“Human beings have always used ingenuity to solve problems.”
It sounds pretty straightforward, but it is worth reflecting on for a minute. It is saying that we tap into a genius mind when we solve problems. That is profound.
We take solving problems for granted. We should see every problem that has been solved, resolved or reframed as an achievement worth celebrating. Do you?
Three 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|
|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|
|Implementation, delivery and moving forward||Johannesburg||August|
The importance of ‘bridge builders’ to support this initiative immediately is that it enables preparation of this schedule with confidence.
The willingness of people to support something that is risky and uncertain shows a real spirit of generosity. Without this support, together we could not have reached this point that has enabled us to look ahead to the journey that follows.
Every dollar raised has had a meaningful impact on this initiative. 137 supporters since 2010 have together contributed less than $12,000. This has been critical to develop this idea and commence the journey to this point. Every supporter deserves an individual special note of thanks here for making this possible.
More often than not, we underestimate the influence of our encouragement. Even seemingly insignificant actions such as ‘liking’ a post on Facebook, offering advice, or just checking in with a friendly word of encouragement, are all actions that have a big impact.
This might seem trivial, but it is not. More importantly. it shows that small interventions might be among those actions that are most important which we can do through our networks to improve the delivery of child survival. What are those interventions? The Design Forum will seek to identify those meaningful interventions that can lead to lasting impact.
Please, never underestimate the power of your encouragement. For everyone who played their role to date, thank you very much. Your support has had a huge impact on me personally, and together enabled us to weave this epic journey.
There were many things I could have done differently to influence a more successful outcome to the previous crowdfunding campaign. I take responsibility for falling short. There are many things I don’t do well.
The anxiety I have felt about the viability of the journey was perhaps reflected in the earlier conversations about this initiative during the crowdfunding campign. Unintentionally, striving towards a financial goal placed a lot of pressure on myself, on top of other considerations relating to preparation, fitness, logistics, and my overall ability to commence the journey.
Unexpectedly, as the crowdfunding campaign drew to a close I felt the pressure being taken off me, and the conversation shift in terms of participation. We transitioned from the question of ‘can you support?’ to ‘how might we work together to create the next steps?’
The question of ‘can you support?’ is unhelpful because it can solicit a guarded response. Importantly, focusing on ‘how might we work together to create the next steps?’ opens the conversation to a fuller participation.
The 10 City Bridge Run is not about reinventing the wheel. We respectfully want to play our part in the ecosystem of those vibrant communities already actively involved. The reason why the 10 City Bridge Run is necessary is that there is huge untapped potential which can only be accessed through a much larger conversation echoing the words of Bill Gates: “I’m convinced that getting our brightest minds to focus on our biggest problems will save lives and make the world a better place.”
The universal response is that the stunt captures people’s imagination. The fact that it is difficult and we are now facing further setbacks is part of the narrative that captures the imagination. If we were to give up now, what would that say about our conviction that change is possible to improve the delivery of child survival?
The first question people always ask when the stunt is explained is: “why?”
This is a very important question for people to ask for opening a conversation. It is a question asking for motive. Through explaining the stunt, I have opened countless conversations about improving child survival because people are drawn to ask why I am doing the runs. Admittedly, a more substantial conversation is needed to improve the delivery of child survival, and this will be achieved through the series of Design Forum.
Many conversations are with people who have never really given much thought to the issue about child survival. Other conversations have enabled engagement with a thriving community of people already engaged in addressing issues related to child survival. Through generating interest from this stunt, the 10 City Bridge Run seeks to bridge these two groups during the series of Design Forum.
Opening the conversation is critical to having impact. The photo-essay of human bridges featured in the book ‘Life Bridge’ which crowdfunding to date has helped fund will further open this conversation as a segue between the running stunt and the Design Forum which follow. But first, we have to allow people to ask why.
Leading by example is not limited to being the tough guy that gets out in front. Feedback from others has shown me that stepping out into uncertainty and beginning this journey has provided inspiration for many.
This stunt is not really about achieving impressive physical feats through running long distances. Learning to embrace vulnerability by confronting fear, uncertainty, risk, failure are the things that inspire others.
This learning is important is because it emphasises the need to embrace a ‘beginners mind’ through a ‘Human Centered Design’ thinking process which will be required during the Design Forum to be open to new possibilities in asking ‘how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?’
Learning and innovation require us to make mistakes and sometimes to fail. It is ok to fall short, as long as we are trying with the conviction to keep moving forward. Learning how to try something new is the type of leading by example that is needed for this conversation, if we are to improve the delivery of child survival.
It has been over a month since I last posted, and in that time I have been busy. Busy thinking.
In March, I attended the Commonwealth Study Conference (known by its acronym CSCLeaders) across London, Glasgow and Oxford for what turned out to be an extraordinary gathering of 100 leaders from around the Commonwealth.
I was profoundly influenced by women I met at the recent CSCLeaders conference, especially those from across Africa, India, Pakistan, other parts of Asia and the Pacific.
Returning to Sydney, I attended a conference at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute which focused on Papua New Guinea. Again, there I was influenced greatly by the women who I spoke with.
Often, my conversation turned to the issue of child survival. These were seemingly ordinary women, and most of them mothers. Few of them were ‘experts’ in child mortality- there experience was found in other areas, but all of them had expert advice to offer.
I made me think:
What might this look like if women held the answers?
This is not to say that men have nothing to contribute. Far from it. It is an equally relevant question for men to address as for women. So much so, that the orientation of the design forum for the 10 City Bridge Run will be framed using this question.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts too. Do you think this question is helpful? Could it be expressed better?
Bill Moggridge was a leading designer who significantly influenced thinking among contemporary designers. Sadly, he died last month, but not without leaving behind a legacy that speaks for itself.
Many people today have heard about the company IDEO, which Bill Moggridge co-founded. What most people would be less aware of is the impact of his contribution to ‘human-centred design’. How might we learn from each other, and other leading designers, without just looking for an obvious answer? How might we use the inspiration of people like Bill Moggridge to find a new way to find impact?
This is more than just talk. In Life Bridge, I am seeking to open a conversation asking ‘how might we use our networks to reduce child mortality?’ through running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries all inside of one month. The run itself is a stunt, which paints a metaphor for the difficulty of the task of meeting the Millennium Development Goal 4 to Reduce Child Mortality by 2015 in a short space of three years.
A series of Design Forum will be convened in every city where I travel to explore this question. I don’t have all the answers, and I am far from an expert, but along my journey I expect to meet people a lot smarter than me who are doing amazing work. Connecting people together can we really make a difference?
Check out the schedule below, and if you have any thoughts as to how to improve on this or how you might contribute, please leave a comment below.
The shared mind is more powerful than the individual mind.
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?