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Journeys to Hope and Healing, an educational podcast

Snapshot View of Practice

The Journeys to Hope and Healing podcast is Rowan House Society’s educational tool to increase awareness about domestic violence and abuse in the community and beyond. The podcast talks about various aspects of domestic violence and abuse by interviewing experts across human services like health care professionals, activists, and law professionals. Each episode shares additional resources for the audience to access if required.

Name of Shelter
Rowan House Society
Type of Shelter
Emergency Shelter
Location
High River, Alberta
Category
Awareness, Education, & Prevention. Rural Community.
Budget
Less than $50,000
Time Investment
High
Prep Time
One month to build and launch
What is Journeys to Hope and Healing, an educational podcast

The Journeys to Hope and Healing podcast is Rowan House Society’s educational tool to increase awareness about domestic violence and abuse in the community and beyond. The podcast addresses various aspects of domestic violence and abuse by interviewing experts across human services like health care professionals, activists, lawyers, survivors, and violence against women (VAW) shelter staff. Episodes discuss a range of topics such as various forms of abuse, experiences of survivors trying to overcome abuse, popular TV shows about domestic abuse, and more. It explores how domestic violence and abuse interact with the court and healthcare systems. Episodes integrate issues that appear more frequently in shelter work or that the community may be talking about. Each episode also shares additional resources for the audience to access.

Shelters are important for crisis intervention, but to make a difference we really need to do prevention… With a podcast, we are providing education, but people can listen in the comfort of their homes, or their car, and they can do it at a time that works for them…It’s an affordable and timesaving solution.”

Background

Rowan House Society was looking for ways to strengthen its public education program and share how its services are wide-reaching, offering more than “just” emergency shelter. They were experiencing barriers when it came to public education. For example, not many people attended the public education presentations they hosted. There was stigma and a general assumption that those who attend these presentations were experiencing abuse at home. There were also concerns for survivors of abuse to not be publicly seen in these presentations because they would not want people to know about the abuse. Rowan House Society was looking for an educational tool that would break these barriers and reach the community members directly. Their communication team’s background in radio broadcasting and passion for audio editing, storytelling, and interviewing people made the idea of using a podcast appealing. For the first season, they interviewed Rowan House Society’s staff while learning the ropes of creating podcasts and interviews. Once they gained experience, they invited more guests.

How does the program work

The communication team and staff come together to decide what they want to discuss. The team gives careful attention to what’s going on in the community and the domestic violence and abuse sector. It’s important to plan the frequency of the episodes and the focus of each episode in advance, while also staying responsive to emerging issues. For example, one episode focused on the newly released Netflix series Maid, which is about surviving an abusive situation and homelessness. Other episodes discussed strangulation when shelter staff observed an increase in strangulation incidents. This ensures the podcast captures the pulse of the community and shelter work.

Once they have identified the topic and person, they reach out to potential guests and invite them to the podcast. Most guests are experts whom the staff team knows or has connections with.

Once the guests have accepted the invitation, they are invited for a pre-meeting. The team discusses the topic they wish to address, making sure everyone is on the same page. Sometimes guests may share different ideas about the topic and ways they want to address it. The team is flexible in adjusting the episodes accordingly. They schedule the final interview time after the pre-meeting.

Meanwhile, the team prepares a set of questions based on the pre-meeting. Having a set of questions ensures there is a clear beginning and ending for the conversation.  Guests are encouraged to prepare but not to read from a script, ensuring the conversation has a genuine flow.

The final interviews are held online. The recording of the interview is then edited and an introduction and ending are recorded by the host. The team also prepares a poster and album cover to promote each episode.

It takes about one month to plan, record, and edit each episode. The length of each episode can vary between 10-50 minutes.

What is the impact of this program

The podcast has allowed Rowan House Society to expand its education and awareness work in the community and beyond. Rowan House Society serves the second largest geographic area in the province, covering Foothills County, Vulcan County, and MD Willow Creek. The shelter is in a rural community with fewer than 14,000 people, yet the three seasons of the podcast have reached well beyond the community with over 1,800 downloads from listeners in 195 cities across 24 countries.

The team has received positive and encouraging feedback from community members. It has created a steady fan following where they receive inquiries about upcoming episodes. The podcast gives survivors an opportunity to share personal stories and heal by raising awareness. It has been used by the provincial health department to educate healthcare professionals, with the aim of reducing the service gap for people accessing the Emergency Room and VAW shelters. The podcast also highlights Rowan House Society’s values, drawing in new job applicants.

“The podcast brings out the power of story; people gravitate and remember things differently through that story lens…The community appreciates a different way to listen; people are getting a lot out of it on their own.”

Challenges in Implementing
  • Scheduling an interview and timing it with the podcast release can be challenging. Sometimes the team has to set up quick interviews for “filler” episodes to ensure they do not miss a month. Creating a podcast requires staff capacity, time, and passion. It can be a limitation for shelters that have tight deadlines and urgent needs to cater to.
Tips for those who wish to do something similar
  • You can use Zoom to host the interviews. Use a microphone (affordable options are available at online stores) while conducting the interviews. You can use a free editing tool such as Audacity to edit the audio. You can make posters or episode art in Canva. Buzzsprout is an intuitive tool that can be used for distributing the podcast.
  • Pre-interviews ensure there’s a good conversation and flow between the beginning and end of an episode. That way, the interviews wrap up into a neat conversation that audiences can follow.
  • Creating a podcast has a learning curve, but you can learn even if you do not have a background in radio or broadcasting.
Guideline to use this practice
Contact Name
Ally Cramm
Contact Designation
Communications and Marketing Lead
Contact Email
allyc@rowanhouse.ca