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Learning without training – podcasts

We love learning here at =mc, as you would expect! And whilst we spend almost all of our time delivering training, we wholeheartedly believe in learning lots of things in lots of different ways. In this blog we take a look at how to learn from listening, and have podcast recommendations for you.

There are thousands of podcasts on all kinds of topics. Listening to podcasts can be relaxing and enjoyable. Podcasts are particularly useful if you struggle to process or focus on information from reading alone. By listening to people speak on topics, you can engage with the subject in a more interactive way. Podcasts can therefore be a useful complement to other learning or training that you are doing, where you want to find out more about particular topics or from specific experts.

Here are some top tips for getting the most from your podcast learning:

  • Check your sources: as with any self-directed learning, it’s important to check the credentials of the people you are listening too. Look at the podcaster’s bio, their motivation and background – are they a credible source of information for you?
  • Prepare to learn: ask yourself what you hope will change as a result of what you are listening too. What challenges could this help you with? What might the insights gained do for your work, or those that you work with / for?
  • Prepare for distractions: whilst you can of course multi-task with a podcast, we recommend not engaging in activities that will distract your attention from what you are listening to.
  • Reflective learning: as you listen along, pause to check how you are engaging with learning as a process. Are you being open to ideas or facing barriers? Is the content making sense to you, or do you have some questions for further research? What experiences and perspectives are you learning about that are different to your own?
  • Taking action: take some time after your listening to make a note of what actions you can take. Consider how you can take key lessons away and what the benefits of these will be for you, and for others.

Finally, here are some recommendations from the team at =mc:

Media Storm This is an award winning news podcast, which focuses on voices and experiences from marginalized and oppressed groups. We like it because the presenters challenge listeners to unpick what they read in the mainstream media. We learned a huge amount from their reports on refugees in the UK and criminal justice. This podcast can help you to gain useful insights on lived experience and the realities behind the headlines, which directly connects to many of the causes and society issues that charities are trying to tackle. We always feel a bit disappointed at the end, the episodes could be 10 to 15 minutes longer. They have started doing bonus episodes with their guests which enables a deeper discussion with their experts.

How to save a Planet (HSP) by Gimlet Media This informative podcast focuses on how to fight climate change, through interesting human stories. It is the use of storytelling to enable learning and inspire action that we like most about this podcast.  For example, the story about two people who are buying refrigerant gases albeit in an odd way, but what they are doing is ultimately good for the environment. They also look at issues like greenwashing and green initiatives. A recent example was a deep dive into a search engine that plants trees whenever you use it (find out if they are real or if they are a scam – we won’t spoil it for you!). The episodes end with practical calls to action that we can all do. At the moment, it is focused on stories from the USA. We would love to hear more calls to action that could be done by people all over the world.

A Podcast of One’s Own is presented by Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia, in her role as Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership. Each episode has a fascinating discussion with well-known female leaders from campaigns, business, comedy, politics, media, universities etc, as well as experts on gender equality. Whilst each podcast explores leadership and gender issues, it is also very hopeful – celebrating women’s inspirational stories. It provides lessons and insights about how we can all support the creation of more female leaders. We like it because the guests are very diverse, so you can find topics that you are interested in, plus learn about new sectors. It would be great if they would have more guests from the not-for-profit sector.

The Charity CEO Podcast This is a sector specific podcast, which interviews charity leaders on the challenges affecting the sector today. It is a monthly podcast, and this can help you build an interesting picture of real-time leadership across the sector. It is worth going back to early episodes, which were during the pandemic. These are really impactful, as leaders were facing incredibly tough decisions. A top pick is the interview with Suzanne Ehlers, CEO of the Malala Fund which takes a look at how we represent diversity as leaders. It is also a great confidence boost, as the leaders who are interviewed represent lots of different causes. This helps you to realise your organisation is not alone in facing these challenges, whilst also giving  ideas on what you can do to support your organisation effectively. Each month a different topic is focused on, from collaboration to trustee boards so there is something for everyone.

How to Fail with Elizabeth Day Elizabeth Day is a writer and broadcaster. On her podcast she interviews a whole range of guests to talk through the things that haven’t gone quite right for them over their careers. It reminds us that mistakes happen to everyone and help us learn. We really like the framing of the podcast: that we can celebrate the things that have gone wrong and develop a learning mindset by reflecting on what mistakes have taught us. For the audience this helps you to learn to not repeat mistakes and also to reflect on your own mistakes. The variety of people is great, with lots of well-known names.  Sometimes Elizabeth’s enthusiasm and admiration for the guest can dominate the conversation a little, we’d like to have longer to hear from the guests. We can all be a little afraid of failure, despite the fact we all know we fail from time to time. This podcast helps to overcome the fear with a much more positive mindset.

The Happiness Lab This podcast is by Dr Laurie Santos, a professor at Yale. The focus of the podcast is on different causes of the feeling of happiness and the science around that. We like it for building self-awareness: it’s great to understand our behaviours and how counterintuitive some things are. It can be helpful in creating resilience by developing a mindset around choices. This is another American podcast and so could do with a more global perspective. We’d love more examples from around the world and to take into account difficult cultural nuances. There is a recent episode on charitable giving which is very interesting.

For further ideas on how to make learning work for you, check out our advice about online learning:

If you have any questions about online or self-directed learning, then get in touch with our experienced trainers. We will help you to identify the outcomes you are looking for and how best to address your needs. Call 020 7978 1516 or email


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Yvette Gyles

About Yvette Gyles

Yvette specialises in leadership, personal effectiveness, change and innovation. Before joining =mc, she worked in HR for several years in both the private and charity sector as an HR...