Bridge

The Next Step

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It’s been a while, in fact too long.

I’m not sure I posted since December around the time I completed an art work that was on display at the local art gallery. The work titled “All Greatness Stands Firm In The Storm” was part of an exhibition themed “Turning Point”.

This art work featured my interpretation of the naval signal flag for “I require assistance (non-distress)”. This flag is identified by a red diagonal cross over a white background. The point of the work was that through the painting and exhibition of this canvas, I was signalling my acceptance that I could not do this journey on my own. It was an admission that I need help.

I need help. Three words that are easy to write, but difficult for me to express. As a statement, it is fine. As a request, it is as though I even need help to ask for help. I think that qualifies me for the category of lost causes and basket cases…

More on that painting later. Not in this post, but later. Here, I want to talk about what I have been doing in this past few months, and update you about this project: the 10 City Bridge Run.

So firstly, what have I been doing? I have been taking stock of a few things, as if I needed to allow the momentum of the previous journey to reach its culmination and come to a halt along that trajectory before riding the fresh movement towards the the next steps. That sounds like complete claptrap, and if that is what you are thinking then you are probably mostly right. Those who know me best would sense my idiosyncratic avoidance.

So why avoidance? Why didn’t I hoist the painting on this blog?  What was holding me back?

All good questions, and to be honest I don’t have a satisfactory answer. I do know, deep down. There has been some make and mend needed. But epic questions are epic because they are inherently hard. If there was no struggle, it wouldn’t be worth writing about. Hiding from difficulty is I think a fairly common experience among humans. I’m guessing that you might have done this too at some point in time. If that is the case, then maybe you can relate to what it is I am trying to describe here.

The painting is still here. It is sitting in my living room, and as I promised I will write about that soon, but not right now.

I want to tell you what else I have been doing in relation to this journey.

If you have been following this blog in the past, you might remember that I was going to describe this past journey with 100 photographs. It became an overwhelming aspiration, and clearly that has not yet happened. In fact, that tapestry of 100 photographs ended up becoming the simply expression of the artwork featuring the naval signal flag for “I require assistance” which I mentioned above.

And so what happened to the 100 photographs? Well, those have taken the form of a book I am writing that reflects on what I have learnt from this journey to date. I am probably about half-way through, and I am keen to finish the book before the end of May, which is possible to do. The book features 100 chapters that outline the motivation for what became the 10 City Bridge Run, a commentary of the journey itself, and a third part which examines some of the lessons I have learnt about seeking to do something in order to make a difference.

I was going to wait until it was complete before I started sharing this writing, but I now realise that in the spirit of the collaborative process, that it is much better to put some of what I have written out there here for you to read as I set about this task. I welcome you to read, comment, correct, share, add to, and even help illustrate with you own examples or art.

My aim in sharing this book here is to write with more gusto, knowing that some people are reading. I am writing it for you, not essentially for me. I would like to have this book finalised and published, ready for launch at the end of June. I think that is ambitious, but achievable.

And secondly, what has become of the 10 City Bridge Run? Let me again first express my thanks to everyone who has supported this journey. None of this was possible without your help. Thank you.

At the beginning of 2015, I completed the running journey for the 10 City Bridge Run. I have yet to publish the book “Life Bridge” which I owe all of the supporters. And I am less than satisfied that I have been successful in convening the conversation to address the question: “how might we use our networks to deliver on the promise to improve child survival?” That conversation was the point of the whole endeavour. I see the journey as still a work in progress, even if that means it is long overdue.

So what comes next? This book I am writing turns out to be necessary for me to complete in order to allow the other things to happen. It is a big undertaking, and I believe it is worthwhile. Thanks for giving me this space to explore this territory.

Without linking this to a timeline, the book “Life Bridge” will be completed this year and distributed to all the supporters. I also see a renewed effort taking place to pick up this conversation about child survival, again using running as a stunt to draw attention to what needs to unfold. At this point in time, that is all I want to say about what is ahead. The only other point is to say that the journey continues, and that it could not have been possible without your help.

I need your help. That is both a statement and a request.

Thank you. Let’s get to work.

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Five Books For Change

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IMG_4655Last December, I was standing on a bridge crossing the Clyde River n Glasgow which was completely shrouded in fog. I stopped a moment to record a short video to Bill and Melinda Gates, and asked them for their recommendation of five books to help make change happen.

Maybe you saw this video if you were following my journey. It was the day after I had run the eighth leg of the 10 City Bridge Run that concluded in January this year where I ran across 10 cities as a stunt to open a conversation about improving child survival.

The video is below, and while I have forwarded it through social media, I don’t now that I have exhausted every avenue to pass the message to Bill and Melinda Gates. And even if it did reach their gatekeepers, there is no guarantee that they would see it personally, or even have the time to respond.

IMG_4657Well, I haven’t given up on them, and will keep looking for ways to send this “message in a bottle” to them.

In the meantime, I made my own list of Five Books For Change that have most influenced my thinking as I worked through the 10 City Bridge Run epic quest ahead of a series of Design Forums to ask “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

And here is the list, and in no particular order. They are all great books!

IMG_4658There were other books as well that I had to cut from the list. I asked Bill and Melinda Gates for five books, and so I limited myself to five books too.

You might have a different opinion, or some other books that I didn’t consider. I hope you do, and I hope you might share them here too! Write a review of your favourite book for making change happen as it relates to improving the delivery of child survival, and I’ll add it here on the blog (you write the blog and I can post it without editing it).

As for getting in touch with Bill and Melinda, well I’m sill trying. You can help by forwarding this blog, and the video message to the Gates’ is shown below. Personally, I like the list I have already, but this journey is about building a conversation and sharing how we see the world, so it would be nice to know how they think and what they would recommend we read!

Design Forum: what is it, and why does it matter?

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The first step. This is what I saw when I looked down at the start point of the second leg of the 10 City Bridge Run on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 20 and a bit laps later I would complete the 24 km and prepare to move on to Singapore.

I’m on an epic journey. It is a quest. But it is not about me. It is about us. Together.

This is about you, not me.

Only you can say that we are on this journey together. It is your decision, not mine. I’ll write more about what that journey is shortly, but first let me explain why the decision you make is important.

This is a quest.

This is a quest to make a difference. Quests come in all shapes and sizes. This one is to improve the delivery of child survival.

This is about child survival.

So let’s begin there. I have loosely defined child survival as enabling children to flourish past their fifth birthday. Not just live, because I don’t think that is enough, even though we seldom stop to think twice about the opportunities that life brings us. If you are reading this, you really are one of the fortunate on this one earth we all enjoy. You can read which means you have had the privilege of education, and you have access to a computer, which means you have access to electricity. If you have access to education, technology (a computer), and infrastructure (electricity), it probably suggests you enjoy a wide range of other benefits that a majority of the human race can only dream about. Yes really, everyone else is not just like you. You are special.

This is about building bridges.

My good mate Scott O’Brien has an idea he is working on to connect the top billion with the bottom billion on the planet. It is the ultimate bold endeavour in building bridges. There has been a lot of interplay in the ideas he and I share. And I really enjoy the challenge and inspiration that comes from hearing near ideas or having my old ideas questioned. That is how we find new horizons. It is how we make progress collectively, and it is how we grow individually.

This is about philanthropy.

My question to you is what will you do with the privileged status you have inherited. Yes, there may well be every reason to complain: job security, relationship issues, too little money, health is not where it should be, stressed to the max, and maybe even your latte arrived cold. Those are real issues. Even the latte. But compared with others, you are fortunate and special. Philanthropy is described as having a concern for human welfare, and mostly this definition is associated with giving away money. But here I want to challenge that definition. What about if we consider other resources we enjoy that we can draw upon to use to good effect to benefit human welfare? True philanthropy. Using your time, your talents, your networks, your imagination. Connecting with others so as to help address someone else’s problem in the interest of their welfare is a selfless act of generosity. It is also shown to be the best, fastest, and most reliable way to obtain a sustainable state of happiness. That is, happiness comes from working toward the betterment of others. And don’t worry, the way the world work, these things come back you you in spades. To paraphrase Churchill: “it is by giving that we get.”

This is about making a difference.

UNICEF calculate that every day more than 16,000 children under the age of five die. That figure is called child mortality. Most of those deaths occur within the first 24 hours of life. Many of these deaths are preventable. So why don’t we just prevent them? Can it be that hard? Bill and Melinda Gates have used their recent Annual Letter as a stunt to bet that this figure will fall below 8,000 in the next 15 years. That is good news and would represent the fastest rate of benefit to humanity in history. But this won’t just happen on its own. Yes, significant progress has been made across the last 10 years especially, but let’s not leave change to chance. Innovation comes about through intervention. We need to act to bring about this difference. Returning to the point about philanthropy, this is about more than just giving money. Some of us don’t have money to give. The most valuable contribution any of us can make is through the collective genius of our shared imaginations. Are you going to hold back on us?

This is about us.

This is getting to the part that I said I would come back to. This is where you need to make a decision. I am no longer on this journey alone. Together, a larger community has formed, and we are now ‘us’. The question is, are you coming with us on this journey. Many reading this post know they are. It is easy to get involved if you haven’t done so already. You just have to make a decision to join us, to make a difference together.

This is about a journey.

This is about the 10 City Bridge Run. An idea hatched by myself in 2010 to run 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries as a stunt to address an important question asking: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” It took a while to commence this journey, and it was far from easy. I began running in Port Moresby on 16 September last year and concluded the running late on a dark, wet and cold night in New York on 3 January this year. But the running was merely the device to get us to the beginning of this epic journey. This journey is actually marked by a series of Design Forums that will be held in all of the 10 cities where running took place as a way of addressing this question about improving the delivery of child survival. You can join at any time. You don’t need to come with us every step of the way. That is the advantage of the ‘us’. We share the labour. We call all reach the destination, and no matter the effort you could contribute, we can all say with much satisfaction “we did this together!”

This is about Design.

We are going to use a method called Design Thinking to address this question about improving child survival. Come as you are, you don’t need special qualifications. We will draw upon the wisdom of the crowd for knowledge. We need your imagination to help us in the process of designing a better future for many.

What does this look like? Read the posts which follows (and a link will be added shortly), to talk about what is involved. There is no cost. You don’t need to travel. You can do it within whatever constraints you currently have. But first you need to decide. You can watch and observe, but why not participate?

We need you to bring whatever magic that makes you special to the table. You are more than enough just as you are. Let’s see what alchemy we can create when we literally put our minds together.

Please join us on this epic quest as we prepare to embark on the Design Forum so at the end of the journey we can all look back with satisfaction at what we have achieved and say: “we did this together!”

Thank you! “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. -Lao-tzu

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Airborne
Airborne (Photo credit: theqspeaks)

Thank you to everyone who has supported Life Bridge and the 10 City Bridge Run since 2010, and especially more recently through the Pozible campaign. The support received is not only financial, but importantly the encourage, advice and feedback people have generously given along the way.

I was out running the other evening and recorded this short video to say thanks. Earlier that evening I had learnt the good news that my crowdfunding has successfully reached its target.

Now, to gird that goodwill together and advance to the next level, one step closer to us together making a difference.

More about my methodology to come shortly.

For now, a big thank you for making this possible.

Bridging relationships to reduce child mortality.

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It begins with me and you

This is a picture of me with my mother when I was much younger- I guess around two years old. We are standing on the nature strip of our old house in inner-city Melbourne. Great photo isn’t it!

Today is my mother’s birthday. Happy birthday Mum! I have come a long way since this photo. A lot has happened in the years between.

The 10 City Bridge Run is about bridging relationships to reduce child mortality.

Life is fragile. Most child mortality tragically is influenced within the first 48 hours of birth. Similarly, maternal health is influenced by the health available during pregnancy and at birth.

The risks of pregnancy and child-birth remain despite our technology. We are just better prepared, educated and equipped to ensure a high proportion of births. In Papua New Guinea where I recently visited, they experience the second-highest rate of child mortality in Asia Pacific. It is something that doesn’t attract much publicity. It is just plain sad.

Building bridges to reduce child mortality is difficult enough to understand as an abstract concept, let alone to do in reality. There are almost too many challenges to consider, but I believe if we together on a global scale focus on relationships to reduce child mortality then change can occur.

Bridging relationships between two people is where this starts. Sure, the ultimate result is across a global stage, but the important start is here between you and me. It is about us. It takes work, more work than wearing a wrist band. It is not always going to be easy, but it will be worthwhile.

Tomorrow I will show you the first small collection of photographs of human bridges that I have taken to communicate how together we can bridge relationships to reduce child mortality. Join me by helping me build this collection and contributing your own photos.

Let me start leading by example with this photo of my mother. Bridging conversations that sometimes seem unbridgeable. Together, we can show that the seemingly impossible really is possible.

Listen to me please, some things need to change.

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UT Austin 2004 Synthetic Biology competition p...

Hello world, Me again- I’m back!

I hope you haven’t felt neglected since I last wrote. Yes, it has been a while, but rest assured I have been thinking of you a lot in that time.

I suppose you are wondering what is going on with the 10 City Bridge Run. In fact, maybe you are asking is anything going on with the 10 City Bridge Run?

The last couple of months have been a much needed source of reflection and reorientation, and the answer the question above is unequivocally ‘YES!’

Let me spell what that is in more detail in the blogs that follow. Importantly, we must both understand that some things need to change. You an I both know that.

Sure, the vision needs to be more clearly articulated. And the site is very busy with information.

But I am talking about something much bigger than that. You and I need to get to the heart of what this is about: bridging relationships to reduce child mortality.

There is some work ahead I am going to ask you to join me in doing. Taking photos of human bridges. But it’s ok, it is not a big ask, but I do need your help.

I can’t do it without you. I have only come this far already because of your support, even if you didn’t know that.

Please don’t give up on me now! Thanks for your follow. It means the world to me!

Matt

PS. Would you RT or repost? I can’t tell everyone this myself.

I’m Back! (to the blog, and from Papua New Guinea)

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A man with his grandson in East New Britain, P...
What is poverty?

I just returned. Both to writing the blog, but also from a near life-changing experience in Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea is a fascinating country. Truly the land of the unexpected. Arguably the most diverse country on earth, in every respect. Also a country which has been raped by years of colonial and neo-colonial intervention.

Papua New Guinea is a country rich in resources. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday quoted Stephen Promnitz who is still involved in mining interests in Papua New Guinea as a chief executive and formerly a young geologist with CRA who later merged with Rio Tinto. The article explained:

The 1988-89 (gold) rush left an impression. “It was the most astounding thing I have ever seen. There was more gold than you could poke a stick at. So much so that I thought I would never be looking for gold again. The locals were shaking gold nuggets from the roots of the grass. Some of the nuggets were the size of goose eggs“.

With so much abundance in resources, why then does PNG now have a near epidemic in HIV (close to sub-Saharan African levels) and the second highest rate of child mortality in Asia Pacific? Why is the average weekly salary for most people around K15 (about AU$4)? Forget US$1.25 per day…

I returned with fresh eyes seeing how child mortality is an important issue, and more than ever before I want you to be involved. I started taking photographs of human bridges while I was in PNG, and will post the link on Flickr here shortly. I deleted a whole bunch of photos accidentally (including some priceless photos of human bridges), which in itself was good food for thought- what did I really value: the photos or the emphasis on reducing infant mortality?

Taking photographs of human bridges was instructive. Approaching it from a Western mindset of order and sound structure just doesn’t work. People have their own ideas of what it means to build a bridge, and it is refreshing to see this human creativity at work, even if the finished project is a little lumpier than the perfect bridge that you might have wanted to see from the other side of the camera lens.

Sorry about the absence from the blog- a lot has taken place over the last month or so since I have been writing. To start, my friend Aaron suggested the focus of the event be squarely placed on the photographs of human bridges- after all, this is where the real work is in this initiative. This meant that no running will occur until 24,000 photographs of human bridges have been collected. This is a collective effort.

Earlier I had intended to start running on 1 March, and so this change meant I had pushed the start date to coincide with the Paris G20 Summit which was then scheduled for June 2011.

This suggestion was followed by news from my friend Mark that the Paris G20 Summit has been shifted to November- the G20 will now only meet once annually. This is in fact good for me. Consequently, the run will now take place across November to highlight to the outcome of the photographs gathered. It will travel through 10 countries, and while I will visit Paris, I don’t intend going to the G20 Summit itself- that money is better spent elsewhere. I intend to be running with other people in each city. It is fresh canvas again.

The timing change is good, not because it gives more time for preparation, but because it gives adequate time to focus on the curating of 24,000 photographs to form a pictorial petition to be given to the G20 leadership ahead of the November Summit. One photo for each child that dies on any given day (using 2008 figures). To reduce the infant mortality rate to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals target requires a further reduction of 10,000 deaths daily every day from the present infant mortality rate which sits are around 21,000 children under five who tragically and needlessly die daily.

Let’s get to work. Good to be back. Join me on this journey- I need your help.