Joshua Barr

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Joshua V. Barr is an Emmy and national award-winning transformational leader from South Carolina with an MBA and Juris Doctorate who has trained people on human rights, diversity, equity, and inclusion issues from all 50 states and five continents. Over the course of his career, Joshua worked in Colombia, South America, conducting investigations on institutional corruption, leading the English language immersion program at Javeriana University, and conducting corporate law with Corn Products International. Joshua tried to force a corporate career but couldn’t run from who he truly was: a person who wanted to solve human issues to create a fairer world; so he moved into the civil/human rights field. Joshua moved back to the US and became the Staff Attorney and Fair Housing Director of the State of South Carolina Human Affairs Commission, where he laid the foundation for the civil rights agency to be more aggressive in its enforcement of civil rights violations.


During his time with the Commission, Joshua retrained the investigations staff assisting them in finding more than sixty probable cause discrimination violations in 2015, the highest number of probable cause cases in South Carolina history at that time. Joshua later became the director of the Des Moines Civil & Human Rights Commission where he transformed a department on the verge of being shut down a year earlier into an integral part of the Des Moines municipal government. During his tenure as director, he increased the number of complaints filed in the office by 170% and the number of probable cause discrimination cases by 500%, he also transformed an annual local human rights symposium to a tri-state symposium increasing attendance at the event by 250%.


One of Joshua’s proudest moments in solving human issues was the Bridging the Gap initiative where his team at the Des Moines Commission conducted community dialogues throughout the city determining what could be done to increase opportunity and make a safe, more just community for all. Through that initiative, Joshua and his team were able to craft, develop, and implement over 25 new city policies and practices designed to improve community-government relations and help residents move up the socioeconomic ladder. In 2020, Joshua debuted his Emmy award-winning documentary Breaking Bread, Building Bridges where nearly 40 strangers were matched up together based on their differences to have dinners over the course of a few months. Joshua served as the creator, director, and executive producer of the documentary/project. The documentary was awarded the 2020 Governor’s Emmy Award for the Upper Midwest Region, the region’s highest honor.


Joshua has won a number of other awards, including being named #5 of the top 100 influencers in local government in the United States by Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) organization in part for his article A Better Way: 50+ Action Items to Fight Against Racism In Your Community. Other awards include Top 100 US Corporate Executive Leaders Under 50, 2019 Public Servant of the Year by the Des Moines Neighborhood Associations, and the 2020 Martin Luther King, Jr. Make-A-Difference Award by the Greater Des Moines YMCA. Joshua now serves as the Chief Strategist and President of his organization, Raising The Barr, where he collaborates with and consults government entities, not-for-profits, and other organizations committed to transforming their cultures and improving socioeconomic outcomes for their community stakeholders.


Descriptions of his three featured keynotes are below: 

The Missing Supplement in Our Society

When it comes to addressing community concerns, it appears as if we’re always waiting for a hero to come and save us. But here’s the deal: no one is coming to save us. If we want to attain the inclusive communities that we claim to desire in an ever-polarizing world, it is up to us to claim our role in community transformation. The missing supplement to make our communities better and stronger is U. We have more work to do outside of professional jobs, we also have civic roles that we need to partake in. This session will explain our roles in transforming our communities and give attendees ideas and tools they can utilize to be more civically engaged in their local community based on their interests and skill sets.


The Unfinished Business of the Civil Rights Movement

 In a world still dealing with a pandemic and racial/political strife, it appears as if no community is safe from the turmoil in these times of change. These polarizing times demonstrate now more than ever that the mission of unity, equity, and equal opportunity continues and that the dream of liberty, justice, and opportunity has yet to be fulfilled. Each of us has a role to play in fulfilling that mission in our respective communities. This keynote will focus on waking attendees up to the ongoing mission and discuss the respective duties they can undertake to build a unified community where everyone has the opportunity to advance up the socio-economic ladder. Many words have been said now there is just work to do but you have to have a vision, goals, and a plan to achieve those goals and vision.


Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion: What is and How it Will Benefit Your Org & Community

This workshop focuses on introducing what diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and how it benefits businesses and the community overall is. It will give an introduction to what tools are necessary to create an inclusive environment for employees that makes them feel welcomed and a part of the team, especially during this period known as the great resignation. This workshop will examine the work that needs to be done at each level of the organization, from the vision to personnel to policies to practices, to create an environment of belonging that is key to attracting and retaining the right employees. 

Joshua Barr's Experiences

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