10 City Bridge Run

The Credit Belongs To The Man Who Errs: An Update, Part 1

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ny image The ImpossibleAfter some recess from the blog, it is well time to continue this narrative.

The 10 City Bridge Run was conceived in 2010 to help address the problem faced by high child mortality. It emerged from lessons learnt following an initiative called the 9 City Bridge Run. The 9 City Bridge Run was focused on using resilience and wellbeing as a counterpoint to depression and suicide.

In many respects, the two issues faced by the 9 City Bridge Run and the 10 City Bridge Run were distinct and unrelated. At the same time, these were two issues linked by a similar thread of design and social impact.

I wrote a discussion paper after the 9 City Bridge Run. If you want a copy of an abstract from the paper, leave a comment below and I will forward you one and point you to where it is located. For a range of reasons, I thought that I had left the issue of suicide and depression behind, and was cracking on with addressing child survival as much as I was able.

It is worth noting that my efforts in both cases were well-intentioned, albeit Quixotic. What is one to do? Give up because they don’t have enough knowledge, or desist because the method chosen is not entirely workable at first?

I had sought to partner with large institutional organisations before committing to action, but I found that their capacity to embrace the sense of change I was looking to find was mired because of their obsession with messaging and fundraising.

In hindsight, it is easy for the critic to lean back in their comfortable chair and point to all of the flaws in what I chose to do. This could have been done differently, it would have been better to do that. But the journey of the 10 City Bridge Run is now in its sixth year. There has been untold and tremendous levels of heartache and sweat equity poured into this, and while it has been clumsy at time, there has been learning along the way.

Most of the financial risk was borne by myself. Essentially, this was a foolish move, and I was fortunate to receive the support from many generous people who contributed during a series of fundraising campaigns. The amount of  money raised was modest, but enough to steer me through such that I would not give up.

The 10 City Bridge Run was based on a stunt: to run 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries inside the space of a month so as to open a conversation about improving child survival. That was 2010, and it wasn’t until a dark, wet and cold night on 3 January 2015 in New York that this running stunt was completed.

The stunt was to enable something else to occur, and that was what I had described as a series of Design Forum to open this conversation about improving the delivery of child survival. To help fund the initiative, the crowdfunding was based on the pre-sale of a book that would feature a photo-essay of 100 photos of human bridges to communicate that it was the connections between us was the greatest resource at our disposal to make change happen. What that change was and how it would occur was unanswered during this process, and is indeed the work of the Design Forum.

Here’s the thing: unless we try things, how will we know if something is going to work. Theodore Roosevelt was right in his frequently quoted address about the man in the arena:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

This has not been an easy journey, but progress is being made. Maybe the issues have yet to be impacted upon, but then again neither is the deeds in the arena complete.

Picking up this conversation again through this blog, I wanted to backtrack a little so you could know where it has come from.

The next post will talk about where the 10 City Bridge Run stands at the present.

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Last Stand

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All Greatness Stands Firm In The Storm
All Greatness Stands Firm In The Storm

The Lansdowne is closing.

It is a venue which much history, known to many for a thousand and more personal memorial and recollections. Memories that are often grounded in the performance of a certain band, rather than specific moment in time.

My memories are from different venues, actually multiple venues, and bands that defined a moment. As I think through the list, the memories become more and more lucid, and the list grows longer and longer. Hunters and Collectors, The Angels, Machinations, INXS, Divynals, and on and on the list grows.

Many of those venues where those memories are from are either closed, or it was so long ago that what happens there bears absolutely no semblance to what went before. The place has lost that magic from that night many moons ago. This is not about nostalgia or showing my age. Rather, it is recognising that things that went before make us who we are now, and they are very much in the past. Not to be returned to.

And so the Lansdowne is closing. And it will close. And in many respects it has already entered into that place of ‘remember when’ for many. That is not good or bad. It just is.

It will close, and something else will open. Now, we are being told that a student accommodation facility will stand in its place. It is less the sign of progress, but more the allure of profit that drives this decision.

Speaking to the staff the previous weeks, their disappointment is palpable. Their morale is shot, in part because they will be looking for new jobs, but I would say that it is more because they are grieving the loss of a friend.

My friend Fay tells her stories of being a barmaid in the Lansdowne in years before many of those staff were born. It is the same venue, and no doubt she will feel the same sense of loss knowing that the taps will be shut off and cleaned for one last night in the coming week.

But let’s make a distinction. This is something that is closing down, not a last stand.

A last stand invokes a sense of defiance. It is a gnarly expression of resistance to the inevitable, It is a critical and defining moment in time.

I had launched the 10 City Bridge Run at the Lansdowne. To be honest, the launch was pretty crappy compared to what was possible. That was my fault and no a reflection of anyone else. At the time, there was a lot of stuff going on that was distracting me from doing my best in other areas. Stuff that doesn’t need to be explained or discussed here. Just stuff.

But launch the 10 City Bridge Run we did. And without the people who attended, it would have been crappy, but they made it special. It is always the people who make it special.

When I learnt that the Lansdowne was closing I was in Seoul. It had been many months since I had concluded the 10 City Bridge Run, at the conclusion of which I was exhausted. It took a few months to make sense of what I had done. Much like the launch, many parts of the 10 City Bridge Run were also crappy, but in its entirety it made something that was worth noting.

I explored a decision to hold a ‘Last Stand’ gathering at the Lansdowne. The idea was a little half-baked, but worth pursuing. The response from people was good and supportive. The venue was receptive, although the manager seemed to be accommodating but less than enthusiastic. I considered the time I had available to me. Not enough, but I wouldn’t really know unless I tried.

Good friends who are hip hop artists were behind the idea, and willing to perform. The delay seemed to be in the response from the venue manager. I was left uncertain of some arrangements that we had emailed about. My hesitation in following up the email conversation was perhaps a reflection of the circumstances.

This was going to be an afterparty for the 10 City Bridge Run. Not a wake. It was not a Last Stand.

No, this is not a Last Stand. The afterparty for the 10 City Bridge Run is going to be a celebration. A celebration of the next steps ahead in our pursuit of delivering on the promise to improve child survival.

So, this is a long winded apology for a half-hearted effort to gather a performance at the Lansdowne on 10 September. It is a Thursday night, and I will be there. You are welcome to join us too, but it is likely to be a quiet night.

My secret hope is that a few people with guitars might turn up, maybe even a melodica. The stage is ours for the evening if we want it. But at this stage, I think it will be a few people sharing a few laughs around a bar that has seen better days.

There will be a long-overdue afterparty for the 10 City Bridge Run on 10 October, and more details will be coming soon. It won’t be half-hearted, and won’t be crappy. And I hope you can join us as we take the first of many next steps ahead.

But for now, the Lansdowne is closing. I’ll be there on Thursday night. Join me for a beer, and to share some stories. If we can gather some interest, who knows, there might even yet be a Last Stand to be had.

Checking In

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IMG_4100It’s been a while. It’s been a while since I last posted. I didn’t check, but maybe it was back in February when I last posted. That’s a while between then and now. But since then, I have been thinking a lot about you, our supporters, and also our mission here which is to ask a question: “how might we use our networks to deliver on the promise to improve child survival?”

And it’s also been a while since I first put this idea out there on this website back in 2010. I remember that day well. It was in August, and my friend Kelley was visiting from the US. She patiently sat and listened while I explained my doubts, and after I had finished talking she told me bluntly in her best Bostonian-New York style to just do it already.

Many of you will know how the journey has progressed. I commenced a stunt running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries last September in Port Moresby and then finished the running in New York in early January this year on a cold, dark and wet night. That stunt frames the question we are going to be asking in order to help improve child survival through a series of Design Forum.

There are still a lot of uncertainties as to how the future will play out, but we are forming a good foundation to engage on this question. The hard work comes now: it is ahead of us, and I want you to be part of that journey. How that will play itself out, as well as an explanation for my recent delay, will follow in the coming days and weeks, but for now I have posted a video to check in with our supporters and let you know we are still well and truly in the game.

The video was in Luoyang, Henan Province in China. I refreshed while away, and am coming back stronger. Thanks for being part of the team. Let’s get to work.

ReThinking The Design Forum

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IMG_3803In 2010 I had an idea to do something that would both address child survival, and at the same time show the capacity we have together for collaboration, even if the beginning of our efforts is an individual act of decision.

The plan was to run 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries, and at the end convene a Design Forum to somehow find ways to impact the issue.

Four years passed until I was able to commence in 2014, during which time there was frustration to be found in spades, hopes dashed, thwarting by circumstances such as injury and access to resources.

Then in mid-September 2014 I commenced the journey. It was prudent not to have commenced before then, despite the misgivings this might have created in the minds of other people. I didn’t have the resources to complete the journey, and if I had began it would have been a disaster for me personally.

Long story short, I completed the running journey late on a cold, dark and wet night in early January in New York. The running was always a stunt to frame the Design Forum. In the meantime, what I learnt was that I still needed more time to prepare for this conversation.

The running at took place at the end of last year informed the conduct of the Design Forum. Doors were opened, I saw many places, experiences shaped my thinking. It was a personal journey that was extremely instructive. And now it is time to turn attention to the Design Forum.

The Design Forum have actually commenced already. It is a series of 10 events that will occur in each of e cities where running took place to open a conversation, and this conversation will be extended into other places through the participation of others. The first Design Forum was in Osaka, and that is being extended presently by a number of teams of great people with whom I am engaged in a process of examine Human Centred Design through an introductory course from IDEO/Acumen Fund.

Until last night, I had a plan to commence the remaining Design Forums as early as next month in Port Moresby, with others following in May. If I learnt anything from my running it was that action is important now, but that good preparation beforehand will ensure that action has impact. I have been ReThinking the Design Forum as I plan out my year ahead, and now recognise that there is some personal maintenance issues I need to attend to called ‘working to earn some money’ before I can suitably commit my time and energy more fully to convening the Design Forum. Besides which, to conduct them right now would be a financial stretch. It doesn’t mean not possible, but perhaps in the immediate sense, not prudent right now.

The good news is that this gives more time for preparation. And the second (next Design Forum) is likely to be held in early August in Port Moresby. That might seem like a long time away, but there is a lot to organise before then and the time will pass quickly. Following Port Moresby, the remaining eight Design Forum will occur to conclude in Seoul towards the end of October. It will be a pretty intense period, but will also frame a particular window of activity inside of which many people can engage to help us address this question: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

We are making progress, maybe not immediately like some people might expect, but we are getting there. Come August, I would expect a few other things to have been addressed to:

  • Engaging with media
  • Making it clear how people can get involved in the Design Forum
  • Building a robust team to help with the conduct of the Design Forum
  • More fully engaging with an inspiring community of practitioners who are already involved to help improve child survival
  • Building support for a petition to go to Australia’s Foreign Minister The Hon Julie Bishop MP asking her to be the Official Champion for the final Design Forum to be held in Seoul
  • Completing the book Life Bridge which people’s earlier contributions have helped fund as a way to enable to conduct of this epic journey. I anticipate the book might be completed and handed over to the designers/publishers in late June, aiming to have it ready for distribution after publishing by early August. That is an ambitious timeline, but also achievable.

There is always merit in ReThinking your position, not to change your mind every five minutes, but through a process of iteration to come up with a better and more workable solution.

With your help, together we can engage in these series of Design Forum and work to improve the delivery of child survival.

Details about how you can engage coming soon!

Blackbird

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IMG_4134The rhythmic whirring and tapping sounds coming from the life support machines sound like a reassuring metronome. If only it was that idyllic…

The video below is self-explanatory by the comment which accompany the clip from Chris describing his bitter-sweet experience as he sings to his son Lennon following the death of his wife:

Chris Picco singing Blackbird to his son, Lennon James Picco, who was delivered by emergency C-section at 24 weeks after Chris’ wife Ashley unexpectedly and tragically passed away in her sleep. Lennon’s lack of movement and brain activity was a constant concern for the doctors and nurses at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, where he received the absolute best care available. During the pregnancy, Ashley would often feel Lennon moving to music so Chris asked if he could bring his guitar into the NICU and play for Lennon, which he did for several hours during the last days of Lennon’s precious life. One day after filming this, Lennon went to sleep in his daddy’s arms.

Can you feel that crushing blow which must have accompanied Chris through this song and for the days, weeks, and years that will follow as he remembers his wife and child?

Many child deaths are irrevocable, and in the West in developed countries this is by and large the majority of incidents of child mortality. My brother’s son Xander is one such case as this. Lennon is another. Some reading this will have a very personal connection with that too, and I write these words with much care because I know that any reminder must be hurtful for you in ways only you could understand.

But what about those in so-called developing countries where we have no visibility of their deaths through YouTube or media? The sadness shared by their parents is no less. And the figure, while diminishing because of improvements in child survival is still too great, still over 16,000 children under the age of five per day. More than 16,000 parents singing their own version of a broken-hearted Blackbird daily. And that is not to mention the large numbers of women who die while pregnant or during labour. Life is a risky business. It is a situation we hope to address through the Design Forum accompanying the 10 City Bridge Run. Join  us.

10 o’clock Club

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IMG_3595
10 o’clock on the Queensboro Bridge heading back to Manhattan on the last leg of the 10 City Bridge Run. It was a very dark, wet and cold rainy night!

Much of my background in the Australian Army was serving in my capacity as an artillery officer. The old School of Artillery is still located up in North Fort at North Head in Manly, although the gates have long since closed after the school was moved down to Puckapunyal around 1996.

The last thing I did at the old school while it was still a military establishment was play tennis with Rob Rowe on the grass tennis court which sat on the harbour side behind the Officers’ Mess. From memory, we played barefoot, but I’m not so sure why. It probably had something to do with the bar the operated inside the Mess.

Brian the Barman had become an institution as inseparable from the identity which the Officers’ Mess had forged. He had been working behind the bar when I arrived as a young subaltern fresh out of the Royal Military College for longer than I had been alive, and knew the good, the bad and the ugly pasts of all the current generals who were also like myself young subbies when they first approached the bar and asked Brian for a beer.

Not much had changed over the 30 or 40 years that he worked at the School I suspect. Including the 10 o’clock Club. That almost never changed.

The 10 o’clock Club. Every evening at 10 pm when a course was in at the School, they would stop studying and assemble in The Blue Room of the Officers’ Mess. Some lighthearted banter would follow, and that was pretty much it. Well, maybe there was a little more to the proceedings, but that is enough for this post.

I’m bring the 10 o’clock Club back as we embark on the journey of the Design Forum, and I invite you to join in. Every (or any) evening at 10 pm, take a photo of where you are/what you are doing/who you are with and post it to Twitter with the Design Forum #hashtag which is #10cbr. Extra points for creativity and imagination.

I can’t promise to be in attendance every night, but I hope to see you there on the interwebs.

Don’t forget the #hashtag for the Design Forum! #10cbr

Keep Going!

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IMG_3582We lack more than we have in some regards. But that doesn’t matter so much. We have what we need, and that is enough.

How many times along this journey have I held myself back because of the embryonic state of an idea or because of the absence of resources which were needed at that time or in the future? The whole journey has been like that, and getting to Osaka and back to Sydney is no different.

Planning for something in the future without the required resources in hand makes committing to action difficult. It is moving out onto a path where there is none. Hoping the ground appears before your feet. It is a pressure and a vulnerability that is not easily shared.

Do you know that feeling? Have you had that experience? It’s easy to feel a little sheepish when you are going without. When you are beginning. When everything is fragile and vulnerable.

But that is how it all begins. Yes, we were once just fragile, vulnerable embryos. Little and tiny. And we survived.

If you ever feel defeated or trumped, go back to the beginning and give thanks for a day you don’t remember. It’s brought you this far, no matter what the situation you find yourself in now. Keep going! Now is not the time to stop!