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Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good


A podcast for people who make progress: in politics, government, and purpose-driven organizations. Your host: Spencer Critchley.

A podcast for people who make progress: in politics, government, and purpose-driven organizations. Your host: Spencer Critchley.


Seaside, CA


A podcast for people who make progress: in politics, government, and purpose-driven organizations. Your host: Spencer Critchley.




(831) 612-9200


Zach & Spencer on Election 2020

Zach Friend is an author and a public policy and communications expert who has worked for Barack Obama and John Kerry’s presidential campaigns, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Democratic National Committee. He’s been featured on and quoted by CNN, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, Fox News, and many others. In this episode, Zach and host Spencer Critchley talk about not just what’s happening now, but what it all means for where politics is...


Mike Madrid of the Lincoln Project

The Lincoln Project is made up of top Republican political consultants who are aiming attack ads at a Republican president. We find out why and how from the Lincoln Project's Mike Madrid. Mike is an expert on Latino voting trends, based on work starting with his master’s thesis at Georgetown University. He’s the former press secretary for the California Assembly Republican leader and the former political director for the California Republican Party. He’s been named as one of America’s...


Ryan Coonerty: Facing Historic Wildfires and a Pandemic—at the Same Time

As a county supervisor in Santa Cruz County, California, Ryan Coonerty is having to cope with two historic challenges: the national coronavirus pandemic and the catastrophic western wildfires. Both disasters have hit his community hard. In this episode, host Spencer Critchley talks with him about leadership in a time of crisis — or crises.


How to Do Social Impact Marketing That Works

Social marketing uses the persuasion techniques normally used to sell potato chips, fashion, detergent, cars, and endless other consumer products, but for social good campaigns. Knowing how to do social marketing right is important to nonprofits, socially responsible corporations, and all other purpose-driven organizations — but all too often, it's done wrong. You hear a lot about "sharing information," "educating the public," and "conducting outreach." None of these is likely to have much...


Patriots of Two Nations: Why Trump Was Inevitable & What Happens Next

The election of Donald Trump shocked America and the world — and that included Dastardly Cleverness host Spencer Critchley. But Spencer believes now that we should have seen him coming, like we should have seen the approach of this hyper-partisan crisis of democracy we're going through. He's written a book about it, called Patriots of Two Nations: Why Trump Was Inevitable & What Happens Next, available now at Amazon.com. We hear an excerpt from it in this episode. In the book, Spencer...


How to Communicate in a Crisis, With Brent Colburn

Brent Colburn’s experience goes back to the Al Gore presidential campaign in 2000, through Howard Dean’s campaign in 2004, both Obama campaigns, FEMA, Homeland Security, HUD, and to the Pentagon, where he was in charge of communications for the Defense Department. After that, he led communications for Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and he is now the Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Along the way he was a fellow at...


How Republicans Are Beating Democrats Online, With Mark Barker & Jordan Ruden

A big reason why Donald Trump won in 2016 — and why he may win again in 2020 — is that Republicans now seem to get social media, email, and the rest of the online world better than Democrats do, even though Democrats like Howard Dean and Barack Obama were online pioneers. In this episode, Mark Barker and Jordan Ruden of Craft & Commerce give fascinating insights into how Democrats lost their lead, how Republicans took it over, and what it means for how we all communicate, whether we’re in...


Tracy Palandjian: Changing How Change Happens, With Pay for Success

Host Spencer Critchley talks with Tracy Palandjian, the co-founder and CEO of Social Finance, a nonprofit dedicated to using capital to drive social progress. So far, it has helped direct more than $100 million toward challenges in criminal justice, early childhood education, workforce development, health and homelessness. Social Finance uses the Pay for Success model. At its most basic, that means funding promising social good projects with money from investors, who only get paid pack if...


Jake Harriman: Fight Terrorism By Ending Extreme Poverty

For more than seven years, Jake Harriman was a US Marine, serving as a platoon commander in the Infantry and in a Special Operations unit. He was deployed in Southwest and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, and served two combat tours in Iraq. During the second tour, he earned the Bronze Star. Jake believed whole-heartedly in the mission of fighting terrorism. But in Iraq he started to question how that should be done. He came to see the greater enemy as extreme poverty: while...


Jenn Park: What If Government Just Did What Works?

We hear so many stories about government spending big money without getting results — to the point that many Americans agree with Ronald Reagan's famous assertion that government isn't the solution, it's the problem. That claim was never accurate, as government successes like the Internet, highways, or vaccinations make clear. All the same, though, a lot of government effort does end up wasted, as even people who work in government will readily acknowledge. So, many of them have embraced a...


Elin Kelsey: How Optimism Can Help Save the Oceans

“We recognise and respect the many challenges facing our oceans, yet too often 'doom and gloom' stories are the only kind of ocean news we hear. "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.” That’s a quote from the website of Ocean Optimism, 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. Our guest this time...


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. Its graduates make an average starting salary of more than $46,000. The average Watsonville resident makes about $17,000. NEST 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 interview with host Spencer...


Alex Gershenson: The Huge Potential of Making Corporate Buying More Sustainable

Big corporations buy what they need from all over the world because they're looking for the best prices. But increasingly, they’re also looking for environmental and social sustainability. For example, McDonald’s has committed to serving only sustainably-sourced coffee at all of its locations by next year. To achieve that it’s buying its coffee from thousands of often small coffee growers. A company in Santa Cruz, California called SupplyShift makes software that helps companies manage...


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, a nonprofit with locations in Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, and San Jose, California. Vista Center’s mission is to empower people who are blind or visually...


Saving Democracy: The Way Forward

Our episode this time is a live recording of a terrific panel discussion featuring some 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 to go way beyond the usual talking points and offer deep insights into where we are — and how we go forward. More at...


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. One example is Pacific Community Ventures, which he co-founded and where he helped raise $100 million for...


The New Congress: Be Right or Do Right?

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 it's not about the horse race, or the latest outrage, but how to make politics do what it’s supposed to do: make our lives better, not just more entertaining — or depressing. In this episode host Spencer Critchley brings brings back a previous guest and introduces a new one. Dastardly Cleverness veteran Zach...


Lenny Mendonca: Why Progressive Federalism May Be the Answer to America's Problems

Lenny Mendonca, a former senior partner with McKinsey & Company and a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, is the co-founder of New America, a self-described “think and action tank." In this fascinating conversation with host Spencer Critchley, Lenny explains why he believes progressive federalism is the solution to our biggest challenges, including climate change, the rise of artificial intelligence, the future of work, and the health of our democracy. More at the...


Beyond the Horse Race: What the Election Can Teach Us About Making 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 was one of the first people to join Barack Obama’s presidential campaign back in 2007. He went on to serve as the White House Director of African-American Media, as press...


Highlights From Our First Year

We’re celebrating 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. Featured: That is a lot of concentrated Dastardly Cleverness! Subscribe to Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good with any podcast app, and find episode pages, notes, and links at ...