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17 August 2020
US-based eco-village startup The Bridge is kicking off its first development project in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Bridge is turning an abandoned high school into an eco-village, which will feature an indoor farm, 50 apartments for a variety of income levels, commercial spaces, and a coworking space. The company picked Harrisburg as its first site to address issues of accessibility and inequality in the city. Around 30% of Harrisburg residents live in poverty, with black residents twice as likely to experience poverty as white ones. Furthermore, those living in Harrisburg have limited access to fresh, healthy food and produce; the city only has one supermarket and local corner stores mainly sell processed food. The Bridge’s vertical farm will grow crops that locals typically can’t access. As of this month, The Bridge completed fundraising and saw its project approved by the city.
The challenges in Harrisburg — and how The Bridge is hoping its eco-village will address them — reminded us that location plays a huge role in the story of inequality. Where people live, of course, determines what resources they can readily access. Think good schools, adequate housing, access to healthy food...and the capacity to avoid a raging virus. Of course, black US consumers have typically been sequestered into the least-desirable areas and deliberately denied resources. So it unfortunately makes sense that in the US, counties that are 93% white (or more) reported the lowest COVID rates in the country; the 22% of counties with mostly black residents accounted for 54% of COVID deaths in June. And it’s why efforts like the City Health Dashboard, which indexes COVID and other health risks by neighborhood, are rolling out nationwide.
Plenty of brands have made ‘helping the disadvantaged’ a key element of their higher purpose. If you’re among this cohort, we encourage you to try kicking off your innovation process with a specific location in mind — rather than starting with a demographic cluster. What does this area need? What don’t they have? The Bridge plans to continually address this by, for example, monitoring which kinds of produce residents don’t have access to. Are there communities with urgent, unfulfilled needs, that your firm would be especially well suited to meet?
The TrendWatching content team