Social Justice and Bridging Histories | The Enterprise Sessions with Joanna Burch⁠-⁠Brown

The Enterprise Sessions bring together a diverse mix of company founders and researchers who talk openly about their experiences forming spin-outs and start-ups, raising capital, building academic-industry partnerships and translating research discoveries into real-world impact. Each episode aims to inform, inspire and challenge myths and stereotypes about research commercialisation and how businesses and universities can work together to tackle society’s biggest challenges.


What can we learn from our history to make positive changes for the future? Professor Michele Barbour investigates this question with Dr Joanna Burch-Brown, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Co-Chair of the Bristol Histories Commission, and Co-Director of Bridging Histories. Joanna talks about her work to celebrate diversity, empower people, and foster a sense of collective heritage.



  • Learn how the Countering Colston campaign and the removal of Edward Colston’s statue during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 shaped Bridging Histories’ grassroots approach to community engagement.
  • Joanna reflects on her background growing up in Virginia and the Appalachian Mountains, shaping her perspective on the importance of community and social change.
  • Find out how you can take part in Bridging Histories signature activities. Submit poetry and recipes. Learn about your street’s history. Explore family histories. Discover the monuments and memorials in your area. Be a changemaker.


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The Enterprise Sessions bring together a diverse mix of company founders and researchers who talk openly about their personal experiences of forming spin-outs and start-ups, raising capital, academic-industry partnerships and the joys of translating research discoveries into real-world impact.

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00:00:00 Prof Michele Barbour 

Welcome to the enterprise sessions. Today I’m speaking with Doctor Joanna Burch Brown, who is senior lecturer in Philosophy, Co-chair of the Bristol Histories Commission and Co director of bridging histories, Joanna. I’m really pleased you made time to talk to me myself. 

00:00:13 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And thank you very much indeed. Thanks so much for having me 

00:00:15 Prof Michele Barbour 

Much for having me, so I’m really looking forward to talking about bridging histories, what you’ve done already and what you plan to do. 

00:00:22 Prof Michele Barbour 

In this current phase of development, but perhaps we could start with a little bit of background. Would you like to tell us a bit about where you were before you came to the university and what brought you to Bristol? 

00:00:33 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Yeah. So I grew up in Virginia, in the Appalachian Mountains, and I was an only child. I spent my childhood running around in the woods. It was just hundreds of miles of woods around and. 

00:00:47 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

I always knew how to find my way back to my house by finding the railway track and following it back, so it was a beautiful quite. 

00:00:55 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Child starting and I was very passionate about nature and animals and that was kind of my my world. I think as a child and I got very interested in issues of social justice and racial justice, especially with the Rodney King events in LA that was really formative. 

00:01:15 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Moment for a lot of people in my generation. I think in the United States, and I then had the fortunate had the good fortune. 

00:01:24 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Of being introduced to an amazing organization called alternate routes. When I was about 12, my mom and her partner were part of this organization and we would spend the summers. There was a a week long camp every summer where there were artists from all across the southwest. 

00:01:45 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Who all used arts and communities for social change could come together. And sometimes people described it as Disneyland for social justice workers. 

00:01:54 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

UM, and that was extremely formative for me. And then I had, I guess, at university. I went to Oberlin College, and that was in the same ethos, you know, everybody had started an Amnesty International chapter as a high schooler, and it was just full of really inspirational, creative, radical people. 

00:02:15 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And I spent a few years setting up a community garden after that in London, working with refugees and asylum seekers, which is still going on now. We’ve celebrated our 20th year. Wow. And then I went to Cambridge University and I studied philosophy. And interestingly, I kind of had some of that radicalism. 

00:02:36 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Tap kind of damped away during that time, so I did like a super theoretical PhD. It’s on epistemic objections to consequentialism. You know, just totally, totally abstract philosophy. 

00:02:50 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And I stood A postdoc at Oxford, and then when I got the job at University of Bristol, it was really expensive for me, because I suddenly found myself back in an environment where that natural, radical progressive orientation could come back to life and really flourish so coming. 

00:03:11 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

To Bristol has been in many ways a return to my kind of core self. Even though I’m across the ocean. 

00:03:19 Prof Michele Barbour 

I find it really interesting was the was that sort of rediscovery of that? 

00:03:23 Prof Michele Barbour 

I suppose I’m gonna call it freedom. Do you think that’s by virtue of the stage of your career in a PhD? It’s necessarily a bit structured, it’s bit defined. And and likewise as a research associate, there’s usually a project that you’re employed to work. 

00:03:36 Prof Michele Barbour 

On is it? 

00:03:38 Prof Michele Barbour 

Being an independent academic researcher, that’s giving you back their freedom. Or is there something about the the culture at Bristol? 

00:03:44 Prof Michele Barbour 

Within your department, within your school that actively seeks to promote that. 

00:03:49 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

It’s definitely both of those things, so I think. 

00:03:54 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Because my discipline is, uhm, has probably been slower than other disciplines to get. 

00:04:02 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

To to like take on the significance of big social justice issues, which is an interesting question, why that is, but it means that the discipline, it was quite important to do something that was abstract, theoretical, very kind of just rigorous academic. 

00:04:20 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

What I found at University of Bristol is that my department has been really wonderful place for me, my department. I just find that they say yes to all my ideas, you know and and even and the faculty as well. So what I. 

00:04:35 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And was there was a point when when the Dean came to me and said Ohh, we’ve got this summer school program but we wanna revamp it. Do you want to put something together and they said. 

00:04:45 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

What would you like to do? And I said, can I, like, really do anything I want to and they said. 

00:04:52 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Yeah. So I was like, OK, and I just made it as close as possible to that alternate routes experience as I could. So we’re in the middle of that right now, actually, we’re in week two of the arts activism, social justice summer school and we. 

00:04:58 Prof Michele Barbour 

Amazing, yeah. 

00:05:05 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Have super diverse students from all over the US who are sponsored by the Fulbright Commission and by the Henry Sachs Foundation who have come over along with some some of our Bristol scholars and and they’re each getting 2 workshops a day studying with practitioners kind of arts and social justice. 

00:05:25 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Practitioners from Bristol and they’re getting an absolute master class, so it’s an institution that has does say yes to people’s ideas and has that kind of flexibility. 

00:05:38 Prof Michele Barbour 

I’m really glad that that’s your your your experience, because I find that too. But you and I from very different disciplines. So at least there’s that common thread of saying yes to interesting ideas, even if sometimes they’re quite, I don’t know. Adventurous. Yeah, it sounds like a wonderful experience for summer school students. What do you think they take away from it is it? Is it the learning? Is it the contacts? Is it? 

00:05:59 Prof Michele Barbour 

New perspectives. 

00:06:01 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Well, we really aim for it to be a life changing experience, so we’re not messing around with this little bits around the edges like I want the students to come. I want them every student to have. 

00:06:14 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

At least some of the sessions that just caused them to go oh, like I could do that. 

00:06:22 Prof Michele Barbour 

So let’s talk a little bit about putting histories, shall we? So would you like to talk about the the, the genesis of that whole undertaking? How what, what’s what sort of spurred you on? 

00:06:31 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Yes. So I guess in 2015, I got involved with the Countering Colston campaign in Bristol. 

00:06:41 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

So that was right at the start of the countering coasting campaign. There had been decades of people boycotting the Colston Hall of people, sort of trying to shed light on the fact that Bristol hadn’t acknowledged the history and impact of its involvement with transatlantic enslavement. 

00:07:01 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

But at that moment, things seemed really stuck on that top. 

00:07:07 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And as an academic in philosophy, I was looking for I was really thinking how can I shift into doing a type of academic work where the work I’m doing is really serving the community. And so I spent a long period of time just like listening, going and listening to people about what needed to happen locally. 

00:07:26 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And one of the things that kept coming up and was really obviously. 

00:07:30 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Stuck, you know, was this issue about the memorialization of Edward Colston? 

00:07:35 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

So I thought, well, I can see you getting involved in that. As a philosopher, there’s really interesting ethical questions about how we address difficult histories. They’re really interesting ethical questions about intergroup dynamics and how do you support? 

00:07:54 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Communities with different starting points to come to shift their perspectives and grow together. So I got involved in the countering coasting campaign and we had a really amazing sort of series of years of campaigning. In 2017, the Colston Hall announced. 

00:08:13 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

It would be. 

00:08:14 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Renaming and there was. 

00:08:19 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Moments where the schools decided that they would make changes as well, so Colston’s Primary school did a. 

00:08:25 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Great consultation around the name of the school off the back of which they decided to change the name to Cotton Gardens and and in the course of that journey I just spent really a large amount of time. 

00:08:40 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Listening to the trying to listen as closely as I could to the views of people on multiple sides of the issue. 

00:08:46 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

So one of the campaigners had collected all of the letters that came into the Bristol Post against renaming Colston Hall, and I analyzed all of those letters in depth and just saw OK, what are all arguments against it? So then in 2020, when the statue came down. 

00:09:06 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

In in the Black Lives Matter protest following the death of George Floyd, the murder of George Floyd. 

00:09:16 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

The Mayor of Bristol set up the Bristol History Commission and he tasked the Bristol History Commission with. 

00:09:25 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Helping the city to understand where we’ve been so you can better decide where. 

00:09:28 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

We want to go. 

00:09:31 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

So I initially thought that that wasn’t the right structure. I thought it was the right question, but not the right structure, so he was inviting a group of academics to address this question. 

00:09:42 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Well, this is really about it’s it’s, it’s something where people feel disenfranchised. They feel like elites are deciding, they feel it and it really needs to be much more grassroots. 

00:09:52 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

So I spent the first few months on the Bristol History Commission just scratching my head saying, OK, how do we how can we actually achieve this task? 

00:10:02 Prof Michele Barbour 

Yeah, this this isn’t it. But what is the method? 

00:10:05 Prof Michele Barbour 

What is the roots? 

00:10:05 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. So the so bridging histories was kind of my hypothesis about how we. 

00:10:15 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

How we can help a whole community to understand where we’ve been so we can better decide where we want to go and the basic idea with bridging histories is that we’re inviting everybody, any anybody, anywhere to join in these six activities. So the activities, the first one is to write a poem that starts with I am from. 

00:10:35 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And then you fill in memories and details and things that matter to you, so you sort of express yourself through that. 

00:10:42 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Forum I am from the second activity is to share a recipe and a story. 

00:10:47 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

To go with it. 

00:10:48 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

The third activity is to share a street history, so it might be that you’re looking into the history of the street where you live, or it might. 

00:10:56 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Be that you’re. 

00:10:57 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Telling about a street that means something special to you and why does it mean something special to you as you kind of telling that personal history of that street? The 4th one is to share a family history, something about your family history. 

00:11:10 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

The fifth one is to be a monument detective or to make a memorial or something around monuments, memorials, and then the 6th one is to be a change maker, so to do something to make a positive change in yourself or the world around you. And what I love about that. 

00:11:27 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Six activities structure is that it’s there’s something for everybody. Yeah, there’s nothing in it anywhere that assumes a political orientation of one kind or another. So it’s just profoundly welcoming, you know, it’s it’s really about welcoming everybody to reflect on their own story through those activities and then to see what other people have said. 

00:11:46 Prof Michele Barbour 

It also strikes me and tell me if I’m wrong, that it could also play appeal really across the ages. I can imagine quite young children could do some of those things, but so could all ages of adults, not only across political Spectra, but across, you know. 

00:12:00 Prof Michele Barbour 

All, all different people really. 

00:12:02 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. 

00:12:05 Prof Michele Barbour 

And is that what you found? Who? Who is engaging with this? Are there certain groups or demographics that are easier to involve? There’s some that it’s been more difficult to engage. 

00:12:16 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

I would say on that question, we’ve made a strategic decision. 

00:12:21 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

So uhm, I think every group can be easily engaged in this set of activities. 

00:12:29 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

But we’ve made that a strategic decision to anchor bridging histories in Saint Paul’s as our starting point and to have that sort of be the beating heart of bridging history starts there and kind of goes outwards. So Saint Paul’s is the historic kind of heart of the. 

00:12:49 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Working Caribbean community in Bristol and the reason that that’s the right choice is that. 

00:12:54 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Bridging histories comes out of that moment of the statue coming down. It’s about a reparative, you know, it’s about reparative justice of a kind of cultural kind, cultural repair. And so it needs to center the voices of African Caribbean people first and then kind of branch out from there. 

00:13:13 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Right away. 

00:13:15 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

So we have a what we’re what we’ve been doing is giving small grants to ambassadors. So we have a whole community of bridging histories, ambassadors who are from really different walks of life. And those ambassadors get small grants to get people involved in any of the activities and and then they kind of form. 

00:13:32 Prof Michele Barbour 

  1. Yeah.

00:13:36 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Coordinating and kind of they connect to do campaigns, you know, so it’s like, OK, they can see that particular issues are important in the community and then we kind of spot what are the kind of campaigns that are needed on particular topics and the. 

00:13:55 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

I guess there’s an idea there that. 

00:13:58 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

By helping people to express who they are through these stories and dip into history through the historical parts and look at change making, you’ll have a better shot at coming up with locally appropriate solutions to problems. 

00:14:11 Prof Michele Barbour 

Co created solutions as opposed to solutions coming back to your point about academics. So the things that the academics I think are a good idea and somewhere beneficial. 

00:14:19 Prof Michele Barbour 

Have not come from the very people that you know that need the support or or the intervention, whatever it might be. 

00:14:26 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Yeah, yeah. 

00:14:27 Prof Michele Barbour 

So are there any maybe examples of the sorts of ideas and inventions that have blossomed from this that could illustrate the sorts of things that you that you and your ambassadors have created? 

00:14:40 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Yes. Ohh dear, what do we decide? What do we share? There’s so many amazing ambassadors and amazing projects. 

00:14:47 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

So I I guess. 

00:14:50 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

I’ll start with one. One of the ambassadors is George Francis, and he, well, he started out as an ambassador with bridging histories, and then he just through his total commitment and understand that sort of really deep understanding of the project and alignment with the project. He’s. 

00:15:11 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Become the Co director at this point of bridging histories, and one of the one of the many projects that he has kind of especially gotten behind is creating a Saint Paul’s Community forum. 

00:15:22 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

So the Saint Paul’s Community Forum that is going to be creating a neighborhood plan for Saint Paul’s. And that’s like one of the few ways that a local area can exert an influence over what’s happening with development. So it’s kind of a just a key moment for that to happen. 

00:15:43 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

With the level of gentrification, including the universities connections to that. So as we bring in students, they are. 

00:15:50 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

You know, we’re looking at building housing. Where does that housing go? Yeah. How do we make sure that we’re actually helping the local community to protect itself against? 

00:15:58 Prof Michele Barbour 

Yeah, a positive influence, not a negative or even neutral. 

00:15:58 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

The forces, yeah. 

00:16:02 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

One. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s an example of change making projects that’s come out of that another. 

00:16:09 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Example is Jasmine. Co is an Aboriginal British artist and we sponsored her first. The first exhibition of the cola. 

00:16:20 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

So the Co gallery is the first Aboriginal owned art gallery in the UK. Wow. 

00:16:26 Prof Michele Barbour 

That’s based in Bristol. 

00:16:27 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

That’s based in Bristol and it doesn’t it. It’s online and it doesn’t currently have a permanent base right now, but you’ll see lots of different exhibitions that are coming up and that’s just amazing to see. 

00:16:40 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

The kind of the growth that’s coming out of that from that from that exhibition and from Jasmine’s leader. 

00:16:47 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

A different kind of example is Gary Adderton and and Alexander Smith and the Barton Hill history group. So the Barton Hill history group we they got a ambassadors grant to create a series of heritage trails for Barton Hill so that now they have a whole like sort of series of. 

00:17:05 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Heritage trails, which they can use as walks that help to sort of show the historical importance of different buildings in the area. 

00:17:12 Prof Michele Barbour 

Yeah, which I of all the things you, I mean, all the things you described sounds so objectively helpful, beneficial. 

00:17:19 Prof Michele Barbour 

Positive. I love that one cause I can picture taking children, taking visitors, even taking older relatives on, and that’s something that can really bring generations together as well as communities and so on. 

00:17:29 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Absolutely, yeah. 

00:17:31 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Actually, on that point, so we also have bridging histories projects in London that have been funded by the London Mayor’s Office and one of the ones there had initial part of funding but is now going on. So this is culture tree. So culture tree have gotten a grant now to do a series of Yoruba heritage. 

00:17:52 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

In Suffolk, so they’re going to have, you know, I described those six activities. They’re creating a heritage trail for each of those activities. For Yoruba speaking communities in Suffolk. So they’ll have a I am from Heritage Trail, it’s about migration stories, food Heritage Trail, a street histories, heritage trail, like what happened in the Yuba community. 

00:18:13 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And different places in Suffolk and so on. 

00:18:17 Prof Michele Barbour 

I would imagine that it must be quite exciting and satisfying for you to see this. This set of ideas and initiatives that you’ve. 

00:18:26 Prof Michele Barbour 

Initiated with partners like George, I realize starting to starting to sort of have effects beyond Bristol. It’s wonderful for Bristol, but it’s lovely, great to hear them sort of starting to, to spread to other cities. Yeah. Is that part of your direct aspiration? Where do you want to be involved in? 

00:18:43 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

That yeah, absolutely so. 

00:18:47 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

We want to learn in Bristol. We want to test ideas in Bristol, we want to. 

00:18:51 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Have a really significant impact in Bristol and make a step change in different communities on a kind of reparative in a reparative way. 

00:19:00 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

But we do want to really be building a global franchise. You know, the idea the vision would be to have cohorts of ambassadors in different, you know, it could be in a city, it could be in an organization, it could be, you know, any kind of location, but. 

00:19:17 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Anywhere in the globe, you could have cohorts of ambassadors doing projects. 

00:19:23 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

That are local, you know, tailored to the local community that are coming out of a local community, that sort of reflect that local wisdom about what’s needed locally, but that have a common umbrella. So there’s a kind of connection amongst them. So they get to kind of be part of a bigger. 

00:19:41 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Sort of cultural change, part of a bigger community. 

00:19:45 Prof Michele Barbour 

And the strength in in feeling that there are others elsewhere trying to achieve some of the same principles as you, that it will look different locally according to local needs, but that that sense of critical mass, I would imagine must be quite inspiring in, in his vision of. 

00:19:59 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Yours, at least in the vision. Yeah, exactly. And Speaking of vision, I guess, like for me. 

00:20:05 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Well, so our vision would be that the to have a world where everybody feels celebrated for who they are. 

00:20:14 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Everybody feels rooted in our collective heritage and everybody feels empowered to be a positive change maker. 

00:20:22 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

So it has that. 

00:20:24 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Present, you know, past, present and future aspect to it. 

00:20:29 Prof Michele Barbour 

I love the vision, so maybe let’s talk a bit about how how we might achieve that vision and you might achieve that vision. So you’ve got this really strong community of of ambassadors and then all of their communities that they are serving and working with and so on within Bristol and you’ve got this vision of of franchising this out. 

00:20:49 Prof Michele Barbour 

Nationally, internationally. So what do you need to make that happen? How are how is it progressing? How are you going to achieve that? 

00:21:00 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Yeah. So right now we’re, I guess in in one sense it’s quite messy at the minute. We’re we’re absolutely inundated with opportunities and there’s so much activity. So these. 

00:21:14 Prof Michele Barbour 

Are people reaching out to you asking for your help effectively? Yeah. 

00:21:16 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Reaching out to us saying, can you get involved in this, you know? And so we’re totally inundated with opportunities. 

00:21:23 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Some of that is like people wanting to run projects. There are quite a few institutions, whether it’s the police or museums or councils, you know, schools, charities, who are all kind of interested in whether there could be a bridging histories way of addressing the conflict that they’re dealing with. 

00:21:42 Prof Michele Barbour 

Which I consider very encouraging. 

00:21:44 Prof Michele Barbour 

The the groups like the police forces, schools and museums and so on are actively looking for ways to address some of the the difficult histories, as you put in. So it’s it’s great to be inundated with these inquiries, yes, but just to the very. 

00:21:53 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Yeah, that’s right. 

00:21:57 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Small team. I’m so excited about getting to the next stage of growth because so we’ve just brought in. 

00:22:04 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

A campaign and events manager who is Katie Finnegan Clark I mentioned before Katie Chandler Clark, who is going to be able to help kind of steer this next stage of development, but I guess to come back to your question in a more focused way. 

00:22:06 Prof Michele Barbour 


00:22:20 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

I think the what we need is to have this stage of messy learning, then kind of like really distill simplified packages from that where we can say, OK, here’s some free resources. Then here’s tier one paid resource like, you know if you. 

00:22:40 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Pay some money. Then you can have. Then we’ll have sort of support you with this level of. 

00:22:45 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Toolkit and that kind of thing and and then the kind of next stage of would be to have consultancy. So training up a selection of the ambassadors to be bridging histories, consultants who then can be you know we can sort of say OK this Council has come to us so the police force has come to us. 

00:23:06 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Hear the right ambassadors who understand how to work on that kind of a problem, so that then we can start offering a kind of paid consultancy and I guess the idea would be then we have the commercial aspect of what we do that is going to generate where we’re doing paid gigs and that’s generating income that then can support the community. 

00:23:26 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Change making that is really at the heart of. 

00:23:29 Prof Michele Barbour 

Things. So this becomes, in effect, social enterprise. Yeah. So it’s it is an enterprise. It is. It does have, it has a business plan. It has a profit and loss whatever you wanna call it. But it’s it’s for social good and it’s ultimately to plough those resources back into the communities that you. 

00:23:44 Prof Michele Barbour 

That you started from and the ones in the new new environments that these new partners open up to? 

00:23:49 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

You. Yes, exactly. 

00:23:51 Prof Michele Barbour 

Wonderful. So do you have? 

00:23:54 Prof Michele Barbour 

Particular sectors, geographies, organisations that you would like to start with, given you’ve got limited resources, you have to pick and choose to start with. Inevitably, where would you really like to have impact? 

00:24:07 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

First, well, I guess we use a snowball method for a lot of what we’re doing really so. 

00:24:15 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

The the ambassadors that we already have have a lot of network connections that are global, that are in Ghana or Australia or Ethiopia or Jamaica or Trinidad or the US so they’re I think the key thing, probably the right method for us is to start with. 

00:24:34 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Our kind of core group of ambassadors and then use those network connections so that everything is always kind of building out in that way, yeah. 

00:24:38 Prof Michele Barbour 

Then it works, yeah. 

00:24:45 Prof Michele Barbour 

And I mean, on your ambassadors, you’ve clearly got an amazing group of people. 

00:24:50 Prof Michele Barbour 

How did you? 

00:24:51 Prof Michele Barbour 

To get them involved. How? How did you meet them and how did you? 

00:24:57 Prof Michele Barbour 

I suppose to secure their enthusiasm, their goodwill, to get involved with this. 

00:25:01 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Hmm, that’s a really great question. Well, when I was doing the countering Colston campaign. 

00:25:09 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

About 2015 to 2020 that I was involved in that and I had really strong collaborations that were all kind of community based point, but with bridging histories, I decided that I wasn’t going to use those because I was really aware that the universe. 

00:25:26 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

The academics, there’s a tendency to get have sort of go to people that you go to and it’s a real issue. So. So the kind of the prominent organisations or prominent individuals. 

00:25:40 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

The there can be a real tendency for the university to kind of narrow its channels a lot. So I decided that I wasn’t going to do any of that and I was just going out with I, you know, created some core materials. And I was just going out to community centers and going and chatting. 

00:25:56 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

People a lot really snowballed from just making maybe. 

00:26:03 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Three initial contacts. We’re ambassadors, like really saw disconnected, you know? And we’re like, alright, let’s do this. Here are the other people that you need to have. And then we kind of got into the into a range of networks that way. 

00:26:08 Prof Michele Barbour 

Just the thought. 

00:26:11 Prof Michele Barbour 

Yeah. I mean, yes, yes. 

00:26:19 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

I think that, uh. 

00:26:22 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

In terms of securing trust. 

00:26:27 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

It’s been really important that. 

00:26:29 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

The structure of bridging history is really asks people what they want to achieve and. 

00:26:38 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Intentionally I made it really, really easy to access the funding. So basically I I wrote up an application form, but I told people. 

00:26:48 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

If writing isn’t your thing, no problem, like we’ll just interview you. Like, just tell me what you want to do. So I kept the I just tried to remove as much as possible of those kinds of barriers and make it as easy as possible. And. 

00:27:02 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And then just really listening, listening and listening to what people said they wanted and asking like, how can we? 

00:27:08 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Support them. 

00:27:11 Prof Michele Barbour 

Do I know you’re talking? You always use the word we, which I absolutely understand everything. The way you describe your Co director relationship with George, the way you talk about your ambassadors, it has to be we. But at the center of this there is you. So how is this for you? What is this delivering for you as an academic, as a person, as a, as a person with great strength of feeling. 

00:27:33 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Well, to be honest, I think there’s a kind of spiritual purposefulness to it. So for me, I it’s really important that my work is. 

00:27:45 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Connects to a kind of expansive. 

00:27:48 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Spiritual connectedness between people and what what energizes me, what excites me, is really. 

00:27:59 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

The what excites me is the fact that the combination of people. 

00:28:05 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Always generate something new and different from what you generate on your. 

00:28:09 Prof Michele Barbour 

Own I’m getting a sense of sort of emergence of. 

00:28:12 Prof Michele Barbour 

Of yeah, you’ve got a. You’ve clearly got a will an intent in what you’re doing, but also this willingness to see what emerges organically, see what happens. Yeah, almost experimental. I mean, I’m a, I’m an experimental scientist. We come from really different backgrounds. But I like the idea of setting the conditions and seeing what what. 

00:28:32 Prof Michele Barbour 

Grows. What develops? 

00:28:34 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

That’s exactly what I think we’re doing and what I enjoy about it is that. 

00:28:41 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Emergence, the unexpectedness. It’s also just really fun to work with creative. 

00:28:47 Prof Michele Barbour 

So I suppose following that thread a little bit further. 

00:28:50 Prof Michele Barbour 

It’s clear that you really are energized by working with people with different expertise from you. Maybe different sort of, you know, local contacts and so on. As you move from this being a project and initiative, I don’t want to define it, but in something that is more of a commercial enterprise, albeit a social. 

00:29:06 Prof Michele Barbour 

Prize. Presumably there are other skills that you’re going to need to either develop in yourself or, more likely, find other people who have them and put them in. I’m thinking about. I mean, do you need to raise investments? You will need to sort of have a a legal structure for this company. So are you finding mechanisms to? 

00:29:26 Prof Michele Barbour 

To to get that kind of support that that still sit with your values and your ethos of what you’re trying to achieve. 

00:29:33 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

We’ve had great support from the commercialization team at University of. 

00:29:37 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

We’re still and we’re still at the beginning of this journey of becoming commercial, but that team has really helped me to understand like how we can move forward. People like Julian, John, Kay and the the whole actually that whole team just have have been really fantastic with giving us a perspective on. 

00:29:57 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

What’s involved and what we need to move towards so I could never have done that on my own? We it’s totally this kind of input of expertise, complementary expertise. We are really looking for an investor who has that kind of shares our values. 

00:30:14 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And that can support the work that we’re doing and understands the vision, both the local sort of micro scale vision and also the big vision and who can help, you know, help us understand how to make the journey that we want to make. And we’re also looking for other. 

00:30:29 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Partners I. 

00:30:29 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Mean. So we’ve we’ve been really fortunate recently the. 

00:30:34 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

One of the directors of Boomtown and Redfest, you know, kind of music, music producer with lots of, you know, 25 years of experience, just absolutely loves bridging history. 

00:30:45 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And he says he’s given us an opportunity. He said, OK, we’ve got this kind of commercial model, which I won’t say anything more about that we can use over the next two years to generate funds for bridging histories. So we’ve got some really exciting leads on how we can develop that model, but. 

00:31:05 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

You know, there’s so much potential for an investor or for investors when you think also about the fact that we’re supporting all of these ambassadors and each of those ambassadors is a little start up, you know, and so the chance to have contact with lots and lots of. 

00:31:23 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Creatives from from diverse backgrounds who have huge amounts of motivation and potential and kind of to be in on the early stages of the development of their enterprises, like via bridging histories I think would be really attractive to investors and we would like to. 

00:31:38 Prof Michele Barbour 

Meet you. I I’m sure you’re absolutely right. 

00:31:40 Prof Michele Barbour 

And I see. 

00:31:42 Prof Michele Barbour 

In my just, I guess in the circles I move. 

00:31:44 Prof Michele Barbour 

In I see a. 

00:31:46 Prof Michele Barbour 

Substantial uplift in investor attention, too, to social goods to to values and so on. I think there’s a growing community investors engaging. 

00:31:56 Prof Michele Barbour 

With these themes and people who weren’t investors before looking to support these kind of initiatives, so I’m I’m very optimistic about about the future you’re looking at from that point of view. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned through talking to some of my other interviewees, it’s you need to find the investor or investors that share. 

00:32:16 Prof Michele Barbour 

That fish and share those values because it needs to be much more than a financial relationship right? At its best, it’s much. 

00:32:21 Prof Michele Barbour 

More relationship that’s. 

00:32:22 Prof Michele Barbour 

Really, people pulling to the same aims. 

00:32:25 Prof Michele Barbour 

And the investment side of it is just a subset of the whole, so. 

00:32:29 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

That makes perfect sense and like to give you to give another example, we’ve been giving these little Ambassador grants 500 lbs. And then we’ve given for a number of people we’ve given follow on funding that’s 2000 lbs. But actually like if an investor is part of bridging histories. 

00:32:45 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And is kind of able to give that continuity and support to help those ambassadors develop from that kind of initial phase onwards. I think it could. 

00:32:56 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Be really fruitful. 

00:32:57 Prof Michele Barbour 

Fantastic. So if we were to look forward? 

00:33:03 Prof Michele Barbour 

I don’t know, should we say five years, 10? What do you prefer? 

00:33:09 Prof Michele Barbour 

Hmm, that’s been big. Let’s say 10 years. What would you like to have happened? What would you sit back with your cup of morning coffee and go? I did what I set out to. 

00:33:21 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

What an exciting idea. 

00:33:23 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Well, I’m. 

00:33:24 Prof Michele Barbour 

I don’t if it ever happens by the way, but let’s just. 

00:33:25 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Pretend it does for a moment, I’m 100% certain that what will have happened will be a total surprise to me, because every month has been a surprise so far. So I I know that it’s gonna have a lot of. 


00:33:38 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Surprises. I would love to be able to look back and see. 

00:33:43 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

That we have developed a really strong team from a core, a small core of people that we have grown A-Team where people I’d like for people who came to bridging histories in quite precarious situations to be on really solid footing, flourishing, really achieving. 

00:34:05 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

The creative aims and the cultural aims that they’ve been setting up for, I would like to have. 

00:34:15 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Printing histories thriving in different parts of Africa to be thriving in different parts of the Americas. 

00:34:24 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

To be thriving in parts of Asia, maybe and in different areas of Europe. 

00:34:31 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And for that. 

00:34:33 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

For a good structure to to have emerged where people in these different locations are able to connect and learn from each other and and you can and where that kind of fruitfulness of those of that network brokerage you know are are really apparent. 

00:34:50 Prof Michele Barbour 

I am picturing this network as sort of. 

00:34:53 Prof Michele Barbour 

Just spreading around the globe and these connections going multi order, but ultimately this this shared understanding shared expertise with all that local nuance, yeah it’s been. 

00:35:03 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Really. Yeah. And for it’s really just. It’s a very beautiful form. You know it it’s because it’s so welcoming to people of diverse backgrounds. 

00:35:03 Prof Michele Barbour 

Very powerful. 

00:35:12 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

And I also want it to be. I would love for it to be politically diverse, to have people from really different ages, really different demographics. So it’s not just all one political orientation and where people get to experience that really unique relationship that can happen when people with different political views. 

00:35:33 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Different social backgrounds. 

00:35:36 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Respect and listen to each other. There’s something really. 

00:35:40 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Sacred. I want to say about that respectfulness across difference and I want for people to experience that and to find that actually it can be a lot more comfortable than they thought to to make those connect. 

00:35:52 Prof Michele Barbour 

And rewarding if you can get past the fear. 

00:35:55 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Perhaps. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And. And one of the prophecies at University of Bristol said it sounds like it’s the antidote to two. 

00:36:04 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

You know in that. 

00:36:05 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

I think whether it’s like. 

00:36:06 Prof Michele Barbour 

It’s a lot more than that, but I think what they’re saying, yeah. 

00:36:09 Prof Michele Barbour 

You know, echo Chamber of you just can. You can hear back what you already think and convince yourself that everybody thinks the. 

00:36:15 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Same, which. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re it’s a hostility. And instead this is like a. 

00:36:21 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Yeah, a real kind. 

00:36:21 Prof Michele Barbour 

Of abundant. Yeah. Abundant emergence. Yeah. So thinking back to the Joanna, you painted for us right at the beginning. I’m I’ve got this image of you sort of running in the woods and following the railway track home. What would that Joanna think about what you’re doing now? What would she say? 

00:36:42 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Yeah, I would say she would feel like she’d found the railroad track back. 

00:36:51 Prof Michele Barbour 

That’s a wonderful analogy. 

00:36:53 Prof Michele Barbour 

Is that something you would say to her to encourage her, to reassure her, to guide her? 

00:37:00 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Yeah, just to keep keep creating time to go out into the woods and explore it like that and to find the railroad track back. 

00:37:11 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Also, to keep making time for stillness and. 

00:37:18 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Stepping outside of the frenzy of things to just be really calm. 

00:37:27 Dr Joanna Burch-Brown 

Be in a more meditative state and allow things to emerge from that. 

00:37:34 Prof Michele Barbour 

That’s all for this enterprise session, but join us again soon to hear more about the way our amazing staff and students are translating their enterprising ideas into real world impact. And do please click on the links if you’d like to contact the University of Bristol. 

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