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. We’ll see how those characteristics pose problems for traditional marketing activities such as design, distribution, pricing and promotion.

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Marketing the Social Good: Top Five Posts of 2015

Top Five

To continue bringing you topics of interest in the new year, I took a look back at what you read the most this year. Here are the top five posts published in 2015, as measured by your views:

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The power of distribution: free school lunch in the summer

Food Truck in a School Bus

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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The power of design: infrastructure savings of $720 billion

Better design for infrastructure

Infrastructure in the United States is in disrepair. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers graded the country’s infrastructure as D+ and estimated $3.6 trillion needed to be invested by 2020. How can a marketing mindset help governments address this problem? Better design for infrastructure is one possibility. 

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Transportation infrastructure: the BART that could have been

Original BART map

Recently, a map of San Francisco’s BART system as originally envisioned in the 1960s appeared in my Facebook feed (see above), and left viewers aching for more public transit. Most of the comments accompanying the map went something like, “Wouldn’t that be awesome to have today!”

Mainly, that’s because Bay Area drivers sit a long time in traffic. In the national bad traffic rankings, San Francisco is #3 and San Jose is #8. Plus, the current BART system is crowded and serves only part of the central Bay Area, and nothing to the north or south.

Current BART mamp

Voters 50 years ago had a chance to make something truly useful and awesome, but did only half the job. When our grandchildren look back at 2015, what things are they going wish we’d done for them?

Taxpayers in the 20th century left us a powerful legacy of interstates, power grids, telecom and computer networks, and more. For the sake of our communities, now and in the future, I believe that we need to continue investing in infrastructure that benefits us all.

Democratic transportation: Buses in Bogota

Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogota, Columbia, sees transportation as a matter of equity. “An advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars,” says Penalosa, “but rather one where even the rich use public transportation.” (Or bicycles.)

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