This post is part of the Creative Rock Stars series.
It is also part of Blog Action Day, which this year is about Poverty.
Charity is one of the nicer rock-and-roll cliches. These days, it’s easy to be cynical about celebrities who talk about their charity work, but none of the aging rock ‘n’ rollers who were around at the time will forget the impact of the original 1985 Live Aid concert. For the first time, it seemed as though rock music really could change the world. One of the truly staggering things about Live Aid is that this global spectacular, uniting millions of people across the world, was achieved before the birth of the Internet.
Bob Geldof is the archetypal rock star turned creative and social entrepreneur. Having achieved fame and fortune himself, he saw the opportunity to make a difference in the larger world, and coordinated a massive effort to make the project happen. And Live Aid was far from a one-off. Earlier this year, Geldof was far and away the most memorable speaker I saw at NESTA’s Innovation Edge conference. Over two decades after Live Aid, he paced the stage full of passion, energy, anger and humour, still pushing for change on a massive scale.
Another inspiring example of social entrepreneurship is Steve Mariotti, a successful entrepreneur whose life was turned upside down in 1981, when he was mugged by three teenagers in New York’s Lower East Side.
“The mugging caught me emotionally off guard,” remembers Mariotti. “In the months that followed I suffered painful flashbacks. And, being an entrepreneur, I thought, ‘Why would these kids rob me for a few dollars when they could make much more money running a business together?'”
Answering that question led him to form The National Foundation For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE, pronounced “nifty”), teaching entrepreneurship to young people from low income backgrounds and helping them to find their own pathway to prosperity. In a presentation titled Solving the Problem of Poverty, Mariotti makes an original and compelling argument for unlocking the potential of children born into poverty:
I know a secret which, if fully understood by our government, business, and community leaders, could have enormous positive implications for the future of our society. Simply put, the secret is this: Children born into poverty have special gifts that prepare them for business formation and wealth creation. They are mentally strong, resilient, and full of chutzpah. They are skeptical of hierarchies and the status quo. They are long-suffering in the face of adversity. They are comfortable with risk and uncertainty. They know how to deal with stress and conflict. These are the attitudes and abilities that make them ideally suited for breaking out of the cycle of dependency that so often comes with poverty and for getting ahead in the marketplace. In short, poor kids are “street smart,” or what we at the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) call “business smart.” Precisely because of their poverty-that is, because of their experience surviving in a challenging world-they are able to perceive and pursue fleeting opportunities that others, more content with their lot in life, tend to miss.
For me, Mariotti’s work is special because it is based on empowerment rather than handouts, giving people the tools to unlock their talent and take control of their lives.
Both Mariotti and Geldof embody an idealism that can be found in many entrepreneurs and stars. This involves a recognition that fame, fortune and freedom are privileges that carry responsibilities, and a deep desire to change the world for the better.
As bloggers we have a fantastic array of communication tools at our disposal, and one of the most inspiring things about the blogging community is the proliferation of projects combining creativity and social action. Only this week, the following projects appeared in my inbox/feed reader:
And let’s not forget Blog Action Day itself, now in its second year running, involving thousands of bloggers worldwide to raise awareness and initiate action on poverty. This page will give you some suggestions for things you can do to help out.
Everyone involved in these projects is a rock star in my book.