We recently wrapped up the first eight episodes of Hope Is A Verb and to celebrate, we're adding a ninth, bonus episode with Dutch historian Rutger Bregman.
Recording these interviews has been a great reminder about the power of conversation. Although we’d previously connected with most of our guests as charity partners or through our Humankind Project, hearing them tell their stories in person revealed layers and added twists that no amount of research or email chains ever could.
We started this podcast because we wanted to understand what makes someone try to make the world a better place, especially when it can be such a gruelling and thankless task. After nine episodes we’re still unpacking the answers, but we have spotted a few common threads. Here's what we learned in Season One.
Mending the world is not about fixing it
There’s a difference between fixing the world and mending it. We ‘fix’ a problem because we want to eliminate it. A broken appliance is fixed by restoring it to its original state - but for Afghan educator, Shabana Basij Rasikh, there’s no fixing the Taliban. For marine biologist Christine Figgener, no amount of anti-plastic campaigns will restore the health of our oceans fast enough to prevent the damage she sees every day.
Our guests taught us about the forgotten art of mending, of gathering up the pieces and patching life back together. They showed us that there's no hiding the damage. The conversations reminded us of kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery pieces by filling the cracks with gold.
What if we reclaimed mending as a critical part of creating a better future? What if we just need a bit more practice? Sewing buttons, mending relationships, and finding small pieces of the world to stitch back together. Choosing progress over perfection. It's possible to mend even in the most broken places, and sometimes, you can end up with something that's more beautiful and resilient than it was before.
The choiceless choice
One of the biggest surprises was how relatable all our guests were. Even though they’ve done incredible and inspiring things, they're not superheroes. Nobody swooped in to save the day. They're just people.
In every story however, there was a choice that had to be made. They all experienced a fork-in-the-road moment that changed the trajectory of their life: for some it came in their early years, for others it was later. For most, it was unexpected.
The moment Tarek Loubani realised he wanted to become an emergency doctor was seconds after a bomb blast, when he found himself running towards the chaos rather than away from it. For physicist Jessica Wade, it was an unproductive online search for a female scientist that prompted her to use Wikipedia to balance the scales. Agronomist Tony Rinaudo quite literally saw a green shoot, and environmental activist Wanjira Maathai discovered that her choice was part of a deeper legacy.
Even when it was against the odds and defied common sense, once our guests made their choice, it became a compulsion. All of them decided to commit, regardless of whether they succeeded or not. For each person, it became a choiceless choice, and one they continue to honour, every single day.
Roots and wings
These conversations taught us that hope is robust. We discovered that without realising it, we had been using words like hope and faith interchangeably, when they are profoundly different.
Our guests taught us that hope is deeply rooted in accountability and action. It needs to move things at ground level. It craves change. It likes to get its hands dirty. However, hope also responds to sparks of inspiration. It thrives on stories of courage; travelling at the speed of a heartbeat and fuelled by anger and love.
None of our guests waited for hope. The doing became the thing that created new possibilities. After listening to their stories, we now understand that hope is both anchored in reality, and lifted up by the best parts in all of us.
Hope Is A Verb, Season 1
This small machine could end malnutrition
Hope means that everybody has equal access to the basic human rights that we all deserve. It's going to take a lot of work. It's going to take a lot of collaboration. But I’ve seen first-hand that we can get there.
Find out more about SANKU
How to reforest the desert without planting a tree
The biggest change I see is not reforestation but a restoration of hope. It thrills me to watch people who were once defeated, initiating change to create the future they want for their children.
Find out more about Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration
Keep an eye out for Season 2, coming out towards the end of the year!