JR (aka John Robson) is one of four Directors of the New Zealand software company Provoke Solutions, the Chairman of the Child Cancer Foundation Inc., a member of the CanTeen Board, and an avid supporter of a number of charities that support children’s health in New Zealand and overseas. You may also know John as @MrReasonable on Twitter and he moonlights as a cartoonist for FishHead Magazine, where he publishes a monthly cartoon titled Mr Reasonable, which is based on his one-sided conversations with his daughters. As a start-up charity working to inspire generosity and simplify regular giving we rely on many wise heads to guide us. Our board and our Future 50 have a wealth of experience for us to draw on and we are so grateful for the support. JR is one of our Future 50 and it is deeply encouraging for us to have him as part of the Collective.
What’s happening in the world of JR for 2014?
Well, this is a significant year for me as it is my last year as the Chair of the Child Cancer Foundation, and I’m spending a lot of my energy in making sure that when I step down, the organisation is in excellent shape and that I’ve delivered on all of my commitments to the Board. It has been an incredible 4 years since I took on the role as Chair, and the organisation has given me so much over the last 10 years. I formally step down in November (at the AGM) but remain on the Board as a non-voting advisor for a year to provide support to the incoming Chair. I also step down from my role on the Board of CanTeen at the same time, which is an invited position and which is in place to ensure that the two organisations are well aligned in terms of the very different services that they offer children and young people on their journey with cancer. So, 2014 will close a chapter on my life that has allowed me to meet and work with so many amazing families, and 2015 will see me with spare time and energy to devote to other endeavours.
Describe the most generous person you know. How have they influenced you?
I know a veritable army of generous people, and they have one thing in common –they are all volunteers. I have been fortunate to work alongside some incredibly brave and talented people both in New Zealand and overseas, and the energy and commitment that they demonstrate to such a wide variety of causes is stunning. I’ve been very lucky in my life and I’m very thankful for my family, and the safety and stability that New Zealand provides us. I regularly read reports about the harsh realities of accessing basic health care in the developing world, or of dealing with major disasters such as Typhoon Yolanda (that hit the Philippines last year) and which was recently followed by Typhoon Glenda. I see people with nothing giving so much to others, and it is these people, that have so little, and yet they give the most, that lead me to keep motivated as a volunteer. Our most precious commodity is time, and it is the setting aside of chunks of time to help others that can really make the difference. I would encourage everyone to get involved in the NGO sector; the world is shaped by those that turn up and do, not those that talk and posture.
Can you name an everyday action that makes the world a better place, yet is underrated?
Walking in someone else's shoes has to be the number one. Unless you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, it is very hard to understand what it is like to be them. There are many versions of this saying, but the basic view is that it is so important to get the relative perspective of others in order to fully understand the issue at hand. If more people just stopped and considered the view of others, and not from a perspective of who is right and who is wrong, they’d see that view points are relative, and both people are usually right. So next time you have a disagreement, just stop and think that you might both be right, but are just looking at the same picture from different perspectives.
Can you tell us three things that inspire you and why?
My family is number one. My two daughters (13 and 11) look at the world very differently to me. I want them to grow up in a safe and caring community, and with an appreciation of the incredible value of human life. We’re only here for a short time, so make it count and don’t waste energy on the small stuff. They regularly remind me that life is too short to sweat the small stuff, especially if it involves clearing a bedroom.
My business partners. I work for an amazing company and whilst the four directors are very different people, we all share a common goal of providing a great working culture for our staff and in making a difference. Our culture is our greatest asset, and our staff regularly get behind our various charitable endeavours; whether it be the annual Child Cancer Street Appeal, the CanTeen Bandana Challenge, the CureKids Great Adventure Race, or running a fundraiser for any other charity, it is magical when we see a group of our staff get together in their own time to help others.
New Zealand. This country epitomises a giving culture. So many people give their time and money to support others, and they don’t think twice. I’ve been involved in various annual street appeals for over 10 years and come rain or shine, New Zealanders just give. The Kiwi way is to help others overcome adversity, and it is a part of what makes this country special. I moved here 12 ½ years ago and I’m proud to be a Kiwi, and to do my part for this amazing little part of the planet. We have so much, and we give so much. What a great place to live.