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MBAs and entrepreneurs do not have a monopoly on innovative leadership.  Here are a couple of worldwide initiatives to combat social issues.

By Ben Feuer

The Daily Mail has an interesting story today about China.  Apparently, the pollution problem in Beijing is becoming a serious public health crisis, and as one might expect from a state with a strong central government, top-down solutions are the order of the day.  China's pilot program in Lanzhou will use giant cannons to spray water into the air, soaking the pollution and dragging it down to Earth.

Pollution is a big problem, but the problem with China's solution is that it is complex and heavy handed -- the expense and difficulty of building giant water cannons mean that the solution's scale will be limited, and, more importantly, huge actions have huge consequences, usually unforeseen.  I really wish someone would mention that to the Beijing Weather Modification Office.

Italy is addressing a similarly intractable social problem, recidivism, by incentivizing literacy in prisons.  They are offering to shave up to 48 days off of an inmate's sentence if he reads up to 16 books in jail.  They argue that reading books keeps prisoners quiet and encourages self-reflection.

This is more of a small ball approach, much cheaper and more practical to implement on a wide scale if it is successful.  It is also a bottom up reform rather than top down; the prisoner must still choose to read the book if he wants to reap the benefits.  (Still, how are they going to prove he read it cover to cover -- make him take a quiz?)  The scope of its potential impact seems limited compared to pointing a fancy water cannon at the sky, but then again, many big things have small beginnings.

Either way, both initiatives are interesting models to consider for future MBAs or MPPs interested in creating change in their home country.