Three cities remain following Seoul in this running stunt. Each of those cities are critical in threading together the intellectual engagement of this question: ‘how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?’ Glasgow, Toronto and New York are all critical cities renowned globally for their thinking.
For the time being, it would seem that those three cities are immediately out of reach. The sensible thing would be to postpone the journey until it is financially viable and less of a personal risk to myself.
Ought we to play it safe and accept what is reasonable? George Bernard Shaw would advise otherwise: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
This image of a human bridge which inspires the photo-essay in the book ‘Life Bridge’ is in part inspired by words adapted from the legendary Korean marathon world champion Son Ki-chung who broke the world-record in 1935 and won the 1936 Berlin Olympic Marathon: “The human bridge makes incredible things possible when supported by strong commitment and passion”
Holding the remaining three cities in abeyance until 2015 is an option, and still allows for forward movement. But perhaps our frustration with an incomplete journey ought to inspire us to push harder to make incredible things possible now. Completing the running stunt directly from Seoul is an outcome that is not possible within my current resources, but achieving it would give an inspiring context to the Design Forum in the knowledge of a completed running stunt that the seemingly impossible is possible. This is why I am appealing for help from a select group of ‘bridge builders’.
The proposed schedule for the Design Forum would engage with a broad community of partners and stakeholders for participation proposed as follows:
|Proposed Schedule for Design Forum|
|Framing the problem: Focus on Papua New Guinea||Osaka||February (middle)|
|Port Moresby||February (late)|
|Global context, ideation and opportunity||Glasgow, London and Oxford||April|
|Implementation, delivery and moving forward||Johannesburg||August|
The importance of ‘bridge builders’ to support this initiative immediately is that it enables preparation of this schedule with confidence.
The willingness of people to support something that is risky and uncertain shows a real spirit of generosity. Without this support, together we could not have reached this point that has enabled us to look ahead to the journey that follows.
Every dollar raised has had a meaningful impact on this initiative. 137 supporters since 2010 have together contributed less than $12,000. This has been critical to develop this idea and commence the journey to this point. Every supporter deserves an individual special note of thanks here for making this possible.
More often than not, we underestimate the influence of our encouragement. Even seemingly insignificant actions such as ‘liking’ a post on Facebook, offering advice, or just checking in with a friendly word of encouragement, are all actions that have a big impact.
This might seem trivial, but it is not. More importantly. it shows that small interventions might be among those actions that are most important which we can do through our networks to improve the delivery of child survival. What are those interventions? The Design Forum will seek to identify those meaningful interventions that can lead to lasting impact.
Please, never underestimate the power of your encouragement. For everyone who played their role to date, thank you very much. Your support has had a huge impact on me personally, and together enabled us to weave this epic journey.
There were many things I could have done differently to influence a more successful outcome to the previous crowdfunding campaign. I take responsibility for falling short. There are many things I don’t do well.
The anxiety I have felt about the viability of the journey was perhaps reflected in the earlier conversations about this initiative during the crowdfunding campign. Unintentionally, striving towards a financial goal placed a lot of pressure on myself, on top of other considerations relating to preparation, fitness, logistics, and my overall ability to commence the journey.
Unexpectedly, as the crowdfunding campaign drew to a close I felt the pressure being taken off me, and the conversation shift in terms of participation. We transitioned from the question of ‘can you support?’ to ‘how might we work together to create the next steps?’
The question of ‘can you support?’ is unhelpful because it can solicit a guarded response. Importantly, focusing on ‘how might we work together to create the next steps?’ opens the conversation to a fuller participation.
The 10 City Bridge Run is not about reinventing the wheel. We respectfully want to play our part in the ecosystem of those vibrant communities already actively involved. The reason why the 10 City Bridge Run is necessary is that there is huge untapped potential which can only be accessed through a much larger conversation echoing the words of Bill Gates: “I’m convinced that getting our brightest minds to focus on our biggest problems will save lives and make the world a better place.”
Leading by example is not limited to being the tough guy that gets out in front. Feedback from others has shown me that stepping out into uncertainty and beginning this journey has provided inspiration for many.
This stunt is not really about achieving impressive physical feats through running long distances. Learning to embrace vulnerability by confronting fear, uncertainty, risk, failure are the things that inspire others.
This learning is important is because it emphasises the need to embrace a ‘beginners mind’ through a ‘Human Centered Design’ thinking process which will be required during the Design Forum to be open to new possibilities in asking ‘how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?’
Learning and innovation require us to make mistakes and sometimes to fail. It is ok to fall short, as long as we are trying with the conviction to keep moving forward. Learning how to try something new is the type of leading by example that is needed for this conversation, if we are to improve the delivery of child survival.
Having now run through six of the 10 cities, and ahead of the seventh leg here in Seoul, I have come to realise that going on the journey is necessary to improve child survival. These are things I could not have known from the beginning of the journey that I have learnt along the way. While this stunt might seem superfluous and unrelated to the question of child survival, taking these first steps has been an essential part of the journey.
Experiencing different cultures and how different people think, while not a new experience, has shown me that this is a bigger conversation than simply holding a singular Design Forum in one location as was the original intention. By talking about this journey with others, my reach has been extended well beyond my grasp. Perhaps most importantly, I have come to recognise many of my own weaknesses and how the support from others is indispensable in order to make a difference.
While in Port Moresby, I learnt a Tok Pisin expression: “Yumi wok bung wontime!”. The expression means “Let’s walk together!” I am appealing specifically to a select group of ‘bridge builders’ within our extended networks to walk with us, so that we can together reach the destination of the Design Forum.
‘If anything were possible…’. We are captivated by daring stunts. There is an element of showmanship. The real risks involved are often less apparent to the audience than what is accepted by those involved.
Risk involves cost, or perceived cost, which is why stunts are daring. The important thing with a stunt is to try. To commit to the stunt.
On a personal level, the risks for me in undertaking this initiative are significant. But it is the vulnerability involved in discussing failure which has been the most difficult part of the stunt of me. Physical challenges are one thing, and from the outset I have been concerned whether my own level of fitness was sufficient to complete each leg of the running, let alone the entire journey. But it has been the risk involved in discussing vulnerability which has most held me back from engaging more fully with media about this journey. Now when confronted by a relatively small funding challenge that I cannot resolve within my own resources, I am forced to dig a bit deeper in committing to this stunt.
This is where deep personal commitment is needed. Exposing myself as imperfect, to risk the embarrassing and public possibility of failure, but to try anyway. That is what takes guts. Running is comparatively easy.
This is where courage is found. Deep personal commitment is needed to extend yourself into those places that you would prefer not to go. The imagination gap takes courage to enter, and right now we need the support of a select group of ‘bridge builders’ to do this.
It is a trite expression, but worth repeating in relation to our willingness to help improve the delivery of child survival: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”
We can all relate to the frustration of a kick in the guts. It is a very human experience. The feeling when you know something is wrongfully incomplete. Having to wait for something that was expected.
We all ought to be frustrated that the 10 City Bridge Run has taken a further setback through this failure to achieve sufficient funding from the recent crowdfunding campaign to keep moving forward.
The stunt framing this initiative is not really about running, or how far or fast I can run. It paints a metaphor about the challenges involved in opening a global conversation to address the issue of child survival where despite recent progress, the aspirational target set through the MDG remains elusive.
The meaning of the stunt involved in the 10 City Bridge Run has become extended far beyond what was intended or imagined because of the recent setback in failing to meet the crowdfunding target. The stunt mirrors the the inability to reduce child mortality within the 421 days remaining to achieve the MDG before the end of 2015, ahead of a transition to a post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Tony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, has described child mortality as a ‘moral obscenity’, further saying in 2013: “There is no time to spare…The lives of nearly 35 million children are at stake…Each voice that speaks out against the death of a child is a reminder of unfulfilled promises and a call for urgent action.”
Beyond frustration, how ought we to respond to this setback which limits progress? Give up on the journey as too hard and a distraction to more pressing needs? Postpone the remaining three runs into 2015 when it is easier to deal with? Or act now to build a bridge over this obstacle through a triumph of the imagination?
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.”
Right now, we have an opportunity by allowing our frustration to help us identify the next steps that might improve the delivery of child survival. This will require the immediate support from a select group of ‘bridge builders’ who have the capacity to enable us to reach the destination of the Design Forum.
Four years ago when I was beginning this journey, one ‘bridge builder’ gave an undertaking to contribute $500 per run in order to give this initiative legs. While that commitment has yet to be honoured, it serves as a benchmark by which other ‘bridge builders’ might show their commitment to this epic journey. I propose that the number of ‘bridge builders’ sought is capped at ten only.
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.
I subscribe to Seth Godin‘s blog. Daily, Seth posts a few small words encasing a big idea to think about.
I emailed Seth a few days ago about a question I had in relation to what he had written, and his response gave me more food for thought.
My question was about leadership. His answer basically encouraged me to keep going in the same direction. My reflection on Saturday was:
Leadership presents both opportunity and responsibility. Often the temptation is to first find validation or comfort through following others. Leadership in fact involves rising above this temptation and, through your actions, writing the narrative for those who follow.
The work required to eradicate extreme poverty involves some of this pioneering leadership, a lot of innovation and many to follow making good with what appears to work. Not everyone needs to lead, but not everyone should follow either.
What role are you playing? Leader? Innovator? Follower? Bystander? All of the above?