Tim Longhurst's Blog

Occupy Sydney: palpitations in the heart of the financial district

October 18th, 2011 · 2 Comments

Democracy is an evolving system that by definition people are supposed to be able to change. In Sydney, a diverse range of locals are flexing their democratic muscle…

Outside the Reserve Bank in Sydney’s Martin Place, at 8.30pm last night, participants of #OccupySydney were organised. As if the architects of the city had planned it this way, a row of steps just outside the bank make for a natural amphitheatre. In that space, an engaging, entertaining meeting between 150 Sydney-siders was taking place. This meeting was almost certainly more participatory and engaging than the meetings usually held in the skyscrapers here in Sydney’s financial district.

The group are inspired by #OWS or Occupy Wall Street, a citizen movement that began 4 weeks ago in New York and has spread to cities around the world. Yesterday was Day 3, and much of the conversation was about how to make sure Sydney’s residents feel welcome and included in this public space: a space decorated by signs and constructed not of fixtures and fittings, but milk-crates and sleeping bags. (‘Permanent’ structures, like tents, have already been confiscated by police).

As a speaker speaks, the audience participate by using their hands to communicate with each other and the speaker. Imagine speaking to 150 people, and having them offering instant feedback; like a television ‘worm’ during an election debate. There’s “I agree” (palms up, wiggling fingers), “I disagree” (palms down, wiggling fingers), “I object strongly and want to speak” (forearms crossed in front of face) and “wrap it up, this is taking too long” (forearms rolling in front of each other). These protocols proved very effective for the hour I was there, allowing instant votes to be held on matters of procedure, consistently seeking and achieving consensus.

Not everyone would be sleeping there tonight, but some would choose to… 24/7, people are welcome join in: to ask questions, to debate, and to imagine futures for their city, their country and the world.

If you’re wondering what the participants stand for, well, a few themes have emerged: equity, sustainability and democracy.

On the economy, to quote business writer Alan Kohler, “while [most people’s] wages are going nowhere, being cut, or disappearing as jobs are lost, CEOs are still making ever more money”. The expression, “We are the 99%” has become a rallying cry of some participants, who are telling their personal stories via the web.

On the environment, we know climate change is real, and many signals – from our air and water quality to species extinction – indicate that we need to embrace renewable energy and less environmentally destructive practices. Despite this, capital continues to pour into incredibly environmentally destructive projects, with muted democratic oversight.

Our governments are filled with politicians who need corporate support to run their election campaigns, so their power is shared with the corporations who get them in. It’s a kind of bastardised democracy that many of the protesters believe can improved upon with greater citizen participation… An example of such participation might be citizens’ juries.

This world, and this country, are facing real challenges, and these citizens are wanting to tackle many of them head-on. So, what does success look like to these people? Well, in chalk on the footpath I saw a note: it read, “Change the system before the system changes you!”. To what degree will the #occupy movement be able to gather the momentum and judgement needed to ‘change the system’? Only time will tell.

Category: Communication and connection

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  1. Pingback from Occupy Sydney: peaceful, democratic gathering erased by NSW Police in dawn raid

    […] Occupy Sydney: palpitations in the heart of the financial district […]

  2. Abe Quadan posted the following on October 25, 2011 at 6:20 am.

    Hi all

    It is great to see ordinary people rising up and challenge the financial monsters of this world. We pay through the nose in good times and we still pay dearly in bad times. They make obscene amounts of profits in good times and we bail them out with our money in bad times (it is usually their own creation). Like a saw they take in either direction and with every move. I suggest that the name of the movement be changed from occupy (this is a violent word) to Reclaim Our Future in similar fashion to the women movement of Reclaim the Night. It is our future that the banks own and shape with us having no say. Reclaim is about taking back what we naturally own, our future. We shouldn’t leave our future in the hands of a few greedy bankers. best wishes and continue the non violent protest.

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Re-connect with your best bits: start with why

August 30th, 2011 · 1 Comment

Your passions – the stuff that gets you enthusiastic – the things you’re interested in… These are your best bits.

Too many of us spend too much of our lives with our best bits wrapped up by the daily grind of the what we do. In this 18 minute talk, Simon Sinek is convinced that if we put our best bits out the front where they belong, people will want more.

“Sell to people who believe what you believe – hire people who believe what you believe” is the mantra of Simon, the “Start with why” guy.

If you’re interested in engaging family, friends, colleagues or customers with what you do, then grab your best bits and watch this.

Thanks to Treffyn & Renee, who independent of each other sent me this. 🙂


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Category: Communication and connection

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  1. Louise posted the following on September 23, 2011 at 10:19 pm.

    What a great talk! Thanks for sharing that on your blog Tim.

    I attended your talk at a conference in Sydney recently and was really impressed with your seamless presentation, as well as your views on communication.

    I was just reading up on your blog in preparation for a talk that I now have to give about what the conference was like.

    Look forward to reading more of your blogs!

    PS: Simon’s talk reminded me of the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People where Stephen Covey said “there are some people you just instinctively trust, because you know their nature” or words to that effect. It all starts with why..

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In honour of futurist, Jan Lee Martin

August 9th, 2011 · 4 Comments

Few people have had as powerful an influence on my life as futurist and educator, Jan Lee Martin. It is with a heavy heart that I write this, because last night, Jan passed away.

This biography I found on the web introduces you to Jan as a professional, if you don’t already know her by reputation:

Jan Lee Martin has always lived in the future. As public relations manager for IBM in New Zealand in the 1960s, she participated in the early excitement of the computer revolution. She was a manager at a time when young people, and especially young women, were not expected to be managers.  And she began a career in public relations when very few people knew what that meant.  (She says many still don’t.)

For nearly 20 years she ran her own public relations consultancy in Sydney, working with senior executives of government, private and not-for-profit organizations to improve their internal and external communication with stakeholders.  It was when she sold that consultancy, and began to explore the boundaries of change, that she met the field of future studies.  In the mid-90s she and some of Australia’s leading futurists established the Futures Foundation as an independent centre for learning about the future.

Seven years later, the Foundation merged with the Future of Work Foundation, and Jan was able to hand over the chair and concentrate on other activities. For some years she continued to edit Future News and contribute to the website, and she still works on special projects with colleagues in the futuring community.

She is a regular speaker at conferences in Australia and elsewhere; has worked as a senior executive coach for a major bank; occasionally writes for media; and maintains her family and community interests in Sydney and at Pearl Beach on the Central Coast of New South Wales.  She has a special interest in changing ideas of what we mean by success; in changes in the way we measure performance (and success);  and in the changing relationships between organizations and others in their host communities.

Jan Lee Martin is co-chair of the Millennium Project in Australia (a WFUNA organization), a professional member of the World Future Society and a member of the World Futures Studies Federation.  She has contributed to many publications including the Australia and New Zealand Public Relations Manual, the standard text in communication degree courses; and The Knowledge Base of Futures Studies, the  standard text in futures studies degree courses.  She is a member of the editorial board of the international Journal of Futures Studies and is listed in the World Future Society’s Directory of people who write and speak about the future.

Jan Lee Martin is co-chair of the Millennium Project in Australia, a professional member of the World Future Society and a member of the World Futures Studies Federation.

No biography can ever capture a person’s essence, and this is especially true of Jan… She was so deeply committed to understanding our world and helping make it better. It was that spirit that I found so inspiring.

For 30 years Jan Lee Martin and Peter Lazar have been a dynamic duo – two communication professionals who, having established successful public relations practices, became powerful advocates of the application of foresight and futures studies… Playing leadership roles in the establishment of a futurist community in Australia.

A decade ago, Jan and Peter came and spoke to Communication students at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst. I was in the audience, and their presentations, at the intersection of communication and futures were life changing. For me, I went from believing that I would be a communication professional (working in organisational communication), to discovering a new possibility – helping organisations grow in all facets by collaborating with them in pursuing inspiring futures.

A story about Jan from the boardroom

A few years later, Jan was speaking at a boardroom presentation of partners at Ernst & Young. I was a budding futurist and she was kind enough to include me so I could come and see her in action. I reflect on this moment because it goes some small way towards capturing what made her so inspiring:

Initially, the audience (mostly men) were openly hostile to the concept of a “futurist” presenting to them. One of Jan’s opening slides was an illustration of a teddy bear who sat rather pensively in the corner of the frame, confessing that the more the bear learns, the more the bear realises how much there is to learn! A disarming slide, filled with humility – not a quality a large accounting firm had seen much of in the boardroom, I’d imagine!

As Jan introduced the audience expertly to her perspectives, the participants began to come around. The presentation was a wonderful balance of science and sociology, of modern thinking and ancient wisdom. Models and ideas that are – ridiculously – still not embraced by corporate Australia were introduced in such plain English and in such a compelling manner… Jan’s sense of purpose was obvious, the positive nature of her intentions was clear. She was – as ever – so grounded and so generous. She told the story of the professor with the glass vase… The vase has room for rocks, pebbles and sand… But only if we start by putting the rocks in first… Jan recommended us all to fill our “vases” first with the ‘big rocks’ of family and friends. By now the audience were in… Now leaning forward, Jan shared with us a quote of her own, something she had penned back in 1988… ““Like any living system, including you and me, an organisation depends upon successful relationships if it is to survive and prosper.”. This pearl of wisdom is perfect for Jan, as it combines those two fields she brought together, communication and futures.

Professionally, this is a very sad time for the foresight and futures community; a movement that is still young, but a movement that Jan played such an important role in sparking and amplifying in Australia.

Jan Lee Martin brought her professionalism, diplomacy and generosity to a practice that needed a credible, passionate advocate. Her passing is a great loss to our community.

Jan’s commitment to identify “inspiring ways to create the future” lives on in the lives of the many people she touched through her lifetime, not the least of which is mine.

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  1. Jarra McGrath posted the following on August 11, 2011 at 8:57 pm.

    Beautiful mate. I didn’t know Jan but now feel like I’ve missed something spectacular. I’m sorry for your loss. But so grateful for all the wisdom she left for us in you.


  2. Martin Hanlon posted the following on November 1, 2011 at 7:24 pm.

    Well said Tim. Only just heard the devastating news. Jan was a truly inspirational woman. Martin

  3. Pingback from Project Australia >> 2011 – it’s a wrap!

    […] We were saddened by the passing of our Honorary Elder, Stella Cornelius, and one of our foundational supporters, Jan Lee Martin. […]

  4. John Renesch posted the following on April 18, 2012 at 9:43 am.

    Tim, I did not know Jan passed away and today my email to her bounced back and i searched and found your blog. Obviously, I hadn’t been in close contact with her recently but she had been a Fellow in a group I put together – Global Collaborators’ Alliance. Thanks for your post. John

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Whopperlust invites Americans to trade their attention, dignity for hamburgers

July 4th, 2011 · No Comments

Love creativity? This is a great example of creative advertising. Burger King in the US set up their own “Whopper” interactive TV channel where you are paid in burgers to sit and watch a whopper. The longer you watch, the more free burgers you get. (5 minutes = 1 whopper).

Anyone who’s seen The Meatrix (highly recommended) will know why I avoid fast food burgers altogether, but it’s still clever marketing.

To see this TV channel in action, here’s a guy trying to get a free burger (offensive language warning) skip to 2min20sec to see how the channel can tell if you’re still paying attention.

The audience for this unique campaign isn’t just people who watch Direct TV channel 111, but the various audiences that will extend the campaign through social media and word of mouth. Definitely an example for anyone looking for clues about the future of advertising & marketing… If you’re going to be boring with a standard old ‘product as hero’ shot… Do it in a creative and entertaining way!

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Category: Communication and connection · Corporate craziness · Future

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Cyclone Yasi’s link to climate change

February 2nd, 2011 · 2 Comments

Recent disasters in Queensland – first floods and now Cyclone Yasi – have led me to ask, “Has this got anything to do with climate change?” Well… Network Ten’s Emily Rice provides a pretty good overview in this video:

It’s as good an explanation of the link between climate change and Queensland weather as I’ve seen so far… But perhaps you’ve seen better? Let me know in the comments…

I’ll leave you with a few quotes from the video that convey the story – in case the video doesn’t load:

Emily Rice: “This summer there has been one weather disaster after another… Scientists blame the rain on La Niña… While a natural weather event, this La Niña is being fueled by record ocean temperatures… To the east of [Australia], temperatures have risen well above the average, but it’s even hotter in the north, where the oceans are warming to levels never before recorded. And it’s these ‘super heated waters’ that are generating excessive rain right across Australia. Many scientists suspect climate change is already playing a part in the wild weather, exacerbating La Niña… Climate scientist Kevin Hennessy was not so shocked: he contributed to an Australian climate report that was released almost a decade ago [2002] that made some grim flooding forecasts: that extreme rainfall events would increase across Australia by 2020, pushing flooding deaths and injuries up 240%, with all areas of Queensland at risk…. One certainty is our rough summer weather has put climate change back on the agenda.”

EDIT: The Age has just published a story “Climate change adding to severity” on this very topic.

Category: Communication and connection

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  1. Gavin Heaton posted the following on February 14, 2011 at 8:18 am.

    We’ve been seeing this coming for years now. Finally the realisation is starting to hit our consciousness. It takes such a long time for large, complex issues to seep into our minds in a way that makes sense.

    Next up, of course, we need some action.

  2. Gene posted the following on June 20, 2011 at 10:06 am.

    The earth is always going through changes, and for us to expect it to always remain the same is naive. Global warming would probably happen without our help, and while we may be adding to it, I believe the impact we have is small in the big scope of things.

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