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Notes from the Field: Global Citizen Festival Broadcasts Poverty Awareness to a New Generation

October 3, 2012

Autumn Walden, Program Manager

On Saturday, September 29, 2012, over 60,000 Global Citizens assembled on the Great Lawn in New York City for what was labeled the “largest, syndicated charity concert in online and broadcast TV history”—The Global Citizen Festival. Our Center first learned of the festival when a team member, Jen Landres, circulated a New York Times article featuring Hugh Evans, co-founder of the Global Poverty Project.

What was notable about this particular charity concert, was that its goal was not to raise money but instead to spur activism both BEFORE AND AFTER the festival by creating a movement for the next generation. People were encouraged to become “Global Citizens” in order to win free tickets to the event. Becoming a Global Citizen meant signing up on to learn about and share information about extreme poverty—for example, reading a blog about child mortality rates, or watching a video about food security in East Africa and then sharing to facebook or tweeting to your friends and followers.

Hugh Evans, Global Poverty Project, and Jeffrey Sachs, Economist

And the action doesn’t stop. Even after winning tickets to the concert, Global Citizens are asked to continue learning, sharing, and speaking out. One proposed action is to tweet, using the hashtag #globalcitizen, to petition lawmakers and other people in power to explain their plans to reduce poverty.

Celebs at the festival also urged concertgoers to Tweet at President Obama and Mitt Romney, asking them to explain their plan to end extreme poverty worldwide.- ABC News

Photo source:

The day was filled with multimillion dollar fundraising commitments from partner organizations such as World Vision USA, Half the Sky Foundation, Malaria No More, US Fund for UNICEF, and the World Food Programme. Global Citizen Movement Awards were presented to Wifrid Macena for Community & Leadership, Edna Adan for Dedication to Service, Urmi Basu for Commitment to Justice & Systemic Change, and Dr Peter Salk, on behalf of his father Jonas Salk, for Technology & Innovation.

Global Citizen Award Winner: Edna Adan for Dedication to Service

However, it seemed that the crowd was really there for the music. In between announcements to fight for The End of Polio and to Believe in Zero child deaths, audience members could be heard shouting for The Black Keys, the Foo Fighters, and the headliner for the evening, Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Other performers included a surprise appearance from Penn alum, John Legend, as well as opening acts from Band of Horses and K’NAAN.

John Legend, Penn alum, performing John Lennon’s “Imagine”

A special moment during the evening occurred when Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Promise, posed a very simple, yet poignant question:

How can we be inspired about ending poverty the way we are inspired about music?

It’s a question with no definite answer but with endless possibilities. Special thanks to our friends at Geneva Global and Capital for Good for providing the opportunity to participate in this historic event. A photo gallery can be found below.

Photo Gallery from the The Global Citizen Festival

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