Spring forward, fall back

A month into spring, we move our clocks forward by one hour for the beginning of daylight saving as we head towards summer and somewhere on the other side of the world, clocks fall back by an hour as winter advances. Coming out of a colder than usual Victorian winter, the sun-lit days with increased warmth are welcomed with open arms. The ski season was able to extend its season to include the most recent school holidays but the sight of snow-capped mountains is quickly disappearing! Good winter rains has filled our dams and tanks and left the surrounding country side looking reminiscent of the green hills in Lancashire, England, the birthplace of my husband.

 

As we shed our winter layers and start to tackle the tasks of cutting grass and weeding garden beds, we are aware of the changing seasons.  Daffodils and jonquils created a jolly display and now we are seeing white and pink blossoms throughout our property. Spring also brings new purpose to our bird population as they busily flit about building nests and leaving their calling cards on the walls of our house! A certain magpie has taken to dive bombing me on my get-fit walks which always makes me nervous. We are amazed by the tiny wrens picking up material for their nests twice their size and the pretty ground-level plover eggs.  As the heat increases we are aware that snakes including brown and tiger varieties, are awakening from their hibernation. At this stage, only seen two down by our dam.

 

We enjoy watching the antics of our neighbours’ new-born calves as they view us with great curiosity. Our two elderly cows despite their old bones enjoy the fresh green blades of grass on our lawn. The frosty days seem to be behind us. Now time to issue all those much overdue lunch and dinner invitations to celebrate these precious spring days with friends new and old. I watch the sun come up over the nearby hill and watch it go down on the opposite hill in the evening. Every day is different and brings a wonderful sense of calm and peace to know that nature is healing my body and soul.

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Jack Frost nipping at our heels!

 

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Moving from the city to the country; early morning frosts brings back childhood memories.

Winter arrives with the icy fingers of frost and heavy fog in abundance. Jack Frost is laying claim on our wide open spaces with great delight, as temperatures dive down to minus zero Celsius. The appearance of snow on the nearby mountain peaks, has brought the best ski season in five years attracting visitors and tourist dollars to the region.

I began this post at the start of winter and here it is with only one day officially before the start of spring. Life and other distractions have kept me away from finishing this blog about my tree-change during the cold months. My blogging was focused on Creativity and Innovation,  my latest university unit towards my agonizingly slow process of getting my first degree.

It has been an exceptionally cold winter. The wood heater is working overtime and the woolly jumpers and fur-lined boots busted out of the wardrobe. My two furry friends, Friskie and Rambo, have increased the snuggle factor as the temperature gauge drops overnight.

My respite from the cold was a two week trip to East Timor (Timor Leste) in July with a local friends group of 16 which included eight secondary college students, teachers and community members such as myself.  This was a life-changing trip and has increased my passion for this emerging nation and its beautiful people to do more to support them. I will post separately about my travels to Timor Leste and share my observations and experiences. The morning I flew out to 30 degrees plus temperatures, it was minus 5 at home! Very cold by Australian standards.

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Our frozen landscape!

With the cold weather, also came a wet winter. Many of us thought that last year’s big wet after almost 10 years of dry weather was  a one-off and not to be complacent that the same would happen again. Obviously, we were optimistic when we bought our 22,000 litre water tank to catch the run off on our shed in April – it is now full. Both our dams have filled as well which is a bonus. Bolly (my hubby) continues to clear up around the place and is making some significant inroads. Where he has cleared the banking between the dams, is now a clearway for visiting kangaroos. We do see some big holes which belong to our burrowing wombats but not near the house thankfully. Rabbits were also on the increase but their numbers seem to have tapered off. My city cat, Rambo, caught his first rabbit the other day and his second one the next day. We are not sure if it was the same rabbit or not! Not bad for a 11-year-old cat who sleeps most of the day.

Sadly, we had to have one of our old cows put down recently. The extra cold mornings and the deterioration in her health, meant that it was the most humane thing to do. The other two despite their slow movements are happy munching grass and treating us with the contempt they think we deserve.

Although the chilly days bring their challenges to keeping well rugged-up and warm, the landscape is always changing and giving us new vistas each day. But seeing the early daffodils nodding in the breeze gives one hope of warmer days ahead.

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Oh daffodil your arrival not only brightens my garden but gives a promise of spring to come.

 

What is disruptive innovation?

Change. We all have to accept change at some point in our lives. Whether it is positive or negative change we are experiencing, the disruption brings upheaval or discomfort to some of us. The term disruptive technology seems to be in common use today but what is disruptive innovation?

This is a new term for me. But it has been around since the 1990s when Professor Clayton Christensen came up with the description of the “process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors”.

 

It helps to explain why large successful companies such as Kodak and Nortel disappeared from the business landscape. They failed to see the challenges coming from others who could create a demand for their products even if they were still in the early days of development. I remember the arrival of word processors in the news room; clunky, slow and much larger than the traditional typewriter. But they were here to stay.

In the mid-1980s many old journos were still clinging to their faithful Remingtons. When I entered journalism, I was a dab hand at typing and took on the challenge of a new technology which allowed us to fix our mistakes without retyping a new piece of paper each time or endure hard copy that was brandishing lots of sub-editors red ink!

Computers were part of our working life as journalists and had not taken over our personal lives at this stage. One could enjoy a quiet ale at the local drinking hole without the constant interruption of phone calls, text messages and emails. That pub is now a just a fond memory of another time.

This disruptive innovation got me thinking as far back as the time when the printing press was invented. Imagine how the working classes were kept ignorant by denying them access to books and other reading matter. The Bible is a classic example. If one wanted to know the teachings of Jesus, it was preached from the pulpit from a hand-illustrated and written manuscript. Imagine the joy when people could actually hold a copy of the Bible in their own hands and not have to rely on the clergy of the day to communicate the gospel.

Today the media is undergoing the biggest shakeup in its history. For more than 100 years, newspapers were part of our daily routine. The rise of the citizen journalist, now possible through the wonders of social media and blogs such as these, have challenged the status quo. Journalists are busy adapting to this disruptive innovation and trying to add something meaningful to an overcrowded information deluge.

Disruptive disruption looks like it is here to stay so watch this space!

Reference:

http://www.claytonchristensen.com/key-concepts/

 

The importance of storytelling beyond once upon a time…

Words, pictures, voices and actions can be woven into storytelling in all its different forms. It can be an oral history passed down by Indigenous Australians, a Shakespearean tragedy, a rousing Italian opera, tall tales shared by good mates, moving pictures on the screen both big and small, or found in the pages of a book. Whatever means is used to tell a story, there is a purpose behind the telling.

For writers or at least for me, the narrative is the holy grail of storytelling. As children we often heard or read the words, “Once upon a time…” that would lead us into the world of princes and princesses, fairies and elves,  wicked step-mothers and ugly sisters. There was usually the elements of good and evil, a sense of injustice and redemption, followed by a happy ending to the fairy tale. Without being aware of the morals being espoused by such tales, our attitudes and morals were shaped by such storytelling. Being able to communicate through narrative is part of our human nature.

When we grow up, we learn not all stories have a happy ending and we need to find ways to make sense of the impact of events on our own lives and the world around us. I recall being fascinated by Aboriginal rock art images in Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory. The stick-like figures drawn by Indigenous people thousands of years ago showed swollen joints of individuals. I found out later this is was a  result of poisoning from the uranium in the ground. Other rock art depicts many images from the Dreamtime including the Rainbow Serpent. These stories are passed down from generation to generation.

The power of story-telling in much more recent times, is the first-hand accounts of individuals who have endured horrors beyond comprehension.  But there is healing in telling such stories for those involved and a challenge to the rest of us not to forget. During my recent visit to East Timor, my travel group had the privilege of visiting the Chega Museum in Dili. The word Chega loosely translated from Portuguese means, “No more, stop, enough!”. Chega was also the title of a report compiled by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor Leste. It is a powerful and emotional journey as one tours this former Indonesian prison, the site of many atrocities against the East Timorese and learn of the inhumane treatment of individuals and their families beyond its walls during the invasions. The trauma experienced has left deep scars but the personal stories told are part of the healing and a message to us that we must never permit this to happen again.  But the museum is also a place of hope and peace – where visitors can leave positive messages.

The power of one’s own story can have an impact across the generations and across the world if we preserve the narrative and ensure that those “Once upon a time..” stories have a happier ending.

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The entrance to the Chega Museum, Dili, Timor Leste.

 

 

Never to old to play, seriously!

 

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These East Timorese orphans having fun with some adult Australian visitors.

 

There is the old saying , “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. I’m sure the same applies to all the  Jills out there and anyone who believes fun and play is only for children should have another think. In this fast-paced world of social engagement and think tanks only a few key strokes or finger taps away, maybe it’s time to review our approach to more productive work spaces by adding a bit of fun in the mix.

Push back the office chair and turn off the computer, for some down time and a good ol’ fashion belly laugh. Type laughter workshops into your search engine and there is a surprisingly a large number to choose from. The main focus seems to be to help workers de-stress and in the process create a more productive workplace. It also encourages more positive brainstorming and ideas generation.  For some of us letting our inner child loose is outside our comfort zone.

In my experience some of the activities organised in certain workplaces reflects the age group of the team leader in some cases. Call centre employment involves being tied to a phone in one place for a shift and can be repetitious. To break the monotony activities would range from hula dancing competitions, trying to catch money in a wind machine or just going to “Maccas”  for team meetings. As much as I appreciated the break from the usual drill, I’m not sure it increased my productivity or brainstorming capacity.

Other industries are busy with everyday business and little thought is given to creating some play element into a working day. That is not to say,  employees’ well being is not highly regarded by businesses and other organisations; many organise some form of social or physical activities for staff and volunteers.

What we are talking about here, is introducing some playfulness into the work environment that engages individuals and triggers creativity in a fun and useful way. Let’s face it many of us are like big kids when we get to play with something new or innovative. There must be a reason why tools such as computers, smart phones and televisions designed to help us do our work or educate us, become playthings as well!

But the importance of play in our childhood and the role it plays in our adult lives should not be under estimated. Lack of fun and games as a youngster robs one of the ability to dream of big things in the future. Some Brits bringing joy into the life of children in a refugee camp are featured in a BBC Three video, Amazing Humans: Making children smile again through the simple act of creative play using music, art, dance and more.

 

Play researcher and psychiatrist, Dr Stuart Brown, with the National Institute of Play in the US,  is a strong advocate of the benefits of play in childhood and how that makes us much happier and smarter adults. He believes if we maintain this sense of playfulness into our adult years, it will keep us smarter at any age. Reflecting on this topic makes me realise that we all need a sense of joy in our personal and working lives, but we need to learn how as a child.

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. – Plato

 

Is innovation and positive social change possible for the homeless?

The world is driven by the pursuit and use of technology-based activities and applications that dictate our working day and leisure time that was unthinkable even 20 years ago. But this rapid social change comes at a price it seems. For all the back slapping and kudos that technological  innovations receive, there is a huge disconnect between rich and poor Australians, with the “haves” and “have-nots”  denoting the digital divide.

The national Homelessness Week which finishes today (7th to 13th August) has prompted commentary regarding a ‘digital divide’ that has deepened significantly and the failure of disadvantaged groups and individuals being able to access the internet and on-line services.  This formed part of the findings from an inclusion index completed by RMIT researchers in partnership with Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University of Technology, Telstra and Roy Morgan Research. Three key areas of focus were; online access, affordability and digital ability (Nott 2017).

Although there has been marked improvement in ”digital inclusion” in recent years those on lower incomes with reduced education and employment opportunities, and Indigenous Australians and people with a disability are being left behind (Nott 2017). For the many different welfare agencies that support disadvantaged families and individuals, the strain of other household bills, makes internet access out of reach for many that are struggling financially.

My own experience working in this sector has seen it first hand where a mobile phone is the only means of communication for clients especially for those without secure housing and who are much more transient; this technology still requires access to power sources, money for pre-paid credit and are expensive to replace if stolen or damaged. The digital divide gapes even wider when one is trying to communicate with government departments such as Centrelink and are left on hold on a phone call or forced to log-on.

Thankfully, there are organisations who recognise the need for greater participation by all Australians within the digital space. Not-for-profit Infoxchange has just established a new alliance with support from various organisations including Australia Post, Google and Telstra to address this issue (Nott 2017)

Another positive initiative by Infoxchange was the development of  the Ask Izzy app which connects homeless people throughout Australia with appropriate services and charities. According to new data collected by Ask Izzy, demand for shelter doesn’t cease at sundown with the majority of online requests occurring between 12am and 3am looking for accommodation options. Research conducted by University of Sydney found around 80% of homeless people own a smartphone but lack access to power points to charge their phones (Rooney 2017).

To overcome this problem a fundraising campaign to provide battery recharge cards  has been launched to coincide with Homelessness Week by Ask Izzy. This worthwhile cause is asking the public to donate $15 to buy  Ask Izzy Power Card for those who need to access the more than 350,000 services nationally ranging from food, health advice, warm bedding or a place to sleep  available through the smartphone app (Tann 2017).

While we still have a long to go to solve the multi-layered issues surrounding homelessness, an innovative app like Ask Izzy, is a positive step in reducing the “digital divide”.

References:

Nott, George (2017) Digital divide deepening according to inclusion index,  Computer World, 4 August, 2017                                                                                                                            https://www.computerworld.com.au/article/print/625673/digital-divide-deepening-according-inclusion-index/

Rooney, Kieran (2017) Most people without homes have phones but lack power points, The Observer, 8 August 2017.                                                   https://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/most-people-without-homes-have-smart-phones-but-la/3209877/

Tann, Phil (2017) Ask Izzy lets you give some warmth to the homeless this winter, Ausdroid, 8 August 2017.                                                                                        http://ausdroid.net/2017/08/08/ask-izzy-lets-give-warmth-winter/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The business of innovation – for richer or poorer

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Innovation is another one of those terms that gets tossed around frequently, but do we really take the time to think more deeply about what it means? We all strive to be more  innovative; whether it is to make a difference in the world or come up with a product or a service for a ready-made market. This week I received my regular cosmetics’ brochure and there were at least six or more new beauty products all boasting innovations.  From the small to the big things, innovation can cover a multitude of uses. We are also told there is a difference between being creative and innovative.

 

It is easy to become enraptured by the ‘big guns’ such as Tesla with its driverless electric cars or Virgin with plans for holiday space trips to Mars; and neglect the quiet achievers. Innovation surrounds us everywhere and we probably take many inventions and other activities for granted.

I have just finished watching the final episode of the SBS TV series Michael Mosley: Queen Victoria’s Slums (2017) which involved  families and individuals living the life that their ancestors did as slum dwellers in London’s East End during her reign. The reality of life for the poorest of the poor becomes evident very quickly. One has to admire the ingenuity and survival skills living in the slums required. The final show moved onto the new age following the death of Queen Victoria, and the attempts to introduce welfare reform. Among these was a mass clearance of slums. While some people remained at the bottom of the rung others managed to work their way outside of the slums for a better life. Due to exposure in local newspapers with photographs and stories highlighting the dire circumstances of many individuals living in poverty, there was a more acute awareness among those with the power to change things.

With the rise of trade unions for better conditions and pay for working men, the women’s right to vote movement, and cooperatives which supported families, innovations were coming to the fore as part of a more progressive society. One example, the cooperative store provided a range of quality goods at competitive prices to consumers as well as social support. There were free first-time outings to the countryside away from the squalid city conditions for cooperative members and their children.

While poverty has not been eradicated with many disadvantaged groups still struggling today, the introduction of social security payments and subsidised medical treatment offers safety nets for those who need financial assistance in Australia. Innovative thinking was behind welfare reform but as we face different challenges and changing needs of the population, innovation is required again to avoid entrenched poverty becoming the norm.

 

https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/1010612291769/michael-mosley-queen-victorias-slum-the-fledgling-welfare-system