by Randi Berkovsky
According to research from Do Something.org, more than 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day. This is more than the maximum capacity of 19,452 New England Patriots football stadiums.
On September 26, Global Citizen hosted its 2015 festival in New York City. The purpose: to end this global poverty and incite change around the world while celebrating the United Nations’ new 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. There were more than 60,000 people in attendance to see a variety of artists and celebrities including Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Pearl Jam, Malala Yousafzai, Bill and Melinda Gates and Stephen Colbert.
But, what does this mean for poverty?
On Sept. 24, The Nation published an article titled, ‘You Can’t Fight Poverty With a Concert,’ which was directly scrutinizing this movement with a claim that it had no lasting effects for the cause.
I completely disagree.
This festival brings two key takeaways to the forefront about trends in the social impact space and highlights just how critical an event like this can be for social activism and giving.
You can fight poverty with a concert. Maybe not today, but we can change the world in the span of the 15-year goal.
- Millennials are not the biggest donor pool, but they will be.
Millennials are often criticized for being the largest generation in history but not the biggest generation of social donors. The truth is – it doesn’t matter. Millennials are now finding ways to be the strongest voices for social change. And these voices will soon turn into dollars as millennials move out of high school and post-graduate times where spending budgets are few and far between.
Concerts like the Global Citizen Festival encourage millennials to use their voices, the only thing they really have to give at this point in their life. This voice leads to awareness in others and creates a stir in leaders. A great example is Malala Yousafzai. She is only 18 years old and the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her voice has activated millions for the global right to education and has raised funds for a number of programs all by first using her voice and her amazing story of survival.
Social good concerts trigger deep emotions and create communities of people who can break through the most concrete political agendas. I guarantee that in a couple years, young people will still remember how the concert made them feel and what the organization and celebrities represented. Those feelings will convert to dollars, and the dollars fight poverty.
- People love big events and celebrities, and that is OK.
Just because someone went to the Global Citizen Festival to see Beyoncé, does not make them any less of a global citizen. This is because the message and getting 60,000 attendees to convert on the message is what is most important. I know several people who entered the Global Citizen drawing to win free tickets to the concert. This did not come without something in return. Hopeful attendees signed petitions, tweeted at global officials and donated to the cause. Why would people put in all this effort if they didn’t really care about the cause at all? No one is going to put their name on something they could care less about. In 2014, Global Citizen followers, in support of organization partners, achieved commitments to affect 341.5 million of the world’s poor by 2020. When looking at a number like that, it doesn’t matter why someone went to the concert, it matters what they left with.
The article’s author poses with the Global Citizen stage in the background.
People love celebrities, and they love flashy events. As the market becomes more and more crowded with organizations vying for advocates and dollars, it is important to remember that if you have a strong organization and a strong message, then the only hurdle is getting people to show up. Concerts do more than just fulfill a personal dream of seeing Beyoncé shake it live – they get people in the door and expose them to the message they needed to hear. This message sparks emotion, leading to curiosity and ultimately, igniting activism, advocacy or giving.
These all help fight poverty