Dave Trott: Purpose beyond profit

A J Lovewins was living on the streets of Seattle for five years.

He managed to get off the streets by helping run a soup kitchen.

For people, like himself, who just needed a break.

He also ran a programme for musicians who were trying to get a break.

Then he noticed something: the musicians couldn’t get any exposure, the homeless people couldn’t get any work.

Both groups were stuck.

The homeless had nothing coming in, the musicians had nothing going out.

Something clicked in his brain.

What if you put the two groups together?

He persuaded a local recording studio to record a track from each of the musicians, for free.

He now had a compilation CD of Seattle-based artists.

Then he started recruiting the homeless.

They could have three CDs free, which they would sell for $10 each.

They would keep all that money.

Then they could buy more CDs at $2 each, sell them at $10 and keep all that profit.

Homeless people began doing it.

What did they have to lose, the first three CDs were free?

When they saw how easily they made $30, they bought fifteen more CDs with that money.

Which they then sold for $150.

They were in business.

More importantly, they were off the streets.

People around Seattle happily bought the CDs to help local musicians.

But in fact, they were helping two groups of people at once: the musicians and the homeless.

That first CD made around $50,000 profit for homeless people.

He made a second CD, this one was distributed by the homeless in three cities: Seattle, San Francisco, and St Louis.

This time the CD made $100,000 profit for homeless people.

The project is called Harmonic Humanity, and he wants to raise money to help fund it in five cities, including Los Angeles.

What makes it different to any other charity is every dollar donated pays for a record to be made.

That record sells to the homeless for $2, the homeless sell that record for $10.

So every dollar donated generates $8 directly to homeless people.

They get the money they need for food, clothing, and shelter.

Meanwhile the musicians get the exposure they need.

When the programme expands to LA, the media capital, who knows who will hear their music?

Directors, producers, promoters, ad agencies.

That’s how it works: homeless people get a break, musicians get a break.

Two minuses make a plus.

That’s what I love: things start to happen when people get off their arses.

For sure, nothing happens when they don’t. 

But when you set the game up right, everybody wins.

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