10 City Bridge Run
On Saturday 3 January 2015, I completed the final leg of an epic quest by running the 10th leg of 24 km in New York on a cold, wet and dark night.
To recap: back in August 2010, I announced my intention to commence a journey called the 10 City Bridge Run. Four years later than anticipated, I concluded the first leg of this journey which involved a stunt running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries. The stunt was designed to open a conversation asking an important question: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”
In those four years, it has not been an easy journey, even though for the most part it might have seen from an outsiders perspective that there seemed to be little happening until September 2014. Suffice to say that starting anything takes effort and involves accepting risk. It has been difficult, but it has also been worthwhile.
Literally only a few people, less than a handful, are actually aware of how hard that journey has been. Maybe I ought to have shared more about those difficulties, but I think I was right not to because the journey is not actually about me. It is about us.
I couldn’t have done this without you. Please read that last sentence again for emphasis. Actually, that last sentence “I couldn’t have done this without you” needs some clarification. I knew I would need help to make this journey possible, but was unaware of how reliant I would be for support in ways I never expected from you. I needed the help you gave to get to this point, and perhaps just as importantly if not of more significance, this is a journey ‘we’ are on together, and so I couldn’t have become the ‘us’ without your involvement.
The contribution from some might seem to them insignificant. “I did nothing!” you might protest. I just want you to kn ow that encouragement even through a simple comment or liking a post from time to time carries with it greater influence than you might ever know. So thank you. And especially to the many supporters, this journey is as much as your achievement as it is of mine, regardless of when you joined the journey. We are in this together.
While we are now some distance down the road from the idea where this journey began, this quest is only just beginning now. This is an epic journal rich with metaphor. People have told me about their reflections about what I am doing and the metaphor they identify in the journey, and more often than not I am surprised how they see it from a perspective I never considered. And there is plenty of more meaning to come that all of us have yet to identify or explore.
While the journey has only begun, this is not an exercise is the abstract exploration of a literary device. This journey has meaning. The running stunt of this journey allowed us to arrive at the start point of what we are really here to do, rather than a destination.
Yes, the real journey is about to begin. That journey essentially comes in two parts:
- Co-creation of a book called Life Bridge which will feature 100 photos of human bridges to illustrate the importance of connection to meet a grand challenge, in this case our quest to improve the delivery of child survival. Everyone who has supported the journey to date will receive a copy as has been my obligation to you from the beginning of this journey.
- A series of Design Forum to be held in the cities where running took place to address the central challenge to the 10 City Bridge Run which asks: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”
I certainly have many ideas about what these two aspects of the journey ought to look like, but this is where there is some definite transition from a very difficult pursuit that I was undertaking largely as the central actor and at considerable personal risk to myself, to one where we will together be responsible for driving the outcome and where the risk is essentially to try ideas on for size and see what works and what doesn’t. The journey ahead is the sum of our collective dreams, our collective imaginations, and reaching out to many experts with the specialist knowledge that we need to guide the conversation. We can afford to be bold, but we also need to make sure it is well planned and well executed. Don’t worry – I’m not going anywhere, and will continue to serve by leading. I might be tired from the running, but I am totally invigorated to work together as we embark on the next chapter of this epic quest.
But as I get my thoughts together after finishing this first part of the journey to open the conversation that follows, I wanted to first say thank you.
This is also an opportunity to open up the conversation to ask (how) would you like to be involved in the conversation going forward? Spectators are welcome too! And if you have just stumbled across this for the first time, welcome aboard!
In the meantime, I have a lot to share that I want to post here. Many photos and videos from the trip, many thoughts, and especially many small conversation starters to orientate the focus better towards child survival.
This is a big undertaking and we are just getting started.
We have come a long way.
Starting in Port Moresby on 16 September 2014, coinciding with Papua New Guinea’s Independence Day, was important. Papua New Guinea is a country that is unlikely to meet all Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) before the end of 2015. The troubling progress experienced by Papua New Guinea in reducing child mortality made it an appropriate place to start this journey called the 10 City Bridge Run where we seek to open a conversation asking: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”
The 10 City Bridge Run is a citizen-led initiative conceived in 2010, which has taken until now to commence. It was framed within the context of the MDGs which seek to reduce global poverty from 1990 levels by two-thirds before 2015. MDG4 is to reduce child mortality.
In 2010, aid agencies pointed to the appalling rate of child mortality per day, measured then using 2008 data, estimated as 24,000 children under the age of five dying every single day. I chose to run ten sub-marathons each of 24km in 10 cities across 10 countries as a stunt to open this conversation about child survival.
There are three basic elements to this initiative: (1) A running stunt involving 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries, (2) Publication of a book titled ‘Life Bridge’ featuring an inspiring photo-essay on the theme of ‘human bridges’ to illustrate the importance of our connections, and (3) Perhaps most importantly, a series of Design Forum to be held during 2015 where the conversation to ask the question: ‘how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?’ will be opened to shape impact.
After running in Port Moresby, the journey traveled through Sydney, Singapore, Osaka, New Delhi and most recently the Chinese coastal city of Shanhaigeun. I’m writing this reflection from Seoul ahead of the seventh leg of the 10 City Bridge Run.
At the end of a last week, a crowdfunding campaign to sustain this journey ended, falling significantly short of the target. Even in light of this setback, I consider progress to date has been successful.
The following nine lessons learnt explain why I believe our progress has been successful to date, and what this means for the next steps in this journey to improve the delivery of child survival.
Here is the list of the Nine Lessons which will be discussed in the posts that follow (hyperlinks to be added once all posted):
- Lesson One. Feel the frustration that the journey is not yet complete.
- Lesson Two. Deep personal commitment is needed to perform stunts.
- Lesson Three. The view from the other side is better, but you won’t know until you get there.
- Lesson Four. Lead by example by learning.
- Lesson Five. Get people to ask why.
- Lesson Six. Take the pressure off and change the conversation.
- Lesson Seven. We underestimate the influence of our encouragement.
- Lesson Eight. Keep moving forward.
- Lesson Nine. Expressing a silent tribute.
My last post was titled Postcard From An Epic Journey.
Some supporters might be wondering where the actual first postcards are that were due to be sent shortly before my departure from Sydney. Good question!
I didn’t complete writing all of the postcards before departing Australia, and worked on completing the remainder en route to Singapore.
Administration is not my strength, in fact far from it.
I carried this swag of postcards with me across Singapore, on the bus to Malaysia, then to Japan, India, China, back to Japan, and now Korea.
By the time I arrived in Japan, I had started writing an update on the second of the postcards, a task that was completed here in Seoul.
I held off sending them at the time they were completed, partly because of the time window involved, and waiting to learn how things worked out with the crowdfunding campaign. In the next series of posts, you will read about the next steps that we can take through the help of a select group of supporters, and once I have some clarity on that result I will post the cards.
I do apologise for the length of time this has taken, and all I hope is that the postcards when received provide an intriguing reflection of the difficulty of this journey to date.
Thanks again for your support.
The first thing I must write here is directed to all supporters to date: Thank you.
What I had hoped to be a brief account that would be easily sent around to all supporters ended up being a longer document with Nine Lessons Learnt to date.
I will forward the full document as a PDF by email subsequently, and also post it as a series of blogs here shortly for everyone to read.
The journey is now well and truly underway after considerable delay. Beginning in 2010, we took the first steps on 16 September 2014 in Port Moresby on Papua New Guinea’s Independence Day. That was a good place to start, considering PNG is a country that is unlikely to achieve any of the eight Millennium Development Goals before the end of 2015, including MDG4 which is to reduce child mortality.
This initiative is not about lists of statistics. It is about people: you, me, our networks, and importantly those who are most affected by child mortality.
Already, there is a thriving community deeply involved in addressing issues affecting child mortality, and the purpose of the 10 City Bridge Run is to connect a larger conversation to bridge what we know works with networks who have never really given this situation much thought. By doing so, the assumption is we will make significant progress to improve the delivery of child survival.
It doesn’t involve any ice or any buckets, and will only take seconds of your time.
The 50 Hour Challenge involves you forwarding this message to three of your friends.
This is about the 10 City Bridge Run, which is an epic journey involving a stunt running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries, to open a conversation asking: ‘how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?‘
You can read more, and also support this journey at www.igg.me/at/10citybridgerun.
Right now, I am seeking a little help from just over 50 ‘bridge builders’ to help cross the imagination gap by each contributing $1 for each kilometre I am running during the 10 City Bridge Run.
If ever this stunt had meaning, it is now. Less than 50 hours remain to successfully fund the remaining journey for the 10 City Bridge Run.
The 10 City Bridge Run is grounded in an idea that it is through the triumph of imagination that we are able to achieve new possibilities. 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.
All funds receive directly support the 10 City Bridge Run and the mission to improve the delivery of child survival through the running of the stunt itself, culminating in a series of Design Forum that will occur through 2015 to unpack this question of improving child survival. Supporters to the 10 City Bridge Run are in effect pre-purchasing a copy of the book ‘Life Bridge’ featuring a photo-essay of 100 photos of ‘human bridges’ that illustrates the importance of connection to design solutions to difficult problems such as improving child survival.
Please support this cause. Together, we can make a difference that matters by crossing the imagination gap.
Getting closer to the last four legs of the 10 City Bridge Run has presented its own challenges. The cost of living and travel to UK, Canada and US are significantly higher than the Asian cities where most of my time has been spent to date.
By itself, that ought to not be cause for concern, except that I am travelling on a very tight budget. Extending myself increases risk, and to a point that is not acceptable.
My earlier intention was to travel through New York to run on UN Day, 24 October. But it was a bridge too far, as it were. On 22 October this week, I was clear this wasn’t going to happen.
I held on to the possibility of achieving this plan of running in New York as scheduled until the afternoon before the day I was due to travel. The last safe moment. By then, it was clear that not only was I not going to make it to New York on 24 October, but because that is where my focus had been my preparedness for a contingency was only lightly developed.
There have been enough delays since 2010 with faltering attempts to start the journey. I was well aware of that. This was a stunt to inspire the imagination, not a catastrophe.
I don’t propose to apologise for a changing schedule. Yes, there are ways this initiative could have been better executed. But guess, what? This is me..
I’m flying to Seoul tonight, arriving in time for UN Day, but arriving at the airport, I recognised I was not prepared to run. Physically I am good. But the preparation on the ground is not as it should be.
24 October had become a distraction. Yes, it is good for the narrative. But no one really gives a second thought to the date. I will use this opportunity to get better organised, connect with a wider network I have yet to engage.
Seoul is a great city to run in. Let’s go, get organised, and enjoy this run.
The agenda, as usual, is full and widely ranging.
Anyone who has ever worked for the United Nations can attest to a shared sense of frustration and optimism about what outcomes might be realised.
Success or failure? Dysfunction and broken beyond repair, or best available outcome with seeking consensus among such a disparate collection of global citizens? The answer to these questions will never be settled, but one thing is for sure is the massive convening power that the United Nations has brought since its inception many years ago on 24 October following the end of the Second World War.
The Millennium Development Goals are an aspirational list of eight objectives unanimously agreed upon by all member states in 2000 to reduce 1990 levels of poverty by two-thirds before 2015. The deadline is next year, and the writing is already on the wall in terms of success that has been achieved.
The result is more than simply a pass/fail scorecard. The goals were always aspirational in nature, but within reach. One of those goals, Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality, is the key focus on the 10 City Bridge Run.
In many cases, there are great stories of progress and success, but the distribution of this is unequally experienced. The results in some countries remains troubling.
Papua New Guinea is one country which is unlikely to meet its stated objectives.
Other countries remain at high levels of poverty, despite being extremely rich in minerals. Sierra Leone has the highest rate of child mortality, but is the biggest producer of diamonds in the world. How can this be? It doesn’t seem to make sense.
My friend Edison, who was a journalist from Sierra Leone, and spent time in jail for his political views, has spent a little bit of time telling me about the background to conflict in the country, and helping me to try to understand why problems there should be so bad. What was the cause of so much ill-health and poverty, I wondered? Now, also with Ebola to contend with.
His answer surprised me. What one thing is the biggest problem?, I asked, expecting him to provide some answer like fresh water, or medicine. “Corruption” he said. “It is the biggest killer, the biggest problem. While corruption is still there, nothing will change.”
The same answer is true to for child mortality. If that is the case, then how to improve the delivery of child survival? This is a question we are hoping to contend with across the next couple of months.
Meanwhile, the United Nations are discussing the Post 2015 Development Framework.
This doesn’t change the fact that child mortality is a problem.
Why does it matter how things are measured beyond 2015? Why not just keep the old MDG and push a little harder?
“United Nations is preparing a new sustainable development framework with its member states as the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) will get end in 2015. Speakers also urged to adopt a strong, inclusive and legitimate Post 2015 framework to success the Millennium Development Goals.” But what does this actually mean, or is it just a room full of well-dressed bureaucrats word-smithing a strategic document?
It does matter, and it is not just a word game.
The outcome will need to be focused on rights, transparency, addressing corruption, and a framework that is grounded in sustainability. The question will be whether countries will use their diplomatic jockeying for other issues of a security nature to influence or block resolve and consensus for a strong and cohesive result. It might sound like a lot of hot air, but these will be a guiding strategic tool for the next couple of decades. The work in New York this week is important, make no mistake.
To give an insight into the complexity, here is the extract from a recent press release. You can see from reading this, that the simplicity of eight MDG was remarkable when now looking at the intricacies of competing ethical concerns. All are important, but if it has everything it risks being meaningless, and if it is reduced to a couple of bullet-points, it risks being toothless.
“The post 2015 framework must reinforce international human rights commitments, laws and standards, fight injustice and address how its goals will allow for a progressive realization of rights. It must embrace a rights-based approach to development based on equality, equity and non-discrimination, and ensure the rights of people to participate fully in society and in decision-making, Ahmed Swapan emphasized.
Ahmed Swapan also said that developed countries must comply with their commitment to provide 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) and the unfinished business and they should align and harmonize their activities to avoid competitions and to be refraining from service overlapping. There should also be more transparency and accountability in delivering services to the communities for whom development is meant.
Pratima Paul Majumder said that United Nations must emphasize women rights in the Post 2015 development framework. She also demanded that government should include gender equality and women rights as priority area in new framework. The post 2015 framework must recognize the global resource constraints and aim at a more equitable distribution of resources, including how it meets the rights and needs of future and present generations.
She urged to ensure decent work environment and living wages for the women labour. She questioned the present mode of corporate based development which is unfavorable for realization of women rights. This model has particularly worsen life and livelihood of rural, indigenous and migrant women.
The Post-2015 framework must be underpinned by the strongest, most robust and comprehensive accountability framework possible, incorporating the commitment to monitor and report on progress and share learning and knowledge.
Alison Subrata Baroi focused on reducing inequality within and among countries which is essential for transformation while he proposed for ensuring progressive taxation and tax governance as a way out of challenges mobilizing own resources for financing development in post 2015. Alison also said that the Post-2015 framework cannot afford an approach that promotes growth at all costs without considering human rights and environmental implications. The framework must demonstrate coherence and integration across the environmental, economic and social dimensions of different goals and targets. He also emphasized access to justice and governance that should be enshrined in Post 2015 framework.”
Image Posted on Updated on
Papua New Guinea celebrated its 39th year of independence on Tuesday. This is all but a historical footnote in the minds of many Australians, as many of us have forgotten the close association between both countries that began 100 years ago this month when Australia seized the German territory at the commencement of the First World War.
The grand vision of Sir Michael Somare of the opportunity to run their own country has yet to be fully realised with the last two decades chequered with constitutional crisis and at times significant civil unrest.
The country has dropped considerably down in the country ratings of UN Human Development since 1975, and Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed earlier this year how she was troubled that PNG was not likely to meet one of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals before they are due at the end of 2015.
What I saw when I was beginning the 10 City Bridge Run in Port Moresby painted a different picture. There were many expressions of national pride, concurrent with alignment with which one of the 32 provinces people originally came from. It is a country with over 840 different language groups, and with just over 7 million people, national unity is an amazing achievement.
The first 100 days of a child’s life decide the likelihood of survival to adulthood.
I restart the journey I began in 2010 today, committing the next 100 days to asking how might we use our networking to improving the delivery of child survival.
Join me. Together we can take the next steps to make a difference and change the world.
Here is a short video I took when out training the other night which explains what I intend to do and why.
I’m ready to take the next steps.
It has taken me a while longer to get to this point than I thought it might, but I am ready.
Thanks to everyone for being patient. I am not going to fire-hose the world with blog posts, but more wanting to do this together.
Over the last four years since I started this journey I have learnt a lot. Thanks to everyone for your patience.
Rereading this site, I now realise that all the answers are here. We have all that we need. So let’s go. Time to get to work!