Lesson One: Feel the frustration that the journey is not yet complete

Posted on Updated on

IMG_0940We can all relate to the frustration of a kick in the guts. It is a very human experience. The feeling when you know something is wrongfully incomplete. Having to wait for something that was expected.

We all ought to be frustrated that the 10 City Bridge Run has taken a further setback through this failure to achieve sufficient funding from the recent crowdfunding campaign to keep moving forward.

The stunt framing this initiative is not really about running, or how far or fast I can run. It paints a metaphor about the challenges involved in opening a global conversation to address the issue of child survival where despite recent progress, the aspirational target set through the MDG remains elusive.

The meaning of the stunt involved in the 10 City Bridge Run has become extended far beyond what was intended or imagined because of the recent setback in failing to meet the crowdfunding target. The stunt mirrors the the inability to reduce child mortality within the 421 days remaining to achieve the MDG before the end of 2015, ahead of a transition to a post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Tony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, has described child mortality as a ‘moral obscenity’, further saying in 2013: “There is no time to spare…The lives of nearly 35 million children are at stake…Each voice that speaks out against the death of a child is a reminder of unfulfilled promises and a call for urgent action.

Beyond frustration, how ought we to respond to this setback which limits progress? Give up on the journey as too hard and a distraction to more pressing needs? Postpone the remaining three runs into 2015 when it is easier to deal with? Or act now to build a bridge over this obstacle through a triumph of the imagination?

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.

Right now, we have an opportunity by allowing our frustration to help us identify the next steps that might improve the delivery of child survival. This will require the immediate support from a select group of ‘bridge builders’ who have the capacity to enable us to reach the destination of the Design Forum.

Four years ago when I was beginning this journey, one ‘bridge builder’ gave an undertaking to contribute $500 per run in order to give this initiative legs. While that commitment has yet to be honoured, it serves as a benchmark by which other ‘bridge builders’ might show their commitment to this epic journey. I propose that the number of ‘bridge builders’ sought is capped at ten only.

Lesson Two. Deep personal commitment is needed to perform stunts

Read all Nine Lessons here in a complete PDF attachment


There is a catch…

Posted on

"Gentlemen, the March has begun!"
“Gentlemen, the March has begun!” (Photo credit: airborneshodan)

The journey begins at the end of March. It is ambitious, it is bold, it is workable.

But there is a catch. I need to pre-sell 30 hardcover copies of the book Life Bridge to ensure that I am not exposed to financial risk when I undertake this journey. I am contacting a broad network to seek their support, and anticipate receiving the requisite support before 11 March.

Please share this with someone you might know who could want to join the journey and support the project. Please see the YouTube clip describing the project, and visit the page where people can support this initiative at

They said it couldn’t be done. How often were they wrong?

Irony in Fighting Poverty: Welcome to the consumerist age

Posted on

Consumerist age meets poverty

My friend Armen made an interesting reflection the other day during a conversation. Like much of what he says, I needed to give it a day or two to think it over.

Hear me out, but I think there might be something in this.

I was walking past Town Hall Station yesterday and within the space of 100 metres passed three different groups of charity groups looking for people to ‘sign up’ for their cause. Each one had something to do with children and poverty. Each one had a different coloured t-shirt. All of them had slick looking sales materials and a well-rehearsed delivery just waiting for their next customer. Walking down the street I was conscious of them sizing me up and wondering whether I should be their next conversation.

These were people selling a solution to a need you didn’t know you had yet. You could buy your very own monthly subscription to ‘doing good’.

Armen was suggesting that much of the material presented by these groups related to the immediate physical needs of those in poverty. Maybe that is fair enough, given the lack of everything in which they live. And it also makes the message easier to communicate. Poster children for poverty. We look at the photographs and immediately assume so much. Nothing is really said about a spiritual or psychological need. Do these needs matter when someone is dying from physical want?

Over dinner tonight I spoke about this with my friend Bernie. Had we become consumers of ‘doing good’? Were we more influenced by brand and messaging than by actual need?

Bernie has some good experience in this area with the arts so it was interesting to hear what she had to say. Ethical issues of what is important and how we as individuals and society decide this. She also raised the important point that money is necessary to run an organisation.

What do we lose by becoming more consumer orientated?

Small Actions Count

Posted on

It takes more than one to make a bridge. A quick word of thanks for making this journey possible.

Without the many who have supported this to date especially through sponsorship, it would have remained an idea isolated on the far bank called ‘problem’ looking across the river of opportunity to the destination called ‘possibility’.

Together, we can be part of the difference that makes a difference by making the bridges needed to ‘close the gap’.

If you are in a position to afford it, please support the 10 City Bridge Run to highlight small actions which will make a big difference in showing that the impossible can be possible. Please sponsor me with $24 here.

24 hour Crowdsourcing Challenge

Posted on

Make Up Your Own Mind

Please help make the 10 City Bridge Run a reality and become a sponsor through pre-purchasing the book “Above the Line” through the Social Alchemy website as part of our 24 hour Crowdfunding Challenge.

10 City Bridge Run: I start running in Newark on 24 September at 10:24 am heading toward Harlem. Can I successfully achieve the impossible with the 24 Hour Crowdfunding Challenge before 10:24 am 14 September in New York (midnight tonight)?

Special thanks to the friends and supporters who have sponsored me to date. Like everything in this creative process of inquiry, the stakes are real- it is not just talk. I take the death of the 24,000 children who die everyday seriously, and I want this to be perceived by everyone else who comes with me on this journey.

What about you: what do you think? Is the seemingly impossible possible?

Commencing tonight in Australia (13 September), and over the next 24 hours, we will find out, at least as it relates to a small matter of raising a few thousand dollars.

Please read the Sponsor page to learn more. Will you take action or leave it up to someone else?

Agency, brand and trust: help or hindrance?

Posted on

Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize, 2006
Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize, 2006

Bringing in the money is not the most important thing for us to do if we want to eradicate extreme poverty. Clearly that is part of the solution, but if it was the solution then there has been enough invested to make change already, and the end of poverty remains elusive.

I actually think it comes down to ‘political will’. I don’t mean a sharper focus within a country or institutions like the UN or G20, although that is helpful. I actually am talking about our own actions. Where do we place our priorities and what will we no longer accept?

There has been a lot written about consumer advocacy and how this might start to impact on poverty. In some respects, I would place that in the same bag as Corporate Social Responsibility- well meaning initiatives with a narrative around change, but ultimately in themselves they fail to be levers to make change happen. Muhammad Yunus argues this point strongly in his recent writing, and I like what he writes.

There is a need for greater participation, on both incremental and radical interventions. And not just by ‘big brand’ not-for-profit NGO.

Brand and trust have become confused concepts, possibly intentionally. ‘Agency’ starts to trade on a currency of brand because it brings with it high level of trust. Meaningful systemic change suffers for the sake of maintaining that brand.

This is not true of every organisation, and there are some awesome thought leaders and interventions happening most of whom are working selflessly and tirelessly in unseen places because of a driving passion to help others.

Has ‘brand’ gone too far? Is there still room for the maverick social entrepreneur?


Posted on Updated on

Peter Singer at The College of New Jersey
Peter Singer at The College of New Jersey

Peter Singer in his provocative book The Life You Can Change raises the phenomena of a gentle nudge to slowly help shift community trends to overcome apathy. He mentions this in relation to a culture of giving.

Singer argues that even when we are choosing in our own interests, we often choose unwisely. So his writing here is about informing better decision making.

If major corporations, universities and other employers were to deduct 1% of each employee’s salary and donate the money to organisations fighting global poverty, unless the employee opted out of the scheme, that would nudge employees to be more generous and yield billions more for combatting poverty.

He writes that while the idea might sound odd now, but if a few corporations or institutions adopt it, it could spread.

Is this part of the solution? More money? If so, how should it be distributed and spent?

What other changes might be introduced through giving it a bit of a nudge over time?

Fundraising…the answer? More aid?

Posted on Updated on

A glossy brochure, a high rate of fundraising, a slick looking five-year strategic plan and vision/mission statement.

Is this the answer to eradicating extreme poverty?

I contend that the greatest poverty of our time is poverty of spirit, and that if we can address that in ourselves and across our communities, much of what we need to do might become more evident.

Dan Pallotta has an interesting perspective in this regard. I discussed this with him briefly at the Social Capital Markets Conference in 2009 held in San Francisco. His current writing is bold to say the least. I am not saying I agree with everything he writes; in fact I don’t. But engaging in discussion around this issue is important…Time is short, and we must be sure to match words with action along with a great sense of urgency.

Building marketing potential? More aid? Increased effectiveness/efficiency in fundraising?

What do you think is important and needed to make change happen?