SPRING 2018 CAPSTONE PROJECT
ABOUT THE PROJECT
In the Spring of 2018, six students in the Public Policy and Management Program at Heinz College embarked on the beginning stages of this project. The task set was to find potential linkages, map areas in the community that were identified as vulnerable, and brainstorm ideas to connect communities to the Postal Service. Over the course of the six-month project, the team compiled their findings in an extensive report. Below is a summary of the project report, including some of the reasoning behind the project and the solutions the team came up with.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been an important and consistent platform for community stability as it is the only service that reaches every U.S. household nearly every day. As the USPS changes its strategy to remain competitive in an increasingly digital world, it can use its resources to meet its mission of delivering mail and simultaneously improve community outcomes. Combining forces of community leadership and USPS’ massive real estate/delivery network leads to new initiatives that improve community resilience while maintaining a cost-neutral or positive financial outcome for the USPS.
Read the full text of the report here.
QUICK OVERVIEW: WHY USPS?
The Postal Service boasts an impressive physical delivery network and extensive physical presence as the largest brick and mortar retailer in the U.S. It is the only service that reaches every single household six days a week, and has an accessible physical location near or in all communities. Using existing infrastructure to focus on initiatives designed to help people offers the opportunity to improve vulnerable communities while simultaneously generating traffic that will keep post offices operational. The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund its operations. Implementing partnerships and exploring new opportunities helps the community further realize the benefits of the Postal Service in different capacities, creating new ways generate revenue and keep facilities operational.
The road map presents the methodology for the research and analysis that took place as part of a Capstone project. The process begins by selecting a region of focus, finding community partners and USPS facilities, and then narrowing down potential partnerships or pilot programs that align with community needs and facility/network availability.
This project identifies the Pittsburgh Northside as the region of focus, and incorporates the principles of One Northside (through the Buhl Foundation) and OnePGH. Both organizations are strongly aligned towards strengthening communities through local development and initiatives that focus on community resilience.
In order to figure out how we could use the USPS network and facilities to improve communities, we went through three phases of research.
Conducted research to see what initiatives already existed and what community needs are. Began to define priority places and at-risk communities by implementing a GIS mapping strategy that illustrated different factors of vulnerability.
Identified what could be done in at-risk communities and vulnerable locations through an extensive brainstorming and interview process. Conducted feasibility assessments on different options for partnerships and pilot programs considering federal law and community needs.
Finalized a menu of solutions based on our findings of what was needed and what was feasible. We have come up with the following solutions that balance the USPS and community needs and priorities. We created a list of small scale solutions (virtually cost free), in addition to designing larger scale solutions meant for pilot projects. All solutions kept in mind the framework of community partners, and adhere to resiliency goals.
SMALL SCALE SOLUTIONS (COST FREE)
These initiatives focus on increased access to information, which in turn brings more foot traffic to USPS facilities. Below are a few examples of how USPS can improve information access and community resilience:
LARGE SCALE SOLUTIONS
Large-scale solutions require more intensive planning and come at a cost. However, they are intended to address important community needs as well as remain at least cost-neutral for USPS. Our solutions fell into three categories: food, environment, and technology.
Partner with local food banks to offer a food box delivery program for elderly and homebound residents.
Offer space to local food banks for micro warehousing for emergency food-aid and increased food collection purposes.
Use USPS parking lots for farmers’ markets and mobile food trucks.
Add air quality monitoring devices to Postal Service vehicles.
Expand installation of solar panels on the roofs of facilities.
Provide high speed Internet access to vulnerable communities by building partnerships with private telecom providers, or installing WiFi hotspots.