In May, Northwestern University’s Theater Department hosted a unique performance entitled How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes (with 199 people you may or may not know). The show was an experiment in dialogue, in collective decision-making, in shared responsibility and in the potential for how art could make our world a better place.
The audience’s involvement was integral to the trajectory of the performance, since they were to decide how to give away $1000 from that night’s box office to fight poverty most effectively in the Chicagoland area. In an effort to ensure that a multitude of voices were present in the audience, Northwestern invited organizations with a particular stake in the conversation to attend. Family Matters’ Teen Programs attended the show, and were the youngest contributing members of the audience. They were deeply engaged in the process.
Using debate, audience members – including FM teens – attempted to convince and cajole other audience members to vote in one of five categories: Daily Needs: Direct services that provide basic needs like food and shelter; System Change: Lobbying for legislation, advocating policy change, and taking action for social transformation; Education: Promoting access and building resources toward better institutions and systems of learning; Making Opportunities: Long-term approaches to economic and occupational stability through training, micro-loans, and personal development; or Individual Need: Through a local organization called Benevolent.net, individuals are able to support a specific person or family and their self-reported immediate need.
After participating in this innovative performance and lively debate, the audience decided the most effective method to end poverty was through the creation of opportunities. Youth in the audience were joyfully surprised when the show’s facilitators revealed that Family Matters would be awarded $1000 because of the work that we do! Thank you, Northwestern University Theater Department, for offering such a unique approach to discuss solutions on a critically important and complex topic. We are very grateful we participated and very appreciative of the monetary gift that supports our work in the north of Howard community!