About 10 years ago, I met Jane Tewson, who founded Igniting Change, a truly innovative charity that ignites social change by combining extraordinary lives - inspiring, enabling, catalysing and connecting. If you don’t know their work, do yourself a favour and check it out.
One of the many things I love about Jane’s work is her and her team’ s ability to make complex social issues visible and felt. And so it was with the book, “Dying to Know: Bringing Death to Life” . Jane and I caught up in 2010 and talked about a whole range of things, including “Dying to Know”, and she gave me a copy of it.
Saying it is an incredible book doesn’t do it justice. 60 images and ideas - beautifully curated, profound and accessible – all about encouraging conversations that “bring death to life”. As with all their initiatives Dying to Know was only made possible by an extensive creative team including Andrew Knight , Andrew Anastasios and Jo Lane. I was particularly drawn to the aspects of the book that helped people have difficult conversations, like how to support loved ones who are dying or grieving, and how to talk to children about death. I also loved how the book linked dying and living by challenging us to think of legacy, and how we want to be remembered after we die.
During our meeting, Jane reflected that “Dying to Know” had had such positive reception in the Palliative Care sector (every palliative care worker seems to have a copy) and she would love it if it could develop further.
After finishing the book, I knew that I wanted to help get it out to more people!
I decided to chat with my friend, Kerrie Noonan, the Founder of The GroundSwell Project, which uses the arts to promote conversations around death, dying and bereavement. I had some previous involvement with GroundSwell, when I spoke to a group of high school students about my own experiences with organ and tissue donation. So I was familiar with their work.
When it comes to ideas, I think there’s time for a new “Four Ps”, called The Social Entrepreneurs’ Special - Pizza, Passion, Purpose and Plan.
Kerrie and I met to discuss what we might do. We met over pizza - cheap ‘n’ cheerful, something to share – perfect for social entrepreneurial types. Throw into the mix a shared passion for broadening the reach of “Dying to Know” – to as many people as possible. Combine that with Kerrie’s clear purpose of enabling conversation and action around death, dying and bereavement. With that, we kickstarted our plan.
I still remember the moment when Kerrie paused and said: “Dying to Know Day”. She didn’t have to explain what she meant, we both knew that that was it. We began envisaging a national day of conversation and action, in which people around Australia would have conversations, run workshops, host events - all inspired by the book. We imagined people attending local community events on aspects of the book from how to prepare for end of life to honouring loved ones who have died; from supporting loved ones who are dying or grieving to writing an “Emotional Will”.
We approached Jane with the idea and, in the spirit of Igniting Change’s mission to create, catalyse and connect, she agreed that if the book could help our campaign she would be delighted. We are so grateful to Jane and the team at Igniting Change for this opportunity.
Developing the idea
Kerrie and I spent the first few months of the year brainstorming and testing ideas about how we’d progress Dying to Know Day. While the ideas have evolved, the essence has remained – Dying to Know Day will be a national day of conversation and action about death, dying and bereavement, with people from communities around Australia running events and activities that use the book as a catalyst. GroundSwell will support these initiatives by providing resources, ideas and a central point to coordinate action.
Under Kerrie’s leadership, Dying to Know Day is now an annual event on 8th August and she is doing a brilliant job of driving it, with her vast contacts in the sector and her innate entrepreneurial drive. She is participated in the School for Social Entrepreneurs Accelerator program in 2013, with Dying to Know Day as her focus – all whilst running The GroundSwell Project. The power of purpose.
While I don’t have a formal role with GroundSwell, I continue to support Dying to Know Day in whatever way I can.
- Nic Endacott