Hear All About It: GOOD News! with Branden Harvey of GoodGoodGood - Ep 11

This episode of the Social Enterprise Alliance Podcast aired on Wednesday, August 24th, 2022. This episode can be found on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

0:00:00.2 David: Well, hello everyone, thank you for tuning in to the Social Enterprise Alliance Podcast. Today we're so thrilled to invite Branden Harvey of Good Good Good to share a little bit about good news. Branden Harvey celebrates the good in the world, as the founder of Good Good Good, he hosts the podcast sounds good. He's the Editor-in-Chief of the Good Newspaper, a printed newspaper, full of good news, and he has built an online community of over more than 500,000 world changers. He's been written about in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Men's Health and Forbes. And so we're so thrilled to invite Branden into the podcast, but before we begin, I just wanted to give a quick reminder about Summit 2022.

0:00:46.1 David: Our virtual summit is going to be held November 9th through 11th, and tickets are on sale now. You can still take advantage of our early bird ticket pricing. For more information, go to socialenterprise.us and click Summit 22. Our speaker line up and panels are forming amazingly, make sure you check your email to see that information coming out. And if you're not on our email list, go to socialenterprises.us and click join to either become a member or join our free membership, so you can receive newsletters and hop on our email list. Now let's welcome Branden Harvey.

0:01:45.9 David: Today, we're so happy to invite Branden Harvey to the Social Enterprise Alliance Podcast. It sounds like goodness is all about what you're about, and really I'm thrilled to be able to dive into the topic of good news, which kind of seems sparse right now.

0:02:05.4 Branden: Well, I am super glad to be here and super excited to talk about Good News and also, yeah, the fact that the world feels very, very heavy right now, and I think it's super valid to feel that way even though I'm the good news guy. So, very honored to be here. Thank you for having me.

0:02:28.3 David: Well, it certainly speaks to the importance of your work, and that's why we wanted to bring you on, so tell us a little bit more about who you are and how did you come into this work with the Good News? Because again, just the heaviness of the world, I think that this does show us and enlighten us in this moment that we need this aspect of good.

0:02:48.9 Branden: Yeah, I'll give some back story. My background was as a humanitarian photographer. I had the unique privilege of getting to travel all over the world with a bunch of incredible non-profits and social enterprises, helping them tell the stories of the good that they were doing, and I just felt like the luckiest human in the world, because things feel bad now, in 2022, there's a lot of heavy things, but of course there have always been heavy things, there have always been injustices in the world. And so I would travel all over the world to these places where maybe people think of there being injustices there, for a bunch of deep systemic reasons. But I was getting to travel specifically to talk about the people working to create solutions to those problems, working to create light within the darkness, and meeting these heroes on the front lines of creating positive change and so when I thought about these places or these issues.

0:03:48.7 Branden: I didn't immediately think about the sadness or the pain, I always got to think about how people were responding to that sadness or pain with positive action. And as I started to share some of these stories with more than just these non-profits audiences, I was sharing them on my own social media, I was sharing them with friends over dinner, I started to see how I think it was affecting people positively, and there's a way that it was affecting me. I was like, "These stories just need to reach more people." I feel embarrassed that these stories aren't bigger because they… I think are so important. And that was the beginning of trying to figure out what I could do about that, as just a random photographer who knew my way around the non-profit space. What could I do? And kind of created some trial and error saying, "What would it look like to create something that helps people feel more hopeful and do more good, to get involved and make a difference in the world?"

0:04:54.5 Branden: And tried out a number of things, tried out social media, tried out an email newsletter, tried out a podcast. All of those things worked. We still have all of those things. They still are good, but then I have this conversation with this neuro psychologist named Dr. Rick Hanson on my podcast years ago. And he's a happiness researcher, and he was like, "Branden, you know that all of our brains have an internal negativity bias, just evolutionarily bad news sticks to our brains like velcro and good news slides right off our brains like a slip and slide." And I was like, "No, Dr. Hanson I did not know this, but this makes a lot of sense." It is the reason why when you get a bunch of positive comments on an Instagram post and then you get that one that's like a little snarky, a little rude. A little bit, whatever, when you go to bed at night, you don't think about the 30 people who said something positive or the 100 people who hit the like button.

0:05:50.1 Branden: You think about that one negative comment because of that internal negativity bias, and the same thing happens with good news. And so I was like, "Well, maybe what my brain needs, maybe what other people's brains needs is some way to a little bit trick you into absorbing this good news." If our brains aren't gonna do it naturally, how can I trick myself kind of a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down situation? But in this case, the medicine is good news and it's something people say they want, but their brains just don't prioritize it, and so that's when we decided to get a little bit weird. And in the digital age, and at the time I was like a social media influencer, and so with my background in digital, I decided to do the opposite of that, go analog, created a print newspaper, fill it with good news, call it the Good Newspaper.

0:06:37.3 Branden: And my goal was, "What if this is weird enough that it grabs our brain's attention? What if this is cute enough that you just have to pick it up instead of maybe something a little bit darker, a little bit heavier, and what if the inside was dynamic enough that it made you want to just actually read through these stories and to keep this around in your coffee table to remind you of the good in the world? And to hang it up on your wall as art, as a reminder of the good in the world. And we have now been creating this for I think a little bit more than four years, and I think it's working, at least it works for myself, it works for our subscribers that I'm hoping it will just continue to work for more people, but again, the goal is just help people feel more hopeful, do more good, and if we've gotta trick our brains into doing it, I'm okay with that as long as we're tricking our brains for good.

0:07:27.5 Lauren: That's awesome, that's awesome. And I love just the thought process behind it, and the way you've just kind of created this strategy that's so outside the box and so counter to our so hyper-digital age. And you kind of answered a question that I was thinking, but I was just kind of even wondering, how do you break through the noise of a constant 24-hour news cycle, there's just so much content out there, and obviously being an analog paper helps a lot, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.

0:07:58.9 Branden: Yeah, 'cause we also have a lot of our digital stuff. We've got daily stories on our website, we've got our newsletter, we share a bunch of good news content on social media. And it feels terrifying to be trying to compete with bad news, but also media companies way bigger than us with way more resources and of course journalists are doing really important work. It's really, really good that they're reporting on the problems of the world so that we know what to solve, but for us, we know that we're never gonna be huge, we're never gonna be bigger than the biggest media company because Good News is an uphill battle. But our goal is just to create a community of like-minded people who care about doing good, celebrating good, and that we can provide value to those people. So what we try to do is any time that there's something that's heart-breaking in the news, there's an injustice, there's something painful, we wanna just train our community to be like, "You know what? I feel overwhelmed by this, but let me go to Good Good Good site, let me to Good Good Good's Instagram. And I know that they're gonna have something there.

0:09:11.9 Branden: And we always basically take the approach of, we never want to ignore the bad news of the world. I think there's a lot of "positive news" that are focused on the absence of bad news, so they might share a puppy and a kitten playing or… Basically my favorite TikToks. They're gonna share like my favorite TikToks, and there's nothing wrong with that, that's super huge, but that isn't going to make me feel more hopeful about what's happening in Ukraine. That's not going to leave me feeling more hopeful about what's happening in, with the state of gun violence in the United States, or racial injustice or any number of things.

0:09:52.7 Branden: The only way out is through. And so we try to intentionally say, Well, let's acknowledge these problems, but then let's do what Mr. Roger's mom told us all to do, look for the helpers. She says, "You will always find people who are helping." So when tragedy hits the world, instead of just saying, "Here's the problem." We say, "Yeah, let's talk about the problem, but let's also not stop there, and let's make sure we look for the helpers and celebrate those helpers." And then most importantly, once we feel a little bit more hopeful, knowing that there's helpers there, I think it's our duty, our obligation each and every one of us to get involved, take action and become helpers ourselves, that doesn't mean we have to show up as first responders, but it might mean we donate to the first responders, it might mean that we invest in systemic solutions to something, it might mean that we choose to vote or choose to call our representatives. There's a lot of ways that we can take action after we feel overwhelmed, but I guess to sum up in response to your question, we can't compete against all the bad, but we can provide a resource every time that there's something bad, and our hope is that the more that you tell your body and your brain that when I see bad news I need to look for the helpers and then take action to do good, once you can create that as like a pattern, a habit, I think it changes everything.

0:11:19.8 Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I love everything that you said. Mr. Rogers what an icon. He's just the greatest. But I think as you were talking, I was thinking a lot about, I just really appreciate the work that you're doing, 'cause I've been seeing a lot of stuff lately about toxic positivity and how that can just be so pervasive and it's the opposite of what you're talking about. Because it's kind of shutting down mention of the bad and just trying to live in the state of denial honestly, and I love that you said the only way out is through. You have to face the bad as well, and you have to hold it, but here is this way to make it more bearable and more hopeful. And then here are the ways that you can take action in order to help be a part of the solution to the things that you find negative in the world. I just really love that. I think that's a really important perspective and being able to hold the bad but also the good, and to kind of choose to focus on like, "Okay, here's what can be a solution. Here's the good in that." So that's really powerful.

0:12:23.1 Branden: I feel like I think listeners to this show will get this more than anybody, when you've got a community of people who are saying, "I am going to work to create a solution to a problem, and I've got maybe an entrepreneurial plan on how to do that." Not a single person who is working to create a solution to a problem is able to do that without looking at the problem. You can't just bury your head in the sand, pretend that a problem doesn't exist, and then all of a sudden, magically come up with the solution. And so the people that I admire most in the world, the people who give me butterflies, the people who make me energized and feel hopeful are the people who are willing to sit with the heaviness of the world, and sometimes literally, I think about my friends who work in the space of human trafficking or in the spaces of homelessness, and you're literally sitting with somebody who is really struggling because of a bunch of systemic issues, and you've gotta sit there with their pain and you can't just immediately move to a solution, like that…

0:13:19.0 Branden: That's not what anybody wants, and only by truly understanding this and sitting there and being present can you work to create positive change and help, and it's a hard, difficult bit of work to do, and I will forever beyond the journey of becoming more comfortable with that, but in the meantime, I get to elevate the people who are doing that and who have a lot more expertise and experience, I don't know, it's an admirable feet and I just, I wanna learn from that kind of person.

0:13:50.6 David: Yeah, well, and I love that Mr. Rogers comparison as well. I remember watching the documentary and there was this really quick moment, it was one sentence and it was like… It blew my mind and it was almost like buried into the script for the interview, and I had to rewind it immediately, but they said that Mr. Rogers was actually a very angry person. And he funneled the anger into this positive action, so he would see these injustices around the world, he would see racism just be unbelievable, and he got so mad, he's like, "Alright, fine, well, we're gonna have this cop and I'm gonna wash his feet in the pool with me. We're gonna keep our feet together." And so it's this anger that actually led to these beautiful episodes, so I don't know if our audience knows this, but I host a podcast called Third Place Podcasts, and after that documentary we did an episode called beautifully angry.

0:14:45.4 David: And I think that sometimes in our society, some of the pain that I see is that we are just genuinely angry, we talked about the weight of the world, so that makes us angry, and anger often gets this bad rap wrap to it, where it's only about all these negative things, when in fact, anger is this beautiful emotion that can trigger what we see that's wrong in the world, so how do we, rather than take that anger and be mad at the referee for calling game the wrong way, that anger is misdirected. Let's take that anger and put it towards these problems that we have in the world, and honestly, I think so many people that are in the social enterprise space are angry. We just haven't quite verbalized it yet and really attached this word beauty to the word anger.

0:15:30.4 Branden: Yeah, Fred Rogers said, What do you do with the mad that you feel? And I think everybody has that choice on what to do, and of course in that song that he sings and that story he tells, he's talking to kids and so he's saying like, "Hey, instead of hitting somebody you can pound clay, you can stop doing… Lashing out." He's got these things that are for children, but I think if he were talking to adults, he would basically be saying, "How can you turn this emotion into something positive because I absolutely think that injustices should make us angry. I think it's important that we feel those emotions deeply, and Brené Brown says that you can't selectively numb emotion. So if you are trying to push out the sadness that you feel, if you're trying to push away the anger that you feel at the world, you are also limiting your capacity for hopefulness, for joy, and the most resilient activist that I know, the most resilient change makers that I know, the people who are creating the biggest difference, they are also the most joyful people I know, because they're able to feel those negative emotions so deeply and turn them into something else.

0:16:43.0 Branden: And when they get to that other side of having created a solution, then I think their brains or whatever in and the universe gifts them that ability to feel those positive emotions so much more deeply because they're not putting filters up, they're not putting shields up, they're allowing everything in. And I think they live a much more full life, and that's the kind of life that I would want to live.

0:17:07.2 David: Those emotions are there to have a voice at the table, and the mistake is when we pretend they don't exist.

0:17:12.9 Branden: That's good.

0:17:14.2 David: And how do we acknowledge them? And it's really amazing when we see emotions for what they are, and there are triggers in all the best ways for our responses, even at the beginning we were talking about how sticky these negative emotions were, immediately. It just makes me think about the power of the emotional part of our brain being 30,000 times stronger than the logical part of the brain. So…

0:17:37.9 Branden: Wow. I had not heard that.

0:17:39.7 David: Yeah, the limbic system, when we're in fight or flight is 30,000 times stronger, and that's why it's so difficult to have logical conversations. When we're in this heightened state. So with this work, I think it's like just keep reinforcing the logic, the logic. No, here's the good I see. Here's the good, I see. It's why it's so important, why it has to dominate the news that we bring in, I almost feel like news is part of a diet, and we need to make sure we have a balanced diet, we need to eat our vegetables of good news. Right along with the junk-tude of the bad.

0:18:13.3 Branden: That's what I always say. I don't want anybody to cancel their subscription to The New York Times, I just wanna make sure that once you are reading about the problems of the world, you never stop there. You also seek out, "Okay, well, who's also creating a solution to this." Who should I be thinking of as somebody that I can support in helping eliminate this problem. And I never want somebody to just subscribe to Good Good Good. I think that you're gonna miss out on a lot of opportunities to make a difference if you were to just do that too.

0:18:44.3 David: So I am really curious, being in the work that you do, if there is the story of a reader who's been able to be touched, at what you've statement this ripple effect of your movement and the impact that is having with other people around the world?

0:18:58.9 Branden: Yeah, that's the thing that definitely keeps me doing what I'm doing because, because of this internal negativity bias actually, this is an exclusive. I just right before this, I got an email from a European News platform that helps people find news sources, think of it as Google News, but in Europe. And I had submitted an application for Good Good Good to be featured there, 'cause we write for an international audience and they manually review every source. And I got this email in response, and the person was so nice, but they said, "Hey, we've reviewed your site, we think it's fantastic, we've tried sharing good news before, and the numbers just didn't work out and we're just not able to accept you." And I'm like, "Oh, my gosh." And no fault to them. They're making business decisions, whatever. But for me, that was the moment I realized, and I learned this long ago, we're never going to be this huge company because this internal negativity bias that we all have is going to prevent this a little bit. And so because we're never gonna be like super financially successful because we're never going to reach a billion readers because we can't get on to this platform.

0:20:20.4 Branden: The thing that keeps me going is when readers write in or when we have conversations with our subscribers about how this work is impacting them. Because they're not quantifiable on a financial standpoint, that's how probably the New York Times measures their successes, at least one big part of that is what's the statement at the end of the quarter on how much revenue they made. It's not gonna be our number of views or number of subscribers because that's always gonna be smaller than a competitor who's not focused on good news, it has to be on what is the actual impact on people. And I'll be honest, I'm trying to figure out a good way to organize all of these stories because they just come in randomly and we never have collected them, but I think for me the biggest… There's two trends that I see from people who reach out, the first trend is somebody saying, "Wow, I did not know about this injustice, or I did not know about this solution, and now that I know about it, it is tugging on my heart, for some reason, it is breaking my heart, but also healing something at the same time, and I have to get involved." And people basically saying…

0:21:26.8 Branden: And so I reached out and I asked them if I could be a volunteer. And they say, "And that was 10 months ago." And now I am full-time staff at this non-profit, and I got to quit my corporate job, and I feel like I have so much meaning in my life and I get to bring my skills to the table. So that's like one thing that we get a lot of which is really, really cool that maybe if they had just read that story in kind of a mainstream news source, they wouldn't have had that hopeful side of things that gives them the opportunity to get involved. And then they did. The other thing that we hear a lot of is people saying that… 'cause one of the things we do a lot of is we provide people action steps on how they can get involved in the stories they just read, and somebody will reach out and basically say, "Thank you for encouraging me to just take one small step." In my mind, I think a lot of people usually say… I felt like I had to do something big, I felt like I had to quit my job, I felt like I had to fly across the world.

0:22:26.2 Branden: I felt like I had to donate $1000 and that I couldn't just donate $5. And we usually encourage small action steps first, and we just know, there's gonna be this chain reaction, that first step, unlock something in your brain where all of a sudden you don't feel powerless, then you can take action and it's just this domino effect, and we've told people, just do that thing and they'll reach out and say, I started by just donating $5, got on this non-profit's email list, started donating five bucks a month, saw an opportunity to volunteer. Now I'm volunteering all the time. We even had one person who said like, and now I'm moving to Greece to help support refugee resettlement, I was like, that was not…

0:23:08.1 Branden: We didn't give that action step, that was not in the plans, but I am so glad you are doing that. And so for me, that's the thing that gets me excited is we're not the ones who are creating all this change, we're just the ones helping tell the stories and making it more accessible, and just by playing that one role in supporting all these other people and these other roles, we're helping new people create good in the world, and what's gonna be awesome is a year from now, maybe we check back in with that person who moved to Greece and we say, how is everything going? We take a journalistic approach to documenting the work that they're doing, all of a sudden this person has a good news story, and we share that in the newspaper, we share that on our website, and the next person reads that, and then they get inspired to do something and maybe for them, it's not Greece, maybe it's X, Y, and Z.

0:23:57.1 Branden: And all of a sudden, we just get this cycle where even if Good Good Good one day ceases to exist, I'm hopeful that this domino effect will just continue to play out where people will inspire others. Who will inspire others. Who will inspire others. And all those people are creating positive change in communities around the world.

0:24:15.1 Lauren: Wow, it's so inspiring to hear you talk about just the movement of it and the momentum that it has on a community, in a personal level, and it's just awesome because I think people are just… They're just waiting for that spark of, Here's something that I'm passionate about, here's something that speaks to me in and my heart, and they're desperate to find that solution that they can be a part of, because it can feel overwhelming, it feels hopeless when you just look at… Like we've said, the bad news of it, but just having that thing that inspires them and then… Yeah, the ripple effect of it all is just… It's just so cool to think about, it's so inspiring. We wanted to, before we wrap up, give you a chance to tell our listeners who I'm sure our feeling as inspired as I am, where they can find it, your stuff, the newspaper, where they can subscribe, give us all the details.

0:25:10.2 Branden: The best place for people to go is you can visit our website goodgoodgood.co and there you'll find a bunch of good news stories, we share new good news every day, and then you can also subscribe to the Good Newspaper. And it's just so fun to get this actual physical newspaper in the mail every month, we all love snail mail, and the hope is that you open it up and by the time you put it back down, you feel more hopeful and you're better equipped to take action and do good, and of course, we're also on Instagram and all the other places too, but goodgoodgood.co.

0:25:44.2 Lauren: Awesome, thank you so much that.

0:25:46.3 David: Amazing.

0:25:47.6 Lauren: Yeah, this has been fantastic.

0:25:49.7 David: Yeah, Branden, thank you so much for your work and for being supportive of SEA and giving us a shot of, in the arm of positivity and just super glad that you're a part of our network and that we can continue to support each other in spreading that word and spreading the ripple effect of the good that's going on in the world today.

0:26:08.1 Branden: Well, I think you two are absolutely incredible, and I just love and admire your entire community, a community of people creating good news in the world, and so it feels like just such an honor to be here. So thank you for having me.

0:26:21.6 Lauren: Thank you so much Branden.

0:26:23.5 David: Amazing, again, thanks for being here and let's keep changing the world.