The end of the year is a great time to reflect, connect some dots from this year’s conversations, test out a new leadership framework, and share gratitude for a wonderful year building The Movement Podcast.
Cohen: My wife is a Friends junkie, and therefore I have become a bit of a Friends junkie. And the title of every Friends episode starts with “The One with….” In homage to Friends leaving Netflix on January 1st, today’s episode is “The One With the Weird Guest,” and that guest is me. As you can tell, we’re going to do things a little bit differently today for this end-of-year episode. Let’s go.
F: Mobility is an essential component to the cities of our future. To build this future, we need to do more than invest in technology; we need to invest in the people who will make the hard decisions necessary to create vibrant, equitable, and sustainable cities. Welcome to The Movement where we talk to the brave leaders who are effecting change in an effort to build a coalition of leaders who will make tomorrow real. Here is your host, TransLoc’s National Director of Policy, Josh Cohen.
Cohen: All right. This is going to be a fun one. Today I’d like to reflect a little bit on things I’ve learned this year; amplify and consolidate some of what my guests have shared; make some asks of you, my listeners; and then finally wrap up with some gratitude. So let’s go. We’ll start with chapter one, lessons that I’ve learned over the course of this year.
So, first, it’s really hard to produce a weekly show. You know, I’m a perfectionist at heart, I think. And I’ve gotten much, much better at saying, “This is good enough.” And I really appreciate everyone’s support on that. Mea culpa if you’ve been negatively impacted by me learning that, but I hope you haven’t even noticed. That said, I do think that the weekly approach that we’ve taken has been critical for our success and growth. I mean, you’ve been able to know an episode is coming every Wednesday, and I’ve been able to get all the repetitions and feedback on a weekly basis. And, in the end, I think nothing beats doing reps done mindfully to get better at something, and I think this podcast has certainly been an example of that.
You know, I’ve also thought a lot about who this podcast is for. Is it for the audience? Is it for me? In the end, I think I’m doing it for the world. Right? As I said to our former CEO when I was suggesting this to him, if I can play a small part in helping us build the equitable and accessible and verdant mobility future that we all want, then this is going to be worth it. So through all of this my goal has been the same as it was from the beginning. One is to highlight those leaders who are making the tough decisions necessary to build the world we all want to live in; and then, two, to inspire more of them.
Another thing I’ve noticed this year also is that, you know, perhaps unsurprising because of who I’ve chosen to have on as guests is that, you know, all of the guests have been largely on the same page. You know, no one has been too far to the other side. And I guess the result of that makes for polite and, I hope, still interesting conversation; but I do worry a little bit about the echo chamber, and I’m curious what you think about that.
And then final lesson for me is, as Whitney Houston so eloquently sang and which I won’t, I believe the children are the future. You know, it’s definitely been a consistent theme that I’ve seen, that the youth will lead us, or the relative youth perhaps. So many of my guests have agreed that the next generation is going to be key to moving forward. And, you know, what’s neat is that in many communities these next generation leaders are already making waves. You know, certainly we had Kate Gallego in Phoenix who was on the show earlier this year. Certainly Mayor Jacob Frey in Minneapolis where I interviewed Robin Hutcheson, Heather Worthington, and Danielle Elkins, they’re all there in Minneapolis. So those are just two public-official leaders who are young and doing great work, but certainly there’s other folks on the advocacy side as well, probably many more so because there’s less barriers to entry there perhaps.
All right. Chapter two, lessons for others. So, you know, it’s really been a blessing and a curse to have all of this content. I mean, we’re now up to 47 episodes. And, you know, it’s a blessing because so many people have given so much to share all these different perspectives. The curse really is that it’s hard to really tie that all together, like really get that high-level view on which of those perspectives are more widely shared or consistent. So one of the things that I’ve done is created a framework that intends to summarize some of the key takeaways from what is almost a year of episodes.
So let’s start with my fundamental goal, which is to bring about change. What my fundamental error that I had to confront with that, and many others make this as well, is that I think when many people think of leadership, especially in the context of mobility and cities, I think they normally think about this swashbuckling and unfortunately historically male leader doing the traditional leader-type things, you know, making executive decisions to improve the community and giving interviews on TV or cutting ribbons for some new public building or something like that. And I think there’s a number of problems with this way of thinking, but a fundamental one is that what you’re seeing isn’t actually change.
I think when you’re seeing those actions by a leader, like opening a new transit depot or talking about the mobility plan in the newspaper, they appear to be change, but they aren’t change. Instead, they’re the result of change. They’re the result of previous action taken often long ago and often hidden from plain sight. That is almost like planting a seed. And then, you know, you don’t see it and you don’t see it, and then it’s kind of carefully tended, and then it finally sprouts. So I think if we want to be bring about change we’re going to need to turn this conventional way of thinking about leadership upside-down.
So instead of focusing on the executive decisions that we see written up in the newspaper, we’re going to really need to invest in the necessary reflection that led to the origins of those policy changes. Instead of focusing on the elected or appointed official that represents the people, we need to look at the communities that are the people. And, finally, instead of focusing on the political showmanship, we need to focus on the internal humility of leaders.
So that’s just the beginning. I just wanted to tease a little bit of that framework that communities can use to really bring about change in their communities that have been influenced by all the conversations I’ve had with my guests this year. So let’s look for that in the New Year. That’ll give you something to look forward to coming out in January.
All right. Chapter three. So I have some requests, some asks of the audience that I could use your help with. So, number one, I want you to hold me accountable for making sure that my podcast is representative. So whenever I speak on panels, I use whatever leverage I have to help make sure that we have a diverse panel, and this podcast is no different. So you can help me by letting me know of guests that for whatever reason are not getting their story told and deserve to have that story told and then also letting me know if you think that I’m not doing a good enough job of making this podcast representative of the world we live in.
Two, certainly let me know of interesting stories and interesting people to profile. I don’t pretend to know that I have access to all of that. I try to read a lot; I try to pay attention to a lot, but I may not be aware of everything. So please, please let me know. Certainly give me feedback on the shows. So if you’re interested in different formats or different topics, certainly send me a note on Twitter. I’m @CohenJP or @TransLoc, or you can certainly send me an email at Josh.Cohen@TransLoc.com. And, finally, tell others what we are doing. Certainly share The Movement and what we’re doing there. I certainly have had some audience members do that, and I’m so grateful for that; and I think that will help continue to build this group going forward.
All right. Chapter four, gratitude. So Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who I’ve talked about on the podcast a number of different times, often likes to end meetings with gratitude. And I’ve actually done the same thing here at TransLoc with some of my meetings, and I’ve found it’s a great way to end meetings. I think everyone always ends up feeling great walking out being thankful. So I’d like to end this special, year-end edition with some gratitude as well.
So, first of all, thanks to my wife and kids for their support, though I’m not sure my wife has listened to that many episodes, certainly not as many as episodes of Friends that she’s watched. To be fair though, I haven’t read many of her published research papers. My dad however has listened to all the episodes. Thanks, dad; I appreciate that. Thanks to all of the other podcasters and industry folks like Pete Gould, Paul Comfort, Jeff Wood who have given me feedback and support. Certainly thanks to my guests who have really inspired me in their dedication to mobility and access and equity for everyone.
Certainly my team at TransLoc; certainly Doug Kaufman, our former CEO who has been so grateful in allowing me to start this; and the support of the current CEO, Justin Rees; my friends in the marketing department, L’erin Jensen, Mor Aframian, Sam Cibelli, Allie Stone, Polly Flinch, Diane Manoukian, Dan Ownbey, Aviva Imbrey, and Julie Gates. My editor, Gene Gates, has been amazing, as well as my transcriptionist, Thomas Kevin. And finally thank you to my audience. We wouldn’t be creating The Movement without you. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year. Let’s keep growing The Movement together. Let’s go.
F: Thanks for listening. If you like what you hear, head to Apple Podcasts and subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can find out more at TransLoc.com.