Government Investments, Not Government Subsidies

government investments

The terms we use matter when designing and promoting public and social goods. I don’t like the term “subsidy” when applied to government programs. It lacks the related themes and ideas that I think we want associated with public spending. The term has also taken on negative connotations that further hinder strengthening our communities through the marketing of social goods. I prefer to think about government investments.

I’ll illustrate my point with a personal story from my early career at Microsoft.

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Turning Bright Spots Into Products and Services

Turning Bright Spots Into Products and Services

Look for bright spots of success and hope among your market audience, and you may find your next big idea. Here are lessons from a story about how one underfunded aid worker used turning bright spots into products and services to change a nation.

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Our Social Nature and Health: Resistance to Viruses

Social inequity leads to increased public health threats

During flu season it’s good to remember that we’re social animals. Our social standing directly impacts our health; social inequity leads to increased public health threats.

The relationship between status and health showed up clearly in the Whitehall studies in the U.K. The first study tracked the health of men in the British civil service over a ten-year period. It found a strong, inverse relationship between rank in the hierarchy and death rates from coronary disease. Executives atop of the civil service enjoyed much better health than the menial workers at the bottom.

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Distribution: The Promise of Drones in the Social Sector

delivery-drone

In the United States, discussion of delivery drones usually follows stories such as this New York Times piece about Amazon testing product delivery drones. While Amazon may be aiming for an automated distribution channel, drones offer hope to public and social sector organizations as well.

Distribution is a pillar of marketing, and equitable and cost-effective distribution is a necessity for social goods and services.

This CBS News story showcases several efforts to employ drones in Africa for distributing vital public and social services in areas lacking other infrastructure such as roads and rail.

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Infrastructure: Build sidewalks to build community

sidewalks build community
Flow chart showing benefits of sidewalks and walking

Sidewalks are infrastructure and infrastructure is a reflection of our social nature. Sidewalks are, or can be, important public spaces. They might, or could, be the public space with which we’re most familiar. Sidewalks build community and promote the healthy lifestyle and walkable neighborhoods that many people say they want.

Consider what happens on sidewalks: chalk drawings, tricycle rides, dog walks, hopscotch, jump rope, lemonade stands, neighborhood conversations, holding hands.

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Organizational narrative: Lucky Iron Fish

organizational narrative example

Lucky Iron Fish is a certified B Corp working to improve health around the world, starting in Cambodia. They’ve made a short video, with the help of Google, to tell their organization’s origin story. The video is a great two-minute organizational narrative example that uses the five parts of Joseph Campbell’s mythological story form to tell an compelling story:

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The Social Progress Index: Measuring the quality of our social nature

Marketers often benchmark their goods and services against the competition. For countries, the main benchmark for nearly a century has been Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. The United States rules in GDP. While increasing GDP does correlate with some improvement in social conditions, it is purely an economic measure. As the measure of a country, a society, it’s narrow and incomplete.

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Health marketing done right in Brazil: a case study

Brazil school lunch

In business school, we poured over case studies, stories about how companies solved, or didn’t solve, a particular challenge. So here’s a challenge for you: how would you use existing products, distribution channels and means of promotion to improve nutrition in one of the largest and richest countries in the world?

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