Creative Rock Stars Give Something Back

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:

The Age of Conversation Volume 2 organised by Gavin Heaton and Drew McLellan in aid of the children’s charity Variety.

Train for Humanity – Leo Babauta, Dan Clements and Mark Hayward get fit and get sponsored to help Darfur Peace and Development Organisation.

Tim Ferriss encouraged his readers to click on a webpage in aid of Donorschoose and mobilize others in their networks to do the same.

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.

About the Author: Mark McGuinness is a poet, creative coach and co-founder of Lateral Action. Subscribe today to get free updates by email or RSS.

Table of Contents for Creative Rock Stars

  1. Creative Entrepreneurs Are the Rock Stars of the 21st Century

How to get creative work done in an "always on" world

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Responses to this Post


  1. I’m so glad I caught this post today – Blog Action Day has slipped my mind and your post reminded me of what I feel about eradicating poverty. I remember the first LiveAid – I watched on TV, at the time I was working at War On Want Charity – a job which I’d stumbled into as an accounts temp days before the Ethiopia crisis hit the worlds news screens.

    Working there during this time was an eye-opener for me and the foundation of my understanding of how important it is to accept and work with the fact that people – even those within our own societies – experience life in very different ways and therefore solutions for some people’s needs will most likely not be the same as those that would suit us.

    That’s something that was made clear to me again more recently while I was teaching Art at my alma matar in St. Lucia – the teacher I’d get a ride to work with and I would have intense talks about how difficult it was to communicate with a lot of the youth – they are using a whole different language and method of communication and just don’t get a lot of what we’d say because their experiences of life don’t match ours at all.

    I think we lose a lot of our potential as a world through ignoring the different realities we all live in and not being able to step back and see another’s world as best we can from their view. It’s not easy, but much could be improved for all of us with initiatives like Mariotti and Geldorf.

    In our own small ways today, I hope we help too.

  2. how important it is to accept and work with the fact that people – even those within our own societies – experience life in very different ways and therefore solutions for some people’s needs will most likely not be the same as those that would suit us.

    So true.

  3. Mark,

    Great series and a beautiful way to weave in Blog Action Day. We live in a remarkable time, when sharing knowledge and resources has never been easier.

    So now the trick is — uniting for the greater good. I think we are seeing examples of that popping up all around us.

    It’s good for our souls and good for our world.



  4. When artists that you admire enjoy YOUR work, or want to collaborate with you, well, that’s what it’s all about! When a quality writer get’s pleasure from my work I’m in heaven. I’ve joined the dialogue!

  5. Thanks guys. Drew — Age of Conversation is doing a lot of the popping, really looking forward to the launch.