Joseph Johnson
Speaker • Founder/CEO of Change Course


After making poor choices 30 years ago in an effort to be someone he really wasn’t, life fell apart with Joseph’s marriage and relationships, and he and his family lost everything. Those poor choices led to incarceration in a federal prison camp where he would choose to surrender to a process of complete transformation and change the course of his life. In prison, Joseph met men who would affect his life and radically change his understanding of opportunity in this country. Joseph came to realize that many of the men, most of whom would return to incarceration within 1 year of their release, did not have the same hope or opportunity for change that he did. Joseph left prison in 1996, and after a long restoral process, found success in small business over the next 25 years, leading two small local companies to multi-million dollar organizations.

In February of 2022, Joseph left the business world determined to make a difference and respond to the burden on his heart that began in prison 25 years earlier for those stuck in unending cycles of struggle. That is when he and his wife, Karin, founded Change Course, a nonprofit aimed to combat the growing problem of poverty and incarceration in Des Moines. They are committed to creating the tools, community and opportunities—similar to those Joseph was privileged to have after prison—so that those in need of second chances can lead themselves out of struggle and change the course of their own lives and communities.

Joseph now speaks and inspires audiences of all kinds to integrate what he believes is relevant to the success of any organization: community, intentional encouragement, a safe environment that encourages change, and authentic leadership.