Live Earth: Outreach Opportunity Missed?

Embedded in Jewish sacred texts is the notion that it is humankind’s responsibility—not Gd’s—to fix what is wrong in the world. Acts of Tikkun Olam (“repairing the world”) can range from something as simple and effortless as recycling your plastic bottles and newspaper to organizing a benefit concert to raise both funds and awareness of the growing climate crisis of global warming. But wait, such an event already exists! This Saturday, New York City is participating in a seven continent, 24-hour concert series called Live Earth, founded by Kevin Wall (who also founded the Live 8 concert) together with Al Gore and the Alliance for Climate Protection as well as several additional “green” supporters. Artists and bands such as Kanye West, Dave Matthews Band, Kelly Clarkson, The Police, and Bon Jovi will take the stage while volunteers educate the audience and participate in green-friendly activities, such as recycling and composting.

The ideas of social justice and repairing the world resonate with many in the younger generations, Jewish or not. However, there is one looming problem with this particular opportunity to do a good deed (and jam to your favorite bands); disappointingly, this day of Tikkun Olam and great music comes at the hefty price of $83. Unfortunately, this exorbitant price creates a barrier between those who would like to participate but can not afford to. (Compare it to the Live 8 concert, which was free and had massive attendance.) If the goal is to make more young people aware of the opportunities to “do good” for our environment, the high price tag—even if all the proceeds are charitable donations—works against that advocacy.

There is an outreach lesson here for the organized Jewish community as well, which also tries to reach younger people through social justice programs. “Barriers to participation,” including high cost for events, can keep your target population from participating and becoming involved. Instead, JOI recommends that event planners keep the price of an outreach or advocacy event at a minimum or even better yet—free! Fundraisers and awareness-raising events often don’t mix because the people who are willing to support a cause financially already have their awareness raised on that issue. The Live Earth event seems not to know which it wants to be.

A good way of pricing an event would be to ask, “Is this a similar cost to what the target population would usually spend on this kind of program?” If the answer is no because your event is more expensive, then you may be producing a costly barrier to achieving engagement. Rather, keep outreach events low-cost, eliminating one more reason for the unengaged not to partake.

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