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Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good:Learn what works from leading social innovators, with host Spencer Critchley.

Spencer CritchleySpencer Critchley is the host of Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good. He is an award-winning writer, producer, and communications consultant with experience in broadcasting, film, digital media, public relations, advertising, and music. He is the managing partner of Boots Road Group, an advertising, public relations and digital media firm that serves purpose-driven organizations.

As a communication consultant, Spencer has worked for both of Barack Obama's presidential campaigns, former Congressman Sam Farr, the U.S. Department of Labor, the University of California at Berkeley, the Monterey Jazz Festival, and many others.

As a digital media producer, his clients have included David Bowie, Moby, Santana, Britney Spears, and others while he was with Thomas Dolby’s Beatnik Inc; the Silicon Graphics-Time Warner-ATT interactive TV system; Silicon Gaming; and the multiple award-winning Choosing Success multimedia program for CCC/Viacom, described by Wired magazine as "the most inspired piece of educational software ever created." He produced Boots Road Group's Davey, W3, and Videographer Award-winning video “Rancho Cielo: Transforming Lives” for Rancho Cielo Youth Campus.

As a journalist, Spencer reported stories for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, National Public Radio, the Associated Press, and others, winning awards for investigative reporting from Public Radio News Directors Inc. and the Associated Press. For CBC Radio, he was a correspondent and guest host for the national entertainment and popular culture show “Prime Time,” the host of the syndicated “Canada Rocks” record review, and a contributor to “The Entertainers” and other programs. He has written for the Huffington Post, O’Reilly Radar, Business Insider, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and other publications, and is the host of the Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good podcast (

As a composer and music producer, Spencer was signed to a songwriting and artist development contract with Warner-Chappell Music Publishing. He created music for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation including for the Peabody Award-winning CBC Radio drama “Paris from Wilde to Morrison” and the series shows "Prime Time," "Radio Banned," and "Metro Morning." He composed the score (with collaborator Marco D’Ambrosio) and produced the music, dialog, and sound design for the Emmy-winning PBS documentary "Blink.”

Spencer is an adjunct lecturer in Journalism for the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. He has been a guest speaker for Stanford University’s documentary film program; New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts; Art Center College of Design; California State University Monterey Bay; the American Constitution Society; MacWorld; Intel Developer World; the Game Developer's Conference (GDC); Interpret America; the New Teacher Center; the California Association of Public Information Officials; and the SXSW, Hot Springs, and Bermuda Film Festivals.

He has been interviewed or quoted by the Associated Press, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CNN, Fox News, i24 (Israel/US), ITV (UK), Mix Magazine,, National Public Radio, Reader’s Digest, Sky News (UK), and others.

Web: | Twitter: @scritchley | Facebook:

Dastardly Cleverness In The Service Of Good is produced by:

Boots Road group: We create content that creates impact.

Nov 26, 2017

If we could get the first five years of life right, it would transform society: less crime, less violence, less poverty, more people having happy, productive lives.

Lots of research backs that up. When young children suffer from poor health, neglect, missed learning opportunities, or trauma, they can pay for it for the rest of their lives. So do the rest of us. Many of our biggest social problems originate in troubled childhoods.

So if the goal is to make the world better, improving life for the very young is one of the best things we can do.

Gabriel SanchezThe people of California took a step in that direction in 1998 by passing Proposition 10. That created a state commission called First 5 and funded it with a tobacco tax. First 5 finds and supports effective early childhood programs. It also advocates on behalf of young children.

The work gets done through 58 local First 5's, one in each California county. Spencer's guest is Gabriel Sanchez, the Director of Communications for the biggest one: First LA, covering Los Angeles County.

Spencer first met Gabriel while both were doing communications work for the 2008 Obama for America campaign. As you’ll hear, Gabriel's experience includes politics, government, education, and now, trying to change the way we think about and invest in early childhood.

Show Links

First 5 LA
First 5 California
First 5 Parents' Site
The Power of Moments, by Chip and Dan Heath (source of Gabriel's "trip over the truth" reference)
"Myers study: Investing in children critical to nation’s economic, political future"
"How to Say 'No' to a Toddler (Without Actually Saying No)"

Gabriel Sanchez


Southern California native Gabriel Sanchez is the Director of Communications at First 5 LA. As the principal communications and marketing strategist for the organization, Gabriel leads a department of 12 to spearhead communications, media, social marketing, public education, advertising, digital and social media, sponsorships and related activities for First 5 LA’s ongoing work to support young children and their parents across Los Angeles County.

Gabriel came to First 5 LA from Green Dot Public Schools, where he was the communications director. Previously, he was a senior strategist with The Strategy Group in Pasadena and an independent communications consultant in Orange County, serving a range of corporate, labor and political clients. He also has served in top communications roles in the offices of then-Governor Gray Davis and then-Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he was the California Communications Director for Obama for America.

Gabriel is a graduate of California State University Fullerton with a bachelor’s degree in political science and Chicano studies. He is in the process of completing a master’s degree in political science from Suffolk University in Boston, MA. He also is a graduate of the MALDEF Leadership Development Program, and Cal State Fullerton’s Leadership Institute.

A Letter from Gabriel to His First 5 LA Communications Staff

I was thinking deeply about the “why” of what we do. We point to facts and figures on brain development. We talk about outcome areas. Yes, it’s about kids. Yet I feel we aren’t connecting with audiences.

Then I thought about how parents are the focus of our work.

What do parents do when they become parents? They re-order and re-prioritize their lives. Parents sacrifice. Parents go without. No more going out to eat, weekend getaways or fancy sportcars (if you could afford that earlier). Sleep is a like a long-lost friend you hope to see again someday.

Why? Why endure all of that? Because parents want that little human to be the best they can possibly be.

We speak that truth in the tagline below our current logo, but I offer to you we haven’t embraced it fully.

Aside from some tax credits, there isn’t any new revenue that comes in when you have a child. Your spending on baby furniture, food and clothing skyrocket. And your household income may dip if one parent chooses or has to stay home with baby. We offer tips, ideas and resources to parents to help with these priorities. We don’t ask parents to “make a greater investment in early childhood development.”

Maybe we shouldn’t ask decision makers and lawmakers either.

Rather, we should ask them to “think like a parent” and prioritize policies accordingly. We can bridge our parenting and community audiences with decision makers by messaging a “parenting approach to policies.” Parents – that, is constituents - sacrifice and re-prioritize to give their kids the best start. We should ask lawmakers to do the same, across all policies.

We should be asking decision makers and lawmakers to re-order their priorities, not make new investments, as if they too were parents and had to sacrifice for their kids.

The Mercury News last week and the NYT’s California Today newsletter capture examples of decision makers taking a parenting approach to law making. In this case, it’s because they became parents themselves and “tripped over the truth.” (h/t Dan and Chip Heath, the authors  “The Power of Moments,” who say, “the way to get an idea to stick is to have someone experience it.”)

I can share my own example. I would have never lobbied my friend, then-Assembly Member Ricardo Lara, on diaper changing tables in mens’ restrooms unless I had experienced, first-hand, the frustration of needing to change my daughter’s diaper in stores that sold diapers and baby food.

I’m not sure how this can fit into the message platform development, but I wanted to share the idea.