Awards for outstanding impulses for education in Europe 2013/09/24 - Leonardo award presented at Petersberg

"Coping with the major challenges of our time and shaping a sustainable world requires continuous learning processes", the Lord Mayor of the city of Bonn, Jürgen Nimptsch, explained in his welcoming speech at the Leonardo - European Corporate Learning Award on September 16, to roughly 130 invited guests at the Steigenberger Grandhotel Petersberg. As one of the patrons of the award, he congratulated the three award winners Prof. Dorothy Leonard, Dr. Nick van Dam and Gary Copitch for their courage to leave old ways of thinking behind them. "I feel personally inspired by your way of thinking and I share your hope that new ways of learning will affect society as a whole."

The international Leonardo jury presented the award to pioneers of learning, already for the fourth time, and for the second time in the three categories "Thought Leadership", "Company Transformation" and "Crossing Borders". The Leonardo Award honors personalities who devote their zeal and passion to the important issue of learning – be it in companies, organizations or in society – and have initiated beacon projects in the respective areas.

Considering learning from a broader perspective

"The rationale of the award is not to look solely on the act of learning in a corporate environment. The rationale is to take a wider look on learning and its societal implications," explained Michael Spencer, the internationally successful music-oriented communication specialist and one of the presenters of the evening. "The educational challenges for Europe in turbulent times are about more than formal learning. It is important what companies and society can learn from each other and learn together in order to merge economic success and success oriented on people across national borders", emphasized Günther M. Szogs, Secretary of the Leonardo Award.

Learning must be understood in terms of the UNESCO’s four pillar model concerning the educational needs of the 21st century – namely learning to live together, learning to acquire knowledge, learning to act, and learning for life. Ways of implementing three of these pillars were made clear within the framework of the award ceremony on the basis of the award winners, ultimately culminating in learning for life.

Learning to acquire knowledge: Award winner Prof. Dorothy Leonard in the category "Thought Leadership"

The Leonardo category "Thought Leadership" focuses on personalities who, with their contribution, have inspired many imitators in companies and society. The main point here is to call existing assumptions into question and to not shy away even from fundamentally new conclusions. In this category, the Advisory Board awarded the Leonardo Award to Prof. Dorothy Leonard, emerita holder of the William J. Abernathy Chair for Business Administration at Harvard Business School and author of "Deep smarts: how to cultivate and transfer enduring business wisdom". "A twist of fate!" underlined presenter Corinna Pregla in view of the similar names.

Laudator Prof. Dr. Stefan Güldenberg from Liechtenstein University, who studied under Prof. Leonard at Harvard almost 15 ago and sees her seminars as a ground-breaking experience for his career, described the teaching style of Prof. Leonard as truly exceptional. Rather than providing abstract definitions or dry models, Prof. Leonard confronted her students with possible challenges and practical solutions in her seminars, which she then already called laboratories, and promoted the exchange of ideas with researchers from other disciplines as well as with professionals from the field. "That is exactly what we call the "Leonardo spirit", or perhaps more accurately the "Leonard spirit": learning through experience. Which is much more powerful than learning by listening and reading."

Learning to live together: Award winner Gary Copitch in the category "Crossing Borders"

The Leonardo in the category "Crossing Borders" honors personalities who do not shrink back from alternative approaches and innovative ideas, and cause fundamental changes through their impact on individuals, companies and society. As the Leonardo committee put it, Gary Copitch and his non-profit organization People's Voice Media were awarded this award at Petersberg for having taken the subject of civil education to a whole new level.

The mission of Gary Copitch and his organization is to give people in neglected communities a voice and to give them the chance of being heard. "People want to tell their stories in their own fashion", so the laureate, who wishes to generate conversations with his Community Reporter Program and has the aim of becoming the "Reuters of societies". "Those responsible for corporate learning can learn a great deal from this somewhat different approach, namely how to involve their employees and to get them to participate actively", eulogist and Leonardo Ambassador Prof. Dr. Günther Koch emphasized.

Learning to act: Award winner Dr. Nick van Dam in the category "Company Transformation"

The implementation of integrated innovative approaches for corporate learning, especially with a focus on the interaction of various aspects of human resources development, and the inspiration of other businesses as a result, are at the centre of the Leonardo category "Company Transformation". It is this reciprocal action in particular on which the work of this year’s laureate in the category "Company Transformation", Dr. Nick van Dam, Global Chief Learning Officer and Director Human Capital at Deloitte, Netherlands, is based.
"We use many buzz words in the field of education," Leonardo Ambassador Søren B. Henrikson explained in his laudation. "But you actually manage to implement all of these key concepts in practice", he lauded the award winner. "We need to create learning situations. And that's exactly what you do."

"I believe that learning and acquiring new skills is today more important than ever before", van Dam confirmed in his acceptance speech, in which he also showed his own form of continuous learning. "When I think about my own history, I can say: There are a lot of things that we can do ourselves", he concluded and gave the guests of the Leonardo award a thought to ponder on: "Do what you like to do, find out at an early stage where your strengths are, focus on these strengths and your talents; but also make yourself aware of your weaknesses. All this will help you to be successful."

The next Leonardo-Award ceremony will take place on October 13, 2014 again at the Steigenberger Grandhotel Petersberg. Further information on the Leonardo Award, its former award winners and the members of the advisory board are available at

About the Leonardo – European Corporate Learning Award

With the "Leonardo - European Corporate Learning Award" people are honored who have initiated and put into practice exceptional projects for European education and have thus become important benchmarks for other participants. After Prof. Jacques Delors, the long standing President of the European Commission and Chairman of the international UNESCO Commission on Education, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales became the second laureate of the Leonardo Award. In the 2012 the award was presented in three different categories for the first time: The award winner in the category “Thought Leadership” was Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Bullinger, President of the Fraunhofer Society. The two owners of the automation company Festo, Dr. Wilfried Stoll and Dr. h.c. Kurt Stoll, received the award in the category “Company Transformation”. Prof. Sugata Mitra was the award winner in the category “Crossing Borders”.