Commonwealth Study Conference

What if women held the answers?

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Young girl. Papua New Guinea
Young girl. Papua New Guinea (Photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection)

It has been over a month since I last posted, and in that time I have been busy. Busy thinking.

In March, I attended the Commonwealth Study Conference (known by its acronym CSCLeaders) across London, Glasgow and Oxford for what turned out to be an extraordinary gathering of 100 leaders from around the Commonwealth.

I was profoundly influenced by women I met at the recent CSCLeaders conference, especially those from across Africa, India, Pakistan, other parts of Asia and the Pacific.

Returning to Sydney, I attended a conference at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute which focused on Papua New Guinea. Again, there I was influenced greatly by the women who I spoke with.

Often, my conversation turned to the issue of child survival. These were seemingly ordinary women, and most of them mothers. Few of them were ‘experts’ in child mortality- there experience was found in other areas, but all of them had expert advice to offer.

I made me think:

What might this look like if women held the answers?

This is not to say that men have nothing to contribute. Far from it. It is an equally relevant question for men to address as for women. So much so, that the orientation of the design forum for the 10 City Bridge Run will be framed using this question.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts too. Do you think this question is helpful? Could it be expressed better?

CSCLeaders: An extraordinary opportunity

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Delegation from the Commonwealth Study Conference that visited Glasgow
Delegation from the Commonwealth Study Conference that visited Glasgow

Recently I attended the first part of a two part conference called the Commonwealth Study Conference. Held between London, Glasgow and Oxford, I embark on what turned out to be the most extraordinary opportunity for learning and personal growth with 100 other so-called ‘best and brightest’ leaders from around the Commonwealth.

A picture tells a thousand words, so they say. Check out my photos from the visit here on Flickr.

Opening a conversation: “Bridge-makers”. Your thoughts?

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This week 16-24 March, I will be attending the Commonwealth Study Conference in UK held across six different cities. It will be a busy time, building new networks, and being challenged with new thoughts. An opportunity to share an collaborate as well.

The theme for the CSCLeaders is an interesting question:

How do people from communities which have spread across the world become bridge-makers in the global networks of the future?

Interested to know about your thoughts, questions and ideas which this question raises.

Also interested to know how I would be best placed to open a conversation around this question to share what comes out of the conference. This blog and Facebook both serve a purpose, but also have their limitations. I was thinking about something like Basecamp, but someone no doubt has a better idea. I would love to hear it!

My focus at the CSCLeaders is to build a strong enabling environment for the 10 City Bridge Run. More soon.

An Open Letter To Anthony Lake

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Anthony Lake
Anthony Lake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anthony Lake is a man I admire and respect greatly. We all should. He has earned it, and continues to demonstrate exceptional leadership and influence in his public role as Executive Director of UNICEF, as a further contribution he has made to a wide range of peace building initiatives since the early 1960s.

In September last year in New York during the ‘Social Good Summit’, Anthony Lake rightly described child mortality as both a moral obscenity and moral abomination. These are strong words, but justified. Today alone, 17,000 children will die across the world, mostly from one of five easily preventable causes. More must be done.

What follows is an open letter to Anthony Lake. I post it here only because I need him to act on it in the next 24 hours. Six degrees of separation holds us apart. Together, can we bridge this gap and get this letter in front of people who have the capacity and the will to influence this outcome in the interests of us all? I have no guarantee that he will read it, or act on it. Others can help. If it is within your capacity to influence the outcome I seek, would you please take action to help? This letter, while addressed to Anthony Lake is an open letter to us all.

You can help by sharing this post. Few of us can send it directly to Anthony Lake, but if we can activate the network, then we might have a chance. Help us to show that networks are our possibility factories. Help us to show that the seemingly impossible is possible, if we put our minds and hearts behind the cause.

Please forward this open letter in any way you can: share this post on Facebook, RT on Twitter, send through email, deliver in person, blog on social media. A hard copy of this letter has been printed out in New York by friends who will do their best to try to deliver it in person as well. Please help this letter get to the right person who can help make a difference. We have a short time, but an incredibly connected network capable of more than we might appreciate.

This is perhaps the first step we are taking together in opening this conversation asking: “how can we use our networks to reduce child mortality?

Thank you for starting this journey with me.
Let’s recall that African proverb:

“If you want to go fast, travel alone; If you want to travel far, then let’s go together.”

AN OPEN LETTER TO DR ANTHONY LAKE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNICEF

Dr Anthony Lake
Executive Director
UNICEF
UNICEF House
3 United Nations Plaza
New York, New York 10017
United States

Dear Tony,

I am very excited to have been recently selected to attend the ‘Commonwealth Study Conference‘ which commences in London this weekend.

This forum provides extraordinary access, engagement and development potential. It includes a reception at Downing Street, and dinner with HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne). The focus is on fellow participants, described as being 100 of the brightest, best and most senior leaders drawn from governments, businesses and NGOs across the 54 countries of the Commonwealth. The real benefit for myself in attending the Commonwealth Study Conference is in the creation of an enabling environment for the 10 City Bridge Run such that it has the capacity for real impact in helping to reduce child mortality.

The 10 City Bridge Run is an initiative I created in 2010 that will involve me running 10 sub-marathons, each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries. The running is a stunt is to open a conversation asking: “how can we use our networks to reduce child mortality?” I have uploaded a short video describing the 10 City Bridge Run at www.pozible.com/lifebridge.

I agree with your assertion that child mortality is indeed a moral abomination of our time. We must embrace new and innovative approaches. When combatting moral abomination, can we really afford to allow small efforts to fail when the cost is relatively negligible? We must be relentless in this fight:

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, and for want of a horse the man was lost.”

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.”

The 10 City Bridge Run draws inspiration from a quote by Ophelia Dahl (cofounder of Partners in Health and daughter of renowned children’s book author Roald Dahl) taken from a graduation speech when she quoted Adam Hochschild who earlier wrote about the importance of “drawing connections between the near and the distant”:

“Linking our own lives and fates with those we can’t see will, I believe, be the key to a decent and shared future… Imagination will allow you to make the link between the near of your lives and the distant others and will lead us to realise the plethora of connections between us and the rest of the world…and this will surely lead to ways in which you can influence others and perhaps improve the world along the way.”

I have yet to commence the 10 City Bridge Run journey because of issues related mostly to funding and injury, but remain undeterred as I recognise the importance of this initiative. The Commonwealth Study Conference opens an ideal window to finally begin this journey. My intention is to commence running in London at the end of March, and finish in New York coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly at the end of September, with the journey being divided into three separate legs.

I have been accepted to the Commonwealth Study Conference on a part-bursary basis which means that I am responsible for contributing £1,000 to the programme, along with paying for international airfares (UK in March, India in June). All other costs (food, transport and accommodation) are met by the programme organiser, along with the remainder of the cost of the forum itself (£10,000)

To date, I have raised money to undertake the 10 City Bridge Run through the pre-sale of a book containing 100 photographs of ‘human bridges’ called Life Bridge. This crowdfunded approach has sought to encourage a broad base of participation with books being sold for $24 (soft-cover) or $240 (hard-cover). While I have raise sufficient money to start the journey, I have yet to secure enough funding to see the journey through to its completion, and am asking for your help.

I have a deadline by Thursday to raise a small amount of money to enable me to commence this journey, enhanced through attendance at the Commonwealth Study Conference to amplify the conversation.

I now face an immediate challenge where I have an unique opportunity, but lack the necessary funding to act. Given the urgency child mortality presents as a moral abomination, to delay the 10 City Bridge Run would be a lost opportunity to increase our collective capacity for action, influence and impact through a conversation asking how can we use our networks to reduce child mortality.

I am asking for your help both in your capacity to influence in your current position at UNICEF, and perhaps more importantly in your ability to respond as a fellow human being who cares about the lives of millions of children which hang in the balance. I need to raise $5,000 in the next 48 hours in order to undertake this journey.  Can you help? Please help me to help you to help others.

I invite you to join this journey through your support of the 10 City Bridge Run. Would you please visit www.pozible.com/lifebridge where you could pre-purchase a copy of the book Life Bridge for either $24 or $240 that will enable this journey? Alternatively, because of the time constraint, a deposit could be made directly to my account with a follow up email to ensure transparency for funds received (Matthew Jones, BSB 062220 , Account Number 10127834).

This is an enormous task, and I cannot do it alone. Please help to make this journey possible so that we might together work to reduce child mortality through the use of our networks. Thank you for your consideration and your support.

Yours sincerely,

Matthew Jones
Matthew Jones

Sydney, Australia
12 March 2013

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?