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10 of the best podcasts to get you thinking

"Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would have rather talked.” Mark Twain

Podcasts are more popular than ever and we’re always looking for new ways to share our content, so we’re creating a new series of Nesta podcasts to explore the big issues that are affecting us. For inspiration, we’ve pulled together a list of some of our favourites. What are your favourites? Tell us in the comments below.

1. Upstream

Upstream is a beautifully crafted podcast series of documentaries and interviews that are both informative and motivating. Although centred on new ideas for a more democratic, just and sustainable future economy, it also intersects history, politics, beer, and the fundamentals of human existence. It has challenged many of my pre-conceptions about how an economy should be organised to benefit society, and uplifted me with stories of change from around the world. George Richardson, Principal Researcher, Innovation Systems

2. Radiolab

Radiolab is King of the podcasts, as their journalistic approach to a wide range of topics is heavily addictive for the naturally curious. The questions they ask follow a very natural flow taking you on a journey of discovery. Even if the topic doesn't seem too interesting at first glance, they prove to you time and time again that the world around us, our history and our biology is jam-packed with fascinating stuff. Their episode on the praying mantis (old but very very solid) is a good example, and Molly Webster's recent series on gonads and the process through which our bodies' genders' get determined are examples of things you think you know everything about that turn out to be much more interesting and complex than expected. Is it this journey that makes every Radiolab episode worthy of your time and attention. Caroline van den Berg, Project Delivery Manager, Explorations

3. Monocle 24: The Foreign Desk

I think what I like most about this podcast is it hits the (difficult to find) sweet spot between informing you about foreign politics, assuming minimal existing knowledge, without speaking down to you. I certainly feel like it has given me a more nuanced view of the world, particularly through their deep-dives on global leaders. Eliza Easton, Principal Policy Researcher, Creative Economy and Data Analytics

4. Lage der Nation

A German podcast that means State of the Nation in which a German Judge and a Journalist discuss the issues of the day. This is a wide ranging weekly take on the issues in Germany as well as Globally - often with a digital flavour. Discussing politics isn't unusual as such, but the combination of legal, journalistic and IT expertise (the Judge somehow knows a lot about computers!) is very impressive. John Davies, Economic Research Fellow, Creative and Digital Economy

5. Intelligence Squared

A panel of four people, with a moderator and live audience, debating issues spanning the removal of statues or memorials that are deemed inappropriate in the present day, or the return of controversially acquired items like the Parthenon Marbles or Benin Bronzes, to whether blockchain is a "quantum leap forward or digital snake oil". The panel is two pairs "for" and two pairs "against" and the debate is usually passionate, thoughtful, and forces me to question my own opinions and help me understand issues from other perspectives. Kimberley Ballantyne, Learning Services Manager, Creative Enterprise Programme - also recommended by Alice Casey, Head of New Operating Models

6. On the Media

On the Media, is a New York Public Radio podcast that looks at how the media covers news topics as well as the role of the media more broadly. It also touches on politics and society more generally. On the Media isn't focused on just the big news of the week, it also looks at less expected topics with unexplored angles. They have excellent hosts and a good use of sound effects/bites, which makes for a good balance between talking heads discussing topics and actually reported, documentary-style investigations. Katja Bego, Data Scientist

7. Revisionist History

Not necessarily my favorite, but Revisionist History is excellently paced, balances detail and rigour with storytelling and turns big issues into listenable material. There's a three-parter about education in the United States which is really good - essentially about what the American philanthropy system gets wrong. I can imagine some people might find the presenter Malcolm Gladwell annoying but I think he works really well in this format. Sam Mitchell, Programme Manager, Digital Arts & Media

8. The Reith Lectures

The BBC Radio 4 podcast The Reith Lectures is delivered by leading thinkers on topics from the future of medicine, the power of music and humanities relationship with war. It's informative, accessible and always interesting to listen to as they are delivered in an engaging way with great topics. Georgina Innes, Learning Services Manager

9. Invisibilia

Invisibilia is so amazing it frequently blows my mind. They've produced episodes that have changed the way I think and approach things. The subject matter falls under the category of 'the invisible things that control our thoughts, behaviours and assumptions' - their episodes about the networks of tree roots in forests exchanging information and people's individual 'frame of reference' that informs experiences are among my favourites. I often remember the stories they report on as part of their investigation. They really look at topics from a variety of different angles, and bring very fresh perspectives and topics to the table. Caroline van den Berg, Project Delivery Manager, Explorations

10. People Fixing the World

People Fixing the World is from the BBC World Service. It investigates big global problems and the possible brilliant solutions on topics like how to address the gender pay gap, the affordable housing shortage, helping blind people see with apps, reducing the spread of HIV and STIs, Universal Basic Income and challenge prizes (featuring Nesta's Tris Dyson). What I enjoy most is its eternal optimism, even when the solutions fail (which they sometimes do), there is always a glimmer of hope. As you'd expect from the BBC the production standards are high, it is well researched with engaging presenters and with a 20 minute length, easily digestible. Helen Sadler, Communications Assistant

We'd love to know what podcasts you like listening to and why. And what topics and issues you'd like to hear in the forthcoming Nesta podcast? Tell us in the comments below.

Author

George Richardson

George Richardson

George Richardson

Principal Researcher (Innovation Systems), Innovation Mapping

George uses data science and machine learning on new data sources to research the possibilities for creating maps of the innovation landscape.

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Caroline van den Berg

Caroline van den Berg

Caroline van den Berg

Project Delivery Manager, Explorations

Caroline is the Project Delivery Manager, for the Explorations Team, focusing on managing the pipeline of initiatives for the team, impact assessment and providing project support.

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Eliza Easton

Eliza Easton

Eliza Easton

Head of Policy Unit, Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC)

Eliza works with economists and data scientists to analyse and develop policies for the creative economy, and then with policy-makers to see them enacted.

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John Davies

John Davies

John Davies

Economic Research Fellow, Creative Economy & Data Analytics

John is a research fellow focusing on the digital and creative economy. He is interested in the interface of economics, digital technology and data.

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Kimberley Ballantyne

Kimberley Ballantyne

Kimberley Ballantyne

Learning Services Manager

Kimberley works in the Innovation Skills team as a Learning Services Manager, helping to build and deliver Nesta’s learning and skills offer. She is specifically responsible for the ...

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Alice Casey

Alice Casey

Alice Casey

Head of New Operating Models

Alice leads on a portfolio of work looking at how technology is transforming communities and civic life.

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Sam Mitchell

Sam Mitchell

Sam Mitchell

Programme Manager, Digital Arts & Media

Sam Mitchell was a Programme Manager in the Digital Arts & Media team at Nesta

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Katja Bego

Katja Bego

Katja Bego

Data Scientist

Katja is a data scientist in the technology futures and explorations teams at Nesta. Her work focuses on using novel data sources and techniques to identify and analyse emerging tech...

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Georgina Innes

Georgina Innes

Georgina Innes

Learning Services Manager

Georgina works in the Innovation Skills team as a Learning Services Manager.

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Helen Sadler

Helen Sadler

Helen Sadler

Digital Assistant

Helen is the Digital Assistant at Nesta.

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