Hugh Evans, CEO of the Global Poverty Project, on the 2014 Citizen Festival in NYC

by Rahim Kanani | rahimkanani | Rahim Kanani Media Group, Inc
Friday, 26 September 2014 20:22 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In an interview with Hugh Evans, CEO of the Global Poverty Project, we discussed the Global Citizen Festival being held this year on Saturday, September 27th in New York City’s Central Park. We discussed the founding and evolution of the festival, how the event is flipping the traditional model of a benefit concert on its end, and much more.

Global Poverty Project is an international education and advocacy organization working towards the end of extreme poverty by 2030. 

Tell me a little bit about the founding of the Global Citizen Festival. How did it come about, and how has it evolved over the years?

When I first arrived in New York in 2010, having run a Make Poverty History concert back in Australia, I met Ryan Gall from Riot House, who had a vision of holding a concert in support of ending extreme poverty. Our US Country Director, Michael Trainer, wanted to put extreme poverty on the map, and working together with our team, we had this vision of putting on a massive concert during the UN Leaders Week that is held each September in New York.

We reached out leaders in the creative industries - Michele Anthony, Mark Shulman, Kelly Curtis, Jane Rosenthal - and they got on board to help bring this idea to life. It was a huge challenge: raising the money, building partnerships with other non-profits, securing the support of the City, and booking the artists who could pull of something as iconic as performing on the Great Lawn of Central Park. But we did it, and the response was overwhelming.

Every year we’ve worked to make it sharper. Our first year served as a platform for our non-profit partners to make new and bold fundraising commitments across all eight Millennium Development Goals. Last year we built on that idea and added commitments from world leaders to four specific issue areas - health, education, women and girls and global partnerships. This year, we’re focusing on vaccines, education, and sanitation. As these areas can help make a tremendous impact for the world’s poor.

How did you decide not to simply give away tickets, but to rather have the audience 'earn' their way in? 

We wanted to turn the traditional model of a benefit concert on its head. By asking fans to earn their way in we are able to drive action for months before the Festival, rather than just on the night if you were to buy a ticket. This model helps us build a movement of concerned citizens who support the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, which lasts throughout the year.

What have been some of the challenges to putting on an event like this, and how have you overcome them?

Organizing a Festival in Central Park is a massive undertaking. You have to book the artists, build the stage, design and activate campaigns. The only reason we’ve been able to pull it off every year is due to our incredible partners, sponsors, and the entire Global Citizen team who work day in and day out to make this Festival happen.

Why do you think the festival has been so successful? 

I think we’ve re-discovered how music can truly help unite our generation. Everyone loves music. And when we started this, the idea was to make the barrier to join the movement something everyone could do. After all,  I believe we all can agree that no child should live without basic necessities like access to education, life-saving vaccines, and clean water and sanitation.  

This year, what can we expect?

You can expect major commitments for the world’s poor, a host of world leaders and celebrities, and incredible performances from this year’s artists.

Finally, for those interested in attending, watching or getting engaged some other way, how can they get involved?

You can visit globalcitizenfestival.com, join the movement and start taking actions. If you can’t join us in Central Park this year,  tune in to MSNBC at 3PM, or NBC at 9PM on Saturday, or live-stream the Festival at msnbc.com

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