Wednesday 9 October 2013

Knowledge Management and Live Aid - how Sir Bob learned from George Harrison

Live-Aid-25 This is not to claim that Live Aid had any big knowledge management program that I am aware of, merely to point out one piece of knowledge sharing which resulted in millions more going to the poor and needy in Ethiopia.

The first of the modern stadium mega-star charity concerts was the Concert for Bangladesh, held in Madison Square Gardens in 1971. The concert was the brainchild of George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, in response to the humanitarian crisis in Bangaldesh, and boasted performances by Shankar, Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Bob Dylan, and many others.

This concert (and the follow up record and film) was a pioneering concept in fund raising, and Harrison was pretty much making it up as he went along, The concert was a huge success, vast sums of money were raised for Bangladesh (as well as elevating the plight of the emergent nation in the Western media), but it was not without its headaches, particularly when it came to ensuring the money went where it was needed. For example, Harrison became embroiled in a row with the IRS, who held onto sums worth between $8m and $11m for many years, until long after the refugee crisis was over. Because no charity had been chosen before the concert to receive the money, the IRS argued that the concert itself (and the CD and film sales) were not tax-exempt.

So when Live Aid was conceived in 1985, as support for the Ethiopian Famine, one of the first things Bob Geldof did was call George Harrison for a spot of Knowledge Transfer, or Peer Assistance.

As reported by the BBC after Harrison's death, Geldof said Harrison had given him advice when he was organising the Live Aid concert, adding: "I remember him with a profound sense of gratitude."

The key lesson from the Concert for Balgladesh, which has been applied to all such ventures since, was to endure tax exempt charity status right from the start; a lesson which has resulted in massive savings for the charity sector.

GQ magazine

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