“All it takes to become an artist is to start doing art.”
With these understated and at the same time profound words, my friend Dr Ellen Langer began her 2005 book ‘On Becoming An Artist”. It is an instructive and inspiring book I have read through cover to cover about four or five times now. Dog-eared and underscored, this book provides a reflective conversation that lives up to its subtitle: “Reinventing yourself through mindful creativity.”
I first met Ellen in Toronto back in 2007 when attending a conference at Rotman Business School. Roger Martin who I knew from attending the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship had invited me to participate in a conference he was convening about thinking. I knew there were great thinkers in Toronto before I arrived for that conference, but it was when I was attending I saw how alive that city is with fresh thinking, design and creativity. It was for that reason I decided to run there during the 10 City Bridge Run, and especially why it will be included as part of the Design Forums that will follow later this year.
Ellen is a big thinker, but not your usual academic or thought leader. She is an elegant woman who would seem to be more at home at Largerfield’s next Chanel showing in Paris, but she is just at home with big ideas and the opportunity to ask you to stretch your mind more. I was fortunate to spend time with her again in Melbourne in 2011 at the Australian Davos Connection ‘Future Summit’ which I am alumnus to.
She is a professor of psychology at Harvard University, and is qualified to speak on matters concerning the mind. The book is a case study of her own experience from picking up paint brushes through Untaught Art and becoming an artist. She uses the writing to paint metaphorically a discussion beyond her earlier writing about how rampant and costly living a life mindlessly can be, to address how mindful creativity enriches and enhances your life.
Re-reading the book now, I find at this is our intention as we set about the Design Forum for the 10 City Bridge Run to ask “how might we use our networks to improve the delivery of child survival?” We will together tap into a process of engagement that will enrich our own lives, and through doing so we will be helping to literally save the lives of millions of people over the coming decades as part of a broader collective effort.
The photo is from a friend in New York, Matthew Courtney. He too is an artist with a colourful past I know little about. He lives in Brooklyn, and travels into SoHo to sell painting and drawings he has made. Most people are too busy to stop and look or to talk. Much like existing conversations that sometimes overlook dysfunction in making change happen in child survival, Matthew experiences a phenomenon that Ellen writes about observing people and critics flocking to “official art” with excessive emphasis on evaluation. Ellen writes:
“People don’t give up their current preferences or ideas easily.”
These are big ideas Ellen is playing with. It is not suggesting you throw away your bible, figuratively or literally, and I for one would encourage you to hold onto your values and beliefs. But importantly, learn to look anew, see with fresh eyes, and think again. This is the process we will embrace during the Design Forum. Please join us on this journey!
Looking ahead toward Seoul, what did people have to say about what took place in Toronto last June? Here are a few observations from the blog Sherpa from a range of NGO speaking on the broad topic of ‘development’:
- The Global Campaign for Education expressed disappointment that the G20 did not progress further on a financial transaction tax that could go someway to filling the gap in funding left by the G8.
- Save the Children called on the G20 to broaden their impact as a forum.
- Save the Children US said the G-20 isn’t moving quickly enough to offer the kind of global economic leadership that ensures balanced growth and stability by improving the resilience of the world’s poor. The agency saw some encouraging language on narrowing the development gap, but it took no major, new action at this summit beyond establishing a working group and and reaffirming the importance of food security.
- Oxfam says the G20 has drawn a blank on poverty.
- WWF warned that sustainable economic recovery needed more than brief platitudes from the G20 on green recovery than what it delivered in Toronto. The agency said that the world leaders were still painting the economy in black and white but it must inlude green.
- Actionaid UK said the G20 was bankrupt as the leaders lacked ideas and and any willingness to compromise. The organisation said the communique would be forgotten before the day was over.
- World Vision applauded and welcomed the cancellation of Haiti’s International Financial Institutions (IFI) debt and the creation of G20 Working Group on development. The organisation did express concern that the development agenda is taking a back seat to economic growth.
- Tearfund said the G20 was a missed opportunity to show leadership on climate justice and to set a path to get back on track for a global deal post 2012.
- Greenpeace said “important progress was made today in ending fossil fuels”.
- Make Poverty History expressed concern that the G20 dealing with budget deficits through cutting back on government services will end up hurting the poor.
- The ONE Campaign issues a statement at the end of the G20 Summit stating that the two working groups created in Toronto on development and on anti-corruption needed to focus on improving governance and mutual accountability.
- The Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) said the G20 summit showed an unfortunate lack of political will to fight poverty by delaying key actions such as the Robin Hood Tax and investing in clean energy and ending fossil fuel subsidies. The group also said the G20 needs to include Africa as a regular member. The group welcomed the establishment of a Working Group on Development.
Searching ‘G20‘ on YouTube I was amazed to see almost every link that comes up was of confrontation between protestors and police.
Of course, the range of issues the G20 discuss is broad. It is not only about extreme poverty. That is only a small part of the summit agenda.
Do the protesters at the G20 present a credible alternative?
Watch the video clip here of Toronto:
Or this one from London: