This week we posted our 50th episode of the Growing Democracy Podcast!

In March 2020, our events came to an abrupt end. Casey and Ashley needed to figure out a way to pivot the project in a way the allowed them to continue their mission, while staying safe.  They decided to launch the Growing Democracy Podcast – an idea that they’d been toying with for a few months already. So, in May 2020, they set to work. They planned to interview 10 people (elected officials, public health officials, nonprofit executives, ,local activists, and community organizers) about their experiences navigating COVID-19; they called it “governing during pandemic.”

The podcast launched with their first episode (Series 1, Episode 0) airing on May 30, 2020.

With the success of the launch, the two expanded their reach, adding more episodes and introducing three new series. In total, series 1, governing during pandemic, included:

Ep. 0 – Ashley Nickels and Casey Boyd-Swan
This week Ashley and Casey introduce the theme for Series 1, Governing during the Pandemic. This series will look at how government, civic, and community organizations are responding and adapting during the COVID-19 Pandemic. [Transcript]

Ep. 1 – Katie Carver Reed
This week the podcast welcomes Katie Carver Reed, the Director of Network Partners and Programs at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. The discussion centers around how the foodbank is adapting to the higher food insecurity in the community, caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic. [Transcript]

Ep. 2 – Phyllis “Seven” Harris
This week the podcast welcomes Phyllis “Seven” Harris, the Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center for Greater Cleveland. The discussion revolves around how the center is enriching the lives of the LGBTQ+ community and how they are adapting during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Transcript]

Ep. 3 – Professor Joe Mead & Dr. Meghan Novisky
This week the podcast welcomes Meghan Novisky and Joseph Meade, Professors at Cleveland State University. The discussion centers on COVID-19 and the prison population in Ohio. The impact the virus is having on prisoners and the efforts being made to protect this vulnerable population. [Transcript]

Ep. 4 – Shanelle Smith Whigham
This week the podcast welcomes Shanelle Smith Whigham, the Ohio State Director for The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit that looks to conserve land for public use. The discussion includes the topics of green space and parks within the community, environmental justice, and the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the need for more public land. [Transcript]

Ep. 5 – Hardy Kern
This week the podcast welcomes Hardy Kern, an Animal Program Specialist at the Columbus Zoo. Mr. Kern discusses the Columbus Zoo’s efforts to help with animal conservation around the world and provides insight into how the zoo is managing during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Transcript]

Ep. 6 – Mayor Annette Blackwell
This week the podcast welcomes Annette Blackwell, the mayor of Maple Heights, OH. The mayor discusses her path in becoming the first female and first African American elected as leader of Maple Hts. The mayor explains the role of local government in the lives of its citizens and how Maple Heights is adapting during the COVID-19 crisis. [Transcript]

Ep. 7 – Jerry Pena
This week the podcast welcomes Jerry Pen ̃a, a Northeast Ohio activist and community organizer. The discussion centers around strategies for organizing during the pandemic. Jerry discusses new approaches in community engagement, especially concerning the issues of voter mobilization and the upcoming census. [Transcript]

Ep. 8 – Scott Kelley
This week the podcast welcomes Professor Scott Kelley, Transportation Geographer at the University of Nevada, Reno. Professor Kelley explains how Geolocation Data is used today in both the public and private sector, and how this technology could be used for contact tracing in the fight against COVID-19. [Transcript]

Ep. 9- Amanda Clark
This week the podcast welcomes Dr. Amanda Clark, Elections Specialist for the Supervisor of Elections in Palm Beach County, Florida. The conversation centers on the duties of county elections boards and how they are handling the voting process during a pandemic, including the increased demand for mail in voting. [Transcript]

Ep. 10- Jeanne Li & Chrissy Stonebreaker Martinez
This week the podcast welcomes Chrissy Stonebreaker Martinez and Jeanne Li from Cleveland Pandemic Response. (CPR) CPR is a network of volunteers who have come together to help provide essential items like food, masks, hygiene items and cleaning supplies to those in need during and after the COVID 19 Pandemic. The discussion includes how CPR uses a volunteer run, nonhierarchical grassroots strategy to try and achieve its vision of Mutual Aid, community care, and liberation for all. [Transcript]

Ep. 11- Vicki Clark
This week the podcast welcomes Vicki Clark, President and CEO of Ravenwood Mental Health. Ravenwood Health provides mental health and addiction services in Geauga County, Ohio. The discussion includes how Ravenwood Health is coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic while trying to ensure quality mental health and addiction services within the community. [Transcript]

Ep. 12 – Jacob Dudley
This week, Ashley and Casey welcome Jacob Dudley, a recent Kent State University graduate with a degree in Applied Conflict Management. Jacob is currently helping to address the COVID-19 pandemic as a contact tracer with a local county health department. The discussion includes how local health departments are trying to minimize the spread of this deadly virus and explores the intersection between contact tracing and civic engagement. [Transcript]

Ep. 13 – Megan Hatch
This week, Ashley and Casey welcome Dr. Megan Hatch, Associate Professor of Urban Policy and City Management at Cleveland State University. The conversation looks at how state and local housing policies impact individuals, especially those that disproportionately impact vulnerable populations. The topics include how eviction moratoriums, rental assistance, and state preemption laws have been implemented during the COVID-19 Pandemic. [Transcript]

Ep. 14 – Episode 50 & Series 1 Finale
In honor of this achievement, Casey and Ashley talk with two previous guests to get updates on their organizations’ work. Katie Carver Reed, from the Akron Canton Regional Foodbank, and Maple Hts. Mayor Annette Blackwell return to discuss how they and their organizations have managed and adapted throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic. This episode is also the final episode of Series 1. [Transcript]


Interested in the podcast, check out our other episodes here. Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud or your favorite streaming app. Learn more about the project on our website,, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Tell us what episode was your favorite and why!