Scientific Roundtable in Copenhagen

This is it: the book is officially available, and we opened the day with our sixth roundtable, this time in the heart of Copenhagen in Vartov:

The fellow kneeling in front is pastor Niels Frederik Severin Grundtvig, the father of folk-Bildung. The beautiful old building is today the cultural center promoting his legacy.

The Grundtvig research center and the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre are both under the Vartov roof.

11 people joined our roundtable.

Per Paludan (the Danish Adult Education Association), Nadja Pass (Samtidens Akademi), Bente Meinhardt (Clavis Danish for foreigners), Peter Bendix (Danish Free School Association) (hidden behind Nadja), Lisbeth Trinskjær (chairman of the Danish Folk High School Association), Joachim Juel Vædele (CEO Vartov), Jakob Kvist (philosopher), Dan Andersen (historian), Flemming Jørgensen (COOP and Samvirke), and Teddy Hebo Larsen (CEO, entrepreneur and author), Hans Grishauge (who is not in the picture at all), Lene and Tomas.

These are not the best pictures and we particularly ought to have had a better picture of Dan (fourth from the left): he did not buy the main points of The Nordic Secret and gave us the harshest criticism we have faced so far. We thus strongly urge Dan to share his view points and open the debate here on the website.

Scientific Roundtable in Oslo

Lene went to Oslo in order to meet with Norwegian folkbilders and researchers. Participating were also two board members of the youth wing of The Nordic Association and professor Christian Welzel from Lüneburg who is one of the master minds behind the World Values Survey.

Tor Grønvik from Norway’s Christian Folk High Schools (NKF)) welcoming everybody; his secretariat kindly hosted the roundtable.

From the left: Johan Lövgren (NKF), Arild Mikkelsen (author), Marie Wiland (NKF), Sturla Bjerkaker (Bjerkaker LearningLab), Kent Johansson (chairman of the Nordic folk high school council), Tor Grønvik (NKF), Albin Ringstad (Nordic Association Youth (FNU)), Jonas Roelsgaard (FNU).

Everybody listening to Christian Welzel’s presentation of Values around the globe; in front and clockwise around the table: Øyvind Brandt, Johan Lövgren, Arild Mikkelsen, Marie Wiland (hidden), Sturla Bjerkaker, Kent Johansson, Tor Grønvik (also hidden), Albin Ringstad, Jonas Roelsgaard.

Lene in action; here exploring the connection between Bildung, personal development and the ability to maintain the democratic process in politics.

Jonas Roelsgaard (Denmark), Albin Ringstad (Sweden) from the Nordic Association Youth and Christian Welzel, Center for the Study of Democracy, Leuphana University, Germany.

After lunch, we split up in two group sessions, here Sindre’s notes in Norwegian:

Gruppesamtale – The Nordic Secret — 14.nov 2017

Lene, Tor, Øyvind B., Sindre

Empowerment – Hvorfor lyktes empowerment så godt i Norden?

Ideen om at skal kunne forandre seg?

Frem til 1700-tallet: Bildung – bildet av Gud
Senere: Bildung – å bygge mennesket

Deformation – mer informasjon, mindre forståelse
Genteknologi, digitalteknologi etc — presser menneskesynet
En verden som vil kreve en etisk standard. Fra en nærhetsetikk til en global etikk.

Fra det føydale til demokratiske samfunnet — prosjektet pågår fortsatt

Det du allerede kjenner skal vi ikke ta fra deg, men det er ikke nok..
Ikke nok til å ta tak i dagens og de kommende utfordringene..

Etiske kapasitet kom i utakt med den teknologiske utvikling?

Forskjell mellom verdier og personlig utvikling – Forskjell mellom artikulerte verdier og etterlevde verdier

Transformasjon til level 5
Dersom danning er perspektivering, refleksjon så er jo også en bok

Å vite vs Å lære
Man må ha et kart å navigere etter
Det vil alltid være en balansegang mellom det å vite og å lære

Bildungakademiet i Amsterdam
Følte at det manglet noe for dem i deres utdannelse.
Ønsket mer dannelse

Det liberale dilemmaet – Hans Skjervheim

Er demokratiet den eneste rette form for samfunnssystem?

Ønsker alle mennesker frihet?

Hva vil Bildung 3.0 være?

Folkehøgskole / kostskole – å være en del av noe som er større enn seg selv.

Fag & internat – samvirke er gullet

Bildung 3.0
Hva var Bildung 1.0 og Bildung 2.0?
hva blir Bildung 3.0?

Selve samtalen om Bildung 3.0 er i seg selv opplysende.


Norway copied the folk high schools from Denmark and gave them their own twist. On the one hand they were started to promote Norwegian identity as Norway had been liberated from Denmark and was still in a union with Sweden, on the other hand, from the very beginning, they faced harsh competition from free, state-run adult education. Traditionally, folk high schools in Norway have thus had both the strong Norwegian bent and a strong focus on academic performance.


Roundtable The Nordic Secret Haarlem

Scientific roundtable in Haarlem

We travelled to the Netherlands, starting with picturesque Haarlem, on October 26th, to hold our fourth scientific roundtable. This time to present the now finalized content of The Nordic Secret for researchers, representatives from the De Bildung Academie, adult educators and philosophers.

Our unique venue, the former panopticon style prison De Koepel, offered a stimulating environment for the discussions of topics such as rethinking nationalism and the practical implementation of the Bildung models.

Lene compressing two years of research into 30 minutes:

  • Bildung vs. developmental psychology / ego-development
  • 5 layers of personality development + 3 stages of Bildung
  • Kohlberg’s moral stages
  • 10 circles of belonging – including a new take on the nation state as an important level of system complexity
  • Cultural codes
  • Bringing the elements together; ”the model”
  • The Nordic Secret

Tomas Björkman further developing and explaining some of the ideas presented.


Ad Verbrugge, Michiel Tolman, Jan Visser, Mark Helfrich (in the background), Henk Wesseling, Henk Hijink, Durk Gardenier, and Jumbo Klercq (with his back to the camera).

Michiel Tolman, Mark Helfrich and Durk Gardenier are from De Bildung Academie, Henk Hijink and Jumbo Klercq are experienced adult educators and involved in Learn for Life, Henk Wesseling is chairman of the Andragology network in Amsterdam, Ad Verbrugge is a professor of philosophy and the host of Human (which is a really fantastic TV programme if you understand Dutch), and Jan Visser has worked in the development of education for years, including for the UNESCO.

After the presentation, the participants were divided into three groups to reflect deeper on selected topics and their possible implementations:

  • Vocabulary & applying the findings
  • Implementing the findings
  • What to do about nationalism

After lively and engaged discussions, each group summarized their conclusions.

Jan Visser, Henk Hijink, Paul Oomen, Truus Ophuysen, and Ad Verbrugge. Both Paul Oomen and Truus Ophuysen are active in the Amsterdam andragology network.


Ad Verbrugge and Truus Ophuysen.

Ynte Bakhuizen and Henk Wesseling. Ynte Bakhuizen is one of the co-founders of De Bildung Academie and now works to develop De Koepel and turn in into a palace of Bildung.


Our host Michiel Tolman from De Bildung Academie summarizing the day.

Welcome to Erika Tanos

Erika has been part of our network since 2014 and has followed our work on The Nordic Secret from the sidelines.

She will be helping us with communication, planning events and keeping you updated about The Nordic Secret via our newsletter; if you wish to contact us via info @ nordicsecret . org, she will be the first person to see your email, you may also write her directly at erika @ nordicsecret . org.

Erika is an independent researcher herself and does a number of very cool things:

As one of the first Innovation Anthropologists, Erika operates in the intersection of diverse fields from business, science to art. She founded the consultancy Curiosity Shop AB in 2011 to function as an interdisciplinary network for social innovation. Primarily a human insight specialist anchored in social sciences, her competency is to integrate a human-to-human centered approach and sociocultural understandings in complex challenges and to facilitate positive change.

Erika’s favorite hobby is photography and we are looking very much forward to having some of her pictures here on our site and hopefully some videos too.

Political festival at Bornholm

Every year in June, tens of thousands of Danes meet at a political festival on the island Bornholm in the Baltic Sea: Folkemødet – The People’s meeting. Among those many Danes are almost all members of the Danish Parliament, some Danish members of the European Parliament, mayors, and other local politicians, NGO’s, many civil servants from the ministries, and international speakers and guests of many kinds. It has been called the Roskilde Festival of political nerds. That is not entirely wrong.

I have participated every year since the Folkemøde started in 2011 and this year I had written six ideological speeches that were performed by Danish actor Lars Bom: a Socialist, a Social Democratic, a Social Liberal, a Liberal/Libertarian, a Conservative, and a fascist speech. Before the political content, we opened with a song.

The speeches were performed, commented by Danish politicians and myself and discussed two at the time over the course of three evenings. – The happy man in the blue shirt is Hans Grishauge, the organizer.


The first Danish Folkemøde was in 2011; it is based on the Swedish political festival Almedalsveckan, which has been around since 1968. The concept has also been copied in Finland (2006), Norway, (2012), Germany (2013), and Estonia (2014).

Bornholm is always worth a visit, by the way. Check out what the New York Times writes:

– I brought our flyer for The Nordic Secret to the Folkemøde but I forgot getting a picture of me at the Folkemøde with the flyer. You’ll just have to enjoy two pictures: one from the Folkemøde and the flyer:

Our flyer–which is more like a postcard:


Scientific roundtable in Stockholm

The third and (so far) last roundtable about human and societal development was in Stockholm on Tuesday, March 14th.

After the meeting, we enjoyed an exquisit dinner. As the above Rembrantian photo shows, the intellectual gluttony lasted well beyond coffee and dessert.

Earlier, we had gathered at Ekskäret Klustret in their new facilities at Epicenter in Stockholm.

Participating in the exploration of personal and societal development were (from the left): Jos van den Broek (Leiden University), Dick Holmgren (Filosofiska), Myrte Rischen (De Bildung Academie), Jonas Fischerström, Christian Welzel (World Values Survey), Lene Rachel Andersen (organizer, Next Scandinavia), Jan Visser (Learning Development Institute), Kim Törnqvist (Bättre Skolor), Matilda Westerman, Merel van Geel (De Bildung Academie), Thomas Jordan (University of Gothenburg), and Kristina Elfhag–plus Tomas Björkman (organizer, Ekskäret Foundation) who took the picture.

Christian Welzel shared some very interesting facts about human development around the globe and explained how the data of the World Values Survey is collected and studied:

Thomas Jordan explained how ego-development is defined and how it is broken down into some aspects that can be measured and analyzed:


Merel from De Bildung Academie shared how a handful of university students decided to change the Dutch universities – and of that we forgot to take a picture, so here is De Bildung Academie’s Manifesto instead.

Lene Rachel Andersen made a short presentation about how personal development as an individual is connected to the cultural development  of a society. No picture here either, but this topic will be thoroughly explored in The Nordic Secret.

Finally, Matilda Westerman who used to work at the Swedish Ministry of Education told us about education in Sweden:

Scientific roundtable in Leiden

Our network of Bildung people is constantly expanding, and this time we met 16 people in Leiden, the Netherlands – and we were so busy we forgot to get a good picture of everybody.

Participating were: Professor of science communication Jos van den Broek, Professor of philosophy  Paul Cobben, Ph.D. of philosophy Arthur Kok, Dr. didactics and the arts Jeroen Lutters, Professor of sociology Jo Moran-Ellis, Lecturer adult education Ginie Servant, Ph.D. philosophy Ad Verbrugge, and Merel van Geel, Kyra Mensink, Marijn Moerman, Eugene Sutorius, Michiel Tolman, and Koen Wessels, all from De Bildung Academie.

Three major themes were discussed:

  • De Bildung Academie in Amsterdam; six participants were from the Bildung Academy, and we learned a lot about
    • why and how they started,
    • how it works together with the established university system,
    • what the purpose is,
    • how they plan to spread their concept to other universities
  • Can we move on with Bildung in academic circles?
    • We need more multidisciplinary research about “what is Bildung?”
    • We also need more Bildung for the students in the academic system – which is why De Bildung Academy is such an interesting initiative
  • Can we make a Bildung movement?
    • De Bildung Academy is already a movement and they want to spread their concept to universities all over Europe
    • We would like to build a more “political” movement raising awareness about Bildung in society at large
    • Ginie Servant shared her experiences from working with Paulo Freire‘s methods in Zimbabwe; we found that this was a path worth exploring in order to give a voice to all parts of our own societies.

We did not discuss The Nordic Secret as such but will be following up on people’s comments before we host the next roundtable in Stockholm in March.

After the roundtable, we had an exquisite dinner at Het Prentenkabinet (six of us stayed for cognacs and embarked on some very, very deep philosophical discussions about the future of Europe and Bildung).

/ Lene & Tomas

PS: We don’t know who the men in the painting are or were or what they are talking about, but there is something moving about continuing a conversation that has been going on and branched out in a multitude of directions in the same place since 1575.

Feedback coming in

We’ve got around 90 people in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States reading the first draft now and the comments are coming in.

Main trends: we have hit a nerve, we need to expand on the current development in the Nordics and what the Bildung situation is today, and we need to check up on some historical facts; two historians have found mistakes (but have not noted where(!)) so we’ll have to improve on that.

First Draft is Ready

The printer just sent us 100 copies of our first draft and we are now sending them to the experts in our network.

We are very satisfied with the book (and ourselves) but we also know that we bring together knowledge from a number of fields where we do not have our academic expertise. We are thus looking very much forward to feedback from those who do and hope that they will enjoy reading the book over the holidays.