Ways & Means

Ways and Means is a small radio show featuring bright ideas for how to improve human society. The show is produced by the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.
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Ways & Means






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Sep 13, 2019

Four-year-olds are expected to be able to behave in the classroom, but more and more preschools are kicking children out for bad behavior. In this episode: new research into how to best help children control themselves in the classroom.

Read a transcript of this episode.

Music: Theme music by David Schulman. "Rate Sheet," "Lina My Queen," "Tiny Putty," "Rose Ornamental," by Blue Dot Sessions. Music licensed under Creative Commons attribution.

Jun 12, 2019

On this episode we go inside an innovative, free public program that helps new moms and dads adjust to life with a newborn. In each location where the Family Connects program is offered, all families, rich and poor, are eligible to have a visiting nurse come right to the home after the birth of a child. The program has been shown to improve parenting behavior and reduce emergency medical care for infants.

Read the episode transcript

Music: Theme music by David Schulman. “Calm and Collected,” “Tendon,” “Stuffed Monster,” “Dance of Felt,” “Heather,” “Gale,”  by Blue Dot Sessions. Music licensed under Creative Commons attribution.  

Apr 29, 2019

Climate change is affecting both nature and the economy. Who will take the hardest hit financially as the world heats up, and can anything be done about it?

We meet a commercial clammer in Maine who is figuring out how to deal with the effect climate change is having on his industry. And environmental economist Billy Pizer has been calculating the future costs of climate change. Pizer is Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Research in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

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Music: Theme music by David Schulman. “Softly Villainous", "Lakeside Path", "The Nocturne", "Fresno Alley", "Crumbling Dock", "An Oddly Formal Dance" by Blue Dot Sessions.  Music licensed under Creative Commons attribution. 

Also "Khreshchatyk" and "Gaia in Fog" by Dan Bodan and "Fresno Alley" by Josh Lippi & The Overtimers, No Copyright Music/YouTube Free Music Library.

Read the episode transcript.

Special thanks to the Duke Sanford World Food Policy Center for their support. Their podcast is called The Leading Voices in Food.

Mar 20, 2019

A research team from Duke University treks into the Himalayas to investigate why a promising way to deliver electricity to those who need it, the micro-hydro minigrid, sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.

This is the third of a four-part series on understanding and dealing with a changing climate.

Music: Theme music by David Schulman. “Heather,” “Ultima Thule,” “Sylvestor,” “Slate Tracker,” “One Quiet Conversation,” “A Certain Lightness,” and “Greyleaf Willow,” by Blue Dot Sessions.  Music licensed under Creative Commons attribution. 

Read a transcript of this episode.


Mar 6, 2019

What motivates commuters to leave their cars behind, and take the bus or a bike to work instead? A government innovation team in Durham, North Carolina recently tested several ideas with real commuters. The best one was so effective, it landed a million-dollar prize from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Guests include Durham mayor Steve Schewel and Joey Sherlock of the Duke University Center for Advanced Hindsight. Sherlock teaches the Behavioral Economics for Municipal Policy Class at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

This is the second of a four-part series looking at policy ideas for understanding and dealing with a changing climate.

Music: Theme music by David Schuman. Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions. Licensed under Creative Commons attribution.

Feb 20, 2019

There is about a 40-percentage point gap between Democrats and Republicans in their concern for climate change. New research suggests a solution for working around this deep-seated partisanship. PhD candidate Emily Pechar has found that when parents think about  parental identity rather than partisan identity, they are more likely to be concerned about climate change.

Guests include Megan Mullin, an associate professor of environmental politics at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis.

This is the first of a four-part series on understanding and dealing with a changing climate.

Feb 16, 2019

Season 4 of Ways & Means returns Wednesday, February 20, 2019.

We’re kicking off with a miniseries on climate change. We'll look at new research into what it takes to turn climate change skeptics into climate change believers. Also, how can cities can nudge commuters into doing the right thing for the climate? And we'll head to Nepal for a look at how to bring power to places in the developing world where the electric grid simply can’t go.

It’s the Ways & Means miniseries featuring policy ideas to help in the fight against a changing climate.

Oct 22, 2018

Season 4 of Ways & Means will be available in January.


(Music: Blue Dot Sessions)

Jun 6, 2018

For more than a decade, a multinational team of researchers has been exploring ways get mental healthcare to nearly 50 million orphans in Africa.

With a new, five-year $3.4 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, a team led by professors Kathryn Whetten at Duke and Shannon Dorsey at the University of Washington is testing a novel approach. They are training local people with no mental health background to provide Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in schools and community health centers, under the supervision of lay supervisors. And the idea is working.

Mar 28, 2018

More than 800 women die in childbirth every day in the developing world - often because doctors know what to do, they just don't do it. (There's even a name for this: the know-do gap.) In this episode, testing different types of incentives for getting doctors to do the right thing during the birth of a child.

Sponsor: Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund.

Original Music by David Schulman.

Additional Music by Blue Dot Sessions.

Feb 25, 2018

Before the 1960s, colleges routinely used gender quotas to suppress the number of women on campus. Some colleges excluded women entirely. There's a curious backstory to how more women ended up in college, and it starts with the Soviet’s launch of the satellite Sputnik in 1957. In this episode: turning politics of crisis into a law that eventually opened the door to college to millions of American women.

Jan 31, 2018

Duke professor Philip J. Cook has been tracking the underground gun market in the U.S. for the last 15 years. For one project, his team went to one of the largest jails in the country and asked the inmates a simple question: "Where do you get your guns?" Also, former Chicago gang member "Samuel" talks candidly about his experiences with guns. Before his 15th birthday, Samuel had shot someone, and been shot himself.

Dec 15, 2017

We will be back next month with a new episode. In the meantime, take a listen to the most popular episode we've produced so far. If you're black with a college degree, your household will likely have $10,000 less in net worth than your white neighbor who didn't finish high school. A look at the racial wealth gap.

Nov 15, 2017

How diplomacy and public shaming are helping shine a light on a problem that depends on secrecy to survive. This episode is the second of a three-part series, New Ideas for Policy in the Developing World. 

Oct 18, 2017

Today, for our Season 3 premiere, we begin a three-part series, New Ideas for Policy in the Developing World. In this episode, high-tech meets high-need. How researchers are using Google Earth to find the undocumented slums of India.

Series supported by the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund.

Sep 29, 2017

Season 3 will launch in October with a three part series - New Ideas for Policy in the Developing World. In the season premiere, we'll hear about how researchers are using Google Earth to find hidden slums in India.

May 22, 2017

Ahmed Ahmed is an American-Muslim comedian who was typecast as a terrorist. Khalid Latif is a Muslim chaplain for the NYPD who was saluted in uniform, but harassed as a civilian. Mona Haydar and Sebastian Robins fought Islamophobia with doughnuts and conversation. Episode also features David Schanzer of Duke University and Evelyn Alsultany of the University of Michigan.

Mar 23, 2017

John Rusnak was a currency trader in Baltimore when he was convicted of one of the largest bank frauds in American history. When he was finally discovered, the bank had lost close to $700 million dollars. We look at John Rusnak's case through an historical lens. It turns out fraud has been a key feature of American business from the beginning. Episode features Edward Balleisen. His new book is Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff.

Feb 7, 2017

Most of us prize stories of people who start with nothing in life, and then become rich. Americans even have a saying for it: pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.  However, new economic research is revealing how wealth is actually built in there US and how difficult it is for some people to gain wealth, even when they do everything right. 

Dec 19, 2016

Sexting, stranger danger, cyberbullying. We explore seven major concerns parents have about teens and phones. What does the research say? Featuring Candice Odgers of the Duke Center for Child & Family Policy.

Nov 4, 2016

Gerrymandering (drawing voting districts to favor one political party) has reached a whole new level in recent decades.We’ll hear about some stunning gerrymandering feats, and how reformers across the nation are trying to restore the power of your vote.

Oct 25, 2016

In the early 20th century many new immigrants to the U.S. had blonde hair and blue eyes yet were not considered “white.” In this episode: who’s considered “white” in America – how it’s changed, what it means and how it may be changing still.

Sep 14, 2016

Every four years, candidates promise change. But is change possible? Dan Ariely says resistance to change is actually hard-wired into human nature, yet bright pockets of innovation exist.

Jun 3, 2016

Here's a peek at Ways & Means season 2, which launches this fall.

Apr 21, 2016

On this episode we explore one of the most vexing issues in politics - how to get more ordinary people to run for office.

Mar 16, 2016

Public health advocates are waging battle against added sugar in our foods. And they’re taking pointers from another public health battle: the campaign against tobacco. New evidence suggests sugar, like tobacco, is addictive and harmful to long-term health. Duke's Kelly Brownell says the two fights have a lot in common.

Jan 19, 2016

The paradox of gender equality. We look at how women gained a political voice in the U.S. – and then (surprisingly) in some ways lost it. And we’re going to ask – what can women do to get their political voice back?

Dec 14, 2015

What do seniors really want when they’re dying? Asking them, and listening carefully to what they say, could lead – surprisingly – to cost-savings for big government systems like Medicare. Guests include a Duke health policy expert who asked terminally ill people: what if you had to choose between last-ditch therapies and the simple things? Their answers might surprise you. Also, a Durham, N.C., woman describes how she faced hard choices as she comforted her dying mom.

Nov 20, 2015

On this episode of Ways & Means we hear from the Daily Show’s resident fact-checker Adam Chodikoff. Also, Pulitzer Prize winner Bill Adair and a new movement of reporters going to great lengths to ensure we the people know the truth, especially when it comes to politics. We’ve got Republicans, Democrats and an upstart fact-checker from Iran, a country that has jailed numerous reporters.