Press Room

Nationally published feature story from Streets’ founder & President:

Rene Boisvert, Taking it to the Streets

In Lyndon B. Johnson’s State of the Union address in 1964, he declared a War on Poverty. Johnson stated – ”Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and above all, to prevent it.”

Since LBJ’s speech over a half century ago, the poverty rates in the United States has increased five-fold, over 500%. Not only was his well-intended ”war on poverty” effort unsuccessful, but it has gotten significantly worse!

Poverty must be recognized as one of the most defining challenge of our times. Everyone should have life’s essentials – food, shelter, and basic medical needs.

Only then can an individual have the foundation for becoming a healthy, productive person.

Simply stated, the processes, efforts, and programs undertaken since LBJ’s time have at best been a band aid to the efforts to eradicate poverty. With the challenge so enormous, conventional wisdom and processes (the ”old normal” ) can no longer be considered. A ”new normal” must be created and implemented immediately.

What is that ”new normal”?

To disrupt poverty, you have to make waves. The status quo has never been the solution to any significant problem. The time has come (long overdue) to rethink philanthropic efforts.

Leverage is the mantra of the times in philanthropy today. Scaling philanthropic efforts is key to being able to make a significant impact. Otherwise, though well intended, much philanthropic efforts are just a ”band aids” rather than being ”solution based” to address and solve the problems and issues for the long haul.

And to achieve scaling requires resources, significant resources. None of this is really new thinking. But the undertaking is so difficult to put one’s arms around and daunting to consider, solutions remains only on the drawing board.

Government efforts and input have done little. Small mom and pop non-profit efforts do their best to take care of today, but do not provide solutions for tomorrow and beyond. And there is so much redundancy and fragmented efforts in the mom and pop sector, the bottom line ultimately prevents significant resources and effect getting to those in need.

Creating bang for the buck is essential.

So where then can we find the ”new normal” ? How can we achieve bang for the buck?

I would propose the future, nascent business model should look like – to achieve that scale, that leverage, that impact – a greatest hits package that incorporates the resumes of:

Amazon – for its ability to scale, efficiencies, and dominance.

Gates Foundation – for embracing new and unique concepts, and executing existing concepts in a much more intelligent and effective way.

FDR’s New Deal – for its outside the box approach, bravado, aggressiveness, and speed to perform.

The combination of those three resumes would make for an unseen powerful machine to achieve the needed scale and leverage to take on poverty and deliver the capacity to provide poverty solutions.

The key component in that proposed business model?

The corporate business sector. The strategic alignment between business and the non-profit world. Not in the traditional business gift donations which is the norm. (Not to be ignored, but not the main focus going forward.) But in aligning social impact with business growth. Business growth through purpose.

In the United States, for example, private sector spending is 20 times larger than non-profit sector spending (Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2020). With such outsize output and influence comes responsibility. But also the opportunity for the business community to be a social investor for good. All the while increasing their bottom line and their brand.

Government and philanthropic capital alone will not suffice to address societal challenges. Alignment with the skills, long term thinking, and resources of the business sector for achieving social impact by using market based strategies is really the nascent opportunity for success.

Businesses invest all the time in creating new revenue sources. Whereas it is expected that charities not do so and immediately spend their donations on the needy. (Which has not been a successful strategy.)

Anchoring philanthropic efforts with business logic. So to achieve the needed essential leveraging. Again, bang for the buck.

The marriage of philanthropy and business for:


President & Pizza

Last election cycle the New York Times Magazine featured a cover story titled – ”Is Selling a President any Different from Selling a Pizza?

It was about how precision targeting of persuadable voters in an election could put a candidate over the top. (In that scenario – Barack Obama.) And using that (precision) strategy to get votes.

Basically when going where the money is (business sector) and you go where the people get reached (via precision marketing), you have the opportunity for a transformational effect. Money and scale creates that change.

I will argue that philanthropy is no different.

Meth Project

The Meth Project was started by Silicon Valley entrepreneur – Thomas Siebel. Its purpose was to reduce methamphetamine use, particularly among teenagers. His non-profit efforts ultimately scaled to seven states.

The main venture of the MP was a saturation level advertising campaign of television, radio, print, and internet ads that graphically depicted the negative consequences of meth use.

At one point, in one of its seven states – Montana, the organization was the single largest advertiser in the entire state. More so than any national advertiser – banks, phones, beverages, tennis shoes, cars, etc.

Per respected marketing firm research, their marketing efforts were validated in deterring substance abuse.

Unilever (proposed idea – not actual)

One of the ways for a company to generate new revenue is to obtain new customers. Customers whom have not previously before used their product or service.

A potential cross promotion which would assist those in need now and generate product loyalty in the future would be for a company (like) Unilever (Dove products) – to give their healthcare products (shampoo, hand soap, detergent, moisturizer, etc.) to the homeless and/or those living in a shelter environment.

Develop product loyalty so when the individual does step out of poverty and can in the future purchase these products, they would choose to purchase from Unilever / Dove. Treating those in need as consumers. Thus generating a new, untapped customer base and revenue source.

Unilever is on track with this kind of approach. Unilever CEO Alan Jope in 2019 offered –

”I want 100% of brands’ efforts and resources to go behind purposeful marketing. Within the next few years, any brand that does not have an authentic purpose will not have a role in Unilever’s portfolio. We believe this is our only way to grow our business.”

In conclusion, in a world that still has plenty of suffering, we need purpose driven companies (brands) to join and partner with solution based philanthropic organizations. Balancing the aims of the corporation with the necessities of people in need. Companies can bring their special expertise and resources to bear, all the while actually improving their long term corporate goals. This is a significant untapped opportunity for value creation for everyone.

Creating the synergy, leverage, and ultimately scale that can make a significant impact for those suffering in need.