Illumine America: conversations on constructive solutions

July 10, 2020
Illumine America: conversations on constructive solutions

Plenty of Americans are working on constructive solutions to pressing social issues. The Illumine America podcast has been launched online to provide a platform for their contributions to thoughtful, forward-looking discourse. 

Produced by the national Baha’i Office of Public Affairs (OPA) in Washington, DC, the podcast shares conversations of about 20 minutes with people who work for peace and justice through avenues in harmony with the Baha’i teachings. 

Conversation topics coincide with the areas of learning OPA is exploring in its work and relationships with other organizations: racial justice and unity, the environment, gender equality and the advancement of women, economic inequality, human rights, and the role of media in society. 

While the vision of a peaceful and just global society is at the core of the Baha’i teachings, “we know that we won’t be the only ones to help contribute to world peace — it will have to be a process involving universal participation,” says Anthony Vance, director of OPA. 

“The podcast is an opportunity for our office to be in conversation with some of the people and organizations with whom we find some commonality. If each of us is holding some small piece of the puzzle with respect to solving issues like economic inequality, racism, or climate change, it seems timely that we all be in dialogue with each other, learning from what each of us can bring to the table.” 

Guests for the first few installments of the podcast series have included:

  • Sharona Shuster and Russell Krumnow of Convergence, an organization that helps people with differing views work together on such matters as education, health reform, re-entry of the incarcerated, government budgeting, and more. Notes Shuster, “We don’t start with a solution or frame in mind; we build that frame through our conversations with experts and then we test and refine it over time. When we tackle a problem, we try to define it in a way that will promote collaboration and cooperation.”
  • Jenna Nicholas of Impact Experience, which builds relationships between investors, foundations, entrepreneurs, artists and local leaders to develop solutions to economic exclusion and inequality. “[W]hether it’s in southern West Virginia, where there’s a history of deep extraction from the coal industry, or in Puerto Rico post the hurricanes, where there’s a deep history of trauma caused by colonialism, there is a need to recalibrate how we engage in these communities and the role of local voices in the conversation,” she says.
  • Kate Schmidgall, founder of Bittersweet Monthly, a magazine that showcases people and organizations working to solve critical social issues. “I think that we live in a time when disconnection and isolation seem to be rising … in parallel with a self-centered worldview,” she says. “But I wonder if it’s not more beautiful and life-giving when we actually focus on understanding and listening to the stories of others, the stories of people who are not us.”

As a whole, OPA notes, Illumine America can be seen as a venture into a long-standing conversation with listeners, as well as interview subjects, about ideas that might help to propel social progress.

Each installment of the podcast is available on Soundcloud as well as through the iTunes Podcast app for Apple devices.

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