A common refrain in US politics right now is that healthcare is a human right. I’ve maintained instead that healthcare is not a right but rather a social good. So what’s the relationship between human rights and social goods?
Having a robust social network improves our physical health. Social connections also affect our mental health such as anxiety and overall happiness. The Japanese practice of moai gives social and public sectors a way to hack our social nature to help people live better.
Urbanization continues, but urban can’t mean completely paved and mechanized. For protection, sustainability, and happiness, we must align our cities with the natural systems where we build. We need to be consciously designing, funding, and distributing nature in our cities. Urban trees, and nature more broadly, need to be treated as critical infrastructure for cities.
For social goods like health care, the buyer and the end consumer are often two different parties. In much of health care, an insurance company or a government agency is the buyer, while the individual patient is the end consumer. At least in the United States, for-profit medicine companies exploit this split. They charge large organizations much higher prices than an individual consumer could afford. At the same time, they obscure the price of urgent treatments from patients. One way to avoid this exploitation is using nonprofit healthcare models.
Research by Raj Chetty of Stanford University shows that designing healthy communities can increase life expectancy, especially for low-income populations. What features can you design into healthy communities for people earning incomes in the bottom quartile?
Our social nature is serious business. We are social animals by nature and nurture; we don’t survive alone. Loneliness kills and needs to be addressed like any social health hazard. How do you combat loneliness with a marketing mindset? The way the U.K. is doing it.
Governing common shared resources such as water supplies relies on layers of resource management. Each level of management has different roles and responsibilities, from neighborhoods and cities through to regional, state, national and international governance. Currently, the way many cities approach water quality is inefficient because resource management is not regional. Water agencies ignore problems upstream, where water quality problems start. Applying funds to upstream problems is a marketing decision related to how we price our social goods. Fixing those upstream problems reduces costs downstream for water treatment.
Are you designing and distributing low quality charitable products? How do you know? Just because your clients may benefit from, and even rely on, products that are free to them doesn’t mean you can give them crap. It also doesn’t mean they stop becoming savvy consumers just because something is free to them. Your products and services may be free to your clients, but in areas like healthcare and water they can also a matter of life and death.
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.
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.