Four Ways to Design Cities That Fight Climate Change

Earth already has a majority urban population. According to urban planner Peter Calthorpe, by 2050 our planet’s urban population will double. That means providing social goods and services to billions more city dwellers. How we accommodate that urban growth will say a lot about who we are and want to be. We can choose to design cities that fight climate change, instead of encouraging it.

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Data-driven Design for Transportation Infrastructure Saves Lives

Roundabouts are one example of data-driven design for transportation infrastructure

According to U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 47 percent of fatal traffic accidents in the U.S. occur in urban areas, resulting in nearly 15,000 deaths per year. That’s more than 40 people dying each day on urban roadways.  If there was a data-driven design for transportation infrastructure that saved lives, shouldn’t we implement it? Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows traffic roundabouts reduce the number and severity of accidents.

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Building Quality Infrastructure for the Social Good

Building quality infrastructure

Critics of government spending claim that building quality infrastructure for the social good is not affordable. Focus on utility and low cost, they say. No need for grand stone building with imposing facades. Their concerns touch on two core marketing topics, design and pricing.

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Design Better Mass Transit with Systems Thinking

We need ways of designing better transportation systems.

As U.S. cities grow more gridlocked and Millennials adopt mobility services like Uber out of desperation, transit becomes a crucial social good. Without the ability to easily move people and goods, cities become paralyzed. We need a way of designing better transportation systems.

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The Power of Pricing: Paying for Public Infrastructure

paying for infrastructure

In their recent report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave US infrastructure a grade of D+.  ASCE also said bad infrastructure costs U.S. households $9 per day in higher prices, poor service, repairs, and wasted time. For just $3 per day, they say we could fix the problem. Those numbers sound small, but they add up. Multiple that household-per-day number by 125 million households and 365 days a year, and you get an annual infrastructure bill of $137 billion. Paying for infrastructure is a big decision. How to pay for things is a marketing decision regarding pricing. What are the options?

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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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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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Social goods, defined

definition of social goods

This blog needs a definition of “social goods.” That’s a bit difficult, though. Even economists don’t have a clear and agreed-upon definition. So by way of definition, let’s discuss the characteristics and problems of social goods, and how those characteristics pose problems for traditional marketing activities such as design, distribution, pricing and promotion.

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