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Top 50 Innovative Event Pros 2013: Michael Trainer

Global Poverty Project's U.S. country director helped create a unique system for consumers to earn tickets to the organization's music festival.

By Anna Sekula June 12, 2013, 7:00 AM EDT

Michael Trainer, U.S. country director, Global Poverty Project

Photo: Carolyn Curtis/BizBash

The attendees of last year’s Global Citizen Festival didn’t pay to see artists like the Black Keys, Neil Young, and the Foo Fighters perform. Rather, those that made it to New York’s Central Park last September earned tickets via an online app created by the host, Global Poverty Project. “In part, it was, as with a lot of different disruptive innovation, really born out of the constraints,” says Michael Trainer, 36, who spearheaded the initiative along with Hugh Evans, Ryan Gall, and a small team. The restrictions meant that 54,000 tickets to the show in the public space had to be free and distributed through a lottery system. So the internal team produced a platform where consumers could earn points and enter the lottery.

By navigating the mobile and Web-based app—watching a video, sharing links to content via Twitter and Facebook, or signing a petition—eager concertgoers effectively became campaigners for the organization’s mission to rid the world of poverty. “It was really about trying to get their buy-in and asking for their action, rather than their money. We want to build a movement of active citizens,” Trainer says.

The effort also attracted the performers. “They knew it wasn’t your traditional benefit concert, and those that were going to be there had already demonstrated their commitment.”

The event secured more than $1.3 billion in pledged donations, and Global Poverty Project is working to expand the platform to build a bigger community. That includes adjusting the point values so that more involved tasks earn more points. “I think in truth we’re just getting started,” Trainer says. “It was definitely an amazing experience and we’re working to make it bigger and better.”

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