting me would be disappointed, I felt the embarrassment of having to change plans from what I said I would achieve, I felt the difficulty of needing to refocus my mind to a new set of dates.

The good thing was that many people really did help me with some good advice when I shared this last dilemma. Their advice: take your time if you need it, get it right, find some space to rest your mind and get clear on what you are wanting to achieve.

So, to those people who have been a great support, I just want to say thank you.

The new start date for running is 24 February 2013. The dates I had earlier outlined will obviously need to be shifted, but that gives us an opportunity. Through the ‘Supporters Passport’ I have sent to those people who have helped me, we now have a straw man of the concept which we can build upon.

And there are some good opportunities emerging:

  • ‘Conversation Partners’ have now been identified to help with the journey.
  • A significant partner is likely to help to frame the experience. More on that opportunity shortly I hope!
  • Just over three months from now until I start running, so much better time to build the conversation before running.
  • Running outside of the Christmas break so can build a more focused conversation.
  • Looking at a launch party on 31 January 2013, with a very good MC agreeing to help out on the night. More on that shortly!
  • Some good performers also agreeing to help out at the launch event!

It is regrettable to delay, but in this case it helps to build a stronger conversation. Building a bridge over a dilemma. That is what is most beneficial to the outcome, and that is what is most important.

One of the outcomes is the definition of a Three Year Plan. The run will now take place at the beginning of that Three Year Plan. We will be living it out as the plan unfolds. Every decision we make has real consequences.

Thanks to everyone for joining the journey. We welcome many more to come with us if you are not already on board.

Over the coming months, I will be asking for your advice. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Design Forum. 10 Cities. Free to Attend.

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Roman ForumRoman Forum, Rome
Roman ForumRoman Forum, Rome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The concept to this 10 City Bridge Run is really starting to take shape, and I have some exciting news to share.

The good news is that what started as a concept over coffee with friends a little over two years ago is now about to go global, and all thanks to you.

Many of you have supported me by sponsoring the journey. The sponsorship has been pre-ordering a book called ‘Life Bridge’ that will feature 100 photos of human bridges. That is on track too, although I expect the book won’t be published until late February 2013. In the meantime, we have an intense journey ahead. You can just watch from the sidelines- that is fine too.

For those people who did support me, a big thank you once again. It is you who has made this possible. And there have been many other people out there who are helping me in other ways. People like Kelley, Jillian and Zipporah- you are not forgotten either. For all my supporters, a quick message. Every journey needs a passport, and this is no different. So this week I should be posting you your own 16 page passport which outlines what is happening on this journey. First I will be emailing to confirm your address, and then posting the letter.

This post is to briefly mention 10 Design Forum that will be convened in each city I visit. You can join in, and if fact it is free to attend. I still need some help to coordinate this, but I know that together that too is possible. Please visit the Eventbrite link here to register. You can register for more than one city, and you can register friends as well. You can see the themes of the link as well.

This won’t be the last time I mention the Design Forum, and I also want to make sure I am not overloading the interwebs with too many posts. If you are not getting enough information, or if I didn’t make something clear enough, please let me know too.

Thanks for joining me on this journey. Let’s get to work!