The P&G goVibrantscape — a model for public/private partnership in Cincinnati

2020 could not be more divisive — a pandemic combined with a political environment where we’re left wondering whether we can ever get back to a time when we could make anything happen — let alone transformative ideas that we imagine and then bring to life.

On this the 10th anniversary of go Vibrant (www.govibrant.org), I wanted to offer an origin story of the P&G goVibrantscape at Smale Riverfront Park — one of go Vibrant’s signature accomplishments— as a model for public/private partnership. From idea to execution, this is how public, non-profit and private sector collaboration and impact should work.

The inspiration for the P&G goVibrantscape at Smale Riverfront Park started after a trip that Pamela and I took to Vienna. I came back and met with Sean Parker in the lobby of P&G about go Vibrant walking routes. In the end of our meeting, I showed him a video of a park experience in Vienna (at the Schonbrunn Palace) where movement caused things to happen. I rhetorically asked Sean “how can we bring something like this to Cincinnati?” His response was not what I expected — “how quickly can you make it happen?”. He went on to explain that it was coming on the 175th anniversary of P&G and that the P&G Fund was looking to make a gift, but it wanted it to be behind an idea — not just $.

Within a week, we (at go Vibrant) brought together a diverse group of creative thinkers from Artworks and urban architects to designers (from Landor & DAAP to AGAR) and Cincinnati Parks staff to shape this idea into a reality. Based on concept drawings out of that session and a lot of follow-up by Landor, P&G donated $1 Million to the Cincinnati Park Foudation to create what would become the P&G goVibrantscape. The concept was the same as the inspiration video I shared with Sean Parker: movement causes things to happen. Jump on the foot piano and it chimes (like in the movie Big), pull on the Flying Pig to make its wings fly, talk through the pipes to make noise on the other side, turn the dials on the water feature to make the water move, climb the pole to make it ring, etc. It is a park where parents participate in play with their children vs just standing by looking at their phones.

~2 years after that conversation in the lobby of P&G, through the hard work from a lot of people, the P&G goVibrantscape was dedicated. Today, it is enjoyed by >6 million people annually (according to the Cincinnati Parks). Those visitors are using movement to have an impact in the park (and also burning calories without realizing it). According to the Decades of Development Report of Hamilton County, the annual economic impact of all of Smale Riverfront Park (not just the goVibrantscape, which is only 4.5 acres of the 23 acres) is $1.2 billion.

But the P&G goVibrantscape did not just happen by itself. It happened through the collective passion and personal leadership of leaders at P&G, the go Vibrant board, Landor, Cincinnati Parks among others. And that’s the point: big, transformative ideas can happen when we as a city bring the right leaders from the private/non-profit and public sectors together. That model is how we need to #makeithappen going forward. It starts with imagining what’s possible!

Dad/husband, entrepreneur/builder, former P&G executive, non-profit founder, dancer, mason, son of immigrant, and lover of parks, the arts, Cincinnati, & travel

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