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World Changers: Reimagining Impact
Episode 86th October 2022 • Changing The World • University of Leeds
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Reimagining impact: Creating an entrepreneurial education that makes a difference

The desire to make a difference sits at the very heart of the University of Leeds’s new ten-year strategy. Its ambition is to train the next generation of global citizens and leaders – educating the problem solvers, innovators, collaborators and critical thinkers who can tackle the big issues. Richard Tunstall explains how connecting students to real-world experiences opens up their confidence as active problem solvers, and provides communities with a creative resource.

Transcripts

Simone:

Research that changes lives.

Simone:

Four simple words, inspiring researchers at the University

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of Leeds to reshape the world.

Simone:

I am Professor Simone Buitendijk, since arriving at the University

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in 2020 as Vice-Chancellor.

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I've been amazed by the passion, creativity and ingenuity of the

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research community to make a difference.

Lucy:

Having the opportunity to exercise choice is really key to palliative care

Lucy:

and that individualised care that supports the person in the last few months of life.

Cristina:

We need to learn from the mistakes that we've made and we

Cristina:

need to learn from the instances where prevention atrocities work.

Leah:

I think the COVID-19 pandemic actually forced us to become a

Leah:

little bit more digitally literate.

Leah:

Although I do think we still have some room to kind of, continue growing.

Simone:

One of my priorities has been to learn more about the sheer

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range of research carried out by early career researchers at Leeds.

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They are the new generation of world changers people working tirelessly

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with communities and academics around the world on finding solutions to

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seemingly intractable problems.

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Over the course of this podcast series, I will be in conversation

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with those researchers.

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Join me as our World Changers described new discoveries and

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approaches that will make the world a better and more equitable place

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to live.

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It's about research that changes lives.

Simone:

Thank you for listening to this World Changers podcast.

Simone:

I'm Professor Simone Buitendijk, the Vice Chancellor.

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In this edition, our conversation gets to the heart

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of the university's central mission to make a difference in the world.

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We do that through our research,

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but it's also central to our teaching.

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We want our students to be positive global citizens

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equipped with the skills and knowledge to solve future global problems.

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To the innovators, leaders and critical thinkers.

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These are people who tend to have what is described

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as an entrepreneurial mindset, the ability

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to see opportunities and solutions.

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Can this be taught?

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Joining me to discuss all of this is Dr.

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Richard Tunstall, associate professor of Enterprise,

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who is based at the Leeds University Business School.

Simone:

Richard, thank you for joining us.

Richard:

Thank you, Simone. Great to be here.

Simone:

So

Simone:

Richard, we can we talk about problem solvers

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and having an entrepreneurial mindset as if we all know what that means.

Simone:

But do we actually know what that means?

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What do you think is.

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You're the expert.

Richard:

Thank you.

Richard:

No, I think it's the confidence to develop creative solutions.

Richard:

It's acting early, learning from mistakes

Richard:

and adjusting quickly when things don't go to plan.

Richard:

So it's not really just about the narrow ability to make a profit from a venture.

Richard:

It's more part of a broader set of creative,

Richard:

entrepreneurial and innovative methods.

Richard:

So I think ultimately it's about developing a vision of how things might be

Richard:

and always be in the mode

Richard:

of trying to work actively with others to bring that about.

Richard:

So we can relate it, I guess, to what the psychologist Dweck called more broadly

Richard:

a gross mindset as against what we might call a fixed mindset.

Richard:

So it's about accepting that you start with who you are,

Richard:

what you know, and who you know, and you build out from that.

Simone:

Yeah, that that makes a lot of sense.

Simone:

And is that a set of skills or attributes that we can actually teach students

Simone:

or that we can learn as as non-students?

Richard:

I think that's really interesting.

Richard:

And I guess one of the questions that that that, first of all, makes me

Richard:

think about is can we teach skills and attributes at all?

Richard:

But I think universities have always really been about

Richard:

developing the skills and attitudes to their students.

Richard:

But perhaps it's something we've taken

Richard:

for granted in a learning experience in our universities.

Richard:

When we start to focus on the specifics, like the entrepreneurial mindset,

Richard:

we're really bringing this development of skills and attributes to the foreground.

Richard:

And we're trying to say that, yes, this is something an educator can seek to

Richard:

develop in their students, but perhaps it isn't written in the title of the course.

Richard:

Instead, it's something which we're supporting through active

Richard:

experiential learning and try to make that visible to students

Richard:

so they can start to navigate and make the most out of those opportunities.

Richard:

Which, being a member of the University brings.

Simone:

Yeah.

Simone:

Do you think we should puts it in course titles?

Simone:

Because I think it's something that students really want to learn.

Richard:

I think it's about trying to make it really visible.

Richard:

So it might be in the course title, it might be how we talk about program,

Richard:

but it's making it really clear to students

Richard:

that there's so many opportunities for what they're learning and that they're

Richard:

an active partner in that.

Richard:

So I think that's the key thing.

Richard:

They understand that.

Simone:

Yeah, that's that's great that you mention the word active partner

Simone:

and that of course is your Leeds curriculum is all about

Simone:

working with our students as partners and active engagement.

Simone:

So, so I was wondering as I was reading your essay as a university

Simone:

that wants to make a difference in the world, how important is that?

Simone:

You think that we invent this entrepreneurial thinking, whatever we

Simone:

we define it as into our entire curriculum

Simone:

for every student at some point in their their life at the University of Leeds?

Richard:

Yeah, I think entrepreneurial thinking is going to be really important

Richard:

in the university of Leeds curriculum and I think it's about saying

Richard:

if we want to help our students, not just develop their knowledge,

Richard:

but it's also about trying to create an impact

Richard:

that knowledge during their time at Leeds in their future careers.

Richard:

So there's a professor in the US called Professor Saras Sarasvathy

Richard:

and she calls this the entrepreneurial method,

Richard:

which is a systematic way to achieve the unpredictable

Richard:

by leveraging expertize in shaping outcomes.

Richard:

And what she does and says this is we can juxtaposed

Richard:

against what we might classically think

Richard:

is the scientific method which perhaps we most celebrates in our universities,

Richard:

which is more about aiming to predict and then test.

Richard:

So instead, we're saying this entrepreneurial approach is to say

Richard:

what we're going to do is say we don't know necessarily the outcome is,

Richard:

but by working on it, we can start to shape what that might be.

Richard:

And I think the key point is that we aren't saying these are two

Richard:

opposing forces.

Richard:

Actually, they work together.

Richard:

We need and we need both of those things.

Richard:

They are mutually exclusive.

Richard:

I think combining those approaches is really vital

Richard:

to the university's mission, which is to make a difference to the world

Richard:

because it's our students who can be the bearers of that message

Richard:

and the ones who be visibly delivering it around the world, too.

Simone:

cccYeah, it seems to me, as I'm listening to you, that some of this

Simone:

activity to this mindset,

Simone:

this kind of work that we all recognize as important in the modern world.

Simone:

And but I think we probably are less likely to realize

Simone:

that we can actually embed this in the curriculum

Simone:

so students can start practicing this mindset.

Simone:

as they're going through university with us

Simone:

the space should be even safer shouldn't it?

Simone:

Because you can make mistakes in ways that don't necessarily create issues

Simone:

as much as they may when you're already in the work place.

Richard:

Exactly.

Richard:

I think it's, you know, tried to say if we experience failure,

Richard:

do we see it as something

Richard:

which is to be avoided or something which we actually learn from and feel

Richard:

that we can experiment in that way and develop ourselves through it?

Richard:

Yeah, I'm a big fan of embracing

Richard:

failure as exactly what you're saying.

Richard:

We're just not used to that enough I think.

Richard:

So yeah, it's.

Richard:

It's really great what you're talking about.

Richard:

So can you tell me how you yourself got involved in this area of research?

Richard:

What's your what's your story?

Richard:

Well, oddly enough, I have to take you right back to when I was at school.

Richard:

So when I was there, this isn't actually so much about study,

Richard:

but it's more some of the things I did.

Richard:

So I was really into a form of tabletop gaming.

Richard:

So this is something with, you know, science fiction soldiers.

Richard:

And you played this strategy game.

Richard:

That's right.

Richard:

And it was you know, part of it was

Richard:

you played this game and it was strategic, but it was also this maker side

Richard:

It's quite creative.

Richard:

You built models and I needed someone else to play against.

Richard:

So I thought I'd try and create a club at school and the teachers were supportive.

Richard:

But that wasn't the way that things are normally done.

Richard:

Normally the teachers that set the clubs up and you attended them.

Richard:

So none of them were particularly keen to try and support this, strangely enough.

Richard:

So instead they said, You know what, you can have a classroom, just use that

Richard:

and do what you want. Just don't bother the rest of us.

Richard:

And that was pretty exciting.

Richard:

So I what I found eventually was I was actually more interested in

Richard:

running the club that I was in the games themselves.

Richard:

I love finding out new ways of trying to drive up membership.

Richard:

I had to pitch and raise funds from the Parent Association.

Richard:

I did some collaboration.

Richard:

I contacted the company who creates the games and said,

Richard:

Can we bring some of your staff over

Richard:

to run a tournament and making it more of a regional event,

Richard:

something, all these were things they had tried before.

Richard:

So it's hard to get people and build that network together.

Richard:

And what excites me the most about that, I think, was the opportunity

Richard:

to mobilize all this and finding out what's creating value for the people.

Richard:

And through that, creating value for myself, of course, and I think

Richard:

onwards from that I ended up creating a business skills society university too.

Richard:

I kind of got the bug,

Richard:

if you like, and all this was a far cry from what I actually did at university.

Richard:

So I studied English Literature first, but later on I had the opportunity

Richard:

to do a master's in entrepreneurship, and I grabbed at that because

Richard:

suddenly all these things I've been doing, these strange things,

Richard:

made sense in my mind.

Richard:

This was a course at the time, that positioned

Richard:

this as how creative and action orientated methods

Richard:

could be used to develop innovation,

Richard:

not just in creating businesses, but in organisations and society.

Richard:

And that for me was really exciting.

Richard:

And after that, years later, I did my Ph.D.

Richard:

that was focusing on how that happens in existing companies,

Richard:

which is something very difficult to achieve.

Richard:

But to me that was perhaps

Richard:

most exciting to say wasn't so difficult and how how come happens at all.

Richard:

And so that's what's been really interesting to me is that behavior

Richard:

and how people take those approaches in difficult circumstances quite often.

Richard:

So for me, it's led to those issues I’m tackling today,

Richard:

both in research and in practice, because of course

Richard:

you can't just think about these things, you have to do them.

Richard:

That's the whole point.

Simone:

Yeah, that's great.

Simone:

So so I know you teach entrepreneurial thinking

Simone:

and learning in the business school, which is where you're at.

Simone:

And is that different from teaching?

Simone:

It's outside of the business school because I'm clear here.

Simone:

You say it doesn't has to be only for business school students.

Simone:

This is something that comes way beyond.

Richard:

Yeah, well, I think as I mentioned, I'm English Literature graduate myself

Richard:

and I think this is something

Richard:

which all faculties can and actually do deliver.

Richard:

So it does happen everywhere.

Richard:

And I think if I think about this, there were examples at the university here

Richard:

of history classes where students have worked with community groups

Richard:

to help them develop aspects of local history, putting on events.

Richard:

And there was a German language class

Richard:

that was organising a way of teaching

Richard:

German business language through pitching to external agencies and partners.

Richard:

So there are kind of specific ways you could do that,

Richard:

but I think the key for all these subjects

Richard:

is it's about not necessarily worry so much about the business

Richard:

aspect of entrepreneurship,

Richard:

but this idea of acting, doing and building and developing.

Richard:

And I think it's about developing the set of skills and ways of thinking

Richard:

which is valuable to create insights into any sorts of problems.

Richard:

So an example of this is something known as challenge based learning,

Richard:

where students are given a global or a or a key challenge for society

Richard:

and then work together using their own disciplinary

Richard:

training to come up with new and creative solutions.

Richard:

So it's saying, you know, we students are all benefiting

Richard:

from the amazing research they're teaching at Leeds.

Richard:

It's then how do we deploy that, how we directing that

Richard:

more opportunities we're giving students to use that in new and creative ways.

Simone:

Yeah.

Simone:

So it sounds like the key

Simone:

to successfully implementing that is collaboration, would you say?

Simone:

That's right. I think so, yes. Because

Simone:

it's it's about

Simone:

then students who've got this disciplinary expertize building

Simone:

on that by working with other students from other faculties too.

Simone:

So I think, one, the exciting things is where we have collaboration

Simone:

between different subject groups by students working together.

Simone:

It can also be faculty working together from across different disciplines,

Simone:

but it's also about collaboration with local community and through industry

Simone:

and through leaders, which could include our own research community,

Simone:

where you've got this powerful network that develops around problems

Simone:

facing us today and tried to be more entrepreneurial

Simone:

about ways of thinking and doing to develop some solutions.

Simone:

If I understand your writings correctly, there are degrees at the University

Simone:

of Leeds.

Simone:

Are students actually study enterprise as an option in their degree?

Simone:

Is that right?

Richard:

Yes, so one of the ways we're trying to do this at the university

Richard:

is in my own centre, which is the Centre for Enterprise Entrepreneurship Studies

Richard:

in the business school.

Richard:

We've got something quite unique nationwide from that perspective

Richard:

where students across different faculties are offered

Richard:

what's known with enterprise version of their home program.

Richard:

So we have these in biotechnology

Richard:

but also in theatre and performance music, social policy.

Richard:

And I'm currently doing some research

Richard:

with colleagues from Biological Sciences and the Faculty of Arts.

Richard:

And what we're looking at there is to try work out

Richard:

all the students who join these programs.

Richard:

Do they start off with a different way of thinking about their careers

Richard:

and their studies or what it means to them,

Richard:

and then how do they shape their ambitions over those three years?

Richard:

Because I think what we're starting to see

Richard:

is students who have a different approach to their careers,

Richard:

whether that be in pursuing further research and further study,

Richard:

whether it be finding opportunities in innovation or business

Richard:

development in industry, or even creating their own start ups.

Richard:

And I think across all of that, we're not really expecting students

Richard:

to create new businesses necessarily and have to be just entrepreneurial action.

Richard:

But it's also about trying to create these creative, entrepreneurial

Richard:

and innovative approaches that will help them to go forward in their careers.

Richard:

And that,

Richard:

I guess, is what we mean by entrepreneurial mindsets,

Richard:

trying to develop that through their experience.

Simone:

Yeah.

Simone:

And students work with enterprise ambassadors.

Simone:

Can you talk about that a little bit more?

Richard:

Yeah, that's right.

Richard:

So on on these particular programs and on some of the courses,

Richard:

our centre delivers, we are very fortunate to have a group

Richard:

of just under 30 successful entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs.

Richard:

And what they do is they commit to give up their time for free,

Richard:

to share the knowledge with our students and give just lectures and masterclasses.

Richard:

But they'll also do more than that.

Richard:

So they'll provide entrepreneurial projects within their own businesses.

Richard:

They'll give feedback on students ideas and provide mentoring.

Richard:

So we're very fortunate to have that.

Richard:

It's existed for about ten years.

Richard:

But I think through that development, they've actually become an integral part

Richard:

of our team and what we bring an offer to, to, to the students we work with.

Richard:

And it's really been about bringing theory to life,

Richard:

but it's also about giving students the encouragement

Richard:

that their ideas or enthusiasm and just meaningful to that studies

Richard:

in the next assignments, they're exams,

Richard:

but they're also meaningful to the wider world

Richard:

and that people appreciate that can see that value.

Simone:

And they probably also see

Simone:

career opportunities that otherwise they wouldn't see imagine.

Richard:

Exactly.

Simone:

So so can you tell me a bit about the SPARK scheme,

Simone:

which also is really interesting to me?

Richard:

Yes. So we're fortunate in the University

Richard:

to have a group called Spark.

Richard:

And what they do is they provide dedicated support

Richard:

for any student who has an idea to create a business of their own.

Richard:

And that's offered at any moment from the day they start their studies

Richard:

at the University through to seven years after they graduate.

Richard:

And that's really unique because they offer an open door policy

Richard:

to any student who who comes to them and says, I've got this idea.

Richard:

I'm not too sure how I develop this further.

Richard:

And we also have support from our fantastic alumni in the wider business

Richard:

community who support Spark and adds to that advice through both advice,

Richard:

but also through forms of financial support, too.

Richard:

And I think the important thing about Spark is that they share that philosophy.

Richard:

I just mentioned the Enterprise being more than just business,

Richard:

and they actively encourage social entrepreneurship.

Richard:

And the idea that students are working, what they're working on now

Richard:

is just the first step towards their future so that it's really

Richard:

their skills and attitudes which we're supporting

Richard:

along their journey.

Simone:

Yeah, what a wonderful program and really something to be proud of.

Simone:

And I'm assuming there are also opportunities to work

Simone:

with community organisations in their own area?

Ricahrd:

Yes, so I guess on that aspect of the social entrepreneurship side,

Ricahrd:

I think one of the things that's really exciting is how hard the students

Ricahrd:

themselves work on local initiatives and what they contribute.

Ricahrd:

And we've got some fantastic students societies who support that.

Ricahrd:

So one of them is the Leeds Climate Entrepreneur Club who supports students

Ricahrd:

developing innovative solutions to the climate challenges we face.

Ricahrd:

And then there's a Leeds branch of a global

Ricahrd:

initiative called Enactus, and what they do is support

Ricahrd:

students, develop impactful projects to support the local community.

Ricahrd:

And that of course we have Leeds entrepreneurs who are perhaps developing

Ricahrd:

the founders of our future and those new startups of the future.

Ricahrd:

But I think across all these things across there with enterprise programs,

Ricahrd:

the ambassadors spark these really exciting initiatives

Ricahrd:

is that they're not just isolated by themselves, but everyone works together

Ricahrd:

to try and ensure that students have access to opportunity.

Ricahrd:

And it doesn't matter

Ricahrd:

what the student's starting point is, but those are available to them.

Ricahrd:

And it's about how the student then wants to approach that

Ricahrd:

depending on their stage of the journey and what makes the most sense for them.

Ricahrd:

There's always a way to begin on those first steps.

Simone:

Brilliant. Really brilliant.

Simone:

So. So I'm understanding from you that all of us with the right

Simone:

training can actually become entrepreneurial thinkers.

Simone:

Is that right?

Richard:

I absolutely think so, yes.

Richard:

I think we're all in many ways a product of our experience.

Richard:

Thinking back to what we've been discussing traditionally,

Richard:

a lot of our education systems prioritise formal knowledge.

Richard:

And perhaps sometimes we think that prioritising that over

Richard:

creative, entrepreneurial, innovative thinking.

Richard:

But I think if we can provide the University the opportunities

Richard:

to access this opportunity, a ways to inspire,

Richard:

motivate students, and if we have the access to ourselves

Richard:

and the right support around us, then we can do incredible things.

Richard:

And I think it all comes down to this combination of connecting knowledge

Richard:

with creativity, with action and together

Richard:

I think that's a really powerful force to make a difference in the world.

Simone:

Yeah, with the emphasis on in the world because it's very clear from everything

Simone:

you're saying, this doesn't stop in Yorkshire or at the University of Leeds.

Simone:

This really could could be globally so influential.

Simone:

Which brings me to a question I wanted to ask you.

Simone:

I know you're connected also with other universities outside of the UK.

Simone:

You're doing some research now.

Simone:

Also think in the US, could you talk a little bit about what

Simone:

other universities are doing to promote entrepreneurial thinking in then

Simone:

maybe a little bit about your own work

Simone:

as part just in the world, changer your research that you're doing?

Richard:

There are

Richard:

the universities who are working on this and there are some amazing programs exist.

Richard:

So I guess the kind of things

Richard:

you might think of would be things like Stanford University's D School.

Richard:

So their mission is to bring design thinking to everyone.

Simone:

Yeah

Richard:

as a way to solve problems, not just the designers.

Richard:

there's also the African Leadership Academy in South Africa,

Richard:

and one of their approaches has been to revolutionise their curriculum

Richard:

by putting at the foreground these interdisciplinary global challenges

Richard:

and then allowing students to choose the classes across disciplines

Richard:

which they feel they need to work on in order to get towards that solution.

Richard:

So really going straight at this idea of how can we leverage our knowledge

Richard:

and leverage ways of thinking to try and make a difference?

Richard:

And then, as you mentioned, I'm in the autumn of this year,

Richard:

I'm going to Babson college in the USA and they are particularly renowned

Richard:

for their work in entrepreneurship, where every single program and every class

Richard:

they deliver links to entrepreneurship in some way and they have this mission

Richard:

of entrepreneurial thought and action, being about everything they do.

Richard:

After I was invited to write the essay, which was such a fantastic opportunity,

Richard:

that's really helps to develop some conversations with colleagues in the US.

Richard:

And so speaking to some professors at Babson, their invitation

Richard:

to come visit in the autumn and try and explore some of this further.

Richard:

So while we understand what this concept is,

Richard:

how do we get to that and what what's that change look like?

Richard:

What's that journey like? And so we're going to look at that.

Richard:

We're also going to look around

Richard:

entrepreneurial practices, how do we do these things?

Richard:

And then the social roles I mentioned that, you know, it's about collaboration.

Richard:

So how is that interaction between different partners and networks?

Richard:

How does that really lead to this kind of change

Richard:

and how does that come together as a whole?

Richard:

And then, of course, beyond the research, we're also thinking about how to try

Richard:

and make this relevant to our students and to learners experiences

Richard:

and hopefully develop some of the tools and methods to best make that happen.

Simone:

That's wonderful.

Simone:

I really can't wait to learn which year you're coming back,

Simone:

Chris, after your trip to the US and I'm very proud.

Simone:

You're fine, just the University of Leeds and it's clearly a totally fits in

Simone:

with our strategy of us

Simone:

changing the world through research and education.

Simone:

So thank you for this really interesting, wonderful conversation

Simone:

Richard, and I wish you all the best for the rest of your career.

Simone:

And I hope you can stay with us for for a long time.

Simone:

We can have many conversations in the near future, but this was great.

Simone:

Thank you so much.

Richard:

Thank you so much, Simone

Richard:

I'm looking forward to it.

Simone:

Thank you for listening to this podcast from the University of Leeds, to find out

Simone:

more about the work of our early career researchers and to read essays written by

Simone:

World Changer researchers, please go to the World Changers page on the University

Simone:

website, details can be found in the information that accompanies this podcast.

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