Epic

Learning From Experience

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imageDon’t reinvent the wheel. Improve upon what already exists. Collaborate with others to find better solutions.

This is the spirit of the Design Forum that will unfold commencing in Osaka mid-February across a nine month period to address a question we are asking: “how might we use our networks to improve e delivery of child survival?”

We have begun already, and you are not too late to get involved. Presently, the Davos World Economic Forum is being held discussing some big ideas, among which includes issues like child survival. We can gain insights from those conversations, but perhaps more importantly get a perspective of what makes a good forum by observing Davos. And that is the role of the Design Forum in Osaka: to deconstruct what we know so we can find the best way of having a conversation that matters.

The Design Forum began with a simple idea in 2010 that would be highlighted through a crazy and epic running stunt. The stunt is behind us now, but we take it with us as it gives a thread of narrative to give a meaningful connection between the cities where the Design Forum will take place.

An invitation to be part of the Design Forum will be sent out later today. It will be free to attend, and you don’t need to travel to Osaka. The formal part of the first Design Forum will take place across a three day window, but you needn’t be involved for the whole time. How you ‘attend’ and contribute is up to you. We want your ideas and input.

Right now, please sign this petition for Julie Bishop. It is asking her to be our official Champion to highlight the Design Forum. We will deliver this after the second Design Forum in Papua New Guinea. I have written to her already requesting her to be our Champion. With so many other responsibilities, it is understandable that she might wish us well, but decline, and that is ok. We will then ask again after the third, fourth, fifth, and so on Design Forums.

By asking again and again, we are actually opening a conversation rather than trying to wear her down to relent. And so the objective will be for her involvement in some manner at the final culminating Design Forum in Seoul in October this year. Everything else is part of the conversation, and that is very important too.

Please visit, sign and share: https://www.change.org/p/the-hon-julie-bishop-mp-champion-the-global-series-of-design-forum-to-improve-child-survival

Defeat

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IMG_3480There were many times since first conceiving this endeavour I have called the 10 City Bridge Run that I realised that what I had proposed was a little too close to the impossible, and that perhaps it might just be out of my reach.

Even since beginning this journey in Port Moresby back in September, I took the first steps with much apprehension as the way forwards was far from clear. It has been a tough journey.

And I am reminded of a great passage from a great general in his classic book, Defeat Into Victory, written by Field Marshall Sir William Slim. The passage speaks for itself:

“The only test of generalship is success, and I had succeeded in nothing I had attempted…The soldier may comfort himself with the thought that, whatever the result, he has done his duty faithfully and steadfastly, but the commander has failed in his duty if he has not won victory, for that is his duty. He has no other comparable to it. He will go over in his mind the events of the campaign. ‘Here, he will think, ‘I went wrong; here I took council of my fears when I should have been bold; there I should have waited to gather strength, not struck piecemeal; at such a moment I failed to grasp opportunity when it was presented to me.’ He will remember the soldiers whom he sent into attack that failed and who did not come back. He will recall the look in the eyes of men who trusted him. ‘I have failed them,’ he will say to himself, ‘and failed my country!’ He will see himself for what he is, a defeated general. In a dark hour, he will turn in upon himself and question the very foundations of his leadership and his manhood.

And then he must stop! For, if he is ever to command in battle again, he must shake off these regrets, and stamp on them, as they claw at his will and self confidence. He must beat off these attacks he delivers against himself, and cast out the doubts born of failure. Forget them, and remember only the lessons to be learnt from defeat, they are than from victory.”

The lessons from the 10 City Bridge Run have been many, and I am in the process of documenting them the best I can now to share more widely. I learnt most from when it was toughest, when there was no obvious way through the many barriers that lay across my path. It wasn’t only my capacity for preserving that brought me through, but it was because of the support of people like you that it was made possible.

Now I am turning my attention to the Design Forum, and it is taking shape. It is not at all what I expected it might be, but better, and I would hope will be more inspiring than what you might have considered as well. This process of the Design Forum is the real epic quest of this journey, and a journey that we must take together. The next steps forward are a team effort.

There has been plenty of failure to get us to this point, but that has been embraced by me. It was an essential part of the journey. The good think is it has given rise to success which we can all enjoy, but not without some hard work.

A Worthy Resolution for 2015

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IMG_26392015 is the year that a series of long-awaited Design Forum convened to open a conversation where a central question will be addressed: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

This is the culmination of a running stunt called the 10 City Bridge Run which involved me running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries. Right now as I type this post, I am standing on the verge of the ninth leg here in Toronto. The weather is cold with some snow flurries, and at -9 degrees celsius, there is every possibility it could snow while I am out running. I will be running between the cusp of two years: setting off when the new year turns in Sydney, and ahead of the new year here in Toronto. Bridging the years.

The resolution is to improve child survival.

One way you can help now is by signing this petition to The Hon Julie Bishop MP, who is Australia’s Foreign Minister, where together we will be asking her to be the official champion for this series of Design Forum.

I made two videos along this journey which give a little more information below. Happy New Year!

We Take Our Past With Us

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IMG_0761“You can run, but you can’t hide.” It is such a common quote, but actually I don’t know where it is from.

Joe Louis the great American boxer was attributed to saying “He can run, but he can’t hide”, but that is not the reference I had in my mind when I started writing this post. I am sure it is a line from a movie somewhere, but someone will have to help me out.

The point is that we have a past, and try as we might to shake off the bad bits, they are part of makes us who we are for better or worse. Learning to live from the past is of far more importance. Make peace with the past and become a better person.

When I ran through Singapore, I was reminded of my early days as a young officer in the Australian Army when we did some training exercises in Singapore. I didn’t so much run through Singapore as across it, from top to bottom starting at the Causeway and finishing on Sentosa Island. I was a hot and humid day, and I was feeling it, probably getting a little heat stroke and dehydration along the way.

A short distance after getting started on the third leg of this journey when I ran across Singapore, I passed this red sign you can see on this post.

Singapore is only a small island, and so space is at a premium. It is also a country with conscription with every male required to do national service. So with a large army, they need space to train, and safely. This sign to some extend explains that, but it also echoes a past history marked by violent struggle to emerge as a strong democracy.

We have to know our past. There are lessons to be learnt, and the getting of wisdom.

Without sounding too dramatic, there is a lot we stand to learn about child survival from what has happened in the past. Not everything has worked, and no doubt there has been a lot of wastage. Some of that has been well-intentioned, and other has been simply wasteful. But this is not a time for criticism, but analysis and designing a better future. And that is what this journey is about. The 10 City Bridge Run asks “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” We are not all experts, but we can learn from those who have gone before.

Here is a short reflection from during the third leg across Singapore:

And here is a short musical note of thanks from the very talented Freddie King to Robert for his support on the 10 City Bridge Run. Thanks Robert!

Sorry Business

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In hospital with my brother and his son Xander. It is the difficult days that bring you closer together.
In hospital with my brother and his son Xander. It is the difficult days that bring you closer together.

My brother, Stephen, died last week fairly suddenly following what could best be described as complications associated with leukaemia. Stephen had faced every challenge thrown at him head on with impressive courage.

I was in Seoul when my mother told me he was admitted into hospital at the beginning of last week. I asked him if I should return immediately to see him in Melbourne, and he responded in his typically stoic and pragmatic manner: “No, don’t come back. Stay there and keep doing what you are doing.”

My brother and I shared a mutual admiration, which we showed in ways that other people might not recognise. His words to me were his way of showing not just that he valued what I was doing, but that he was proud of me for having the courage to set out on an uncertain journey.

This uncertain journey has become an epic quest which is called the 10 City Bridge Run, and framed around a stunt where I am running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries. The point of the stunt is to open a conversation asking: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

The question of child survival was always a very personal matter for my brother and I. Together, we carried the small white coffin of his baby son Xander out of the church following his funeral when he had died of medical complications after living a short life of 36 hours.

Similarly, I learnt of the amazing ability of medicine to combat a disease like leukaemia after my brother was first diagnosed two years ago. Conversely, I saw the way disease can take its toll through my brothers death. The human body is remarkably resilient, and remarkably fragile both at the same time.

My good friend Gloria is a wonderful Aboriginal lady who has taught me a lot about Indigenous culture. We have been involved on a number of work tasks together where Aboriginal culture was the central issue driving the project.

She wrote me a lovely note in the wake of my brother’s death, and passed on her regards “as I went about my sorry business with my family” to use her words.

I responded with thanks, acknowledging her comment about sorry business, but still thinking it was more akin to a mourning period rather than something that you actually do. For all of the conversations I have had with many Indigenous friends over the years, the penny hadn’t dropped.

I think she understood, because she wrote back the next day with an unsolicited, lovely comment:

Trust your intuition cause whatever you do to respect his memory will be the right thing to do Matt. You will know what to do for sorry business 

It was a remarkable note, because I was wanting to make sense of my brother’s final words to me and it seemed at the time that the journey I was on was an appropriate way to honour my brother’s legacy. I began to see that my eulogy was to be action-orientated.

Gloria’s words didn’t persuade me either way, but they did frame my thoughts in a way that was helpful.

I contacted my family to talk about what I ought to do. This wasn’t a decision I was going to make independently or in isolation. They immediately understood exactly why I was thinking to do this and supported me entirely.

Now, I am writing this post from Seoul ahead of my brother’s funeral on Friday. I will remain in Seoul at that time, and go and sit quietly in the small cafe where I was when he died. It is a friendly place whose owners I know well and has good wifi. Just as I was able to be connected to my brother at the time of his death, I will also be able to be connected to my family at the time of his funeral.

After the funeral, I expect I will go and have a quiet meal somewhere with a few friends, and then set about recommencing my journey first headed towards Glasgow. It would be my intention to gather for a wake in New York after completing this journey, and be back in Melbourne in time to celebrate the New Year with my mother.

I wanted to write this here, both as a way of picking up the journey which was gone a bit silent over the last few weeks as I looked for inspiration for the way ahead, but also to explain why I chose to continue at a time when social expectation might be for me to return to be with my family at the funeral.

I know my brother would approve and admire my determination to persist, so that together we can make a difference to the lives of many.