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Since his early teen years, Australian humanitarian Hugh Evans has been obsessed with finding new ways to end extreme poverty around the globe. In addition to founding Global Citizen, a nonprofit organization that pushes for policy change through collective action, he is also the creator of the Global Citizen Festival, an annual fundraising concert featuring A-list musicians from Shawn Mendes to Metallica. On the eve of the 2022 Global Citizen festival’s twin events in New York and Accra, Ghana, Evans shared his best practices for making the most of his free time.

Hugh Evans founded Global Citizen, a nonprofit organization that pushes for policy change through collective action. He also created the Global Citizen Festival, an annual fundraising concert featuring A-list musicians.Pip Cowley/Global Citizen/Handout

What’s your favourite way to unplug after work?

For me, unwinding is the very simple act of taking my dog Freddy for a walk after work. I’m fortunate that our headquarters are in New York City and you can walk everywhere here, so after work, I’ll take him for a walk along the Hudson River. I know it sounds terribly simple, but that’s perfect for me.

What’s your go-to podcast these days?

I’ve been listening to Motley Fool Money lately. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, but when you’re working on the alleviation of poverty, it’s essentially economics, right? You’ve got to understand the role of the market, interest rates, mortgages and how that affects the jobs economy, and ultimately, the global economy, which is what we’re always talking about at Global Citizen. I also just love anything that brings me back to the areas that I studied, which were law and economics, so I’m really into it.

What’s the last book that changed your perspective?

I’ve become a fan of Esther Perel. She’s written a ton, and the stories she tells about relationship dynamics are fascinating and also highly entertaining.

What was your last great binge-watch?

I’m really into this series called Alone right now. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but it’s kind of like a real version of Survivor – it’s the real-life challenge of literally surviving in a harsh environment by yourself. And for many of these people, the actual act of being alone is the hardest thing to survive.

What do you think you would miss most in that situation?

Well, I’m a conversationalist and I could happily be on the phone for an hour with my family or my best friend just to talk, so I would definitely miss that the most.

It sounds like you might be one of those people who paint a face on a rock and have long conversations with it, like Tom Hanks in Castaway.

Exactly!

Do you ever take a vacation?

I haven’t been very good at vacations but I have become good at sabbaticals. I took a month-long sabbatical at the end of last year and went to Costa Rica to go surfing. It was the first time I’d done a proper sabbatical in 10 years, and it was transformative for me. If I have a huge question I’m grappling with in life, then I’ll take a sabbatical.

How’d you get into surfing?

I started surfing during COVID. After 100 days in lockdown, I travelled across America in an RV and went to Venice Beach and took up surfing. It’s the one reason that I want to wake up at 5 a.m. I just absolutely love it.

Wordle, sudoku or crosswords? Something else?

I like Heardle, and also Worldle – it’s guessing countries by their geography and it’s really hard!

What’s one work issue that keeps you up at night these days?

There’s such a confluence of crises that the world is facing right now. COVID-19 alone pushed 100 million people into extreme poverty. And now with the war in Ukraine and the broken food security systems, that could push as many as 200 million people into extreme poverty by November if we don’t take urgent action now. We’re going to keep seeing crisis after crisis after crisis, and we can’t hold another benefit concert every time a new crisis happens. So that keeps me awake at night: grappling with how we change the international system to make it work for the people not against the people.

That’s a huge challenge.

Well, it’s not just my challenge or yours, it’s all of ours. You have to adapt the policy to meet the circumstance. I don’t think that we’ve had that from our political leadership, and that’s what we need right now.

Canadians can tune into the Global Citizen Festival on Saturday, Sept. 24, live on Twitter and YouTube.

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