Help us fund WHAT DO WE WANT? A podcast about changing hearts and minds…

Hi! I hate to fundraise, but I love this project and I’d like to see it become a reality. I really think it will be useful to our struggles for collectively liberation. We’re trying to raise only about $2,000 by January, so even a small donation helps. If you don’t like Kickstarter, you could also send money via PayPal or another method.

Help us fund…

What do we want?

A podcast about the gnarly, difficult, and downright awkward questions of activism, organizing and trying to change the world

A raucous but informative call-in show that’s as entertaining as it is revelatory!

Join Sarah (a political theorist of cognitive dissonance) and Max (a cultural theorist of the radical imagination) as we explore what activists, organizers and educators need to know about what changes hearts and minds (and what doesn’t)! 

We’re trying to raise about $2,000 in December to help finance this important project! Please consider donating even a small amount.

It’s no secret and no joke: We need radical social change to free ourselves collectively from all types of oppression and prevent ecological collapse, ASAP. To help people focused on this challenge (you know who you are), we’re going to ask the vexing questions that are keeping activists, organizers and educators up at night like:

  • Is it even possible to change people’s minds about issues they care about?
  • Are we activists actually the most annoying people on earth?
  • Do we all secretly want a strong leader?
  • Do I have a hope in hell of convincing my racist uncle?
  • Can shame be useful?
  • Is leftist infighting actually a good thing?
  • What can we learn from cults?

On each episode you’ll hear…

  • 📢☎️🙀 A social movement organizer calls in with a awkward or vexing question about a real-world problem
  • 🤔⚔️🔥 Max and Sarah (two friends who met in a dysfunctional commune) take sides and debate the best course of action, calling experts to help
  • 👩🏾‍⚖️👨🏼‍⚖️🧑🏻‍⚖️ A panel of OG organizers pass judgment 

Why do we need it?

We urgently need to convince a lot of people to join movements, campaigns, mobilizations and organizations. But are our tools for changing hearts and minds fit for purpose? Why do we always seem to hit a wall in our organizing and never convince a majority (or even a sizable minority)? Why does the right unite and the left divide? And are we all just doomed to burn out after a few years?

Frankly, a lot of our inherited and common-sense beliefs about how to change people’s hearts and minds are outdated. 

What if we admitted that carefully reasoned, evidence-based arguments rarely work? What if we accepted that changing people’s hearts and minds is a process, not an event? What if we recognized how much a radical worldview is threatening to most people? Now we’re ready!

With our academic research, bitter experience and expert guests, we’re here to offer an upgrade! And we’ll do it by challenging taboos, opening up old wounds, and generally asking all the right questions.

In this podcast, we draw on…

  • 🤔🧠👨🏽‍🏫 Thoughtfully selected recent insights from the cognitive sciences about how social brains work 
  •  ✊🌌🙀 Critical theories of imagination and ideology, without any of the alienating jargon!
  • 🚩🪧🔥 Generations of wisdom from social movements around the world

…and with that we’re going to make an 7-episode podcast that include:

  • Heartbreaking and hilarious testimonials from guest activists, organizers and educators
  • Accessible, witty and informative explanations of key concepts and how they apply to real-world problems
  • Useful tips and tools you can take back to the front-lines to help you mobilize hearts and minds for our collective liberation!

What are we making?

We’re going to make a podcast and toolkit about the stuff the left doesn’t like to think about or wishes it could do better.

🎧 The Podcast

We are going to make a 7-episode, fun, funny and insightful podcast about why the activists, organizers and educators need to rethink how to persuade, influence and transform. It’s going to be a joy to listen to. 

Each episode of the podcast will have the following format:

  • A special guest will “call in” to tell us about a challenge they are facing changing hearts and minds in their struggles.
  • Max and Sarah will stage a feisty but comradely debate on how to respond to that challenge, calling experts to make the case. 
  • A jury we will assemble of three wise movement veterans will pass judgment, with colourful commentary.

🧰 The Toolkit

Then, based on the themes of the podcast, we will also prepare a concise online toolkit, aimed at giving organizers, activists and other malcontents tools for workshops or follow-up. Materials in the toolkit will include:

  • Case studies
  • Reading and resource lists
  • Creative exercises and games
  • Tips, tricks and techniques
  • Infographics, comics, creative writing and more

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Why are we the right people?

We’re two charming radical nerds obsessed with imagination and cognitive dissonance. We’re both seasoned educators and activists.

Max Haiven

Max has been organizing grassroots movements since he was 12 in anti-capitalist and anti-colonial initiatives. Today works as the Canada Research Chair in the Radical Imagination at Lakehead University and directs RiVAL: The ReImagining Value Action Lab, a platform to bring together social movements and radical ideas. He is the author or editor of 9 books which all focus on the relationship between capitalism and the imagination. Along with Alex Khasnabish, he is the author of The Radical Imagination: Social Movement Research in the Age of Austerity (2014) and is currently working on a book titled The Player and the Played: How Financialization Fosters Fascism. He organizes with the Common Ecologies social movement education project and Berlin Versus Amazon. He also makes board games and podcasts.  

Max, with a wholesome message in his natural habitat

Sarah Stein Lubrano

Sarah has been organizing since she was 18, when her college feminist group ran Female Orgasm Day. In the pandemic, she coordinated mutual aid for her ward in London. She is also the Head of Research at the Future Narratives Lab, where she strategises about how to talk about social problems. She’s just finishing a PhD at Oxford in Political Theory, and her research focuses on cognitive dissonance and how it can help explain the gaps in people’s political consciousness. She has a book coming out about why talking about politics is often so ineffective, which will be released by a major publishing house in 2025. She’s been on a lot of other people’s podcasts, including Derren Brown’s audible series, The BBC’s Moral Maze, and Women’s Hour. She frequently speaks to the public

Sarah, preparing to spill the tea with you

The back story: Mobilizing Hearts and Minds

In the fall of 2023, we hosted a free 12-week online workshop for 25 activists, organizers and educators on the topic “Mobilizing Hearts and Minds: The Arts and Infrastructures of Persuasion.” Based on its huge success, and our new skills at sassy banter, we want to turn what we’ve learned into a podcast and toolkit. 

Here’s what some of our participants had to say about our course:

My course with Sarah and Max helped me to become more targeted and effective in my work… I’d recommend it to any activist or visionary; it is the perfect space for imagining alternative futures and considering practical strategies to bring about tangible change in the world. 
~ Amelia, doctor and activist, UK

This course has honestly changed my life. Not only has it… given me a sense of how I can mobilise hearts and minds more effectively, given me permission to be pragmatic rather than idealistic or rigid, given me a set of concrete strategies… but it’s also transformed my instinctive relationship to other people… it’s given me so much more hope and optimism. 
~ Dr Noreen Masud, Lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature at the University of Bristol, and an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker, UK

Max and Sarah’s entertaining style made it much easier to address very complex topics, and the diversity of participants made the exchange very enriching. I would definitely take it again without a doubt. 
~ Daniela, activist in culture and feminism, Mexico

To be honest, this course taught me more about how to achieve positive social change than any I’ve had in school. The creative exercises, the entertaining and enlightening course material, the wonderful activists of all kinds that I met through the course, it all replenished my faltering hope and gave me back my enthusiasm for the work that has to be done to build better worlds! 
~ Melike, economic sociologist, Berlin

Who is this podcast for?

  • ✊ THE ACTIVISTS AND ORGANIZERS: In-the-trenches activists and advocates, keen to learn what works to change people’s hearts and minds towards our collective liberation from economic, racial, social and ecological injustice!
  • 👩🏼‍🏫 THE EDUCATORS: People dedicated to helping other people of all ages expand their hearts and minds.
  • 🕵🏽‍♀️ THE SECRET AGENTS: The patient, hard-working folks, the quiet forces for change, the policy wonks, all working in public institutions, NGOs, companies and other places who want techniques and courage to push for change in the belly of the beast.

How and when?

We plan to release our podcast and associated toolkit in May/June 2024. Here’s the plan:

  • December 2023-January 2023: fundraising and pre-production (booking guests; hiring a producer; getting our ducks in a row)
  • February-March 2024: script-writing, show production and interviews (sleepless nights; explosive “creative differences” over theme music, etc.)
  • April 2024: editing, building our website, getting ready for the podcast release (stalking left celebrities for endorsements and mentions;    
  • May-June 2024: weekly episode release as well as toolkit launch (getting drunk on newfound celebrity; being brought back to our senses by our long-suffering friends)

What’s needed?

Our project has already secured funding from RiVAL: The ReImagining Value Action Lab that will pay for:

  • Max’s time
  • A bit of Sarah’s time
  • Our website and toolkit
  • The assistance of researchers and a part-time producer

We’re looking to our communities for support for:

  • The rest of Sarah’s time
  • The services of a professional sound editor!
  • A graphic designer for the podcast, website and toolkit
  • Paying small honouraria to our guests, experts and jury
  • Hiring a producer to help us coordinate 

If our community is extra generous we aim to:

  • Pay our guests, experts and jury, all of whom deserve it!
  • Upgrading our production team to make things run more smoothly and sound more professional
  • Paying for advertising and promotions to help the project reach the people who need it!

Potential episode topics

Here are the topics, very roughly, that we intend to cover in the podcast. We know people are asking these questions so we are going to hear from people who are facing them directly then try to answer them. And hey, if that’s you, please reach out!

  • Should activism feel good?
    Why is trying to change things so hard? Should it feel easier?
    (Plus: tips on surviving a horrible meeting and putting up with annoying coalition partners)
  • Are people deluded or apathetic?
    Why don’t people get it? Or is it that they don’t care?
    (Plus: did somebody say “false consciousness”?)
  • What’s the use of shame?
    We’ve all had embarrassing moments, but (when) can they be transformation?
    (Plus: we have a call-in show about calling-out, and in…)
  • Are we gonna have to actually talk to people?
    Is persuasion part of our job on the left? How do we do it?
    (Plus: we address the fantasy of violence on the left)
  • What can we learn from conspiracy theories or a cult?
    All the worst people seem great at convincing others. What can we learn from them?
    (Plus: tackling loneliness and building “social infrastructure!”)
  • Why are we activists especially annoying?
    Maybe activism is hard because the people who do it are…weird. 
    (Plus: betrayal, division, and other pathologies of the left)
  • Do we just need a strong leader?
    Maybe we all secretly crave one? Plus: must we abandon horizontalism?
    (Plus: the fall out from the Occupy movement…)
  • Should we abandon hope?
    Should we feel hopeful or hopeless? Is despair or hope the right approach? 
    (Plus: cruel optimism, unruly desire, and more).