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Activate World

Business & Economics Podcasts

What makes business leader and CEO activism more impactful? Today’s business leaders have more power to solve societal issues than any elected official, and Millennials and Generation Z expect business leaders to speak up on issues that are important to society. Activate World, hosted by Jon Mertz, explores this modern leadership model. Be a part of a think tank in action!

What makes business leader and CEO activism more impactful? Today’s business leaders have more power to solve societal issues than any elected official, and Millennials and Generation Z expect business leaders to speak up on issues that are important to society. Activate World, hosted by Jon Mertz, explores this modern leadership model. Be a part of a think tank in action!


United States


What makes business leader and CEO activism more impactful? Today’s business leaders have more power to solve societal issues than any elected official, and Millennials and Generation Z expect business leaders to speak up on issues that are important to society. Activate World, hosted by Jon Mertz, explores this modern leadership model. Be a part of a think tank in action!




Building an Engaging Social Movement for Good

Derrick Feldmann, millennial and cause influence researcher and author, discusses how to engage in a social movement for good. Many are belongers in social causes. The goal is to move people from belongers to believers. Leaders design social movements where believers can self-organize and engage others to gain momentum and social change. Business leaders can build community with millennials, gen Z, and across generations, a necessary leadership skill in today’s social cause...


Galvanizing Workers for Workplace Change

Jess Kutch co-founded in 2013 as a platform for employees to advocate for change in the workplace. She saw the opportunity to provide digital tools to workers allowing them to launch their own campaigns and affect change in their work lives. She shares her perspectives on “the fourth industrial revolution,” or a new labor movement enabled by the internet. Jess is an advocate for giving workers economic power to counter the extremes of capitalism and rising wealth...


What Business Leaders Can Learn from Nonviolent Resistance (and Sociology)

Professor Sharon Nepstad’s research covers topics including social movements, and nonviolence and civil resistance studies. She notes that business leaders play important activist roles in communicating societal values and promoting change in areas such as gun control, immigration, and climate actions. She discusses the concept of leadership capital and its impact on leading change in business and society. Business leaders often have resources for social change that grass roots activists...


How Characters and Storytelling Drive Social Change

Professor Francesca Polletta researches the role of storytelling in social movements. She says stories can do three things: get us to care about an issue, create or jump-start a movement, and tell new stories about issues in fundamentally different ways. Social movements’ most important impacts are in changing opinions, beliefs, values, and behaviors. Professor Polletta’s focus is on people who are affected and influenced by movements and bring those ideas and values into their...


Social Principles Transforming Businesses

Greg Satell managed a news organization during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and saw the power of social movements. The same principles underlying successful social and political movements are present in corporate transformations, such as networking, creating a vision of shared values and consciousness, and keystone change. Through cascades, small groups that are loosely connected but united by a common purpose, a company can be transformed, an industry disrupted, or an entire society...


Social Activism Showing Up in Social Entrepreneurship

Dr. Jerry Davis, professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and associate dean for Business Plus Impact, is finding more ways for business to contribute to social betterment. Information and communications technologies now make corporate activities very public, and in turn, force companies to understand their values and what they stand up for. Dr. Davis believes activism should be encouraged, as risk taking, innovation, and passion can serve the businesses’...


Season 6: A Learning Tension between Social Movements and Business Leadership

We are excited to share with you thought-provoking conversations with people engaged in social change as it impacts business. Do you consider social entrepreneurs as activists, or are you curious about how social movements can create a roadmap for business change? Many discuss storytelling, but have you thought about how stories and their characters can change history? In Season Six, we will explore all these questions and more. We'll mix business and sociology, creating ways for business...


Social Enterprise Startup: Empowering Energy Equity through Solar! - S5 Ep 7

Solstice deploys “community solar,” enabling households to subscribe to shared solar farms. Co-founder and CEO, Steph Speirs, highlights their business model to achieve greater energy equity. Solstice addresses inclusion issues in the solar industry, works to democratize access to clean energy, and focuses on accelerating the transition to clean energy. Listen to our conversation on how Solstice as a social enterprise is changing business and demonstrating a new generation of...


Social Entrepreneurship: Startup Challenges with Added Value - S5 Ep 6

Applying entrepreneurial principles to serve the poor and protect the planet is the definition of social entrepreneurship at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship Santa Clara University. Dr. Thane Kreiner, executive director, discusses the Global Social Benefit Institute for accelerating for-profit, nonprofit, and hybrid social enterprises. Our conversation explores the business model of social entrepreneurs – persevering through challenges to achieve greater social and business...


Employee Ownership: Gaining Engagement through Transparency and Responsibility - S5 Ep 5

Loren Rodgers, NCEO’s executive director, shares his perspectives on employee-owned companies as the basis of a new economy focused on broad-based prosperity, limited wealth inequality, shared sense of ownership, and responsibility for communities and workplaces. Learn about employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), the main vehicle for broad-based ownership in the U.S., a retirement plan that invests primarily in company stock and holds its assets in a trust, in accounts earmarked for...


Collectives: Delivering Transparency and Decision-making - S5 Ep 4

Bud Caddell founded NOBL, a worker collective consulting firm in 2014. Worker collectives make decisions by practicing direct democracy versus electing a board of directors. In NOBL’s case, decisions are made by a broad consensus structure of all employees and operates with little hierarchy. NOBL’s four locations have local authority, and everyone has a stake in the company. Twice each year NOBL reboots by asking employees how things could be done differently, effectively creating a new...


Sociocracy: Achieving Results in Circles (Learn, Do, Measure) - S5 Ep 3

Joe Garrison co-founded worker cooperative, Blue Scorcher Bakery Café 15 years ago in Astoria, Oregon. The co-owners wanted equal ownership and decision-making by consent which led them to Sociocracy. A small group mandate has all decision-making members of an organization organized in circles. “Lead-do-measure” allows circle members the autonomy to decide the best way to achieve their goals with outcomes measured. The process is iterative and allows for goal reassessment as part of the...


Cooperatives: Blending Business and Community - S5 Ep 2

Leslie Watson works for a cooperative of consultants whose co-op clients are primarily in the natural foods sector. By definition, “a cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.” Leslie discusses why cooperatives, and their community focus, are increasingly viewed as alternatives to the economic models of capitalism and...


Holacracy: Achieving Clarity and Productivity - S5 Ep1

What happens when a company transitions from a traditional business model to one with distributed authority? At this brought work to the forefront and allowed it to guide the organization’s structure and management process. Morgan Legge shares her experience as a Holacracy Bootstrapper and the benefits and challenges of a model that allows individuals and teams to self-manage while staying aligned with the organization’s purpose. Listen to our conversation with Morgan Legge,...


Intro to Season 5: Business and Organizational Models for a New World

During the 5th season of the Activate World podcast, we will explore if different business and organizational models create more activating dynamics for teams and individuals. Today, cooperatives are being reconsidered and implemented. Holacracy is more than a fad, and Sociocracy is being tested and embraced. Although credit unions have been around since 1849, they remain an organizational innovation in the financial industry. Nothing is pure as some pursue a blend. We will engage with the...


Women in Tech: It Takes Focus, Data, Collaboration, and Intention - S4, Ep 6

How do you create a more diverse tech industry with greater numbers of empowered women? According to Debbie Forster, you stop talking about it and take action by engaging companies to recruit women to tech, collect data, and share best practices. Debbie co-founded Tech Talent Charter which now includes 300 organizations of all sizes and sectors intent on achieving greater diversity. Best practices allow these organizations to learn from one another and improve the diversity of their...


The Power of Diversity-Centered Design - S4 Ep 5

Phim Her is a Hmong-American refugee who uses art and design to impact sociocultural innovation. Her interests are in helping people from diverse backgrounds become empowered, have a voice, and find a path forward in the design industry. She teaches young designers professional development and the importance of finding mentors, allies and advocates at their workplace. Phim believes “We must move from the talking about the world of design to talking about the design of the world.” Her work...


Getting a Seat at the Table – DEI in the Workplace - S4 Ep 4

Christine McCarey has developed diversity, equity, and inclusion programs for her former employer, RetailMeNot, and her own consultancy, Impact DEI. Describing the terms: diversity is “invited to the party,” equity is “playlist picks for everyone,” and inclusion is “asked to dance.” All three work holistically to create a fully diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. Christine discusses a range of DEI topics including leadership buy-in, data grounding, and generational differences....


Bringing Meaning to Diversity and Inclusion at Work and in Community - S4 Ep3

Michaela Ayers shares her experiences on diversity and inclusion as a lead with the Diversity Task Force at Payscale, a compensation research company. Objectives include teaching people the language needed to talk about inequities as a precursor to thinking about them and ensuring everyone feels safe to bring their whole selves to the workplace. She emphasizes that leadership must set the example, as employees need to see leaders modeling and embodying principles of diversity & inclusion....


Taking a “Goodish” Approach to Becoming a Better Leader - S4 Ep2

Dr. Dolly Chugh discusses research on the psychological constraints on the quality of decision-making with ethical import, a phenomenon known as "bounded ethicality." She has special interest in unintentional forms of unethical behavior. Dr. Chugh’s research shows that accepting we’re not always good is necessary for growth. Mistakes allow us to learn, so, it’s better to be “goodish” than good. She discusses being aware of bias, diversity, inclusion, and privilege and acting intentionally on...