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BARCELONA: a learning hub to experiment the school 2020

by Stefanie Claudia Müller There is not a lot of time left to adapt to the enormous changes that we have to face in the next years. The most significant driving force of change is the climate threat, but also a world where we will work less with our body and more with our brain. Where robots will serve in a bar, clean hotels and help people in elderly homes. Christopher Pommerening who used to travel, study and work around the globe wants to give us the tools to be able to move in this world, especially our kids need a lot of assistance the next years. They will be the changemakers and suffer the most climate change. Learnlife is a high impact organisation, co-founded in 2017 by Christopher Pommerening raised in partnership with 19 entrepreneurial supporters spanning 11 countries such as: Albert Armengol, co-founder of Doctoralia (Spain), Barna Barath, founder of Real School Budapest (Hungary), Kirsten Dunlop, CEO of ClimateKIC (Australia), Maria Jesús Sabatés, founder of Ever-Smarter (Spain), Raj Airey, partner at Convergence Partners (India), Verena Pausder, founder of Fox&Sheep (Germany) and Verne Harnish, founder of Entrepreneur’s Organization (USA). The funding round was led by BPO Capital, a vehicle of Benjamin Otto (Germany), an active shareholder of the Otto Group and co-founder of About You. In an interview with planet-bpm.com Christopher explains his motivations to gather people from around the world in Barcelona to set up an experimental Learning hub where everyone can have a look and whose procedures and programs are continually adapting to the individual.

Why have you chosen Barcelona as a base?

I was studying in London and went to Barcelona during my exchange year in 1998. After my first 5 days in Barcelona, I knew that I have found the city of my dreams - the perfect base for life. In that year my two friends Niko Deskovice and Nick Carbonari asked me, if I would like to join them to build up a startup in the automotive sector. We started of with the launch of AutoScout24 in Germany and by the end of 1998 we created the Spanish company in Barcelona, so that I could finish my University and at the same time build the company. In 1999 I wrote my thesis on the internationalisation of internet businesses and we expanded AutoScout24 into 10 European Markets.

Tell us about "Learnlife"?

4 years ago on an Asia trip with my family the vision for a new lifelong learning paradigm that would positively change education worldwide started out as a dream. With Learnlife we are on a mission to positively change the world of learning by empowering learners, educators, schools and governments through a new learner-centred paradigm that focuses on purpose-inspired and personal learning. The open ecosystem for a new lifelong learning paradigm responds to the aspirations, needs and challenges of learners today and for future generations. The ecosystem comprises a digital platform and physical hubs.
Through this hybrid approach, Learnlife’s ambition is to empower 100,000,000 learners and 100,000 schools by 2030, enabling them to adopt and integrate learning innovation elements into their own projects. The 21 elements have been developed based on research, best practice examples and 25 of the most effective learning methodologies from over 100 of the most innovative schools around the world. They have been developed in collaboration with over 40 thought leaders from sectors such as education, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Why in Spain?

Spain has one of the highest youth unemployment rates (up to 35%) of all developed countries around the world. Furthermore it has the highest drop-out rate (17,9%) of underaged school children. Political leaders have recognised the need for a drastic change of the education system. This makes Spain a very good starting point for Learnlife. We started in 2018 with the creation of the first learning innovation hub. It is the pilot space where we explore together with learners and experts the new elements of the paradigm.

Do you feel German or Spanish by now?

Over the last 21 years I have build wonderful relations in Barcelona and all over Spain. I have co-created the vision to make this city and country an entrepreneurial hot-spot in the world. By now it is our home and my wife and our 3 kids are very happy. The last 7 years we lived 100 meters from he beach and the sea. We have looked around Europe and some other parts of the world and it very difficult to find a similar quality of life. Germany will always remain my “Heimat” and we spend up to 2 months every year with our family and friends in Hamburg and other places around the country. I any case I consider myself a citizen of the world. Every day I am less convinced that countries and boarders were such a good invention by society - at least most of the largest challenges that we are facing as humanity will not stop at any passport control.

What happened to your biggest scoop autoscout24?

AutoScout24 merged with Scout24 in 1999 and the entire group was sold to T-Online in 2004. In 2013 Hellman & Friedman bought a majority. During 2015 Scout24 was listed on the German stock exchange and is today one of the 50 largest MDax companies.

What happened to your VC company?

Active Venture Partners invested in 26 entrepreneurial teams over the past 15 years. We have a total of €74 million under management. Several of the companies have not succeeded - always the most difficult part of trying to support entrepreneurs on their way to build up wonderful projects. But failure is part of the learning process. In the last years we had many great exits such as BuyVIP, Reviewpro or Ticketbis. Today we still have 10 companies in our portfolio and I very proud that the existing companies have created close to 2.000 new jobs. The 2 ventures that had important follow-on investments in the last months are Packlink and Adjust (just raised $227 million).
We are a collaborative community of innovative educators, lifelong learners and changemakers from around the world, empowering positive educational change and making learning innovation accessible for everyone.

The vitality of launching something like Learnlife?

By 2030, it is predicted that 800m people could be displaced by automation and 65% of today’s youth will need to find or create work in areas that do not yet exist. In the context of an ever-changing world and a need to continually upskill, lifelong learning leads to a heightened sense of personal fulfilment and happiness, as well as increased employability. If we do not start with a drastic change today, we are building the biggest dead-end for our future generations. In 10 years they will come out of standardised school systems and will not understand the real world any more.
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