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Agents of hope

In March, I decided to start a podcast called Agents of Hope, which is about Educational Psychology and hope.

I’ve written this blog post to discuss the ideas which underpin the podcast and to signpost people towards where they can access it. I am very aware of the context in which I write and do not want to glaze over nor glibly acknowledge the social discord going on, at the moment, to promote a project in my own self-interest.

Hope in times of adversity and social change

As I write this blog, the world seems a chaotic and divided place. Grounded in our homes since March, social media has offered no light-hearted escapism from the creeping anxiety and boredom. I watch my timelines and feeds become battle lines. Division and despair scream from the screen. Our past and present are unravelling in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and a persistent pandemic.

This is nothing new. These battle lines are old wounds. Social media, it would seem, is broadcasting polarised views about how these wounds should heal and in doing so, exposing the present depth and complexity of these wounds. Society appears to be split on so many issues, be it Black Lives Matter, Covid-19, Climate Change and Brexit as well as party political lines. While we are restricted in movement, social media has become the lens through which we see the outside world.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had this feeling of being ‘strapped in’ to conversations I read, while the anger in them possesses me. When I feel overwhelmed by this, I often come back to the words of Tony Benn. He argued :

‘…there are two flames burning in the human heart all the time. The flame of anger against injustice, and the flame of hope you can build a better world.’

Tony Benn

Anyone who met me in the first year of my training will know my appetite for social justice was bordering on ravenous. My attitude was ‘Social change at any cost!’ This blinded me to the power of the EP role and the complexity of social and psychological issues. Halfway through my first year, I failed an assignment because I insisted that the only change possible for individuals was through systemic change. This failure made me reconsider my approach.

While it is right to be angry at injustice, in my experience, the opportunity for authentic dialogue and relationship building can be missed. The world needs hope, and we need to talk about it too. EPs are well placed to do this because they work between systems and individuals. For me, hope is often the common ground of progress.

Training as an EP has helped me realise that change happens with people, not to them. In situations which feel ‘stuck’, EPs use the psychological, the relational and the dialogic to fan the flames of hope. This helps people move forwards with a renewed agency and pathway thinking towards specified goals.

How I developed the Agents of Hope Podcast

In DECP Debate edition 174, I argued that EPs could act as ‘Agents of Hope’. I was keen to develop my ideas around hope in EP practice further. The ideas seemed to be resonating with people. I thought that a podcast might help me do this.

I recorded and published my first four episodes of Agents of Hope in April. The podcast aims to promote hopeful thinking and conversation about positive change in EP practice, education and broader society. I hope that the podcast can shed light on the positive contribution of EPs and TEPs, and inspires hopeful thinking, conversations and action.

Currently, the podcast has been downloaded nearly 2000 times, in the UK and across Europe, Australia, Asia and North America.

The podcast as a learning tool

Podcasts represent a different type of academic communication than conferences or publishing papers. They represent the opportunity to engage in long-form conversation with guests around issues they are passionate about. It also opens out the conversation to the audience. This helps steer the conversation in ways that I wouldn’t have thought of. It is a chance for me to develop my thinking around a subject in real-time with my guests. The episodes are designed to engage interest in a topic and provide a jumping-off point for people to go away and develop their knowledge. Each episode has a chapter and reference list.

We also discuss our narratives of hope, adversity and redemption. We consider how this underpins our current practice and values. My hope in taking this approach is that it allows ‘newbies’ to the profession like myself a chance to learn from each other and uncover the values that underpin practice. I also hope that it is a useful tool for people interested in becoming an EP as it gives a good insight into how some EPs think and how they apply psychology in their role.

To date, I have facilitated wide-ranging discussions with EPs and trainees at different stages of their career and from across England. We have discussed:

These conversations locate hope at different ecological levels and hopeful practice through a variety of approaches. For me, this has exposed the flexibility of our profession. The world is calling out for change. People are looking for hope.

EPs can be agents of both.

In the next couple of months, I have several guests booked to explore more topics. I am always on the lookout for more guests, and if you are interested in being one, you can drop me an email.

You can find and browse all the episodes with accompanying chapter lists, summaries and references, or listen to the podcast on your streaming services.


About Tim Cox

Tim Cox is a third-year Trainee Educational Psychologist (TEP) from Newcastle University and host of the Agents of Hope Podcast. Tim is interested in existentialism, hope, communicating the role of Educational Psychologists and fatherhood.

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One Comment so far:

  1. Carla Freeman says:

    I look forward to listening to these podcasts. I have only recently learned of the profession of Educational Psychology and this post is reaffirming for me why I felt drawn to it as a personal career choice.

    With the strange times we are currently in, it feels like in many ways society has come to a ‘head’ where the only way forwards is with considerable change. I definitely agree that hope needs to be a key ingredient to make this necessary change a positive one. I’m looking forward to hearing more about Tim’s approach on this.

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