Dumbo Feather and the Art of Conversation

“Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people. Each issue, we scour the globe for those with the drive to make a difference, seeking out those who inspire, excite and thrill us with possibility. Whether they’ve touched millions or just those nearby, what unites them is their passion.” Source: Dumbo Feather.

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Not since reading The Gentlewoman for the first time have I come across a magazine so profoundly inspiring and so eloquently spoken as Melbourne-based Dumbo Feather (founded by Kiwi Kate Bezar). I say spoken because these are not just words written on a page but rather voices exercised in intelligent conversation, and therein lies its brilliance.

“If you care about the future, if you care about the present, if you care about what’s going on and you think that there’s something you can do to make a difference what option do I have?” Jane Goodall.

Conversational in tone, Dumbo Feather positions the reader as a fly on the wall in a dialogue of genuine human interaction. No stale questions, no predictable patterns, instead it’s a clever flow of ideas and discussion between the interviewer and the subject, the latter being those extraordinary people who, in their own quiet way, are changing the world. Honest and rich with substance, these are conversations about things that matter; the kind of brain food that’s so utterly satisfying.

“We don’t have the luxury of a planet with infinite natural resources. We’ll finish. And a life that’s based on continued economic development on a planet with finite natural resources is stupid, it doesn’t make sense. We have to change that attitude. Listen to Gandhi who said, ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed’.” Jane Goodall.

Issue 40, also the 10th Birthday Edition, features primatologist Jane Goodall (on the cover), in a beautiful discussion of her 30 years of work with, and campaigning for, chimpanzees. Alongside her sits a talk with environmentalist Bunker Roy, the founder of Barefoot College in India, a school for illiterate women where even grandmothers can become solar engineers (true story, many times over). Then there’s Ideas Man, author and blogger Seth Godin; Bart Houlahan of B Lab; and Farah Mohamed, the founder of G(irls)20 and a proponent of female empowerment. All these people doing these extraordinary things, inspirational is an understatement. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the interviews because I want to encourage all of you to read these stories. I guarantee they’ll be more than worth your time.

Just because you can’t read and write doesn’t mean you can’t become an engineer … Traditional knowledge and skills need to be respected, identified and applied on a large scale. You can’t have an urban solution to a rural problem … Rural solutions have to be grounded in the community; they have to depend on and get its endorsement.” Bunker Roy.

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Brain food and the perfect lunchtime company. Photo taken at Wise Cicada in Newmarket, Auckland.

“Business isn’t any longer a tool for human beings. It’s becoming its own species. I think that what human beings have to do is say, ‘Wait a second! Business exists to serve us, not the other way around!’ The goal of government shouldn’t be “how can we enable business,” the goal of government should be “how can business enable people to accomplish what they need to accomplish?” Sometimes we get stuck on the distinction between the two. Just because somebody has a big company with a lot of employees and a lot of money, we cede authority to that institution when in fact, that institution exists to serve us.” Seth Godin.

This is the kind of intelligent reading to feed your brain and at the very least encourage a sense of optimism about the future of our planet. These are the people inspiring real change in their communities; they’re types you’d see in a TED talk (some of them you already have), but instead of a watching a public speech online you’re witness to an intimate conversation come alive through text. Unrehearsed and uncontrived, you can really hear their voices in the way it’s written. Genius and a breath of fresh air, I only wish I’d discovered it sooner.

“You must think with your heart and feel with your head. There is a place for both.” Bunker Roy.

One of my favourite quotes of all time is this: “Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters”. Dumbo Feather does just that. Intelligent, curious, and stimulating, this is the stuff that matters and it’s a conversation worth listening to. Dumbo Feather is a magazine to inspire a generation so pay attention. Believe me, its voice will resonate with you long after the pages have been turned, leaving you wondering what can I do to change the world?

“I think change is so individual. You can be a part of it no matter what. I started off doing volunteer work. People should figure out what they are passionate about. They’ll find some way to make a difference. You can be on a board, it means you can be a volunteer, it can mean just about anything. We’re not limited by access anymore. Technology has made the world a smaller place. So you could be passionate about gorillas in Uganda and do something about it.” Farah Mohamed.

Happy reading… and don’t forget to pass it on.

“It made sense for us that business could indeed be a force for good and that this was an opportunity for us to serve a bigger role — to create a platform for those entrepreneurs and investors who wanted to use capitalism for change.” Bart Houlahan.

P.S. Join the conversation and connect with Dumbo Feather on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Note: When a copy arrived for me in the mail from Melbourne I was quite confused as to how it got there. Upon opening the package and reading the description ‘Conversations with extraordinary people’ I was immediately intrigued, and from the first page I knew I had stumbled upon something brilliant. Easily the best and most thoughtful gift I’d received in a long time, it was a surprise from an “extraordinary” person in my own life. Thank you Ash for being my rock. You know me too well.

“Most people who have a priviledged background — I’m not talking about people that are making three dollars a day — go to their middle-class job, they work all day to make enough money so they can go home and watch TV for four, or five, or six hours a night. That’s just the numbers. That’s ridiculous. We need to turn off the television, move to a smaller house if necessary, buy a used smaller car and take the money to buy free time to raise our kids.” Seth Godin.

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