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Following the Data in 2023 – 5 Podcasts to Catch Up On

Bloomberg Philanthropies spurred incredible impact in 2023 – from global climate action, to city-driven solutions on housing, to improving education outcomes post-pandemic, to innovative health solutions, and more. Behind all of this work are hundreds of remarkable people whose ideas, collaborations, and unrelenting drive are making change possible.

Listen to a selection of five episodes from this year’s Follow the Data podcast to find out more about them and the projects they’re leading. Also find out how they are measuring the scope of the challenges they’re tackling and their progress along the way. Because, as Mike Bloomberg always says, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” 

Advancing Public Health Strategies to Reduce Overdose Deaths (August 25, 2023)

A new survey by the Pew Research Center found nearly one in two people in the U.S. knows someone with a substance use disorder. In 2018, the Bloomberg Overdose Prevention Initiative began its work supporting Michigan and Pennsylvania in using a data-driven approach to confront the overdose crisis, resulting in both states seeing lower increases in overdose deaths than the national average despite the setbacks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the Initiative added support for five other hard-hit states: Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. 

On this episode, two of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ critical partners in this effort – Kat Humphries, a Program Manager for the Overdose Prevention Program at Vital Strategies, and Tahira Malik, the founder of Samad’s House in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – discuss the common misconceptions people have about substance use disorder, harm reduction as an effective strategy for preventing overdose deaths, and policies that could be implemented to support recovery in communities across the country. 

So, what data should we be tracking to know if we are making an impact? As Tahira told us, “We should look at fatalities but I also think it is equally important to look at nonfatalities, because those are the people who survived the overdoses. Those are the people where we have the chance to save their lives again, to bring them that educational piece, to bring them the resources that they may need to continue to live another day.”

Combatting Pandemic Learning Loss (July 26, 2023)

Across the United States, millions of students are performing below grade level. Eighth grade reading scores are at their lowest level in two decades, and math scores are at a three-decade low, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. How can we help students combat pandemic learning loss? 

In this special episode adapted from the Firewall podcast, Howard Wolfson, who leads Bloomberg Philanthropies’ education program, joins political strategist and venture capitalist Bradley Tusk for a wide-ranging conversation about how Bloomberg Philanthropies is working to address the ongoing crisis in America’s education system and ensure as many students as possible can get a high-quality education. This will be critical to America’s ability to continue leading the global economy. 

Hear how Bloomberg Philanthropies funded summer learning programs in eight cities in 2023 to help public charter school students catch up to where they need to be post-pandemic. They also discussed our career and vocational training program and CollegePoint program which is expanding access to top colleges for talented students from low-income families.

Telling Climate Stories Through Film and TV (April 25, 2023)

The climate crisis is one of the biggest stories of our time. And Hollywood is one of the most powerful storytellers in the world. Yet film and TV screens aren’t reflecting the enormous and complicated reality of climate change. Enter Extrapolations, an eight-episode series that premiered on Apple TV+ this year. The ambitious show explores how climate change could affect every aspect of our lives, from religion to politics to business and our social lives, over more than 30 years. 

Host Katherine Oliver talks with Scott Z. Burns, the showrunner, director, writer and executive producer of Extrapolations, and Anna Jane Joyner, the founder and director of Good Energy, a nonprofit consulting firm that works with screenwriters like Scott to portray the climate crisis in film and TV scripts in entertaining and artful ways. “We wanted to make a really entertaining show that had as its driving force that the climate was changing around us and that would create problems and opportunities, and I wanted to see how humanity would bounce off of that,” explains Burns. To evaluate how this kind of storytelling might impact perspectives and understanding about climate change, the USC Norman Lear Center, in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies partners Rare and Good Energy, will measure the impact of Extrapolations in the first quantitative study of a climate storyline in nearly two decades.

Whether you’ve seen Extrapolations yet or not, this episode may help you rethink how environmental factors like climate change not only impact the world around us, but also the stories we see and share.

Bringing Cities in Crisis Together to Tackle Housing Unaffordability (February 17, 2023)

Across the country and around the world, housing costs are soaring. For several years, the Bloomberg Associates Sustainability practice has worked closely with client cities to address key housing affordability issues. In this episode, we dive into one of the most impactful projects out of this effort: the Bloomberg Peer Cities Housing Network. 

Through the Network, local governments challenged existing thinking and responded rapidly to convert hotels into housing, provide residents with direct cash assistance, and more. The Network was created in Summer 2020 by Bloomberg Associates and Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with NYU’s Furman Center for Housing and Real Estate and Abt Associates to meet this particularly urgent need during the pandemic. 

Ingrid Gould Ellen, who serves as the Director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy and is on the faculty of the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; Vero Soto, the former Director of the Neighborhood & Housing Services Department of the City of San Antonio, who now spearheads the U.S. Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance program; and Adam Freed, the Sustainability Principal of Bloomberg Associates discuss how cities responded to housing problems posed by COVID-19, and how the Bloomberg Peer Cities Housing Network helped to facilitate these initiatives.

Racial Inequity in Climate Justice Through Art (January 20, 2023)

Communities of color face disproportionate risks from the effects of climate change. Data makes it clear that tackling climate change, improving public health, and fighting racial inequality are interconnected. This episode of Follow the Data is the first in a two-part series that features live discussions from Bloomberg’s Power of Difference Summit, which focused on equitable climate approaches that improve the well-being of overburdened and underinvested Black communities.

Stephanie Dockery of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Arts program spoke with two artists who use their work to tackle these issues: Vedra Chandler, artist and project manager of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Public Art Challenge project in Camden, NJ and Erika Dickerson-Despenza, a New Orleans-based poet and award-winning playwright. In this conversation, Stephanie, Erika, and Vedra explore how each artist is addressing racial inequity in climate justice through the arts and actively working to eradicate systemic inequality. 

As Erika put it, “I realized the power of creating a moment together and using this artform as an opportunity to stage an encounter, because it is through encounter that we learn something new or wrestle with something that we haven’t before.” 


We hope you encountered and learned something new from the Follow the Data podcast this year, and hope you tune in again in 2024!

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