Innovation

Do The Work.

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IMG_4100The biggest I lesson from undertaking the book project “Life Bridge” is that there is no substitute for doing the work.

Planning and having a concept will only get you so far.

Doing the work involves stepping out into unknown territory, the journey itself being its own reward.

Opportunity favours the prepared mind, and opportunity also comes to those who would create serendipity through putting themselves in the place of possibility.

Fear of failure, fear that your work will be inadequate, fear that your efforts won’t be accepted are all redundant obstacles. Do the work and smash through these.

The irony of this situation is that the work involved defining an idea of the human bridge. By building the bridge, I would also define the thing I was hoping to realise.

What’s holding you back?

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Life Bridge

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IMG_3699The 10 City Bridge Run basically has three components to unpack the key question at the heart of the project which involved opening a conversation to ask “how might we improve the delivery of child survival?”

The first component was a running stunt that was completed in early 2015. Looking back, it is easy to describe what happened. Recalling the events does not do justice to the difficulty involved in completing that task.

The second component is a book called Life Bridge which will feature a photo essay on the theme of “human bridges”. The central assumption to how change might occur is through connections between people. More than any amount of money, institutional will or technology, there must be people committed to driving change at the heart of any solution. Not only people, but radical collaborations of people through this idea of the human bridge.

The third component is a Design Forum where game changing ideas to address the challenge can be brought to life.

For now, the important work is the delivery of the book Life Bridge because it defines the human bridge.

In some regard, just defining a human bridge makes not one iota of difference. No change directly occurs. It is only conceptual.

This is the challenge. The human bridges have to be more than entertaining concepts. It has to point somewhere. Until I deliver on this, it remains an idea. People will need to see it to believe that it can make change occur.

Earlier, I had though that just by soliciting photos of human bridges that the idea might be demonstrated. I even thought that maybe I could take the photos to illustrate the idea. Neither of those on their own is sufficient. There is a lot of hard work required at the construction of the human bridges, as conceptual as it might be, for it to become a utility for change.

There will be space for collaboration with a broader range of photos of human bridges, but the immediate task is to make the essence of this idea tangible.

I have arrived at an idea where the core definition of the human bridge will be constructed from 24 photos of photos that emerge from collaboration with 24 Korean artists. The reason it is Korean is that there is an interesting perspective about the collective and collaboration from Korean society and thinking, along with the 20th century history which saw the nation emerge from the wreckage of colonialism and war into an industrial powerhouse. It is a country that is not without its challenges, and the fact that there is imperfection readily seen in a good canvas upon which to construct the human bridges.

More particularly, it means that I need to communicate an idea across another culture and language in such a way as to convince other people that it is worth their while to collaborate on this idea. Through that process of dialogue and discovery, the essence of the human bridge will emerge.

I can’t exactly tell you what it will look like now, any more than I could tell you the value of running a ridiculous Quixotic challenge a couple of years back. My concern is that much of the earlier interest in the idea has since waned, understandably. It is now my responsibility to build that interest and attention to what the impact of the human bridge might be.

Any suggestions from you would be welcome. Thanks for being part of the journey.

Grasping Vs Hustling

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IMG_1461Hustling. Along with words like innovation and entrepreneur, it is overused and misunderstood. It sounds so good. How many posts on Instagram champion the word hustling as a person would wear a mask?

I haven’t really used the word much in the past. I’ve been reflecting on my performance to date, and now I’m thinking I should embrace the word hustle more. Let me explain.

Firstly, performance is defined by my impact not by my effort. In the past, my effort was admirable, but my impact was often questionable. This can’t continue. Something has to change.

I’ve been reflecting on the book Life Bridge which is in the process towards production. There is still a considerable distance to travel, but also considerable progress has been made.

Looking back, I realise that much of my effort has been more grasping rather than hustling.

Grasping reflects a sense of desperation, almost begging. The difference between grasping and hustling is the belief in the outcome.

Hustling is not about pleading. Hustling has to be grounded in a strong conviction that the value you offer is worth more than than what people currently have on offer. Hustling is not delusional. Hustling recognises the freedom of people to decide, and that they will recognise your value to contribute to a given situation all things being equal.

Before I turn to explaining more about the status of the book Life Bridge (tomorrow), I needed to acknowledge what had changed in my thinking. This is important for many reasons, not the least of which is the confidence that the ideas you are bringing into the world have value and should not be ignored.

Getting to Glasgow, Returning From New York

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IMG_0454My time in Seoul has now almost reached two months in duration. That was far in excess of what I had planned for the entire journey.

Straight up, the reasons for all of the delays, and all of the amendments in my route since leaving Australia have related to resources. Money.

It seems so crass, and I don’t know why it is such an obstacle for me to address, but it is.

It is my intention to take the next steps by flying to London, then onto Glasgow on Saturday. Flying direct to Glasgow would be too expensive.

I will work out the rest of the journey once I get to Glasgow, but it is important to note that I am now committed to this journey.

My brothers funeral is in Melbourne, and it is now outside of my reach to return for that. And so I must honour him by moving forward.

But this journey is not actually about me, and it is neither about my brother.

My brother has come to represent the issue of child survival for me in some respects. His son died 36 hours after birth due to medical complications. Even with the best possible medical support, we can’t cheat death. That said, he battled and for a time won in the fight against leukaemia. Ultimately, it was an aggressive infection that caused his death. The body is robust as it is fragile. And this journey is about the most vulnerable among us: children during their first five years.

If you listen to Bill Gates, you soon realise that child survival is not just about saving babies. Child survival is important because it is one of the key levers in the struggle to move countries out of extreme poverty. It is counter-intuitive. It would seem reasonable that reducing child mortality would just lead to overpopulation, but an analysis of historical trends shows that the opposite is true. Improved child survival leads to healthier and more sustainable communities.

Presently, I am embarked on a running stunt to paint a narrative for the journey ahead. I am running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries. To date, I have completed seven of these runs and have three cities remaining. That brings be back to this issue of resources. I have the will, but the cost is prohibitive presently.

But why run? Why not just talk about it and solve the problem? The reality is that there are so many competing demands, and our understanding of the issue has been in some cases so poorly framed by the marketing spin of large not-for-profits, that a strong narrative is needed to look at this afresh.

More than that, this initiative is different. I am asking how might we use our networks to make a difference. It is not simply a case of leaning on governments, large philanthropists, or the aid agencies for that matter. All existing efforts in the fight for child survival are essential. But I do believe there is more we can do, and so that is why this series of Design Forum will take place.

The Design Forum will be held in each of the cities that I run in. The running is pathfinding the way ahead.

How badly do I want this?

Ultimately, that will coming down to asking people for their support. There is no way around that. The question is, what will the conversation be, and what will I do in exchange for their support.

After the last crowdfunding effort ended, it seemed clear that I had tapped out my networks. I was done. Or so it seemed.

My thinking is this: I need to stick with what I have. Sharpen it up. Explain it better. And give it all I have got. Really give of myself.

I am seriously wanting to address child survival. I am also excruciatingly sensitive to the fact that many people have generously given amounts to support this already. And their generosity alone is reason enough to continue.

I think given all of the events of the past two weeks, and the fact that it is brothers funeral tomorrow, I should recommit to a final crowdfunding campaign, with the amounts I am asking of people capped at small levels. Something like the opportunity to buy my brother a coffee for the last time, or to shout me Christmas dinner as I will be running across the festive season and intending to be back in Australia to celebrate New Year with my mum. I think I need to let people help define what this might involve.

That means I am looking at many people contributing small amounts of something like $5 or $24. And there would be something in exchange, but I don’t want to make it transactional.

Would it be too much to ask for 400 or so people do each contribute $24 across the next two weeks?

So this is my ask: please let me know what you think. I intend to post tonight, and somehow during the period of my brothers funeral, it would be awesome if we could spread the love to those who are able to support so that together we can make a difference. Forwarding an email or post to someone who wants to help is part of the team too, you know.

Let’s make this count. We are going to do it for all of us. Let’s roll.

From one month to three legs

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English: United Nations General Assembly hall ...
While I don’t think I will be attending the United Nations General Assembly hall in New York City come September, I do plan to be in the city at that time as the 10 City Bridge Run culminates. Consider this: the General Assembly as an extension of our networks, rather than a ‘special place for the elite’. Does that help you think differently about the question we are asking: “how might we use our networks to reduce child mortality? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I did a good job tearing my calf muscle before New Year. More than just a few strands, I was seriously stopped in my tracks for longer than I expected. This is my first post for some months since that injury.

A bit over a month ago, I found myself unconsciously running to cross a street, or get to a train on time. Coming back from injury, it is a strange feeling when you catch yourself out doing activity that the day or week before you were consciously guarding yourself from undertaking, but it is a good feeling too. Signs of recovery.

I haven’t been back to the physiotherapist since coming to Korea, but the range of activities I have been doing would indicate that I am now fit to run. There is still more swelling and fluid than I would prefer, but that is also subsiding.

My running coach, Bob Williams based in Portland, gave me some frank and very helpful feedback after the injury. He asked why was I wanting to undertake the 10 City Bridge Run (the 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries) all inside of one month?

Imposing time constraints on performance added nothing to what I was wanting to achieve, he argued. This was in addition to the need to recover well from injury.

Serendipity came to play a part in all of this as well. Only very recently, I was selected to attend an initiative called the ‘Commonwealth Study Conference’ which for me will be conducted in UK and later in Mumbai, India. The costs involved are small, and I am largely responsible only to meet airfare expenses, so in that respect it is not a large financial burden. This is an opportunity to good to pass up on, and what’s more sets the scene to start the journey for the 10 City Bridge Run.

Considering dates for the year, I broke the journey which I had early considered completing in under one month into three different legs. The whole journey, and each of the three journeys, and indeed each city I will run all play a part in shaping the narrative to helping us to better understand child mortality and how we might use our networks to help reduce under five-year deaths where they occur at their worst.

  • Leg 1: London, Seoul, Sydney (Late March to each May)
  • Leg 2: Mumbai, Beijing, Madang (or Port Moresby…probably stay out of running in POM due to security issues). (June)
  • Leg 3: Kinshasa, Lagos, Freetown, New York (September).

The good thing is that by breaking up the journey, it not only helps to consolidate the experience of the shorter leg at that time, but more importantly to use that as an opportunity to strengthen the interest and momentum in the conversation.

The conversation is going to begin small, and that is okay. It will end after the UN General Assembly meets in New York with the Global Design Forum being convened. How big that is, what it will look like, who will be involved: I have a good idea of what these will be like, but there are many conversations to take place first.

The good news is that the idea is developing. And we are moving forward. Later than planned, but in a better fashion than could have ever been imagined in 2010.

They said it could never be done. How often were they wrong?

12 Steps For Practical Problem Solving

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Cover of "Out of Poverty: What Works When...

Did you ever read the book from Paul Polak: ‘Out of Poverty: what works when traditional approaches fail’? It is a great reference book, and practical.

Paul Polak has worked addressing the needs of those most in poverty for over three decades, and has made a significant impact.

This video shows Paul describing 12 steps for practical problem solving.

Take some time to watch it. It will be worth it.

Squaring the Circle

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Some apparent partial solutions gave false hop...
False hope or inspiration?

Squaring the Circle‘ describes trying to achieve the impossible. The expression is sometimes used as a metaphor for doing something logically or intuitively impossible.

It is essentially a mathematical problem, and until 1882 it was thought that somehow it might be possible with the use of optical illusions through geometry. But in 1882, properties of ∏ (pi) proved that it could not be achieved.

Sometimes we really want something to be possible, despite the evidence we are presented with. People will tell you: “Just accept it; it can’t be done. It is impossible.

Some people see the world differently. People like Nelson Mandela who said:

It always seems impossible until its done.

Bridge builders share a spirit of what might be possible. It is an act of faith, of believing in the possibility of what you are doing. A belief that our actions actually matter and can make a difference. A vision of what can be rather than what is.

All successful human endeavors – from breakthrough interventions like the telephone to great social leaps forward like the civil rights movement – begin with the assumption that change is possible. (Quote from ‘City Year’)

I had intended to commence the 10 City Bridge Run on 24 September, and subsequently delayed numerous times for a range of reasons, initially due to funding available. I had planned to be in Seoul right now at the conclusion of the 10 City Bridge run, but instead am still in Sydney.

So what happened? I ended up injuring myself through overtraining. I reached a point where I literally could not run. That was disappointing. I followed the advice of good friends and rested, and over the past month since I last blogged I have been stretching, resting, swimming and cross training using high-cardio interval training with weights in the gym. I expect I will be starting to run again in early January.

We have all encountered failure at some point. What is important is to pick yourself up and push on. To learn from the experience, and try again. Trying something different to see how it might work out successfully.

I reviewed what I had been planning, from the training routine through to what it was I thought could be achieved. The 10 City Bridge Run is tightly focused around child mortality as a lever to help unravel extreme poverty. Please take some time to look at the website and see how it has changed. If it is unclear in any area, let me know.

So, can we ‘square the circle’? Maybe not as an exercise in geometry.

But the 10 City Bridge Run will proceed commencing on 1 March 2011. Please join me on the global design challenge. I need your help. Together, we can achieve the impossible.

Fall down seven times, stand up eight.