Osaka

What Did We Learn From Osaka?

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imageHackOsaka wrapped up last night successfully, and defined an event which clearly marked out the first in a series of ten Design Forum. The first Design Forum is still underway with the conduct of a free online course which provides an Introduction to Design Thinking.

Given that Osaka was to provide an event to observe, the natural question to ask is “what did we learn?” Well, what did we learn?

Quite a lot, actually. There were many lessons that came from observing Osaka, especially in the context of having participated in a hackathon in Korea the week before.

Presently I am in transit back to Sydney, but once arriving I will upload a more detailed post with some more considered information that can be used to help in the first Design Forum which is focused on Designing the Design Forum.

And one postscript: if you have been hanging back on the sidelines, but would like to get more involved, it is not too late! You can still enrol in the Introduction to Human Centred Design course, and take as big or as small a part in helping to Design the Design Forum. We would love you to be part of the team!

Human Junk

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imageReturning to Osaka, it was like coming back to visit an old friend. That’s the effect of running around a city. Long distance runners will know the feeling. The city opens up its secrets. Back streets and observations of life that pass the ordinary visitor. Osaka is a lovely city, with lovely people, a proud history and natural beauty.

It was with this in mind that I wondered what to make of the small community of people who I gathered with on Sunday morning after arriving on Saturday evening. Inside an austere hall, they greeted me warmly as I arrived. I hadn’t met them before, and someone might have been excused for thinking that there was nothing at all special about their very-ordinariness at first glance. How might they be described by others? Lonely misfits, trash, human junk, cripples. Not world beaters.

But within a few minutes, I saw a different side to them all. Warm, friendly, generous, talented. Not trash. Not junk. Gifted.

And while I had experienced the friendliness of the city on my previous visit when I ran in Osaka last October, this community showed me a hospitality I previously hadn’t recognised here.

To write anyone off as junk is more than unkind. Similarly, to think that to solve important social problems is only for those with a certain talent or income is equally as wrong. Bill and Melinda Gates have become poster idols for making change happen, but they are not unlike you or I. We are all human, and we all have the same capacity to care. Money has little to do with the equation. It is a question of commitment.

Who is invited to the Design Forum? Only the beautiful people? Just innovators, thought leaders, and forget the rest? No, there is no qualifying credentials required. Everyone is welcome.

The Design Forum is an ambitious journey of its own. It is the destination of the 10 City Bridge Run, and defines a conversation asking an important question: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

Drop in at anytime. Please bring your manners. And your imagination.

The conversation is about child survival. That is keeping children alive and flourishing past their fifth birthday. UNICEF calculates there are over 16,000 children under the age of five every day, and a high percentage those deaths occur within the first 48 hours. And we really have to ask ourselves: do these deaths really matter? Can we really be concerned? Or are these babies are just human junk and trash?

Do we care enough to act? I’m not talking about a donation to UNICEF or any other aid agency. Can we really take action to make a difference? Can you? Will you?

Dear Bill and Melinda, It’s About The Fog That I Write To You

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Bridge in fog- hard to see the far bank
Bridge in fog- hard to see the far bank

Dear Bill and Melinda,

It’s about the fog that I write you you. Not the real fog, mind you, especially now that it is colder in the Northern Hemisphere. I know you are both busy, and need not be bothered by a trifling commentary about the weather.

Knowledge helps to lift the fog which prevents us from seeing clearly. I am particularly interested in knowledge based on the experience of others that will help improve child survival.

I applaud you both for your last two Annual Letters. The commentary and insights you provided about child survival is important. Would you please point us to five good books that might help us to know more about improving child survival?

I asked you for a recommendation of five good books in the video I recorded below in Glasgow on the Clyde River in late December last year just after I completed the eighth leg of an epic quest which I had called the 10 City Bridge Run. This involved running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries as a stunt to open a conversation asking: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

This question of child survival will be addressed though a series of Design Forum, held in each of the cities where running took place. They begin today in Osaka, and conclude in Seoul in October. We will be exploring is question about child survival and doing what we can so that as a global community we achieve the bet you have made for the future. But we need your help.

Would you please list the five best books that have helped you both best understand child survival? We would love to read those books and also make sure others can too.

It would be great if you would join our journey by sharing with us your favourite list of five books that might help us understand child survival better. The best way to share these would be by Twitter through my address at @socialalchemy.

Thanks for your help!

Matt Jones, writing from Osaka

Osaka: Start At The Beginning

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imageToday begins a new journey as the Design Forum for the 10 City Bridge Run formerly commences. By way of introduction and explanation, this is a welcome note to many, and also an apology of sorts for possibly failing expectations, as we embark on this epic quest.

The Design Forum follows behind the 10 City Bridge Run, a running stunt that wove a narrative through 10 cities where the discussion will take place.

We have to go back to the beginning to understand where we are now. The 10 City Bridge Run was in response to an alarming rate of child mortality painted by large, institutional aid agencies. In 2010, much publicity was given to highlighting the 2008 daily rate of child survival: an average of 24,000 child deaths per day calculated by UNICEF. Considerable money and attention was given to highlighting this figure. I thought that we should instead be asking what we could do going forwards rather than be too caught up in educating a figure from the past. So the 24K formed a figure which framed a distance I then decided to run in 10 cities as a stunt that would culminate in a central Design Forum.

It was an ambitious journey. Epic. Impossible. Impossible because I made these plans with none of the resources at hand.

Friends and family responded by contributing, crowdfunding an amount to start the journey. The deficit fell on myself which has not been insignificant.

In early January this year, after a prolonged and difficult journey, the 10 City Bridge Run was completed in the cold rain on a dark night in Manhattan.

Many friends have said that media was key. Why didn’t I have more media? Why didn’t I have any media support for that matter? And they are right. Partly, the reason for not pressing ‘send’ on documents to the media is because it was just me doing this journey. Yes, me. For all of my failings. I admit fearing the thought of standing before the media, injured, unfit, lacking resources, with no certainty except for a foolish Quixiotic quest to drive me forward. Understandably, the media would want to know the plan, not just the dream. And there was a plan, but unfunded. I couldn’t say with any certainty what would come next even within days before the event because of a lack of resources.

Along the journey, out of necessity I chose homelessness over accommodation in many cities. To abstain from meals rather than to eat. There was no money for such things. And that made speaking with media all the more difficult. The rawness of the journey, the fraught nature of this quest is what has made it epic, but they are also circumstances that scare people. Their natural response is to tell you to stop.

Even getting to Osaka has been part of that narrative. I could point to a date on a calendar easily enough, but how to organise something without resources? I’m now not so sure if that is difficult, or foolish, or both.

The Design Forum began today because it was a date that ensured I was in Osaka ahead of HackOsaka tomorrow. A gathering of innovators and entrepreneurs to look at applications of the Internet of Things (IoT). When I first met the Director for this gathering after I ran in Osaka last October, it seemed to be a clear and definable line in the sand to start a series of Desig. forum. I used the expression “to convene a ‘Part B’ to HackOsaka” during that conversation, although it wasn’t clear to him what I meant exactly, partly because of language and partly because of lack of resources that I was reluctant to share a plan that was closer to a dream than to reality.

Before we get too far into a conversation talking about child survival, I think it is first important to ask how are we to ‘Design the Design Forum’. The Osaka gathering is in a foreign language to my own, set in a foreign culture, and format (hackathon) that I had a hunch might best be used to discuss the issue of child survival. A hackathon is a preferred format to a traditional conference setting involving a plenary which leans on the panel of experts to frame the conversation. I loved how Bono referred to that type of plenary at Davos in 2012 by saying, in a conversation about child mortality, “we don’t need another talking shop”.

Additionally, today’s date is important because it is the start of a free, seven-week, online course hosted by Acumen Fund and IDEO called an Introduction to Human Centred Design. A free course about Design Thinking. That date for the course was a coincidence, but very welcome, and it is that course along with the Hackathon tomorrow here in Osaka which defines this first Design Forum beginning in Osaka.

The HackOsaka event won’t be discussing child survival, but will be an opportunity to ask questions about conducting an event. Not just questions of the organisers, but amongst ourselves. I intend to conduct a straw poll of people who are attending about child survival, but only in as much as to find a baseline of where the current ‘person on the street’ conversation is found.

The seven weeks concludes close to the entry date for the 2015 Fuller Challenge, and the culmination of this Design Forum will both be framing a plan for the future as well as making a submission to the Fuller Challenge. The Fuller Challenge is inspired by the life and work of Buckminster Fuller.

In the meantime, I have been wrestling with Google Hangouts which I can’t get the Hang Of so that I might provide an overview of the journey to date. That too is perhaps an auspicious start to the begin of this new epic quest. Auspicious and not ominous. Auspicious because it highlights that there are many things we don’t know. I can’t just dismiss the problem by say “I’ll do it on an Google Hangout”. I have to really know how to do it, which serves as an allegory for our journey to improve child survival.

Why this is relevant is not because it highlights my own failings, but because it is a question I asked a number of people in an open ended way about six-months ago where I indentified that the most immediate challenge to be solved was working on a framework for collaborative exchange. I actually think that Google Hangout is close to the solution to that question, except for the fact that it can’t be accessed in China. By identifying that there was never a response to that earlier question six months ago, it is not blaming the earlier conversation, but addresses the fact that to resolve issues we need to have intentional commitment to a solution. Which brings us back to the Design Forum.

Another reason for the Design Forum, and approaching it methodically through Design Thinking is that it helps to engage unspoken and undiscussible assumptions and opinions about child survival. In a Facebook exchange yesterday, two friends shared informed view of funding about which organisations are best, and also by contrast which are less effective, for improving child survival. It is a welcome contribution, but this conversation is less about funding and more about our most precious and under-utilised resource: each other. Our networks are our most under-utilised resources, especially when it comes to solving problems. Our networks are fuelled by passion and imagination, not money.

There are some less conventional part to this Design Forum. One such example is using our networks to strengthen a petition (both in wording and in numbers) which is addressed to Australia’s Foreign Minister, The Hon Julie Bishop MP, requesting her to be the official Champion for the Design Forum (which will point to the culmination of this conversation at the final event in Seoul this October). Another example is a request to Bill and Melinda Gates to suggest a reading list for us to read right now. There is no time for delay. This is not a nice to have.

If you disapprove about anything relating to the Design Forum, that’s fine, but let us know why. This is a conversation. We needn’t agree with everyone on everything all the time. Share your perspective, and as loudly as you would like, but please remember your manners too. We need your voice, and I for one know that I am not always right.

Thank you. Thank you for being part of this journey, even if it is just through the reading of this blog. We really need you to be part of this journey for the Design Forum to ask an important question asking: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” Bring your imagination, your enthusiasm, your criticism, your passion. But please do join us. This is an important question to address, and I suggest that the point of Bill and Melinda Gates Annual Letter this year which pointed to a reduction of child mortality over the next 15 years was to inspire action, not just Facebook Likes. Welcome to the conversation.

And with that, I am delighted to announce that this epic series of Design Forum has now commenced!

Some links:

Design Thinking course. Join here or leave a message below. https://novoed.com/hcd-acumen

Petition for Julie Bishop. https://www.change.org/p/the-hon-julie-bishop-mp-champion-the-global-series-of-design-forum-to-improve-child-survival

Question for Bill and Melinda Gates (and yes, you can forward this blog as well). http://youtu.be/tkrUlCm9GFs

What does it take to build a bridge?

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The commitment I made at the conclusion to the Introduction to Human Centered Design (Design Thinking) course last year. We are taking it forwards, and I hope you might join us along this epic journey!
The commitment I made at the conclusion to the Introduction to Human Centered Design (Design Thinking) course last year. We are taking it forwards, and I hope you might join us along this epic journey!

The Design Forum is an extended conversation across nine months, knitting together a series of 10 key events occurring in each of the cities where the 10 City Bridge Run wove a path. It begins with the first of these Design Forum in Osaka commencing on 9 February 2015. The Design Forum, much like any conversation, draws upon the alchemy between people to build a bridge.

We are beginning at the beginning. We will begin with a conversation. And that conversation will be both online and with people who are present in the same location. Rather than the formality of a conference, we will start with the familiarity of a conversation.

Like any conversation, there is certain etiquette but no actual rules. People can come and go as they would in real life (because this is actually real life!) Online or in person, it doesn’t so much matter. Still very much part of the conversation.

The theme of the first Design Forum is “Designing the Design Forum.” The Osaka Design Forum will be a discrete event in Osaka, and won’t conclude until a free, seven-week, online course which provides an Introduction to Design Thinking concludes.

imageSome people might want to know how they can participate when their lives are busy and can’t afford seven weeks. That is completely understandable. I will be posting my notes from the Design Thinking course online in a weekly post, and so people can feel engaged even if this is only vicariously. Everyone’s contribution and questions would be very welcome at any time no matter how much time you can spare.

Seven weeks is a long time! Yes, the Design Forum in Osaka can more properly be seen as taking place over two days: 9-10 February. Because the Introduction to Design Thinking course is so integral to the theme of ‘Designing the Design Forum’, it defines the duration of the first Design Forum.

Moreso, the dates align with the opportunity to submit an entry in this year’s Buckminster Fuller Institute 2015 Fuller Challenge:

The Buckminster Fuller Institute announces the dates of the 2015 Fuller Challenge. Each year, BFI awards a $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of an integrated design solution to solve humanity’s most pressing problems. BFI invites the world’s scientists, designers, architects, engineers, planners, artists, students and entrepreneurs to enter their strategies that simultaneously solve for the systemic context underlying the problem while dynamically transforming current conditions.

We will be designing the Design Forum that will continue through Port Moresby, Glasgow, Toronto, New York, Sydney, New Delhi, Singapore, China (city TBA, but I am hoping we could return to Shanhaigaun), and concluding in Seoul. Not only designing the journey that this epic conversation will take, but making a contribution that Buckminster Fuller himself would be satisfied with.

This is not about winning prizes. If we are good, any trophies we deserve will follow. But I contend that we should be more satisfied with making a difference. We have an important question to address: “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?”

You can sign up for the Design Forum here, and register for the Introduction to Design Thinking here.

You are invited and you can invite anyone you want. Make new friends. Open the circle. Build a bridge.

Happenstance: Then There Were Ten

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With Ellie at Oxford in 2013
With Ellie at Oxford in 2013

It was when I was in Osaka last October after completing the fourth leg of the 10 City Bridge Run that I realised the plan had to change.

Up until that time, a singular Design Forum was scheduled for the end of the journey in Seoul. The fourth leg I referred to above was part of an epic quest running 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 counties as a stunt to open a conversation asking “how might we use our networks to influence the delivery of child survival?”

It was a journey fraught with difficulty and uncertainty. Getting it started was hard enough, but at that point in Osaka, now that I had began, I found that my capacity to engage effectively on the issue while running was limited. And I knew the conversation was huge. Enormous. Not impossible, but tremendously big.

imageI thought back to some of the earlier difficulties since I committed to the task in 2010. A crowdfunding effort commenced and fell slightly short of the sum required to pay for the round-the-world plane fare to undertake this epic quest which had been called the 10 City Bridge Run. Departure was delayed until sufficient funds were gathered, injuries followed, more delays, another crowdfunding attempt in 2012 which was successful but then thwarted with a badly torn calf muscle. Even though bad, those things were happenstance.

During this time, life continued on, winding and wending its way, day by hour by week by month by year. Time marches on and waits for no man, so says the idiom.

Many supporters remained a source of amazing encouragement. A “how’s it going?” here, a “have you been training much?” there. We underestimate the significant of the quiet word of encouragement like this. Those small things in effect became the resin I needed to stick to the task.

Then in 2013, happenstance brought a chance to recommit publicly while on a leadership forum focused on the Commonwealth. Not only an opportunity to renew this commitment, but a realisation of the importance the Commonwealth brings to this discussion. You can see my good friend Ellie encouraging me to put it out there in the photo above.

Look inside...
Look inside…

Happenstance. The insight which this blog refers to came one morning in Osaka in October 2014 while trying to once again figure out my schedule. I realised that time was a resource we needed to draw upon for this conversation. Not necessarily more time, but to take more time ourselves. It would take more than one meeting in Seoul. The afternoon of that insight, I was visiting the Osaka Innovation Hub. I had searched some places I wanted to meet with on the Internet, and other than that had little idea of who I was meeting.

Happenstance is the collision of preparedness with opportunity. Meeting with key staff in Osaka, I learnt of their HackOsaka being held on 10 February 2015. Right then, I knew that would be the start point for the Design Forum, and that there would need to be not one but ten conversations.

It will be a surreal feeling when the Design Forum in Osaka comes around next week. You are welcome to join us too. Go on, partner with us in this conversation. Create your own happenstance by turning up.

Let’s Begin: Osaka

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IMG_1864Starting 9 February 2015 is the first of 10 Design Forum. The reason we are doing this is to improve child survival.

It’s free, and you can join, no matter where you live. Here is the link.

More details will be written shortly. Sign up now to stay connected!