I had the serendipitous good fortune of being able to attend the U2 concert in Oakland yesterday after a good friend had an extra ticket. As only of the greatest bands can do, U2 made a lasting impression on upwards of 60,000 fans.

I Am One
ONE campaign wrist band from Oakland U2 show, June 2011

Bono and U2 offer a unique view of how social innovation can work. We have heard of celebrities championing causes, but attend a U2 concert and you may find the theme of social awareness is weaved in to nearly every aspect of performance.

The entire concert experience becomes a call to reflect, motivation to act, and a reason to believe.

In fact, even before the concert began, while enthusiastic ticket-holding fans were waiting in line, volunteers for the advocacy group ONE—co-founded by Bono—were on the scene. With iPads blazing.

With a few quick strokes and multitasking ease, they explained the “I Am One” campaign, added names to their petition, and handed out simple but dramatic wristbands. Bono even recognized the volunteers, the cause, and a few of ONE’s achievements during the concert.

So, what is the ONE campaign? Here are a few facts to put it in perspective:

  • ONE is an advocate. The ONE campaign is a grassroots advocacy movement fighting extreme poverty, preventable disease, and pressuring political leaders on policy ranging from supporting democracy to providing education for children.
  • ONE is a global citizen, with a special interest in Africa. With efforts spanning the world, ONE been key in securing over $100 billion in debt relief for nations struggling with extreme poverty, which has enabled countries in Africa to fund education to put 42 million more children in school. The ONE Campaign also recently supported $450 million in debt relief for Haiti after the earthquake.
  • ONE has rockstar lineage. What is now the ONE campaign is actually an amalgam of an anti-poverty advocacy group founded by Bono in 2002 and a separate grassroots anti-poverty movement launched in 2004. The two groups joined forces under the umbrella of ONE in 2008. The Board of Directors includes Bono, Bobby Shriver (of the Shriver family),  Howard and Susie Buffett (son & daughter of master investor Warren), as well as rockstars from academia, government, the non-proft sector, and business.
  • ONE is not asking for your donation. As an organization primarily focused on advocacy, ONE is not a fundraising effort. They work with world leaders to change and develop policy and practice. (note: apparently you can buy some ONE swag. ONE is also allied with (RED) the business venture designed to raise money to combat AIDS in Africa)
  • ONE wants to make its collective voice louder. ONE wants your signature, as your endorsement for its work. It wants to rachet up its member base so it can leverage its worldwide base of support in negotiating change with law makers and political leaders.
  • ONE is living proof. A big part of being a problem solver is being an active listener. The ONE campaign has a site dedicated telling the stories of issues it is addressing around the world. Real lives, and ONE living proof.
Interested in ONE? You can find more information and sign up on the ONE campaign website.