The City vs. The Corporation
It was bound to happen. Vancouver – the upstart, self-proclaimed Greenest City in the World - and Pepsi – the upstart, self-proclaimed Anti-Brand Counterculture Fresh Innovative Social Media Grassroots Not-Coke-We’re-Different-COOLNESS! – were going to run into each other. And I’m pleased to be the one to make the connection. Speaking of “connections,” how the heck did this one happen?
This morning, I updated my status on an up-and-coming social media widget called “Facebook” and asked people to send me ideas for community-minded blog posts, as I would be writing one today. Daily Gumboot Correspondent, Theodora Lamb, sent me this article about Vancouver’s Talk Green to Us campaign. Herro Hachi frontwoman and BFF, Kym Banguis, suggested – awhile ago, I’ll admit – something similar to Vancouver’s newest greenest campaign. It’s called the Pepsi Refresh Project. With each initiative calling on everyone to submit and vote on ideas, they are both democratic and inclusive. But are they equally innovative? Can one change the world better than the other? Which refreshing, world-changing initiative will make the biggest difference for our global community?
Since this is about democracy (for people who are literate with computers, anyway), I’ll leave the final decision to you!
The Case for Vancouver
It all starts with Gregor. When he’s not turning right at red lights or challenging transit fines or dropping F-bombs, our Mayor is a pretty darn good one. Innovative and visionary, even. And Gregor’s vision is pretty contagious and quite myriad in its scope, too. The city’s Ten Greenest City Goals, after all, include economic, health, style, and educational objectives, not just natural ones. Vancouver’s initiative also benefits from it being centralized and localized – sure, ideas are coming in from everywhere, but they will mostly be from folks in the GVA and Cascadia regions. Pepsi, on the other hand, will have to wade through a lot of crap noise. Not to toot my own horn, but in 2009 I submitted an idea that may or may not have started this whole thing (Editor’s note: it most certainly did not start this whole thing). Here is the idea: stationary bicycles that are connected to the city’s power grid. That’s just one idea. Anyway, what Vancouver has right now is a lingering sense of celebratory community. And I think that our leaders are smartly realizing it. The Olympics changed things. Right now – in this moment – there are many folks in the Lower Mainland looking for something very positive, very hopeful and, perhaps, very ridiculous to believe in and support. This Greenest City business could be that thing. And isn’t it something great to believe in?
The Case for Pepsi
Instead of positioning itself as the counterculturecool brand with Beyonce or Britney Spears, Pepsi is building community by engaging thousands of people from around the world and their scope is much, much bigger than Vancouver’s. “Green” is a slightly more limiting lens than “Refresh Everything.” Currently, there are 1,232 ideas in the running and they span the following categories: Health, Arts & Culture, Food & Shelter, The Planet, Neighbourhoods, Education (Editor’s note: Kurt, these might actually be better “community-minded” categories than the ones we have now – let’s think about it). The corporation is offering just $1.3 million to get these ideas started. Ironically, the organization mired in post-Olympic debt is standing to outspend a vibrant MNC by, well, quite a lot. Of course, Vancouver actually has to follow-through with its ideas, whereas Pepsi simply gets to fund meaningful little (and big) projects around the world. Finally, in spite of Coke’s dominance (according to a report by the Recent Findings Institute they are about to purchase advertising space on the moon), Pepsi – and hopefully CEO Indra Nooyi, because she seems pretty cool – has more staying power than Vision Vancouver. One of the reasons that long-term thinking doesn’t jive with politics is because liberal democracy is about self-interest and, more specifically, about getting re-elected. A 10-year-plan, as noble as it may be, is tough to execute for any politician.
So there it is. Two very different, um, nouns who are both pushing great, world-changing ideas. In the long run, which initiative do you think will make the biggest global impact?