Advancing the Common Good: A book review by Bob Morris

Advancing the Common Good: Strategies for Businesses, Governments, and Nonprofits
Philip Kotler
Praeger (September 2019)

Why and how all of us must nourish and strengthen “the welfare of humanity and civilization”

For several decades, in the classroom as well as in his 70-plus books and countless articles, Philip Kotler has focused primarily on how to create or increase demand for a product or service, then manage that brand to sustain its appeal within the competitive marketplace. On occasion, his focus has shifted to explaining how to create or increase interest in social issues of greatest relevance to commerce.

For example, Social Marketing (1989) followed by Strategies for Social Change, Corporate Social Responsibility, Good Works!, Social Marketing, Social Marketing for Public Health, and Social Marketing for Advancing the Public Good.

In these and other works, Kotler explains, “I describe the key social change tools available to citizens and organizations acting to boost the Common Good…To grow a Common Good mind-set…to bring about a world where people are healthy and safe, financially secure, involved in protecting the environment, and contributing to their communities. The ultimate purpose is the welfare of humanity and civilization.”

That’s an admirable vision but as Thomas Edison reminds us, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” Therefore, we need strategies to make that vision a reality. In essence, that is why Kotler wrote Advancing the Common Good. Its subtitle refers to strategies for businesses, governments, and nonprofits but they are also appropriate for other types of organizations, including federations of organizations and even countries. The power and impact would be even greater if several organizations forged strategic alliances in order to collaborate on the achievement of social objectives.

I wholly agree with Kotler: “The question is whether our systems of capitalism and democracy are actually delivering a better life to average Americans. Income inequality keeps increasing and leaving too many Americans without enough money to pay their rent let alone to buy enough necessities of life. The country’s leaders must do a better job of embracing policies that serve the Common Good. Companies, governments, and nonprofits must work together to build a better America for more of our citizens.”

Philip Kotler is an idealist, driven to do all he can to engage as many individuals and organizations as possible in efforts to advance the common good.  He is also a pragmatist, guided and informed by what Hemingway once called a “built-in, shock-proof crap detector.” He knows which strategies will be most effective to nourish and strengthen what he characterizes as “the welfare of humanity and civilization.” He also knows how difficult it will be achieve that worthy objective.

In this context, success or failure really, literally, will be measured in terms of life or death. The choice is ours.

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