The Tech Humanist Show: Episode 17 – Caleb Gardner

About this episode’s guest:

Caleb Gardner, who in his more than a decade of experience in digital leadership, entrepreneurship, and social impact, has worked for a variety of organizations in the public and private sectors, including at prestigious professional service firms like Bain & Company and Edelman.

During the second Obama Administration, he was the lead digital strategist for President Obama’s political advocacy group, OFA. He brought his unique insights to growing one of the largest digital programs in existence, with a millions-strong email list and massive social media following—including the largest Twitter account in the world.

Now as a founding partner of 18 Coffees, a strategy firm working at the intersection of digital innovation, social change, and the future of work, he’s helping forward-thinking companies and nonprofits adapt and evolve to meet the challenges of today’s economy.

He speaks, trains, and leads workshops around the world on topics related to change, including strategy in a mission economy, technology and innovation for a better world, and change management at the speed of digital.

He tweets as @CalebGardner.

This episode streamed live on Thursday, November 5, 2020. Here’s an archive of the show on YouTube:

About the show:

The Tech Humanist Show is a multi-media-format program exploring how data and technology shape the human experience. Hosted by Kate O’Neill.

Subscribe to The Tech Humanist Show hosted by Kate O’Neill channel on YouTube for updates.

Transcript

02:19
hello
02:20
humans it’s great to see you i see a
02:23
bunch of people turning out
02:25
and showing up so feel free to start
02:28
popping into the comments and
02:30
letting us know where you’re tuning in
02:32
from and
02:33
start queuing up those questions about
02:36
tech and democracy and
02:38
you know politics and whatever we don’t
02:40
have answers to the election questions
02:42
so
02:42
there’s no point in asking us but what
02:45
we want to be talking about today is
02:47
digital’s impact on democracy and you
02:49
know i also like mobilizing people who
02:51
are your supporters
02:53
uh whether you’re talking about business
02:54
or politics or wherever so start
02:56
thinking about those questions now
02:58
but yeah start chiming in with uh with
03:00
greetings and tell us where you’re
03:01
really tuning in from so i of course i’m
03:04
your host kate o’neil
03:06
it’s nice to see so many of you tuning
03:07
in uh
03:09
this as you may know is a multimedia
03:11
format program which means that we’re
03:13
live right now
03:14
across a bunch of different channels and
03:16
the archive
03:17
of the show will live on on each of
03:19
those platforms it’ll also be
03:21
turned into an audio podcast a week and
03:24
a day from today
03:25
so today’s show will be available as a
03:27
podcast next friday
03:28
and then last thursday’s show will be
03:30
available tomorrow as an audio podcast
03:32
so
03:33
that happens every week and every week
03:35
we explore different facets of how
03:37
data and technology shape the human
03:39
experience so i hope i
03:41
hope you’ll find that interesting to
03:43
keep coming back
03:44
and tuning in and so please do note that
03:46
as a live
03:47
show we uh we do love to take your
03:50
comments and questions and incorporate
03:52
them into the discussion
03:53
and i’ll do my best to vet those
03:55
comments and questions in real time
03:57
i might not get to all of them so please
03:59
be patient with us but
04:00
we do very much appreciate you being
04:02
here and being part of the show
04:04
so now to introduce our wonderful guest
04:08
today we will be chatting with caleb
04:10
gardner who in his more than a decade of
04:13
experience
04:14
in digital leadership entrepreneurship
04:16
and social impact
04:17
has worked for a variety of
04:18
organizations in the public and private
04:20
sectors including
04:21
at prestigious professional service
04:23
firms like bain and company
04:24
and edelman during the second obama
04:27
administration he was the lead digital
04:29
strategist for president obama’s
04:30
political advocate advocacy group
04:32
ofa he brought his unique insights to
04:35
growing one of the largest digital
04:36
programs in existence
04:38
with a million strong email list and
04:40
massive social media following
04:42
including the largest twitter account in
04:44
the world
04:45
now as a founding partner of 18 coffees
04:47
a strategy firm working at the
04:48
intersection of digital innovation
04:50
social change and the future of work
04:52
he’s helping forward-thinking companies
04:54
and non-profits adapt and evolve to meet
04:56
the challenges of today’s economy
04:58
he speaks trains and leads workshops
05:00
around the world on topics related to
05:02
change
05:02
including strategy and emission economy
05:04
technology and innovation for a better
05:06
world
05:07
and change management at the speed of
05:09
digital
05:10
so audience keep getting those questions
05:12
ready for our outstanding guest
05:14
and with that please welcome my friend
05:17
caleb gardner kayla you are live on the
05:19
tech cumulus show thank you so much for
05:21
joining us today
05:22
hello everyone so glad to be here me too
05:26
it gives us something to do while we’re
05:28
waiting for
05:29
that’s right we gotta we gotta spin the
05:31
wheels manage our stress levels
05:33
one way or another yeah so that’s my
05:35
first question for you like what have
05:36
you been stress eating
05:39
i feel like it is is both fortunate and
05:42
unfortunate the intersection
05:43
of halloween and the election because
05:46
all we have at my house
05:48
is leftover halloween candy and so it’s
05:52
just been
05:53
one thing after another i think there’s
05:54
been a couple times the last few days
05:56
where i’ve literally like gotten sick by
05:58
eating too much
05:59
too much halloween candy in one setting
06:01
that’s gotta be so relatable
06:02
and an audience please feel free to
06:04
chime in with with your stress eating as
06:06
well we’d love to
06:07
love to hear that uh say so this has
06:10
been
06:10
a cuckoo bananas cycle uh
06:13
which we knew it would be uh going into
06:15
it but
06:16
what would you say are some lessons that
06:19
you may already be taking away from
06:21
this uh most recent campaign an election
06:24
cycle
06:26
um we need to get much much better at
06:28
polling
06:29
for one thing i mean another cycle where
06:32
the polling just was very very
06:34
off and off consistently in one
06:36
direction
06:37
right that’s what that’s what’s so weird
06:39
and frustrating about it
06:41
um that that’s one thing i take away and
06:44
and
06:44
is not an industry that i have worked in
06:46
i just know that it’s an industry that
06:48
me like every other citizen paying
06:49
attention to election relies on and so
06:52
we’re gonna have to get better at that i
06:53
mean things that are more related to
06:55
what you and i have talked about in our
06:57
our spare time
06:58
is a continued rise of misinformation
07:02
and disinformation i think domestically
07:04
grown in the last year
07:06
um you know we were so worried about
07:07
foreign interference
07:09
the last time and this time it’s all
07:10
kind of
07:12
what’s the what’s the uh the phrase it’s
07:13
all coming from within the house
07:15
yeah the call is coming from within the
07:16
house
07:19
yeah yeah that’s true so
07:23
that’s been really frustrating and i
07:25
think the the tech platforms like
07:27
twitter and facebook are beginning to
07:29
wrap their heads around how to manage
07:30
that but again it just took them so
07:33
late in to do it um i saw someone tweet
07:36
today that
07:38
doing the bare minimum of flagging
07:41
how the trump campaign is like claiming
07:44
victory or saying stop the vote or like
07:47
even putting a warning label on some of
07:48
those about like
07:49
the the mistruth there took so much
07:52
convincing
07:54
and it’s it just feels like the bare
07:55
minimum so there’s so much that we have
07:57
to do in terms of still just
07:59
regulating you know um the spread of
08:02
misinformation on those platforms it’s
08:03
kind of crazy i mean it’s
08:04
it’s happening in real time right now as
08:07
people are chanting
08:08
count the vote right or stop counting
08:10
the vote depending on what state
08:12
you’re in facebook groups are popping up
08:14
like mobilizing those folks
08:16
um it’s just it’s not it’s not good gate
08:19
it’s not great
08:20
it is it is bonkers and what i wanted to
08:23
ask you though is you know your first
08:24
point about
08:25
the polls i wonder do you do you feel
08:28
like it’s too soon to say we need i mean
08:31
obviously we need a better polling
08:32
because better polling will always be
08:33
better but
08:34
do you feel like it’s too soon to
08:36
criticize the polling for this election
08:37
cycle because we still haven’t seen
08:39
the full suite of results right i don’t
08:42
think it’s too
08:43
yes there are some things we still need
08:44
to wait on but i don’t think it’s too
08:46
soon to know that for instance sarah
08:48
gideon’s polling in maine was
08:51
very off for a long time like there’s
08:54
for the presidential yes we gotta kind
08:55
of wait and see how how
08:57
off the you know margins actually are
09:00
but
09:00
plenty of down ballot races we know how
09:02
how wrong they were and i think what’s
09:05
frustrating about
09:06
people working on those campaigns is you
09:08
make decisions based on the data points
09:10
that you have
09:11
and if you’re making decisions thinking
09:13
that the election is going in one
09:14
direction it’s actually going in another
09:15
you’re not
09:16
you know running the right kind of
09:18
campaign that you actually need to run
09:19
and so i know it’s really frustrating
09:21
for frustrating for staff on the ground
09:23
there
09:24
i think it’s frustrating just for for me
09:26
personally as
09:27
obviously having worked for obama you
09:29
know having one political lean versus
09:30
another it’s frustrating for me that the
09:32
polling errors again keep going in the
09:34
same direction
09:35
and so that’s just it seems like
09:36
something that we have not kind of
09:38
wrapped our heads around or the
09:40
polling industry specifically hasn’t
09:41
wrapped their heads around how to pull
09:43
this electorate
09:45
with trump on the ballot in a correct
09:47
way yeah
09:48
yeah that’s that’s really interesting it
09:50
does seem like there’s going to need to
09:51
be a reckoning with
09:53
um the level of candor that that
09:56
whole subjects have with pollsters and
10:00
and why people may be um more inclined
10:03
to mislead
10:04
and misdirect with their answers than
10:06
they would be
10:07
in in other words yes i don’t know if
10:09
it’s that they’re misleading or if
10:11
they’re if the right people just are
10:12
literally not picking up
10:14
yeah i mean if you think about i think i
10:15
heard this on a podcast the other day
10:17
they were thinking about if you’ve lost
10:18
faith in government institutions or if
10:20
you are disillusioned and you’re looking
10:22
for someone to kind of blow up the
10:23
system
10:24
why would you answer the call of a
10:26
pollster and like talk about that like
10:27
you’ve given up on the entire system so
10:29
maybe you’re not even answering that
10:32
right like i don’t know that that could
10:33
be there seems like there’s
10:35
a few plausible explanations but it
10:37
definitely just
10:38
there’s got to be a better system for
10:40
this i also just don’t know
10:42
if i’ve been thinking about this a lot
10:44
from a digital strategy side of just
10:46
um how much every political cycle now
10:50
feels like
10:50
everyone burning each other’s house down
10:52
in terms of trying to get their
10:54
fundraising goals trying to get their
10:55
messaging goals trying to like
10:57
run the campaign they need to run on top
11:00
of everyone else running the campaign
11:02
they need to run it’s become this kind
11:04
of massive tragedy of the common
11:05
situation where
11:07
i now get because i’m on some like
11:09
democratic email lists and some
11:10
democratic phone lists i now get emails
11:12
and texts from a
11:14
thousand different people yeah every
11:16
week most of which i didn’t sign up for
11:18
like there’s no opt-in process too and
11:21
it’s just
11:21
i don’t know if that’s also turning
11:23
people away like there’s just there’s a
11:25
lot of soul searching i think we need to
11:26
do about
11:27
how these campaigns run and what data
11:29
points we’re using to guide and make and
11:30
make strategic decisions i think
11:32
yeah that’s a really good point because
11:34
it does seem like the email
11:35
and text marketing has just been out of
11:38
control
11:39
this last cycle with and i just like you
11:42
i signed up i donated to a a handful of
11:46
uh down ballot races and then ended up
11:49
on
11:50
hundreds of pack and super pac you know
11:53
email distributions and
11:54
and you can tell like you’ve you’ve made
11:56
it onto different ones because the tone
11:58
is so different and
11:59
they all have like varying levels of
12:01
credibility that come across and
12:03
and hysteria and everything so yeah yeah
12:06
a few years ago i started adding you
12:08
know how in gmail you can add like if
12:10
you have the plus sign you can add all
12:12
kinds of like tags on your email
12:14
and you can actually track what email
12:16
lists are being traded
12:18
that way because i would i would add
12:20
myself to
12:21
let’s say a joe biden email list and put
12:23
just like a plus
12:24
jb or something at the end of my email
12:26
so i would know that that was what email
12:28
list i had signed up for
12:29
yeah and then when i got traded around
12:31
on some of those super pacs i could
12:32
actually tell
12:33
where i originally got like where that
12:36
email address came from and who was
12:38
actually giving out some of that data
12:40
i used to do that for every email list i
12:41
signed up for but
12:43
the political ones i mean it’s just i
12:45
was just disappointed about that for a
12:46
while too but that’s a there’s your
12:48
first actionable takeaway audience
12:50
use that use that gmail trick of the
12:53
plus
12:54
with the uh jv or whatever little
12:56
shorthand
12:57
you want to use for whatever thing
12:59
you’re signing up for and at least that
13:01
gives you some
13:02
transparency about why the heck am i
13:04
receiving
13:05
this many emails you don’t get to do
13:07
that with text messages of course
13:09
so it’s yes i know it’s just a banana
13:12
situation so let me let’s talk a little
13:13
bit about
13:14
uh you know i really want to get i’ll
13:17
get to in a minute i want to ask you
13:18
about your experience
13:20
with obama and ofa but but i want to
13:23
talk about you know stay on this idea of
13:25
what we’re learning from
13:27
this cycle and one of the things that it
13:29
feels like we’re
13:31
we can take away from this is the notion
13:32
of building momentum
13:35
off election cycle towards the kind of
13:37
progress that you want to see
13:38
and it feels like we we saw you know the
13:42
the push with
13:43
sunrise movement to the left and we saw
13:45
you know a lot of you know
13:46
the green new deal and a lot of things
13:48
that were pushing to the left and it
13:50
forced
13:51
uh the mainstream democratic candidates
13:53
to accept further left positions and i
13:55
would imagine that if
13:56
you know if we were inclined toward the
13:58
right that we might say similar things
14:00
happening there too
14:02
i think that it’s been an interesting
14:04
process of
14:05
us learning uh as political
14:08
strategists or people who are adjacent
14:10
to it or observing it
14:12
what it looks like to be to be strategic
14:17
all the time and then to use elections
14:20
in a particular
14:21
way are you thinking about that too is
14:23
that is that kind of one of the things
14:24
you’re taking away since some of the
14:25
work you were doing did have to do with
14:27
that kind of momentum building and
14:29
advocacy and it seems really relevant to
14:30
the work you do now
14:32
yeah i’ve been thinking about that
14:34
especially
14:35
i think because this uh moment
14:39
as we’ve been waiting for votes to come
14:40
in hasn’t been as
14:42
decisive like there wasn’t a tuesday
14:45
night winner called where we could all
14:47
go oh
14:48
you know that’s over joe biden’s gonna
14:50
write his coattails into the white house
14:52
you know and i think if if there had
14:55
been
14:56
a what felt more like a blue wave
14:59
um come through on tuesday
15:02
i think it would have led to a lot more
15:04
complacency than what we are
15:06
right now it feels like there’s a lot
15:07
more work to do and i actually think
15:09
that’s if there’s a silver lining in
15:11
this like stressful moment we’re in
15:13
and if there’s a silver lining in
15:15
divided government which
15:16
it’s increasingly looking like we are
15:18
going toward which is going to be
15:20
very frustrating it is that people
15:22
aren’t going to feel like okay
15:23
now i’m done with my political life and
15:25
i can go back to brunch like we’re we’re
15:27
all going to feel like we have to stay
15:28
engaged and i think that’s the right
15:30
right call
15:31
i do think that there is to your point a
15:34
lot of um
15:36
in the political world would say like in
15:38
between cycle
15:39
organizing happening now a lot more than
15:41
than had been
15:42
in the past or at least a lot more that
15:45
has surfaced through things like social
15:47
media that we can see
15:48
than has happening in the past i also
15:51
think that
15:52
there’s been really really great
15:54
infrastructure building in between
15:56
cycles that has been happening
15:57
um i’m sure it’s been happening on both
15:59
sides but obviously having
16:01
more views into things like what stacey
16:04
abrams did in georgia like there’s a
16:06
reason why georgia is still not called
16:07
right
16:08
now and it has a lot a lot of credit to
16:10
her
16:11
and the organization she’s built on the
16:12
ground in georgia i think
16:14
the reason why people had their eyes on
16:15
texas a lot of the the work that that
16:17
o’rourke and other people have been
16:18
doing to organize on the ground in texas
16:20
so there’s also this like
16:22
people feel like when you pour a lot of
16:23
money into a state or race and then you
16:25
don’t win that race it’s wasted money
16:27
and actually there’s a lot of
16:29
organization and infrastructure that
16:30
gets built that you can actually use
16:32
next time so these things take a few
16:34
cycles to build up momentum to to
16:36
really make change boy that’s a really
16:38
uh hopeful and optimistic framing
16:40
and stacey abrams was 100 who i had in
16:42
mind when i asked that question and i
16:44
also am thinking about
16:45
you know a couple of maybe months ago at
16:48
this point
16:49
anna garadardas did an interview with
16:51
noam chomsky and
16:52
i remember the one thing i really took
16:54
away with that was
16:55
no i’m saying you know the vote is a
16:59
is a strategic move like it’s a chess
17:00
move and you have to use the in between
17:03
vote to
17:04
haunt the dreams of the the elected yeah
17:07
the politicians right like
17:08
i who vote for biden he was saying
17:11
basically like and then haunt my dreams
17:13
you know make sure that you know you’re
17:14
coming back and you’re
17:16
just staying on the elected
17:18
representatives
17:19
but i love that how you’re positioning
17:21
the idea of
17:23
you know the evidence and investment of
17:25
you know someone like jamie harrison
17:27
and you know not not being able to to
17:29
successfully amount to campaign against
17:31
lindsey graham
17:32
that that that is still an investment
17:34
that’s that’s potentially something that
17:36
could
17:36
could pay off in further makes the next
17:38
jamie harrison
17:40
be a lot easier to get to get over that
17:42
threshold 100
17:44
that’s wonderful i wouldn’t what an
17:46
optimistic way to think about this
17:48
i i understand i realize and i’m gonna
17:49
i’m just gonna say once
17:51
uh for this i i realize that this is uh
17:54
going to come off as
17:55
highly partisan and i i sort of
17:57
apologize
17:58
to the listeners and viewers who uh
18:00
don’t 100
18:01
align with um with my views or with
18:04
maybe caleb’s views
18:05
um i i hope that there’s still value in
18:08
this discussion and that you can take
18:09
away
18:10
you know some insights and some
18:11
strategies that are useful to you
18:13
um but i’m not i’m not uh i definitely
18:17
feel like i’m gonna be pretty
18:18
transparent about
18:20
my political views on this i’m sure
18:22
caleb will as well by the way it’s a
18:24
hard moment not to be
18:25
yeah right yeah i want to show off my
18:28
new
18:29
uh mug by the way um that’s a new thing
18:32
because my
18:33
my viewers were making fun of me for
18:35
always drinking out of so many different
18:37
containers but i do still have my little
18:39
water and a wine glass
18:40
i’m not completely abandoning my uh my
18:43
multi-container drinking pack we as
18:46
guests on the show we get to have one of
18:48
those mugs right you send out little
18:49
tech humanist mugs to all of us now
18:51
happily
18:52
do that what’s your christmas present
18:56
yeah that’s right so so i love so this
18:59
idea of um
19:01
you know kind of taking the taking even
19:03
a loss
19:04
a short-term loss and thinking about it
19:06
as a long-term strategy
19:08
to me that feels like it may even be a
19:10
good pivot into
19:11
uh into thinking about the digital
19:13
organizing
19:14
process in practices that align with the
19:16
best outcomes like
19:17
thinking about um how to
19:20
to build momentum toward the long-term
19:24
outcome that you want to see what what
19:27
have you learned
19:28
uh in the years of i mean first of all
19:31
as being a strategist
19:32
and you know a digital strategist and
19:34
then you know working
19:36
associated if you’re affiliated with the
19:38
highest office in this country
19:40
and uh coming away from that and
19:41
starting your own business you know
19:43
there’s a lot of ways in which i feel
19:44
like you’ve taken some understanding
19:47
of what a short-term win or loss looks
19:50
like
19:50
and then and moving whatever you have
19:53
into the long term
19:54
can you talk to us about that yeah
19:57
totally it
19:58
it’s related it actually uh relates back
20:01
a lot to what we were just talking about
20:02
about um kind of the massive kind of
20:05
digital tragedy of the comments that
20:06
happens every
20:08
election cycle where everyone is just
20:10
kind of
20:11
fighting for every dollar and fighting
20:12
for every attention of every voter to
20:14
get out and volunteer and do
20:16
xyz all that stuff really matters the
20:19
reason why
20:20
i get so nervous about things like list
20:22
swapping
20:23
and texting people who didn’t ask any
20:25
kind of permission
20:26
for it and you know
20:30
fake emails with like 300 matches and
20:33
you’re like what are you even talking
20:34
about three hundred percent matter this
20:35
is not even thing
20:36
um is because it actually makes it
20:40
a lot harder to build relationships over
20:42
the long
20:43
term you basically use the cycle
20:46
as a campaign manager as a strategist
20:49
for that cycle
20:50
all you care about is what happens on
20:52
election day
20:53
so i totally get like for your goals as
20:56
a campaign
20:57
you are like i am aimed at one thing and
20:59
i will do whatever it takes to get my
21:00
candid in the office totally
21:02
get that but what happens is in between
21:04
cycles
21:05
we’re not building relationships like we
21:08
actually should to be able to do the
21:10
kind of long-term organizing work that
21:11
you’re just talking about in terms of
21:13
known chomsky being able to say like
21:15
okay we got blinded office now how are
21:17
we going to hold his feet on the
21:19
to the fire for things like climate
21:20
change for the minimum wage for whatever
21:22
issue it might
21:23
um that might come up and make sure
21:25
we’re moving the overton window to where
21:27
we need it to be
21:28
totally totally yeah um
21:32
that work is a lot harder and it’s a lot
21:33
more invisible it’s
21:35
i’ve been more encouraged in the last
21:37
four years because you’ve seen
21:38
organizations pop up like the sunrise
21:40
movement or
21:41
like swing left that are trying to do
21:43
some more
21:44
long-term relationship building with
21:46
their volunteer base with their donor
21:47
base
21:48
that they can then activate for on
21:51
behalf of campaigns
21:52
and and you know be a little bit both
21:55
kind of in that holding the fee to the
21:57
fire advocacy world but also in the
21:59
electoral world when there’s a specific
22:01
candidate that they want to get into
22:02
office
22:03
um but those worlds don’t always align
22:06
perfectly with their goals
22:08
for exactly the reasons i was talking
22:09
about one has long-term relationship
22:11
building goals one has
22:12
short-term you know very specifically
22:15
focused goals
22:17
i think if if i were in the kind of
22:19
democratic strategy ecosphere still
22:22
that’s one thing i mean
22:23
we were even talking about that dynamic
22:25
back in 2014
22:26
2015 about the relationships between
22:29
advocacy groups
22:31
organizations like the d triple c um you
22:34
know
22:34
uh electoral organizations campaigns
22:38
and how you know those goals often
22:41
clashed and how we supported each other
22:43
and how we kind of took attention away
22:44
from each other
22:45
i don’t think anyone’s really figured
22:46
that part out yet but to me
22:48
that’s the we have to figure out how we
22:52
can keep
22:52
everyone’s kind of wrapped attention on
22:55
the
22:55
goal posts when it comes to like the
22:57
midterm elections in 2022
23:00
and taking the senate back or else we’re
23:02
gonna have divided government for a long
23:03
time we’re not gonna get anything done
23:05
i think what’s tough about the spot that
23:07
we’re in is that our issues are really
23:09
big and urgent and if we do end up going
23:12
into divided government
23:13
we are going to be making progress by
23:15
increments and it’s going to feel really
23:17
frustrating to people who just spent
23:19
a ton ton of time and energy into
23:22
getting joe biden into office
23:23
and so there needs to be some like
23:26
realistic vision setting with like what
23:28
we can achieve
23:29
in specific amounts of time that like
23:31
time dynamic to me
23:32
is one that i think about a lot about
23:35
just like horizons of
23:36
progress you know obama used to talk
23:38
about like um
23:39
that old king quote about um the arc of
23:42
ju uh
23:42
what is it the arc of um uh arc of
23:45
history bends toward justice
23:47
yeah but it’s been sort justice like we
23:50
are so
23:51
in our immediate like if we don’t get
23:53
medicare for all past
23:55
tomorrow then the whole democratic party
23:57
is a failure and it’s like
23:59
oh hold on this is actually a lot harder
24:01
than you think it is
24:02
yeah so we need to like we there we need
24:04
to reframe our expectations
24:06
because we we now live in a world that
24:09
like wants satisfaction
24:10
immediately and this work is hard and
24:12
takes a really really long time
24:14
yeah it’s hard to i think maintain that
24:16
appropriate balance of an activist’s
24:18
urgency
24:19
and a historian’s sense of perspective
24:21
but it does
24:22
it does seem like those are two very
24:24
valid you know kind of
24:26
voices to have on on each shoulder kind
24:29
of
24:29
but like i actually really get why the
24:32
activist urgency is taking such
24:33
prominence now because some of the
24:35
issues we’re facing i mean
24:36
let’s take away the fact that we’re in a
24:37
global pandemic and literally people are
24:39
dying
24:40
like from mismanagement but climate
24:43
change
24:44
speaking of the sunrise movement is
24:45
becoming more urgent by the day and we
24:47
have not taken big bold action
24:49
so like i can understand why you as a
24:51
young like
24:52
greta thunder like climate activists are
24:54
like we are not doing enough and beating
24:56
that drum
24:57
every single day but like how do we
24:59
reconcile that
25:00
with compromise and like the kind of
25:03
democratic government that we have
25:04
i don’t know that’s that’s a really
25:06
really tough challenge
25:08
i think you know i wonder about
25:09
something like
25:11
the united nations sustainable
25:12
development goals uh
25:14
and and that that’s a framework of
25:16
change toward
25:17
a time frame of 2030. um
25:21
do you ever imagine that there could be
25:23
something that’s parallel
25:24
specifically for the us thinking about
25:27
the
25:28
challenges that we need to mount within
25:30
our own
25:31
context and our own borders
25:34
in alignment with those of course
25:36
because we are part of the world but
25:38
but to specifically address the context
25:40
of our own country
25:42
who would be the body that would define
25:45
those
25:46
goals and i have something at my door
25:50
and who would be the body that would
25:51
define them and who would be the body
25:53
that would
25:53
that would measure them and is there is
25:55
there something that you can imagine
25:57
taking place yeah that’s a good question
26:00
i mean
26:01
i i want to i want to say that there’s
26:04
anything that we could do
26:05
if we actually had the energy and um you
26:08
know
26:09
efficacy is a governing body and a
26:10
democracy to do it
26:12
who actually would do it probably
26:15
i mean this is this is trouble with
26:17
having an administration that turns over
26:19
every four years right like
26:20
this the paris climate accords should
26:22
have been that
26:24
yeah and then we left it literally what
26:26
two days ago
26:27
and now if biden becomes back in
26:29
administration we’re going to rejoin it
26:31
so much of because congress has been so
26:34
deadlocked so much of our governing has
26:35
been by executive order and that’s just
26:37
it’s not a
26:38
it’s not a good way to your point to do
26:40
long-term strategy
26:41
right so speaking of of um
26:44
decisions that get made now that that
26:48
maybe have consequences further down the
26:50
road i i wonder about
26:52
you know how do you think about the
26:54
types of
26:55
strategies and tactics that uh obama
26:58
and his campaign used in in the initial
27:01
election and then specifically in the
27:03
re-election and then of course you know
27:04
your
27:05
your group taking over and kind of
27:06
cultivating those
27:08
digital assets i think there there seems
27:11
like there’s a way to look at that that
27:13
says
27:14
um that was a really wonderful thing
27:16
because it got us this
27:18
uh wonderful administration uh it’s also
27:20
possible to say you know
27:22
those tactics were co-opted uh by
27:25
um by the republican party and then were
27:28
expanded and
27:29
were co-opted by bad actors and by
27:31
foreign actors and
27:33
and so on so is there
27:36
is there a way to put this into context
27:39
that we think about
27:40
creating uh using digital organizing
27:43
practices that only align with the best
27:46
outcomes that
27:47
that you know maybe are are
27:50
intentionally
27:51
reduced like that the harms are reduced
27:53
within them the potential harms when
27:55
they’re used in different capacities or
27:56
at different scales
27:57
do you think about that yeah
28:01
there’s a couple of things that i think
28:03
about in terms of
28:04
um what how we ran
28:08
long-term digital organizing efforts and
28:12
what i’ll just kind of broadly paint as
28:14
a brush is like the political ecosystem
28:16
that we have right now the two the
28:18
easiest way to think about it i think is
28:20
in terms of
28:21
how we used social media and how we use
28:23
email that’s the that’s the most
28:26
concrete ways i’ll put sms aside because
28:30
i think it was less mature medium than
28:32
it has become now sure
28:33
um and also there’s still a lot of
28:36
really
28:37
random telecom like overlay like
28:41
problems with that industry that are
28:42
like have not caught up with what is
28:44
possible it’s very strange anyway
28:46
but like take those two mediums how
28:49
social has changed
28:50
just in the past few years i mean we
28:53
were when we were running the obama team
28:54
i
28:55
i like to say it was bridging the gap
28:57
between when people really
28:59
saw it as a potent political force
29:02
and when people went oh that force
29:05
doesn’t necessarily mean for good
29:07
like between the years of like 2013 and
29:09
2016
29:10
is when it’s like arab spring obama’s
29:14
re-election
29:15
you know like when people were like oh
29:16
my god look at the power of social media
29:18
to do all this good
29:20
and then 2015 2016
29:23
donald trump uses it to get elected
29:26
russian disinformation i mean like all
29:29
the stories
29:30
and in between that you’ve got this
29:32
story from facebook i don’t remember
29:33
this about um
29:34
emotional manipulation that they did at
29:36
that big study 2014 where they were like
29:39
look how much we can
29:40
affect you know people’s emotional
29:42
outcomes just by tweaking our algorithm
29:44
and by 2016 they were like just kidding
29:46
we never said that right but that was
29:47
the
29:48
that was the like environment that we
29:50
were operating in
29:51
social media and so the where we are now
29:53
again is just
29:54
we like the potential is there but we
29:56
haven’t reconciled like how do you
29:58
actually create an equitable public
30:00
square
30:01
that allows people to have a voice who
30:04
couldn’t have a voice like allows us to
30:05
find candidates
30:07
that would never have been able to get
30:08
the kind of media attention
30:10
in a normal like mainstream
30:12
quote-unquote media environment but they
30:13
can use social media to like talk about
30:15
their platform
30:16
without kind of allowing the kind of
30:18
worst drugs of society to also
30:20
organize around misinformation or you
30:23
know
30:23
intimidation or racism or all the other
30:25
kind of
30:26
bad isms so that’s that’s on the social
30:28
media side that’s that’s
30:30
that’s what people are dealing with
30:31
today on the email side it’s a lot of
30:32
what we were talking about in terms of
30:34
people have now just taken to
30:37
all kinds of kind of crazy voter match
30:41
you know uh donation match kind of
30:44
uh fairy tales list swapping
30:48
and it’s just it’s i’m i’m frustrated by
30:51
it because we put so much editorial
30:53
thought
30:53
into like how do we create a theory of
30:56
change with what we are doing here
30:58
that explains to people this policy
31:01
issue tries to distill it down
31:03
explains why if they take this
31:04
particular action we’re asking them to
31:06
take it matters right now
31:08
um and like it paints it back to the
31:11
bigger picture of how we’re trying to
31:12
achieve this policy goal together
31:14
and it doesn’t i’m not gonna i wouldn’t
31:16
say the biden campaign to this but this
31:18
is just a kind of
31:18
general painting that bro the brush of
31:20
like the political ecosystem they’re in
31:22
there’s just so many people that don’t
31:24
that don’t treat their list with the
31:26
kind of respect that we try to treat
31:28
treat people with and tried to like
31:29
actually build
31:31
like trusted relationships over time so
31:33
those are the two things that i’m the
31:34
most concerned about
31:36
going forward and i don’t i just be
31:38
honest like i don’t think there’s easy
31:39
answers to either those things
31:40
yeah like it is there’s a reason why
31:43
people keep doing the like
31:44
crazy email matching fundraising like
31:47
sending a thousand emails a day there’s
31:48
a reason why we get
31:50
text messages from all kinds of
31:51
different campaigns and political action
31:53
because it is a way if you do it enough
31:55
at scale to get people to do things
31:58
like you can reach your goals if you do
32:00
this
32:01
the problem is again it just burns
32:03
everyone’s house down right yeah
32:05
but i like what you’re pointing out
32:06
about you know this carefully crafted
32:07
theory of change and the narrative
32:09
building and everything that that feels
32:10
like
32:11
uh it’s it’s a really object lesson for
32:14
anyone working in any kind of capacity
32:17
where they’re trying to build
32:18
community and they’re trying to build
32:20
you know long-term momentum to something
32:22
that you know even when you think about
32:25
i i think a lot about what’s the
32:27
difference between misinformation and
32:29
disinformation
32:30
and sure you know obviously you can talk
32:33
about an intent
32:34
and with disinformation it’s intention
32:36
to deceive and misdirect and everything
32:38
with misinformation
32:39
it may simply be that something
32:41
sensationalistic has caught on
32:43
and you know you it’s impossible to to
32:46
reign it back in once people get excited
32:48
about it
32:50
but if you if you’re dealing with it
32:53
seems to me from
32:54
what you’re what you’ve just laid out if
32:56
you’re dealing from within a model
32:58
that has a robust theory of change and a
33:01
robust narrative
33:02
it feels like that might create a better
33:06
environment from which to navigate those
33:09
types of
33:10
the misinformation and the
33:11
disinformation that you would be in a
33:13
position
33:14
because you have cultivated trust
33:16
because you have cultivated this
33:17
community
33:18
right to be able to combat that better
33:20
it does it just seems like it makes
33:21
sense right
33:23
yeah absolutely absolutely i mean there
33:26
were there were specific issues
33:27
for for our sake just taking back to the
33:30
example the team we ran there were
33:32
specific things that came up
33:33
2015 2016 around let’s say
33:36
trade policy um where there were a lot
33:40
of
33:40
rumors going around about trade policy
33:43
in the obama administration navigating
33:45
uh trade policy with asia
33:46
that that they specifically had to say
33:49
like
33:50
does this just what you were hearing
33:52
about how i’m navigating
33:54
trade policy sound like obama to you you
33:57
know like it was that
33:58
like where the president had to trade on
34:00
some of that trust
34:02
um with the progressive uh community
34:05
the one thing about your what you were
34:08
saying about um the trans
34:10
transferability of that uh model is we
34:13
have actually taken it
34:14
as 18 copies and applied very similar
34:17
persuasion kind of
34:18
long-term relationship building tactics
34:20
in what i will call the change
34:22
management space
34:24
within corporate environments you know
34:27
just kind of about that because
34:28
i’d love to hear about how you’re how
34:29
you’re finding that to be like obviously
34:31
it seems like
34:32
uh you know targeting and affinity
34:35
building and coalition building and that
34:36
sort of thing does feel like it has
34:38
direct transferability into into that
34:41
especially for larger organizations
34:43
where
34:44
again right rumor persists like the the
34:47
penchant for like
34:48
rumor mill to create its own kind of
34:50
misinformation ecosystem when you’re
34:52
trying to do a big change
34:53
initiative right like what we’ve tried
34:55
to try to get across
34:57
our clients is persuasion is kind of
35:01
it’s not just a tool in your tool build
35:03
it has to be like one of the things you
35:05
are doing
35:05
constantly like in the media environment
35:07
that we are in when we are
35:08
inundated with a thousand different
35:10
messages every day a thousand different
35:11
media points
35:12
we’re all carrying around like the
35:14
world’s most powerful communication
35:16
devices known to man in our pockets
35:18
every single day like you have to be
35:21
actively
35:23
bringing people along telling them a
35:25
story trying to
35:27
make them understand what their part or
35:29
their role in that story has to be
35:31
in order to make change in your
35:32
organization and kind of turn the
35:34
titanic of your organization toward
35:36
any kind of end goal like the the
35:38
there’s a lot of
35:39
um applicability there we’re doing a big
35:41
project with united way worldwide right
35:43
now that um
35:44
involves you know basically a big
35:46
transformation effort within the united
35:48
way network and if you know anything
35:49
about the united way network
35:51
it is very community centric and very
35:54
disintermediated
35:55
in terms of there being united way of
35:57
greater chicago
35:58
united way of the twin cities united way
36:01
you know like
36:02
they they have built this model that has
36:04
worked really well to get to know the
36:06
local communities but hasn’t really
36:07
worked that well
36:08
to support each other as a network and
36:11
so as they try
36:12
to come in and create a network-wide
36:15
united way vision and about you know
36:18
sharing technology sharing data
36:20
about um you know making the whole
36:22
network work better together
36:24
um they’ve had to do a lot of persuasion
36:27
a lot of convincing
36:29
to these local united ways and their
36:31
boards and their staff
36:32
about the direction that they’re moving
36:34
in
36:36
that’s cool yeah it’s an interesting
36:38
thing i think it just it proves that you
36:40
need to know
36:41
what you believe in organizationally yes
36:44
right there has to be
36:45
and i think you know we talk a lot about
36:47
mission-driven or purpose-driven
36:49
companies uh but but i find that even in
36:51
my work when i’m
36:52
talking to companies about you know
36:55
using
36:56
uh data and tech to improve human
36:58
experiences but also be
36:59
become more successful so often we have
37:02
to start from this place of talking
37:03
about purpose
37:04
and i always say like it isn’t
37:06
necessarily this touchy-feely thing
37:08
it is really about having a strategic
37:10
organizing principle
37:12
for the company about why do you even
37:14
exist and what are you trying to
37:16
accomplish
37:16
but even that feels like it’s it’s a
37:19
little esoteric or you know
37:21
off of what people are normally thinking
37:23
when they’re thinking about
37:24
a company or about how a company
37:26
operates so it’s it’s wonderful to hear
37:29
you bring it back to
37:30
you know in order to to get that
37:33
momentum and create that kind of
37:34
advocacy and and community building it
37:38
has to come from this clear place of
37:40
what do you believe in what are you
37:41
about right yeah
37:44
yes that’s brilliant yeah 100
37:47
so hey you know i wonder about um
37:51
you know just thinking about your
37:52
personal journey when you
37:54
ended up uh going to work for ofa how
37:57
did that happen first of all
37:59
um so i live in chicago and
38:02
the obama’s obviously have deep roots in
38:04
chicago and ran both
38:05
both the 2008 and 2012 campaign from
38:08
here
38:09
um and i you know it was really a just
38:12
matter of being in the right place at
38:13
the right time
38:14
having met a bunch of the people from
38:16
the 08 campaign that went on to work on
38:18
the 12 campaign
38:19
um having worked with many of them when
38:22
i was here
38:23
at working at edelman in chicago
38:26
you know just having it was very strange
38:29
i mean
38:30
on the one hand being in the right place
38:32
at the right time in terms of our
38:33
senator from
38:34
illinois going on to be president and
38:36
just having to live in his backyard
38:38
but in the other hand actually like
38:41
working with
38:42
and getting to know a lot of the people
38:43
that helped make him president
38:45
in between the two presidential
38:46
campaigns and so
38:48
you know serendipity i will give a lot
38:50
to that
38:51
on on top of the fact that just you know
38:53
i kept in touch with a lot of the people
38:55
that worked on the campaign and tried to
38:57
try to help from a volunteer perspective
38:59
just like
39:00
pitching in and you know contributing
39:02
ideas and content
39:03
wherever i could did you have you grown
39:06
up with or you know gone through school
39:08
thinking
39:09
that you might be in any way involved in
39:11
politics or political organizing
39:14
no really so well what i’ll say is i
39:17
majored in history
39:18
when i was in college and music right
39:19
that’s what i saw on your linkedin yeah
39:21
i majored in history and minored in
39:23
music so clearly i had like a career
39:25
path in mind
39:26
my parents were thrilled but i know
39:28
what’s weird about it is you know i
39:30
didn’t have a career path in mind but
39:31
also the career that i’ve had couldn’t
39:32
have existed when i went to college like
39:34
it’s just
39:35
it’s it’s a very strange thing to think
39:37
about like there wasn’t a
39:38
major in digital strategy you know in
39:42
back when i was in college so i guess on
39:45
the one hand it kind of
39:46
it it helped me be a more big picture
39:49
thinker that like to look at kind of
39:50
long-term trends
39:52
and kind of being at the intersection of
39:54
a presidential
39:56
campaign and a president and this
39:59
shift that was happening in society
40:00
around digital communications the right
40:03
place at the right time
40:04
you know that was both of those things
40:05
were fascinating to me for many reasons
40:08
yeah uh i wonder
40:12
too about you know that that must have
40:14
been in some ways you’re working you’re
40:15
working in dc i’d imagine right or were
40:17
you
40:17
working in chicago i was working in
40:19
chicago just commuting back and forth to
40:21
the dc
40:22
yeah here and there so that also
40:25
a lot since i have a family here
40:28
so yeah i was just gonna say it it seems
40:30
like that’s a stressful
40:33
uh lifestyle i would imagine and since
40:35
it’s been such a stressful time
40:37
with you know the pandemic and this
40:39
election and so on
40:41
they’re seeing my gray hair now
40:44
i’m just you know looking at my own and
40:46
thinking about all of us
40:48
i feel like you must be able to teach us
40:50
a thing or two about
40:52
handling stress and maintaining calm in
40:55
high stakes moments and that feels like
40:57
the question i really am building up to
40:59
ask you is you know
41:00
really when do you think about and what
41:03
do you think about
41:04
that we need to do to foster more of a
41:07
sense of like
41:09
balance and proportion when we’re uh
41:11
dealing with these high stakes moments
41:13
like we are now like waiting for a tight
41:15
election to be called
41:16
and since especially we we’ve already
41:19
been cautioned that results could take
41:20
longer
41:21
than uh than we are used to it could be
41:24
days or longer and
41:26
um people just seem determined to be
41:28
stressed out
41:29
but i don’t think it’s just our fault i
41:31
think you know that the handling of the
41:33
story in the media
41:34
isn’t isn’t helping like the jittery
41:36
needles in the new york times data
41:37
visualization like
41:38
yeah ptsd from 2016 for many of us
41:42
and uh uh and i also don’t think there’s
41:44
been a strong
41:45
showing from many of our top
41:47
institutions to set like a clear-headed
41:49
example about this so do what do you
41:52
think about
41:53
in terms of what we most need societally
41:57
culturally maybe individually you know
41:59
to to help counter-balance this and
42:01
help manage our skills at this yeah
42:05
it’s interesting that you say society
42:06
culturally individually because i
42:08
actually think
42:09
given how individualized a lot of our
42:12
media experience is right now we can’t
42:14
think about those
42:15
separately anymore like we actually have
42:17
we do have to talk about like what is
42:19
our own individual
42:20
responsibility to be critical about the
42:23
media we read
42:24
to be critical about what we share and
42:26
don’t share online
42:28
with how do we build institutions and
42:30
and stop gaps in our media environment
42:32
and our technology environment to make
42:34
sure that we are
42:36
controlling the system and making sure
42:37
the system is healthy right
42:40
in terms of what can we do to accurately
42:43
set expectations
42:44
you know it’s funny i think the news
42:46
media
42:47
um and i’ll paint a broad brush with
42:50
like you know most of the mainstream
42:51
outlets
42:52
um did a relatively good job setting
42:55
expectations about how long the counts
42:57
were going to take
42:58
like i actually think that they um
43:01
talked about it quite a bit
43:02
in the lead up the responsible campaigns
43:05
out there talked about it quite a bit in
43:07
the lead up trying to set expectations
43:09
i think the hard thing is we are just we
43:12
just have muscle memory about when we
43:14
get to know these things i think that’s
43:15
what’s been
43:16
if i were to to you know point at why i
43:19
was stressed out tuesday night
43:21
i think it was a it was a combination of
43:24
having muscle memory of just knowing
43:27
as soon as we can on election night or
43:29
late into election night
43:31
and like setting our own expectations
43:34
unrealistic high
43:35
and with this realistically high about
43:39
for me you know a reputation of the last
43:42
four years
43:43
and wanting there to be such a powerful
43:46
kind of blowback
43:47
that we could kind of gain some of our
43:49
global reputation back
43:50
like that’s what i think i’m still a
43:52
little bit grieving
43:54
that that narrative didn’t come out of
43:55
tuesday night
43:57
um but you know it’s it’s
44:00
you’re absolutely right that at the end
44:02
of the day
44:04
if things go like we think they’re gonna
44:05
go biden could win
44:07
over 300 electoral votes and more than
44:09
seven million in the popular vote so
44:10
like it could actually be a pretty
44:12
strong repute
44:14
or like backlash against the sitting
44:16
president which is actually pretty hard
44:18
to
44:18
unseat an incumbent president right um
44:22
but it’s not going to feel that way
44:23
because we didn’t get it like
44:24
immediately
44:25
right right yeah no that’s that’s fair
44:29
it feels like it it’s maybe
44:31
circumstantial
44:32
in some ways because of the pandemic
44:34
because of the the shift
44:36
many states had to make on the fly
44:38
almost
44:39
to you know absentee and early voting
44:42
that
44:42
uh that they weren’t prepared or that
44:44
they encountered different kinds of
44:45
resistance to trying to get prepared and
44:48
so you know certainly there’s some
44:50
some d yeah uh some unpacking to do
44:53
about that uh i’ve actually been really
44:55
fascinated the last few years
44:57
with um just thinking about our
44:58
perception of time in general
45:00
like have you ever heard of the return
45:02
trip effect this like psycho
45:04
psychological phenomenon that like if
45:06
you’re going to disneyland this is
45:08
always the example people use if you’re
45:09
going to disneyland it feels like
45:10
forever like you’ve got it on the
45:12
counter it’s in three weeks as three
45:13
weeks take forever and then you finally
45:15
get there
45:16
and when you’re going home you’re like
45:17
oh that didn’t take long at all
45:19
like our perceived like anticipation
45:22
warps our sense of time and more than we
45:24
recognize that it does i’ve been
45:26
thinking about how
45:28
2020 has been all about anticipation
45:31
when is this pandemic going to end when
45:33
are my kids gonna get to go back to
45:34
school
45:35
when are we finally gonna get to this
45:36
election and how much that’s kind of
45:39
warped our satisfaction
45:40
with getting any answers to any of those
45:42
things i think has a big effect
45:45
yeah that’s really smart observation and
45:47
it also it’s
45:48
it’s been my experience that um that
45:51
trauma
45:52
warps your perception of time and we’re
45:54
all living through
45:55
various kinds of trauma so
45:58
that’s part of it too for sure i
46:01
remember when i was
46:02
uh working at a startup in in california
46:04
years and years ago there was a
46:06
colleague of mine who was really into
46:07
physics and we were out at some
46:10
some restaurant for lunch where they had
46:12
the the
46:13
paper placemats and crayons that kids
46:15
could draw and he was drawing something
46:17
and he said something like um i think i
46:19
was drawing something
46:20
with the crayons but he said something
46:22
out loud that was like
46:24
they expanded time but compressed space
46:27
so it was okay
46:28
and whatever that it was he was talking
46:30
about i remember
46:31
just latching on to that phrase and it’s
46:34
been kind of a constant companion of
46:36
mine for all these years this idea that
46:39
you know at the times when uh our
46:42
perception of time changes because of
46:44
trauma or because
46:45
of stress or because of whatever our
46:48
perception of space
46:49
also changes in the sense that we
46:51
perceive
46:52
less of the horizon or more of the
46:54
horizon you know kind of in
46:56
indirect proportion and it changes our
46:59
our sense of balance and perspective and
47:02
i think that is something that we don’t
47:04
talk about often enough because we know
47:07
that there’s this sense that
47:09
2020 has felt both interminable and
47:12
short in weird ways like it
47:13
still feels like it’s march and it also
47:15
feels like how can this possibly be
47:17
you know thursday already right yes
47:21
it’s it’s a bizarre phenomenon but i
47:23
think we just
47:24
we don’t do enough under talking and
47:26
understanding about
47:28
the human perception of things like time
47:31
so that’s really unexpected departure
47:34
because we’ve been taught to think about
47:35
time and need like
47:36
incremental like you know we’ve
47:39
literally broken up our days into these
47:41
like
47:41
very measurable increments and that’s
47:43
what we think of as time
47:45
yeah and and i mean even the notion of
47:47
2020
47:48
the arbitrary year as like this bucket
47:51
of evil
47:52
or this this this bucket of you know
47:55
bad things that are happening is of
47:57
course absurd
47:58
and it’s there’s no validity to the idea
48:01
that 2020 has any malice in it for us
48:04
yeah there’s no morality associated with
48:06
2020 the year
48:08
but it is it’s a really tempting way to
48:11
to conceive of things
48:12
and so i guess i wonder i don’t know
48:14
maybe
48:15
maybe politics needs philosophers a
48:17
little more to be able to
48:19
you know bring a lot of these different
48:21
kinds of ideas together to be able to
48:23
understand
48:24
you know that the activist urgency
48:27
and the historian’s sense of like long
48:30
perspective
48:31
and the ability to tell this theory of
48:34
change narrative
48:34
and all this stuff it feels like that’s
48:37
a lot of what you
48:38
sound like you’ve been able to do in
48:40
your career is bring together
48:42
some some disparate ideas maybe having a
48:45
music
48:46
co-major that’s part of it did you also
48:49
do
48:50
some sort of like um study abroad thing
48:52
i was trying to figure out what this
48:53
other
48:53
i did yeah yeah i studied abroad in
48:56
florence my
48:57
uh senior year i think yeah yeah you got
49:00
that
49:01
i mean amazing experience yeah yeah you
49:04
got that uh that florence art
49:05
perspective
49:06
and it it shaped you it seems like
49:10
yeah i was i was i was talking to
49:12
someone recently about how travel
49:13
creates empathy
49:15
you know like literally being immersed
49:16
in other cultures getting to meet other
49:18
people
49:18
creates like more empathetic people and
49:20
i was i was actually thinking recently
49:22
about how that
49:23
may be one of the things that we miss
49:24
most about 2020 is literally like we
49:26
have to somehow
49:27
become still empathetic when we can’t
49:29
actually be around people
49:31
maybe that’s a good test maybe that’s
49:33
the thing we most and to bring this
49:34
around back
49:35
into you know how digital tools help us
49:38
as humans like how can we use the
49:40
digital tools that we have at our
49:42
disposal
49:43
to create more empathy if we can’t
49:45
travel and we can’t be in person and we
49:47
can’t have these you know kind of
49:49
nuanced meetings with one another where
49:50
we’re
49:51
picking up on sensory cues that help us
49:53
understand each other and have more
49:55
empathy with each other
49:56
so yeah i guess what that leads into is
49:59
my question to you is
50:00
what what can we do with digital tools
50:03
and with technology and with data
50:04
to create i mean on one hand a better
50:08
digital citizenship platform like what
50:10
where do you go there first of all and
50:12
then i guess you know
50:13
feel free to expound from there until
50:15
like how do we use it in broader senses
50:17
too to create more community and more
50:18
connection
50:21
that’s such a good question and and it’s
50:23
it’s
50:25
thinking about it in terms of a digital
50:26
citizenship platform almost makes me
50:28
think like if you were running for
50:30
office and you wanted to run on the
50:31
platform of like creating better digital
50:33
citizens what would you
50:34
what would you say um i think first of
50:38
all
50:39
it’s a tragedy that we haven’t started
50:42
teaching
50:43
civics and citizenship across the board
50:47
in a way that you know reflects the
50:49
current
50:50
kind of connected reality that we all
50:52
live in so like a combination of
50:55
teaching civics which for some reason in
50:58
our educational institutions we just
50:59
stopped doing
51:00
like we just don’t do it very much it’s
51:02
not a core part of the curriculum
51:03
anymore for a lot of
51:05
high schools for example um
51:08
but combined with the kind of media
51:11
literacy
51:12
that sends people out into the world
51:15
understanding that not everything on the
51:16
internet is true
51:18
right like some combination of those
51:21
like here’s how our government and like
51:22
democracy works and hear your
51:24
expectations as a citizen in terms of
51:26
participation
51:27
thinking about democracy as a verb right
51:29
like it’s not just
51:30
i’m gonna work and get this one guy
51:31
who’s gonna fix everything into office
51:33
it’s like i have to actively participate
51:35
to see the kind of goals and outcomes
51:37
that i want to see
51:38
combined with hey we actually
51:42
have a real personal responsibility to
51:45
be
51:45
people that understand how to
51:47
communicate with each other that
51:49
understand how to have empathy with each
51:50
other online
51:52
that understand how powerful these tools
51:54
actually are
51:55
like one of the things that i’ve been
51:56
wrestling with the last few years is
51:59
we don’t we have not actually like i
52:02
kind of compare us collectively
52:03
to uh peter parker in in the spider-man
52:06
story that like we got
52:08
amazing powers overnight with these
52:10
devices
52:11
from the standpoint of history like
52:13
literally the last like 10 years
52:15
and yet we have not had our collective
52:17
like
52:18
with great power comes great
52:20
responsibility moment
52:22
right like we just don’t think about
52:24
this in terms of its ability to do harm
52:26
or good in the way that we should so
52:29
like
52:29
teaching that kind of responsibility i
52:31
think is really important
52:33
um i think it’s a tragedy how how
52:37
some of our institutions have not
52:39
enabled that more
52:40
like we just we still have we are
52:44
i know we have this like crazy founding
52:46
father and constitution reference but
52:47
we’re literally like running our country
52:49
on a document that was
52:51
that was created more than 200 years ago
52:55
that didn’t know amazon would be a thing
52:57
i mean it’s just it’s it’s kind of crazy
52:59
when you think
53:00
about it so like updating our actual
53:01
institutions themselves
53:03
i think and like democracy reform is one
53:06
of the things that i’m the most honestly
53:08
sad about when it comes to not having
53:10
the senate
53:11
next year um so i don’t know there’s
53:14
probably like three or four other things
53:16
if i thought hard enough about it but to
53:17
me that’s a good good start
53:18
like let’s make our like actual
53:21
democratic environment more equitable
53:22
and actually help us understand and wrap
53:24
our heads around what it means to be a
53:26
good citizen in a digital world
53:28
yeah by the way have you seen on amazon
53:32
the show
53:32
uh it’s a staging of the broadway play
53:35
uh what the constitution means to me
53:37
no i have it on my list somebody just
53:39
was telling me about it last week is it
53:41
good
53:41
yeah it is good and i recommend it to
53:43
everyone in the audience too
53:45
uh it um there’s a reference
53:47
specifically when you talk about the
53:48
constitution being this you know old
53:50
document
53:51
that uh the the woman i can’t think of
53:53
her name that’s that’s doing this
53:55
basically you know sort of fundamentally
53:56
it’s a one-woman show which does have a
53:58
few other players
53:59
uh but she’s talking about how the the
54:02
framers or at least some of the framers
54:03
never
54:04
intended it to be a document that
54:05
wouldn’t be
54:07
updated and replaced a really
54:09
foundational level
54:10
like not not just amendments you know
54:13
here and there but with a
54:15
re-understanding like a
54:16
recontextualization of where it fits in
54:19
right society which is right yeah that
54:22
may be something that that
54:23
people who are more scholarly and more
54:26
informed about this particular subject
54:28
could debate but it feels like that’s a
54:30
really sound
54:30
starting point for a debate and we
54:33
should really i have read that exact
54:35
thing from a lot of like constitutional
54:36
scholars especially in the last like
54:38
month that we’ve been talking about the
54:39
role of the supreme court and
54:41
originalism and how to interpret the
54:42
constitution
54:43
yeah yeah i think that’s that’s really
54:46
worth people going and watching that and
54:47
considering that
54:49
that discussion and you know take it
54:50
with a grain of salt maybe you don’t
54:52
agree with it when you watch it but i
54:53
think it’s
54:54
i think it’s worth um having that as a
54:56
as a thought provoker as a starting
54:58
point
54:59
so really quickly i find myself not
55:01
watching those things because it feels
55:02
like so much emotional work in an
55:04
already like
55:05
and somebody told me to go watch that i
55:06
was like the elections next week i’m
55:08
gonna put that off for a little bit
55:10
there’s enough going on right now yeah
55:12
and maybe maybe now is not the time but
55:14
it was
55:14
i think leading up to the election it
55:16
was a really good time for me because it
55:17
felt like
55:18
it was a downtime moment but also
55:20
something that felt like it was
55:22
a little bit engaged still so yeah maybe
55:25
when you’re ready for that
55:27
i was gonna say just uh sort of a
55:29
lightning round almost of like nuts and
55:31
bolts do you
55:32
do you think online voting is a way to
55:34
go or should you go back to paper
55:35
is there blockchain what what do you
55:37
picture as as the sort of nuts and bolts
55:39
evolution of voting to to make it more
55:42
equitable
55:42
more trustworthy you know all that
55:46
you know so there’s a lot of security
55:49
concerns around online voting and mobile
55:51
voting
55:52
that have not been ironed out and every
55:54
election security you know expert that
55:56
i’ve read or listened to in the last few
55:57
years has basically been like
55:59
this to like anything being online until
56:02
there’s a lot more things that
56:04
um happen around security um
56:07
you know we just we have such a
56:08
decentralized election process
56:10
a lot of people don’t realize it like so
56:12
many people are like
56:13
we’ll yell at the dnc because like
56:15
someone in missouri screwed up somebody
56:17
it’s like no that’s
56:18
that’s a missouri problem like these are
56:20
very very localized organizations that
56:23
run all this
56:24
um so you know i think before we get to
56:27
thinking about
56:28
will online voting make things more
56:29
democratic i would like to see
56:32
universal voter registration or even
56:35
mandatory voting to me like
56:37
there’s many countries that have
56:38
mandatory voting and i’ve seen um
56:41
you know lots of positive outcomes so if
56:43
we if we thought
56:44
like how can we remove the barriers and
56:46
just make it easier on people to vote
56:48
first like
56:50
universal registration how about we move
56:52
election day to a
56:53
saturday not a random day in the middle
56:56
of the week we’ve managed to or
56:58
at least make it a mandatory like
56:59
company holiday like there’s so many
57:01
things that we could do to just make it
57:03
easier
57:04
for people you know on top of the like
57:06
voter id and
57:07
signature requirements and all kinds of
57:10
like
57:11
random bureaucracy people have to
57:13
navigate just to like
57:14
exercise a constitutional right it’s
57:16
insane
57:18
yeah yeah it feels like there’s there’s
57:20
states that have really figured it out
57:21
like oregon you know everything’s yeah
57:24
and
57:26
colorado’s done great mail and voting
57:28
for years yeah there’s definitely states
57:30
that have done this well
57:31
yeah i moved to new york five years ago
57:34
and
57:35
it was the first state i’d ever lived in
57:36
that didn’t have early voting or
57:38
absentee voting and or that you would
57:40
have to have a credible excuse to get an
57:42
absentee ballot and
57:44
it was startling to me i was just like
57:46
what how is new york
57:47
a state that doesn’t have this figured
57:50
out
57:50
but uh yeah there’s there’s so many
57:53
kinks in so many parts of
57:54
every state’s election process that we
57:56
do need to work that out that’s fair
57:58
yeah definitely uh hey before we run out
58:02
of time
58:02
i want to make sure people know where
58:04
they can find and follow you and your
58:06
work online
58:08
yeah thank you um you can follow me at
58:10
caleb gardner on just about every social
58:12
platform twitter instagram
58:14
uh facebook linkedin although you and i
58:17
know we both have
58:18
a contentious relationship with facebook
58:19
these days so i’m not hanging out
58:22
hanging out there as much as i used to
58:24
um that’s probably the easiest way
58:26
um you can go to calebgarner.com read
58:28
more about my work or 18coffees.com read
58:30
more about our work
58:32
we’re deep in this kind of you know mix
58:35
of digital transformation and community
58:37
organizing work on any given day and so
58:40
you know please do keep in touch it’d be
58:41
great to you know meet and hear from
58:44
some of the people that were listening
58:45
in
58:46
yeah and i want to with just the one or
58:48
two minutes that remain i want to give
58:49
you a chance to end on
58:50
an up note an optimistic note so one of
58:53
one of the show
58:54
the recurring show questions that i like
58:56
to ask is is you know what
58:58
when it comes to technology or data or
59:00
digital experiences or the future of
59:02
human experiences
59:03
are you most optimistic about what are
59:05
you what do you look at
59:06
in that sort of category and and feel
59:09
most hopeful about
59:11
oh that’s such a good question you’re
59:13
asking me to find hope
59:15
in a really like stressful like we’re
59:17
literally already brought us a ton of
59:19
hope in this episode
59:20
yeah i guess so um
59:23
i am probably the most optimistic about
59:26
this is
59:27
somebody feel out of left field but um
59:29
i’m probably most optimistic about
59:31
technology’s
59:33
ability to help us tackle big global
59:36
problems like climate change
59:38
like i i’m i get really frustrated about
59:42
that from a policy standpoint and even a
59:44
like
59:45
i mean talk about disinformation and
59:47
like not having shared realities around
59:50
big issues like climate change i mean
59:52
insane
59:53
but i’m actually um pretty bullish
59:56
on um technology’s ability to
59:59
solve and actually innovate around the
60:02
reduction of carbon in our atmosphere
60:04
you know electric vehicles electric grid
60:08
and what’s great about um that is a lot
60:11
of that’s
60:12
already being driven by a lot of the
60:13
private sector around the world
60:15
so it’s not as dependent on government
60:18
as we think that it
60:19
is however
60:22
we still do need government policies to
60:24
set the rules and regulations to make
60:26
the kind of big leaps in that sector
60:28
that we need to make
60:30
but you know i’m i’m definitely more
60:34
optimistic about our ability to innovate
60:35
around that than i am
60:37
and some of my some of our sunrise
60:39
movement or like other
60:40
you know uh environmental activist
60:42
friends yeah
60:44
and and i guess uh to recap your uh
60:47
wonderful points of hope you were
60:49
talking about uh
60:51
staying focused on the long term right
60:54
like
60:54
keeping that that long-term position
60:57
or goal post in mind making sure you
61:00
know what you believe in and what you’re
61:02
working toward
61:03
yeah yeah maintaining that sense of
61:06
urgency
61:07
yeah maintain that sense of urgency and
61:09
i i also wrote down when you said
61:10
democracy is a verb i mean i think
61:12
you know that that mindset is is
61:15
probably what’s going to help us make
61:17
some progress
61:17
in the next yeah in the years to come
61:20
for sure
61:21
well caleb thank you so much for
61:22
bringing your uh your
61:24
surprisingly optimistic viewpoint to us
61:27
today
61:29
we need we need a dose of that don’t we
61:31
we did we needed it
61:32
well thank you for being here and uh i
61:35
hope your
61:36
you and your family stay safe in chicago
61:38
where also my family is
61:40
and uh i will look forward to catching
61:42
up with you in the future thank you all
61:44
for tuning in
61:44
and for listening and watching and for
61:46
sharing this episode and the show
61:49
and please everyone stay well and
61:52
keep yourselves in in good mental health
61:56
thank you all

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