How Government is Different Than Business

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The United States recently elected billionaire businessman Donald Trump as its 45th president. Trump has no prior experience in government, and campaigned in part on his business track record. Voters seemed to like that, apparently thinking that government needs to run more like a business.

While government can certainly learn from business, it’s important to note that government is not a business. President Obama contrasted the two well, as described in a recent Los Angeles Times article. The difference between the two relates to the difference between social goods and private goods.

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Designing better student loans using system thinking

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Students go into debt to pay for college. In the United States, the amount of student debt has surpassed $1.3 trillion, which puts it on par with auto loans. Americans like to think the student debt is an American phenomenon, but this article from the New York Times shows that students in other countries also borrow, and borrow almost as much.

Borrowing may not be American, but struggling to repay is.

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Marketing free school lunch in the summer

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Low-income kids fall behind during the summer, not just academically, but in health and nutrition as well. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),

“During the school year, 21 million children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch. But when school is out, many of the children relying on these school meals go hungry. Summer Meal Programs help close that gap. Summer Meals give children the nutrition they need so they are ready to learn when they return to school.”

How do communities reach these 21 million children when they aren’t in one handy location such as the neighborhood school?

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The power of distribution: free school lunch in the summer

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School’s out for the summer, but it’s not always a happy time for kids.  For students participating in the federal free and reduced lunch program, summer time can mean going hungry.  Many schools continue to offer subsidies meals during the summer, but not all students can trek to school during the summer when buses are no longer running.

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Is demand pricing for public services fair?

A recent article in the LA Times describes a pricing experiment at California community colleges, where classes in high demand are priced higher. For example, Long Beach City College has started offering a perpetually sold out, month-long certification course in phlebotomy at nearly five times the standard per-credit rate.

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The power of pricing: college tuition

Does our love of a discount make us pay more for college tuition?

A recent Mother Jones article compares college tuition pricing to holiday sales at the mall. We may like thinking we paid 70 percent less for that sweater, but in reality the retailer never expected the sweater to sell for the sticker price.

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Design, distribution, and education

I was prowling TED recently and came across Emily Pilloton’s talk about applying design to improve education in rural North Carolina. I liked her view of radically improving a public service like education through fresh application of design and distribution.

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