[Social] Academic turns city into a social experiment

http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2004/03.11/01-mockus.html

We need something like this for American politics. Also reminds me of a question I've been asking for a long time, why are politicians almost always lawyers? Why don't we have more educators, more scientists, more engineers, more artists?


People were desperate for a change, for a moral leader of some sort. The eccentric Mockus, who communicates through symbols, humor, and metaphors, filled the role. When many hated the disordered and disorderly city of Bogotá, he wore a Superman costume and acted as a superhero called "Supercitizen." People laughed at Mockus' antics, but the laughter began to break the ice of their extreme skepticism.

...

"Our reading had focused on the standard material incentive-based systems for reducing corruption. He focused on changing hearts and minds - not through preaching but through artistically creative strategies that employed the power of individual and community disapproval. He also spoke openly, with a lovely partial self-mockery, of his own failings, not suggesting that he was more moral than anyone else. His presentation made it clear that the most effective campaigns combine material incentives with normative change and participatory stakeholding. He is a most engaging, almost pixieish math professor, not a stuffy 'mayor' at all. The students were enchanted, as was I."

...

When there was a water shortage, Mockus appeared on TV programs taking a shower and turning off the water as he soaped, asking his fellow citizens to do the same. In just two months people were using 14 percent less water, a savings that increased when people realized how much money they were also saving because of economic incentives approved by Mockus; water use is now 40 percent less than before the shortage.


[JIH - This next part is simply amazing... What is it about American politics that just makes us so cynical?]


He also asked people to pay 10 percent extra in voluntary taxes. To the surprise of many, 63,000 people voluntarily paid the extra taxes. A dramatic indicator of the shift in the attitude of "Bogotanos" during Mockus' tenure is that, in 2002, the city collected more than three times the revenues it had garnered in 1990.

...

Another innovative idea was to use mimes to improve both traffic and citizens' behavior. Initially 20 professional mimes shadowed pedestrians who didn't follow crossing rules: A pedestrian running across the road would be tracked by a mime who mocked his every move. Mimes also poked fun at reckless drivers. The program was so popular that another 400 people were trained as mimes.

Comments

pishimisak said…
Dear Jason,

Nice article. We, as Colombians, many times do not know what we have....

You may want to know that former major Mockus is now running for president in Colombia. I created a blog for supporting his campaign:

http://antanasmockuspresidente.blogspot.com/

Cheers,

From a Mockus fan,

Pishimisak

email: Pishimisak@gmail.com

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