as Through the multiple 2020 lockdowns I’ve had a lot more time to listen to some podcasts. I’ve tended to focus on a few that I’ve found engaging because they deal with the need for social change and community renewal. I’m not particularly interested in drama, sport, escapism or historical discussion, so the range of the podcasts I find interesting are limited to organisations that have a remit to promote social change, such as Nesta, Compass, Demos, and a few others.
I’ve put this list together with a link to each of the podcast websites I’ve gone through. I’ve been downloading them from iTunes onto my phone, as I prefer to listen to podcasts when I’m out for a walk, or on my way into Leicester. I’ve found that podcasts are sufficiently distracting from the task of shopping or cleaning at home, because I can focus on the flow of the discussion, rather than worrying about hunting for bargains (when the non-essential shops are open), or hovering and making beds.
The Speaking of Jung podcast is one of my favourites. It’s helped me to understand and learn more about Jungian depth psychology, and Jung’s insight into factors affecting our personal development that are associated with our unconscious, our collective unconscious and our approach to what Jung called individuation. Laura London is an excellent host and interviewer, who is committed to ensuring that Jung’s work is understood in its full context, and especially as it is practised by professional analysts who are willing to share their insights. It’s been great to hear how relevant Jungian models of psychosocial development are relevant, particularly at a time of crisis. They have prompted me to thing differently and I’ve taken a number of insights that I feel we can adapt for our own lives, which will allow us to develop a more meaningful social experience.
I find the Living Myth podcast a strong companion to the Jung podcasts, as Michael Meade tunes into the spirit and insight offered by Jung, specifically the importance of the role of myth. Meade’s focus is on the way that the deep stories of our culture have a role in helping us to make the transition from a world of chaos to a world of order, from adolescence to wisdom, and from the intractable to the imaginable. Michael Meade relates these ideas in a spoken address, in which he shares his thoughts and experiences accumulated over his lifetime, and across the cultures that he has studied and engaged with. Meade never preaches, but encourages his listeners to find their own paths of transformation in what might often be felt to be dark and troubling times. He has certainly brought moments of comfort in his podcast as we’ve dealt with the pandemic, Trump and Brexit.
The theme that connects these podcasts is what is increasingly called the meaning crisis of metamodernism, which is the central theme of the Emerge Podcast with Daniel Thorson. Daniel asks questions in his discussions with metamodern thinkers about the fragmentation of agreed frameworks of understanding of our social worlds, and the norms that have hitherto connected them together. Daniel ask how we might survive and thrive in a world that is increasingly chaotic and disconnected? The questions that are posed in each of the episodes of the podcast relate to what we might do to guard ourselves against a life of meaninglessness and quiet desperation? Daniel asks what we might expect our roles and responsibilities to be in this turning of the ages, and what the next phase of the human experiment might bring? As WB Yeats taught us, as the gyre turns our consciousness is turned with it?
I intend to add more reflexive and philosophical podcasts to my lists in 2021, particularly as they relate to the discussion of metamodernism and the need to develop a pragmatic approach to our experience that keeps us connected , while also allows scope to expand our consciousness and bring new ideas into being.
On a more practical note, I’ve been wondering how to keep up with British politics and news during the lockdown. I’ve largely given up on the BBC and other mainstream news providers, so I supplement my news service subscriptions with Steve Richard’s excellent podcast Rock N Roll Politics. Steve has a wealth of experience covering the ins-and-outs of Westminster politics, and has been a regular on the BBC since the 90s. Steve’s podcast, however, allows him to expand and develop his thinking beyond the shallow three or four minutes that he would typically get to speak on Radio Four’s Today programme. In his podcast Steve gets to look at events as they emerge, but also to connect them to events he has covered in the past. His recent innovation is to include some audience interaction based on emails that listeners send him. This has come from his experience hosting live events, in which he turns the discussion of current affairs and U.K. politics into an engaging and participative live performance. Steve steers clear of hyperbole, and he doesn’t have an axe to grind, so his views are always presented in a balanced and fair manner. It’s a much needed counterbalance to the talking heads of the news channels.
I took the name of my podcast from Jamie King’s podcast Steal this Show, in which Jamie looks at and discusses issues of tech innovation and social reorganisation from a decentralising network mindset. Jamie asks how the technology that is now starting to merge into the network systems of the internet are likely to have a profound effect on the way that we manage our economy, share knowledge, and connect with one another in the future. The radical potential for blockchain decentralisation, for example, might leave the news media world we take for granted today in a completely different state in a couple of years’ time. The open ledger that is built into the blockchain, and which ensures that payments are processed and distributed to the originators of content, hasn’t been fully explored in systems thinking about media yet. We’ve not yet started to get people ready for the days when the large-scale providers of news are eclipsed by smaller and more independent operators, each with a viable independent funding base. We know it’s coming, so listening to Jamie discuss and debate it with his guests is a great way to get my head around the changes it will bring about.
As the technical platforms change and are increasingly augment within our daily lives, in new and not yet understood ways, it’s essential to draw inspiration from a values-based approach to social and community development. The Community Development Podcast has become a firm fixture for me. I’ve been lucky enough to get to know Russell Todd, and call him a friend. I’ve learnt a lot from his passionate advocacy for grassroots and local community empowerment. It’s often said that community media is largely a project of community development, so listening to Russell’s podcasts has been an essential way for me to learn more about community development in practice. I wish more people recognised what Russell practices, which is that the process of sharing our stories and recording our concerns, using different types of media, is also a way of nurturing and identifying the capacity that we have as communities to grow and develop for ourselves, rather than being told by external agencies, such as business, government or religious organisations, how we might foster a sense of community from a cookie-cutter template. The lesson I’ve learnt from Russell’s podcasts is that we each have to do it in our own ways that are relevant to us and our kin.
One of the essential principles of community development is that communities are able to represent and define their terms of development for themselves, in a way that suits and addresses their local needs. The Local Trust Podcast is one of the best discussions of this idea in practice I’ve come across. The Local Trust is an organisation that is dedicated to putting power, resources and decision-making into the hands of local communities, to enable them to transform and improve their lives and the places in which they live. The Trust does this by allocating National Lottery funds without any strings to areas of England. This is achieved by trusting local people to come up with solutions and ideas that work for them, rather than sticking to plans policed by professionals or politicians. The podcast is an engaging way of illustrating￼ how these ideas work in practice, with the discussion focusing on how the work of the trust is experienced by people working to establish local projects that meet their needs. There is some discussion from a policy point of view, but it doesn’t get bogged-down in jargon, while still demonstrating the value of long term, unconditional, resident-led projects.
A whole set of new podcasts have been started in 2020, giving social change focussed organisations the chance to explain and explore their ideas more fully, and based on discussions with people who may not always be brought together, but who might be antagonist in the political realm. The Renew Normal podcast from Demos is a series of discussions and interviews led by Polly Mackenzie, the CEO of the think tank that has a history of over thirty years of. working towards informed social change. Polly is joined in each episode by leaders, thinkers and campaigners to discuss how we can find opportunities for social renewal from the adversity created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Polly asks what can we do to shape a better future? The challenge that she poses though, it to think about how we can do this in a way that isn’t antagonistic or polarising. The discussions are quite wide-ranging, and cover topics such as globalisation, human rights, the role of the care services, and the use of technology in bridging social divides.
Similarly, the Social Change Agency podcast is a good discussion with people who are recognised as ‘inspiring change-makers.’ The focus of the podcast series is on the practical steps that community advocates must take to apply for funding, set up digital campaigns, work with young people, support trustees, and so on. The practical advice offered in the podcast is much needed, particularly as many podcasts can veer into theoretical hyperbole and loose touch with the practical implications of building sustainable organisations for social change. I like the podcast that feature ordinary activists and community organisers. I’ve listened to a lot of policy-focussed podcasts, and the language the policy-wonks use is sometimes full of jargon, and can easily end up being a discussion between experts, rather than listening to the experiences of non-experts. In my own podcast I’d like to be able to feature more direct testimony with activists, as well as engaging with the wider policy debates.
There is, however, in all of this a clear political dimension, and the Compassion in Politics podcasts is an excellent start at covering the need for a deliberative and mutual approach to political discussion that focuses on shared understanding and a non-combative approach to the politics of lasting social change. The starting point of the podcast asks how we can find those points of mutual engagement, using the techniques of conflict resolution and psychological healing. The discussions don’t try to sweep the points of conflict and difference under the carpet, but it does suggest that we must be talking with one another, learning from one another and seeking to understand one another, in order that purposeful social change is agreed.
Likewise, the Compass podcast, It’s Bloody Complicated, seeks to share discussion between progressive parties from across the U.K. who may wish to foster political change as part of an alliance with political activists working in different traditions. The question posed in the Compass podcasts is how do we build back better, and what can we do to build a good society, when things seem so difficult to achieve any kind of agreement and consensus. Now that the U.K. is out of the EU’s trade agreements, the shift in our politics might come more swiftly than anticipated, but it won’t happen without some planning and thinking. That’s why I like these podcasts. They don’t have the answers, but they do provide a space for reflecting on and thinking about the problems and the solutions we might need.
Over the 2020 lockdown I’ve listened to many hours of discussion about the practical process of fostering change, particularly change on the ground and based on the needs of local communities. I’ve found these podcasts to be an invaluable resource that have helped me to get a better grasp of the many complex issues that we will be facing in 2021. There are many challenges that lie ahead of us. These podcasts have also helped me to feel better connected to the networks of people who are advocating these ideas, and have given me a sense of potential direction as I further develop my own podcasts in 2021.