I picked up a copy of Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson on my way out to the Beyond Sport summit and awards last week. We’ve been working round the clock to get the new Blue Project site launched and I felt in need of some fresh ideas to take Blue on its next journeyl. I’m only a recent Apple convert, but thought Jobs biog would be an insightful read. So far mixed feelings about the book, but I love the connection between technology and creativity and emotion.
If Steve Jobs’ vision was the emotional connection with technology, then the Beyond Sport summit was Nick Keller’s vision of the emotional connection with sport. There was some powerful moments and some remarkable projects driven by people determined to use sport for good. One project called Umthombo Street Children particularly caught my attention early on. It’s an inspirational programme created by former UK surfer, Tom Hewitt MBE who has created a “safe space” for some of Durban’s street kids, that have no parents. Not only has he created a safe drop in centre where they can seek some refuge, he uses the power of surfing to rehabillitate these kids, many of which are addicts and give them new hope. His Umthombo Sports Stars programme is now producing remarkable young black surfers some of which are competing on the world stage. Umthombo Street Children went onto win best project for Social Inclusion – well deserved Tom!
It was poignant that this year’s Beyond Sport awards where held in South Africa, a country that is witnessing remarkable change and only the week before was hosting COP17 the climate change conference. The big focus of beyond sport activity in Africa is football and social inclusion, and many of the projects on the ground focus on HIV education. It made me realise that one of the biggest challenges with any project addressing environmental concerns in a country like Africa faces an uphill struggle simply because there are more immediate pressures like poverty and aids that need addressing right now. The perception that our environment is under pressure is well understood, just not seen as an immediate threat in a country with more pressing issues.
No-one would perhaps argue that in Africa’s hierarchy of needs the environment is further down the list, however it seems that many of the first world countries that are facing an economic crisis are prepared to put off making critical environmental decisions because the economic situation is perceived to be more of an immediate threat. Until there is a fundamental shift in our own hierarchy of needs, placing the health of our planet at the top, any decions taken to reduce our impact will continue to be put off until the situation becomes more critical. What is the tipping point?
One thing that I took away from the four days spent in Cape Town, was that the issues affecting our environment are closely linked to other social issues such as health and education and that to be more effective, we need to combine our efforts by forming more effective partnerships with projects that have experience in these areas. The environment underpins most social needs and finding effective ways to contribute more to the health of the planet must we woven into existing social programmes. The light bulb moment for The Blue Project going forward will be to work with partners across a wider range of social issues, that result in greater care for our blue environment.
I spent a wonderful few days exploring Cape Town after the Summit. There are some fantastic things happening in this forward thinking city and we certainly have lots to learn from their can do attitude.
Have a wonderful Christmas and I look forward to catching up with you in 2012