About the Show

Big Questions is an Emmy® Award Winning documentary television series that explores new ideas and projects that are changing the way the world works. We have gathered stories from our backyard in the United States, to faraway places around the globe, each focused on difficult issues, inspiring people, and when possible, innovative solutions.

Big Questions is...

  • ...a Documentary that takes place all over the world, providing an insider perspective to local issues, foreign cultures and environments that a viewer might normally be exposed to from a more limited perspective.
  • ...a Report on what's being done to impact people, many living below the poverty line, in the United States and around the globe; both documenting and explaining the facts, while showcasing the ethical issues that influence their situations.
  • ...a Conversation between the guests, the hosts, and the viewer, that presents a variety of points of view.
  • ...an Encouragement for people looking to enhance, expand, and enrich their view of the world.

To most, poverty is thought to be inevitable. This is because our efforts to deal with the problem focus on the symptoms, rather than the causes. Giving food, clothing, or clean water may help temporarily, but if it's the only method we use, there will always be poor people. In order to eliminate poverty, we need to understand how it works and how its sustained.

People living below the poverty line have more to overcome than just a lack of money, food, shelter, or other basic needs. Individuals can work multiple jobs, and still be kept poor for a myriad of reasons, including lack of safety, dignity, privacy, a voice, property rights, and human interaction. For the poorest of the poor, many of these factors are compounded.

Instead of thinking about poverty as a condition, think of it as a system that restricts access to resources many take for granted: education, healthcare, access to better jobs, political representation, banks that allow you to save or borrow money, and human rights protection from ethnic or gender prejudices. This system removes the ability to take even the most basic control of one's life.

Big Questions believes that to address poverty you must move beyond theory and embrace the general process of action. The show is about meeting big needs with local solutions. We get into the trenches with leaders combatting social need and innovators creating new resources and access for those in need.

Though many global problems are much bigger than current solutions, the show is passionate about addressing thorny issues. By doing so we hope to further the search for solutions that will alleviate these problems. [Read more in DePaul Magazine]


May 11, 2014Mirebalais, Haiti
Can an inadequate system of care be positively affected through disruptive approaches? We travel to Haiti, a country with a history of natural disasters, to visit with leaders who are affecting change from the inside out through new models for education and leadership. [Read more...]
May 4, 2014Chicago, Illinois
James, a Vietnam War veteran/former gang member/alcoholic with 20+ years sober, participates in a variety of welfare programs, and spends his days helping and giving back to those in need. See welfare and philanthropy through his eyes, as we discuss their effects on both the people who support these systems and who they support. [Read more...]
Food Deserts
April 27, 2014Chicago, Illinois
Follow us to a Chicago food desert to shop for a family of four, and talk with a doctor who grew up in the neighborhood about what shopping was like for her family growing up. We also visit with food assistance programs (including the Chicago Food Depository) to see how they affect their communities, and what challenges they face. [Read more...]
Millennium Villages
April 20, 2014Bonsaaso, Ghana
Go inside a Millennium Village, a UN effort developed by Jeffrey Sachs to intervene in a number of areas of need (agriculture, health, education, infrastructure) in one concentrated effort, and see their Telemedicine operation, which brings medical assistance to people for whom assistance is too far away to access or not available. [Read more...]
Fresh Start
April 13, 2014Berrien County, Michigan
'Fresh Start' is a corrections program in Berrien County jail that aims to break the cycle of offending that its enrollees, and many current and former inmates, face. See how the program teaches the inmates how to face their actions, as we talk to 'Fresh Start's participants and founder about the goals and effects of the program. [Read more...]

Emerging Markets
April 6, 2014Cape Coast, Ghana
Can one person make a difference? Follow two married American entrepreneurs who are doing just that in Ghana, with wells, pineapples, and a school for the deaf, and look at how outsiders can positively affect change in a foreign country. [Read more...]

Cottage Industries
March 30, 2014Bangladesh
Cottage Industries are used to help bring people out of poverty by creating the means for the poor to sustain themselves. Go inside the next step in poverty alleviation, and see how it's helping people bring themselves out of extreme poverty in rural Bangladesh. [Read more...]

Benefit Corporations
March 23, 2014San Francisco, California
Visit an Oakland-based Benefit Corporation who gives their profits back to charities chosen by their customers. Meet the charities and Benefit Corporations they work with, and see how for-profit philanthropy is improving lives in their community. [Read more...]

Poverty Is A System
March 16, 2014Ifakara, Tanzania
Go to Tanzania to see how health care and education are being used to deal with major illnesses in rural communities. We discuss the importance of how businesses and NGOs do work while looking at a leper colony and a project using communication to prevent malaria. Does a pharmaceutical company have a greater responsibility to people than other businesses? [Read more...]
Indigenous Rights
March 9, 2014Bemidji, Minnesota
We look at how centuries-old agreements are still heavily influential today, in both a legal battle in Minnesota between the state government and the Ojibwe tribe and the lives of Ojibwe tribal members living on the White Earth reservation. [Read more...]

March 2, 2014Bangladesh
We look at the strengths and weaknesses of microlending both as an idea and a tool for poverty alleviation, talking with experts in the field (including Nobel peace prize winner Muhammad Yunus), and showing how it's being combined with other poverty alleviation efforts in Bangladesh to create a self-sustaining environment for a poor, rural community. [Read more...]

Children of Syria
February 23, 2014Jordan
We talk with Syrian refugees currently seeking refuge in Jordan, and hear their stories and challenges. UN aid workers and Jordanians talk with us about the the challenges of dealing with refugees, and how children are, and will continue to be, heavily affected. [Read more...]

Faces of Wage Theft
February 16, 2014Chicago, Illinois
Join us as we examine a major issue facing persons from all walks of life that is often hidden from sight. We talk to wage theft victims about how it affects them, their families and their communities. We discuss the ethics of employers not paying workers properly or at all, and what can and should be done. [Read more...]


Sarah SweilemTrainer, ActionAid

Sarah was our segment producer and local guide into Jordan and the Zaatari Camps for Syrian refugees. She helped us meet with camp members, hear their stories, and discover the effect the experience was having on the children.

DanielNurse, Bonsaaso District, Ghana

Working in a hospital tele-consultation center (developed by the UN-sponsored Millennium Village Project), he is the link between the hospital's doctors and the midwifes diagnosing out in far off villages via a mobile app.

Kim BoboAuthor, Director of Interfaith Worker Justice

It was her book "Wage Theft in America" that coined the term that brought this widespread phenomenon to America's attention. She was one of the people who gave us accounts of wage theft, many of whom were victims.

Dr. Joe KwartengProfessor, Entrepreneur

A Ghanaian who graduated from college in the US, Joe partnered with American friends and investors Dick and Suzie Kiphart, to form a pineapple plantation both for profit and for social good; a type of business called a "social business".

JamesFormerly Homeless

James receives less than twenty-five dollars per day to pay for housing, food, clothing and all the rest of life�s necessities. 4:40 - 5am every weekday morning he meets both old friends and young men in need of his encouraging words, kindly advice or listening ear.

Willona "Nonie" Olison, PhDDirector - ICTR

Growing up, if Noni or any of her four siblings were hungry and there wasn�t food already in the house, they had two choices: they could take two buses to get to the nearest grocery store, or they could settle for the food selection at 200 Cut Rate Liquors across the street.

MizanSocial Worker

Mizan works in one of the poorest countries in the world. �You want to remember the poor," he told us, "because in this country, sooner or later, you might stand in their shoes.� We were very fortunate to have shared with him his first experience in America, when we brought him to Chicago.

Marletta SeatsBerrien County Commissioner

Marletta and her son Duane work with Berrien County Jail prisoners in a program designed for the inmates' to confront their decisions and raise their confidence and self-esteem so they can stay out of jail.

Meet the Big Questions Team

  • Patricia Werhane

    Executive Producer, Host


    Patricia H. Werhane is the Wicklander Chair of Business Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and Executive Director of the Institute for Business and Professional Ethics at DePaul University with a joint appointment as the Peter and Adeline Ruffin Professor of Business Ethics and Senior Fellow at of the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics in the Darden School at the University of Virginia.

    Professor Werhane has published numerous articles and is the author or editor of over twenty books including Ethical Issues in Business (with T. Donaldson, eighth edition). She is the founder and former Editor-in-Chief of Business Ethics Quarterly, the Journal of the Society for Business Ethics. Professor Werhane is currently a member of the academic advisory team for the Business Roundtable Ethics Institute housed at the University of Virginia. Her current research projects focus on feminism in business and poverty reduction through for-profit initiatives.

  • Kim Clark

    Executive Producer, Host


    Kim Clark is a creative professional active in film, television, and live performance. He is a businessman and community leader in Three Oaks, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois where he has lived for the past 20 years with his partner David Fink. Their creative efforts have been featured in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and network television.

    His circuitous career path has included 10 years with the Cosmopolitan National Bank of Chicago (Vice President of Marketing), Associate Creative Director at New York's Young and Rubicam Advertising Agency and in 2006 he ran for United States Congress from Michigan's 6th district. He is also an expert pipe organ builder. Before joining DePaul University, he crafted, and later headed, national writing programs for The Second City Training Center.

  • Matthew Newman

    Producer, Editor


    Mat is a television producer and web developer who has produced on 3 continents (and counting), and developed and produced all 19 episodes of Big Questions over its 2 series. His most recent web app has been presented at ethics conventions in the US and Europe.

  • Scott Arakawa

    Producer, Asst. Director


    Scott is a multimedia producer with experience in editing, graphic design, animation, and cinematography. He has produced segments for Big Questions all around the world and behind the scenes, worked to develop the first season's 13 episodes.

  • Tim Rolph

    Writer, UPM


    Tim Rolph is a Chicagoland native and a graduate student at DePaul University. He is an avid traveler and occasional contributor to the Chicago-centric web magazine Gapers Block.

  • Summer Brown

    Production Manager


    Summer is an attorney and the Executive Director of the Institute for Business and Professional Ethics at DePaul University- primarily responsible for the legal and business functions of the Big Questions production. She has previously worked on the launch of a DePaul sponsored micro-lending website for small and medium sized businesses in Haiti, called Zafen.org. Summer's legal background includes work for the Cook County State's Attorney's Office in Chicago, the United States Attorney's Office, Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic and she continues to offer pro bono legal services for indigent individuals in Chicago.

  • Brenda Bowyer

    Supervising Producer


    Brenda Bowyer is an 18 year veteran in public television. She has worked in radio production for over 25 years. Telling stories with impact and giving voice to those without is a personal passion.

  • Timothy Wolfer

    Field Producer


    Timothy Wolfer is a documentary filmmaker who has produced in 21 countries such as China, Uganda and Mozambique. His real passion is filmmaking in humanitarian situations, filming after the Philippines 2013 Typhoons, Haiti days after the 2010 earthquake and most recently South Sudan's civil war. His work has been featured all over the world most notably Hulu.com and CNN.

  • Sarah Sweilem

    Researcher, Consultant

    Sarah began as a researcher for the show, but soon became deeply involved in production. She is currently working for NGOs in the middle east, based in Jordan, and acts as a consultant for Big Questions.

  • Andrew Messer

    Field Producer

    Andrew is an international freelance documentarian based in Madrid, Spain. His work has been featured online for El Pais, the Spanish National Ballet and numerous private entities. In addition to his work with Big Questions, Andrew is a noted behind-the-scenes and stills photographer.

  • Roxie Cohen

    Field Producer

    Before joining Big Questions, Roxie was a student of Kim Clark's at DePaul University. She became a part of the team in 2013, as a field producer and editor. She is now based in L.A. working on film productions.

  • Brad Althouse


    Brad Athouse is a Chicago-based pianist, teacher, audio engineer and composer for film and television. Having worked in genres ranging from classical piano to ethereal, synth driven sound collages, his music has been compared to such modern composers as Cliff Martinez and Clint Mansell. To date Brad has contributed to numerous film, visual, and multi-media projects.