Five Books For Change
Last 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.
Well, 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!
- Glimmer: how design can transform your business, your life, and maybe even the world, Warren Berger, Random House Nosiness Books, 2009
- Reframe: how to solve the world’s trickiest problems, Eric Knight, Black Inc, 2012
- On Becoming An Artist: reinventing yourself through mindful creativity, Ellen J. Langer, Ballantine Books, 2005
- The End Of Poverty: how we can make it happen in our lifetime, Jeffrey Sachs (forward by Bono), Penguin Books, 2005
- The Imaginations Of Unreasonable Men: inspiration, vision, and purpose in the quest to end malaria, Bill Shore, Public Affairs, 2010
There 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!
Life Bridge: true voyage of discovery
The vision for the 10 City Bridge Run was ambitious. Ridiculously ambitious, but even though it is taking longer than first thought, I believe that delay is acceptable towards achieving a far better outcome and lasting legacy.
The initial concept from when it was first conceived in 2010 is unchanged. The execution has differed, but only in ways so as to improve the journey. There are three parts to that concept:
- Running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries as a stunt to open a conversation about improving child survival (completed successfully!)
- A Design Forum to address the conversation asking “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” (commenced, in progress, culminating at the end of October 2015)
- A book with a working title ‘Life Bridge: the importance of connection’ which will feature 100 photos of human bridges to illustrate the importance of our connection which is necessary to both flourish and also to solve any problem
The concept for Life Bridge is simple enough. A human bridge might be a photo which would describe the importance of connection in the mind of the photographer, maybe in collaboration with the subjects. Each photo is a design project in its own right.
While the concept is simple, organising this task has taken time. It is a collaborative effort. Soon we will be underway.
I will be the first to admit that the delay in the book Life Bridge is unwelcome, but I also acknowledge that the space which has been created because of the time has helped to mature the concept defining the book. Presently, I see the curation, design and distribution all being events which will compliment and contribute towards the conversation that is unfolding through the Design Forum.
I just finished reading a book which I highly recommend by Alan Gregerman called “The Necessity of Strangers: the intriguing truth about insight, innovation and success.” He opens the book with a quote from Proust which succinctly frames the concept for Life Bridge:
“The only true voyage of discovery would not be to visit strange lands but to posses other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them holds, that each of them is.”
The 10 City Bridge Run involved a journey, and through the Design Forum we are learning to see. And not just to see, but to do.
Life Bridge will be an important book. It is a call to action for all who read it, by being stimulated by the imaginations of the holders of one hundred universes. It will be beautifully published in Korea, and present itself as a fitting coffee table book, but one with a difference. My hope is that every time anyone reads Life Bridge, it will change the world beginning with the reader.
By way of thanks, I also wanted to clarify that everyone who has contributed to this journey will receive a copy cod this book. I don’t regard your engagement as transactional, but it is the tangible thing which many have effectively pre-purchased by supporting this journey. There is no more you need to contribute to receive the book. And thank you for your patience as we uncover the alchemy to weave together these one hundred universes seen through the eyes on another.
Getting to Glasgow, Returning From New York
My time in Seoul has now almost reached two months in duration. That was far in excess of what I had planned for the entire journey.
Straight up, the reasons for all of the delays, and all of the amendments in my route since leaving Australia have related to resources. Money.
It seems so crass, and I don’t know why it is such an obstacle for me to address, but it is.
It is my intention to take the next steps by flying to London, then onto Glasgow on Saturday. Flying direct to Glasgow would be too expensive.
I will work out the rest of the journey once I get to Glasgow, but it is important to note that I am now committed to this journey.
My brothers funeral is in Melbourne, and it is now outside of my reach to return for that. And so I must honour him by moving forward.
But this journey is not actually about me, and it is neither about my brother.
My brother has come to represent the issue of child survival for me in some respects. His son died 36 hours after birth due to medical complications. Even with the best possible medical support, we can’t cheat death. That said, he battled and for a time won in the fight against leukaemia. Ultimately, it was an aggressive infection that caused his death. The body is robust as it is fragile. And this journey is about the most vulnerable among us: children during their first five years.
If you listen to Bill Gates, you soon realise that child survival is not just about saving babies. Child survival is important because it is one of the key levers in the struggle to move countries out of extreme poverty. It is counter-intuitive. It would seem reasonable that reducing child mortality would just lead to overpopulation, but an analysis of historical trends shows that the opposite is true. Improved child survival leads to healthier and more sustainable communities.
Presently, I am embarked on a running stunt to paint a narrative for the journey ahead. I am running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries. To date, I have completed seven of these runs and have three cities remaining. That brings be back to this issue of resources. I have the will, but the cost is prohibitive presently.
But why run? Why not just talk about it and solve the problem? The reality is that there are so many competing demands, and our understanding of the issue has been in some cases so poorly framed by the marketing spin of large not-for-profits, that a strong narrative is needed to look at this afresh.
More than that, this initiative is different. I am asking how might we use our networks to make a difference. It is not simply a case of leaning on governments, large philanthropists, or the aid agencies for that matter. All existing efforts in the fight for child survival are essential. But I do believe there is more we can do, and so that is why this series of Design Forum will take place.
The Design Forum will be held in each of the cities that I run in. The running is pathfinding the way ahead.
How badly do I want this?
Ultimately, that will coming down to asking people for their support. There is no way around that. The question is, what will the conversation be, and what will I do in exchange for their support.
After the last crowdfunding effort ended, it seemed clear that I had tapped out my networks. I was done. Or so it seemed.
My thinking is this: I need to stick with what I have. Sharpen it up. Explain it better. And give it all I have got. Really give of myself.
I am seriously wanting to address child survival. I am also excruciatingly sensitive to the fact that many people have generously given amounts to support this already. And their generosity alone is reason enough to continue.
I think given all of the events of the past two weeks, and the fact that it is brothers funeral tomorrow, I should recommit to a final crowdfunding campaign, with the amounts I am asking of people capped at small levels. Something like the opportunity to buy my brother a coffee for the last time, or to shout me Christmas dinner as I will be running across the festive season and intending to be back in Australia to celebrate New Year with my mum. I think I need to let people help define what this might involve.
That means I am looking at many people contributing small amounts of something like $5 or $24. And there would be something in exchange, but I don’t want to make it transactional.
Would it be too much to ask for 400 or so people do each contribute $24 across the next two weeks?
So this is my ask: please let me know what you think. I intend to post tonight, and somehow during the period of my brothers funeral, it would be awesome if we could spread the love to those who are able to support so that together we can make a difference. Forwarding an email or post to someone who wants to help is part of the team too, you know.
Let’s make this count. We are going to do it for all of us. Let’s roll.