The Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good Podcast

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Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good is the podcast for people who make progress.

Your host: Spencer Critchley.

Latest Episodes

Elin KelseyEpisode 27: Elin Kelsey: How Optimism Can Help Save the Oceans. Ocean Optimism is a movement to inspire action to save the oceans not by highlighting what’s going wrong, but by sharing stories of what’s going right.

This episode's guest is Ocean Optimism’s founder, Elin Kelsey: "The evidence suggests that if we do not balance the bad news with good, and the problems with solutions, we will not motivate people to act."

Jacob MartinezEpisode 26: Jacob Martinez: How Digital NEST Helps Youth Take Flight. Jacob Martinez is the founder of Digital NEST, an incubator for young tech talent in the farming towns of Watsonville and Salinas, California.

Digital NEST graduates graduates have been hired not just by local companies but by multi-nationals like software maker Adobe, and the NEST has attracted donations from major venture capitalists. As we hear in this episode, Jacob thinks the success of Digital NEST can be replicated in small towns up and down California, and maybe even across the country.

Alex GershensonEpisode 25: Alex Gershenson: The Huge Potential of Making Corporate Buying More Sustainable. Most of the stuff we buy is made of raw materials and components traded back and forth all over the world. It’s a huge web of what are called supply chains, worth trillions of dollars a year—and it has huge environmental and social impacts.

A company in Santa Cruz, California called SupplyShift helps corporations manage their supply chains to make them sustainable. This episode: an eye-opening conversation with SupplyShift’s CEO, Alex Gershenson.

Patrice MaginnisEpisode 24: Patrice Maginnis: How Tech—High & Low— Is Changing the World of the Blind & Visually Impaired. Patrice Maginnis has experienced life as someone who can see, and as someone who can’t. She was born with retinitis pigmentosa and gradually went blind, losing all usable sight at age 60.

Patrice has learned to adapt and to thrive. And she helps others do the same, through her work with the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Often that involves solutions that a sighted person might never think of.

Saving Democracy: The Way ForwardEpisode 23: Saving Democracy: The Way Forward. A live recording of a terrific panel discussion featuring very smart people from across the ideological spectrum who have national experience in politics and media.

Amanda Renteria, Mike Madrid, Debbie Mesloh, Dan Schnur, Kristin Olsen, and Zach Friend joined host Spencer Critchley at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California on March 21, 2019 to go way beyond the usual talking points and offer deep insights into where we are — and how we go forward.

Bud ColliganEpisode 22: Bud Colligan: Social Entrepreneur. Business drives our economy — but our guest this episode thinks it can also make society better. Bud Colligan has been part of some of the most successful businesses of our time, including Apple.

He’s also a social entrepreneur: he invests in ventures that promise to achieve social good, such as through education, or environmental protection, or inclusive economic development. This episode is a fascinating conversation on the potentially transformative impact of business beyond the bottom line.

Dastardly Cleverness: Politics EditionEpisode 21: Be Right or Do Right: Zach Friend & Paul Shone on the New Congress. Can we look at the top priorities for the new Congress without talking about likability, who curses more, or a dancing video? Yes we can, on Dastardly Cleverness: Politics Edition.

Political pros Zach Friend and Paul Shone join Spencer Critchley to talk about how the Democrat-controlled House can do the most good — including whether or not to start off by impeaching the president.

Lenny MendoncaEpisode 20: Lenny Mendonca: Why Progressive Federalism May Be the Answer to America's Problems. Lenny Mendonca is the co-founder of New America, a “think and action tank." He believes that what America is going through now is similar to the Gilded Age: technology is enabling a few people to get very rich while the lives of millions of others are disrupted.

And he thinks the solution to many of our problems is also rooted in the past: progressive federalism, a pragmatic and yet hopeful approach that he believes can win support from the left and the right. He says it's the answer to making progress towards the values most Americans hold dear.

Kevin Lewis, Dan Schnur, Enrique Gutierrez, Jr.Episode 19: Beyond the Horse Race: What the Election Can Teach Us About Change. It was called the most important election of our lifetimes, but so much of the coverage has been the same old horse race stuff.

Not on Dastardly Cleverness, though: in this episode we dig deep with experts who have worked with Barack Obama, John McCain and the Democratic National Committee, among others: Kevin Lewis, Dan Schnur, and Enrique Gutierrez.

Birthday cupcakeEpisode 18: Highlights From Our First Year. We celebrate our first season with highlights from the past year.

It's an episode full of gifts of insight from leading social innovators, on the future of work, universal basic income, reforming the way we bank and invest, why we vote the way we do, saving the oceans, saving democracy, and much more.

Amanda RenteriaEpisode 17: Amanda Renteria: How to Create Impact in the Public & Private Sectors. Raised in a farmworking family, Amanda Renteria has worked for Goldman Sachs, the City of San Jose, and two senators; has been a teacher and coach at her old high school; has run for Congress; held a top position in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign; directed operations for the California Department of Justice and this year, ran for Governor of California.

She has the insights to show — many of them arising from her own life story — as you’ll hear in this interview.

Tiny flag held above the crowd at a political rallyEpisode 16: Saving Democracy. A live panel discussion with former Democratic Congressman Sam Farr, former Barack Obama and Kamala Harris adviser Debbie Mesloh, USC and UC Berkeley Professor Dan Schnur, former California Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen, local elected official and presidential campaign veteran Zach Friend, with Dastardly Cleverness host Spencer Critchley. We also heard from members of the audience.

It was an in-depth and enlightening conversation, about topics that ranged from the frightening to the inspiring.

Joe SanbergEpisode 15: Joe Sanberg: We Can — and Must — End Poverty in 30 Years. Joe Sanberg grew up in poverty, raised for much of his childhood by a single mother who worked hard but still struggled to secure food and shelter. After succeeding at Harvard and on Wall Street, he dedicated himself to ending poverty, through a series of big projects designed to make the economy work for everyone.

One is Aspiration, a socially conscious bank and investment firm that invites customers to pay whatever they think its services are worth — even if that's nothing.

Drew Train of OberlandEpisode 14: Find a Purpose or Face the Pitchforks: This Ad Agency Bets on Doing What's Right. Drew Train was a rising star on Madison Avenue, working at the legendary J Walter Thompson agency for clients like HSBC, one of the biggest banks in the world. But at night, he was going to Occupy Wall Street rallies.

Eventually, he couldn't stand the tension between his day job and his values. He ended up leaving J Walter Thompson to co-found a new agency, Oberland, dedicated to purpose-driven marketing.

Natalie FosterEpisode 13: What If Everyone Were Guaranteed a Paycheck? Even if they didn't have a job? That’s the idea behind universal basic income, or UBI. Its advocates say we need it to protect humans who are losing their jobs to robots — and as one of the best ways to end poverty.

In this episode, Spencer talks to Natalie Foster of the Economic Security Project, which she co-founded (with Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren) to advocate for a UBI for all Americans.

Sean Smith of Porter NovelliEpisode 12: How to Communicate for Impact: Lessons from Presidents, CEOs & the Grassroots. We sometimes think that good communicators are just born talented, like a Jefferson or a Lincoln. And it’s probably true that the great ones have a special gift.

But it’s also true that anyone can learn to communicate better. To explore how, Spencer talks to Sean Smith, who has worked on presidential campaigns for Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and Barack Obama, served at the Department of Homeland Security, and is now at global PR firm Porter Novelli.

Episode 11: Can We Make Government Work? According to a recent study of support for democracy in Western countries, we've become “more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system, less hopeful that anything they do might influence public policy, and more willing to express support for authoritarian alternatives.” What can we do? Spencer talks with two experts across the partisan divide: Dan Schnur and Zach Friend.

Episode 10: Why Do We Vote the Way We Do? Spencer talks with the Santa Fe Institute's Mirta Galesic, who has new research on the powerful influence of groups on the way we vote — we like to think we make careful, considered decisions, but the truth may be very different. Her findings say a lot about what we've been seeing in our politics lately, including the election of Donald Trump.

Episode 9: North Korea and WMD: How to Think About the Unthinkable. Spencer talks with David Schmerler, a researcher who keeps track of North Korea and its weapons of mass destruction. David says his work can be like a spy novel, or a video game — and in fact he even helped create a Minecraft simulation to help people understand what’s at stake. But knowing the difference between fiction and reality is crucial — for him, and for all of us.

Episode 8: The Future of WorkEverything about jobs is now open to question — including whether jobs will even exist. To sort it out, we talk this time about robots, the gig economy, income inequality, the disruption of education — even bitcoin. All that and more from someone whose job is to work on the future of work: social policy consultant Kristin Wolff.

Episode 7: "More Than Just Pretty Fish: This Aquarium Is a Force in Ocean Preservation." The Monterey Bay Aquarium is world famous for otters, sharks, a spectacular setting — even appearances in movies and TV shows. But that’s just the most visible part. The Aquarium is also a powerful force for protecting the oceans through education, advocacy, and the development of young leaders. In this episode, Spencer speaks with the Aquarium’s Ken Peterson about the dramatic impact the Aquarium is having in ocean conservation — and the protection of all life on earth.

Episode 6: "If We Got the First 5 Years of Life Right, It Would Change Everything." If more children got what they need between the ages of 0 and 5, it would mean less crime, less violence, less poverty, and more people having happy, productive lives. Spencer talks about the possibilities with Gabriel Sanchez, Director of Communications and Marketing for First 5 LA.

Episode 5: "We Know How to Reduce Gang Violence — If We're Willing to Act." Cities across the United States struggle with gang violence, and the challenge can sometimes seem hopeless. But you may be surprised to learn that we know a lot about how to reduce gang violence — often dramatically. We just have to act on what we know. Our guest this time is an expert on the subject, from a small but innovative California city: Salinas.

Episode 4: "Debt-Free College." What if we could get millions of young people good jobs, free them from college debt, and give the economy a big boost? Workforce experts Dr. Katie Caves and Vinz Koller say we can do it — if we just follow a proven model from Switzerland, now being tried and tested with promising results here in the United States.

Episode 3: "Is There Hope for Democracy?" Part 3. The third and final part of our discussion — featuring great questions from the audience — at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies with former Congressman Sam Farr, former Obama White House official Adrienne Harris, presidential campaign veteran and local elected official Zach Friend, and presidential campaign veteran and media consultant Spencer Critchley. Find the videos of the event here.

Episode 2: "Is There Hope for Democracy?" Part 2. More from our panel discussion at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies with former Congressman Sam Farr, former Obama White House official Adrienne Harris, presidential campaign veteran and local elected official Zach Friend, and presidential campaign veteran and media consultant Spencer Critchley. Find the videos of the event here.

Episode 1: "Is There Hope for Democracy?" Part 1. A fascinating discussion with former Congressman Sam Farr, former Obama White House official Adrienne Harris, presidential campaign veteran and local elected official Zach Friend, and presidential campaign veteran and media consultant Spencer Critchley. We answer three big questions: Where are we? How did we get here? And where are we going? Recorded at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Monterey, California. Find the videos of the event here.

Your Host

Spencer Critchley

Spencer Critchley is the host of Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good. He is an award-winning writer, producer, and communications consultant with experience in broadcasting, film, digital media, public relations, advertising, and music. He is the managing partner of Boots Road Group LLC, an advertising, public relations and digital media firm that serves people who are making the world a better place.

As a communication consultant, Spencer has worked for both of Barack Obama's presidential campaigns, former Congressman Sam Farr, the U.S. Department of Labor, the University of California at Berkeley, the Monterey Jazz Festival, and many others.

As a digital media producer, his clients have included David Bowie, Moby, Santana, Britney Spears, and others while he was with Thomas Dolby’s Beatnik Inc; the Silicon Graphics-Time Warner-ATT interactive TV system; Silicon Gaming; and the multiple award-winning Choosing Success multimedia program for CCC/Viacom, described by Wired magazine as "the most inspired piece of educational software ever created."

As a journalist, Spencer reported stories for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, National Public Radio, the Associated Press, and others, winning awards for investigative reporting from Public Radio News Directors Inc. and the Associated Press. For CBC Radio, he was a correspondent and guest host for the national entertainment and popular culture show “Prime Time,” the host of the syndicated “Canada Rocks” record review, and a contributor to “The Entertainers” and other programs. He blogs for the Huffington Post and has written for O’Reilly Radar, Business Insider, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and other publications. 

Hope for Democracy panelists on stage at Middlebury Institute of International StudiesAs a composer and music producer, Spencer was signed to a songwriting and artist development contract with Warner-Chappell Music Publishing, created music for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation including for the Peabody Award-winning radio drama “Paris from Wilde to Morrison,” and composed the score (with collaborator Marco D’Ambrosio) and produced the music, dialog, and sound design for the Emmy-winning PBS documentary "Blink.”

Spencer has been a guest speaker for Stanford University; New York University; Art Center College of Design; California State University Monterey Bay; the American Constitution Society; MacWorld; Intel Developer World; Interpret America; the New Teacher Center, the California Association of Public Information Officials and the SXSW, Hot Springs, and Bermuda Film Festivals, among others.

He has been interviewed or quoted by the Associated Press, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CNN, Mix Magazine,, National Public Radio, Reader’s Digest, and others.