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Poverty Pitch: Exploring The Intersection Of American Business & Poverty Action

By Tara Graham
Dec 23
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Picture 25

Poverty Pitch is a website produced by U.C. Berkeley undergraduate student Dominique Martinez in my online research and web production course during the 2012 fall semester.


Should I support Fair Trade coffee or buy a drink that sends a kid to school? #FirstWorldProblems

A few years ago, the whole world was called to “Make Poverty History.” Suddenly, social development and poverty alleviation were no longer responsibilities only of the government—but of everyone. Fast forward to today, and saving the world is now portrayed to be as easy as choosing to buy a product with a special sticker or sharing a commercial featuring kids from a developing country.

But, can money really make the world go round? America’s big businesses have positioned themselves as the main channel between American consumers and the global poor. What messages about global poverty are these businesses sending when they quickly profile the world’s farmers in Fair Trade ads or push pictures of storm-trampled houses re-built by corporate sponsors?

This project investigates how American businesses advertise the ways they “do good” in order to answer the question: Who actually benefits from American business solutions to alleviate global poverty?

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The Narrative #Selfie


Lose the shirt off my back? Nah.

When life got dicey, I opened my closet doors, bypassed the blouses, and earned a (modest) payday by selling used hangers in 25-pack bundles.

More recently, I put my hustle into play at 500 Startups, the world’s most active venture capital fund and startup accelerator, where I led content, branding, marketing, operations, and corporate partnerships for business development and global programs.

Before transitioning into tech, I worked in higher education, teaching online research and media production classes across a variety of disciplines at the University of California, Berkeley. During that time, I also worked as the Director and Executive Producer of Digital Media Projects at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, where I co-founded and led The #GlobalPOV Project, a mixed-media approach to thinking about poverty, inequality, and undertaking poverty action.

In addition, I was the Director of Media at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, where I had the opportunity to interview Bashar al-Assad in his presidential palace in Damascus, Syria, in late December of 2010. I asked Assad if he considered himself a dictator. He dodged the inquiry, but his actions in the immediate weeks, months, and years to follow answered the question . . . and then some. Sadly.

Before that, I was a practicing journalist and graduate fellow at the University of Southern California. During that time, I worked as a web reporter and photographer for KCET’s “SoCal Connected,”​ as an online editor for the London-based New Statesman magazine, and as the co-editor-in-chief of USC Annenberg’s award-winning digital news website. I got my start in journalism as a full-time associate editor (and employee #20!) at P✪PSUGAR, a Sequoia-backed content and commerce startup turned global media empire.

My freelance reporting has been featured in NBC, CBS, and ABC news broadcasts and in online publications, including The Huffington Post. I have also done manuscript editing for various authors with recognized commercial and university presses.

You can find me tap dancing in the dark corners of my imagination to a sold-out audience of — none. Like most everything else, it’s all for fun.

Let’s connect! Join me on Twitter or Instagram or LinkedIn.


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