Monday, December 25, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities: Bogota and Philadelphia

I recently heard about a man named Antanas Mockus-- his name sounds like a Roman emperor, but not quite. I was flipping through radio stations while on my way to work a couple weeks ago, and caught a piece of the Michael Smerconish show on 1210. He usually brings some interesting topics to the table and indeed he did this time.

Anyway, he was interviewing a professor and they talked about ways of improving the city of Philadelphia, particularly the tragically high murder rate (as of today, there have been 400 murders, the highest rate since 1997). The professor talked about Mr. Mockus and intrigued me right away. He told the story of how he became mayor in 1993 and turned the city from a cesspool of chaos into a "6.5 million person classroom" experiment that showed a city could indeed be turned around. The most interesting facet of his story is that he didn't use brute force, or use excessive spending, or other traditional tactics to turn his city around. Instead, he used creativity, ingenuity, and even laughter to turn the tides.

Rather than elaborating on what he did to improve the city, I refer you to an intriguing article about Mockus. Though a bit lengthy, I think you'll find it's an amazing story and a great template for how things can indeed be changed for the better when using a new perspective. It just proves how (pardon me for using this terrible cliche) "thinking outside the box" can go a long way in improving anything, from a community, to a company to a city, to perhaps even a whole country.

Time for Philly to start "thinking outside the box"...

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