Leonardo Award

Young Leonardo to Vincent Zimmer and Markus Kreßler

Young Leonardo

Vincent Zimmer, Founder of Kiron Open Higher Education
Markus Kreßler, Founder of Kiron Open Higher Education

with Ms. Fatuma Musa, Student at Kiron Open Higher Education

Since 2015 we have, beside the three parallel and equally important categories of the prize “Thought Leadership”, “Company Transformation”, “Crossing Borders”, the “Young Leonardo”. Whilst some of the more detailed criteria for the “traditional” categories tended to leave out excellent work of the younger ones, “Young Leonardo” became a category in its own value. With the “Young Leonardo” we focus on excellent contributions that add important new aspects and flavors to the Leonardo Quest.

Statement of the Jury:

“Having to decide on this year´s laureateships we learnt from our ambassador Professor Peter Pawlowsky about your amazing contribution to make a difference for the life of people who by the turbulences in our current world are excluded from what we take for granted: free access to learning as a prerogative to live a normal life.

Stimulated by your personal encounters with young people having disastrous experiences as refugees you switched your direction of purpose and took action. In founding Kiron University you sought for a solution for people who are desperate to study but the circumstances of their life allow no fulfillment of this wish. A devil´s circle of lack of education and denied participation in the labor market and society can easily be observed. You reinvented blended learning by transforming it from classical learning methods to an orchestrated way to combine online (MOOCs) and offline learning in a quasi-institutionalized setting. You were aware that you needed established institutions to accept results from two year´s online studies to give students from Kiron a fair chance in their formalized third year in a University partnering with you. Result of this blend in learning was a “blend” of stakeholders and sponsors.

It is incredible how you merged crowd funding with help of “Startnext” with generous support by foundations and public institutions. This mirrors your unconventional way and boldness to combine in the studies on offer of the famous MOOC provider from California, HPI and even of well-established Universities like RWTH Aachen. Each challenge you were prepared to accept as it arose. You recruited voluntary supporters but at the same time established a professional team to master this complex system of legal restrictions, academic accreditations, hardware and software solutions, designing accepted courses with relevant components and handled the different interests of all involved. Humans in despair were all the time at the heart of your deepest concern. It is in acknowledgement of this extraordinary example of setting a new agenda for learning in times that endanger so many people not only in their physical self but also in their intellectual development that the International Advisory Board of the Leonardo European Corporate Learning Award proposes the laureateship “Young Leonardo 2016” to you for:

  • Creating learning and education opportunities free for everybody no matter of race, nationality, gender, age
  • Contributing to tearing down walls among different educational systems among problem areas between Islamic and Western Culture Worlds
  • Intensifying awareness of educational necessities for all humans even in traditional educational systems
  • Linking private sector sponsoring with public sector funding
  • Embedding educational research and labor market integration concerns in the process
  • Putting it in UN SDG context of top-class education with its rights and duties”

Short bios:

Markus Kressler:
Born 1990, Bachelor of Sciences in psychology with a major in business psychology and communications at the University of Mannheim.
Former education manager at the wings university project, an online university for refugees.
Co-Founded Kiron University together with Vincent Zimmer, which addresses the obstacles facing the many displaced people seeking higher education. It becomes the largest higher education program for refugees worldwide.

Vincent Zimmer, 26, started with own business ideas in the age of 14 already. He has a Bachelor in Politics and Economics from the University of Göttingen. He founded various businesses, e.g. a market place for direct investigations in South America or a concept to use empty university facilities during summer breaks for “Summer classes”. During a stay for research reasons in Istanbul, being confronted with the refugees issues and problems, he developed together with Markus Kressler a concept of a free digital university education for refugees.
Kiron University was founded in 2014.

Today, Kressler and Zimmer and their international team in Berlin are focused on finding scalable, collaborative and digital solutions to higher education issues national and internationally.