We are pleased to announce our keynote and featured speakers, which we anticipate will inspire and unite our IB community, in relation to our conference theme of 'Learning Together'.

Keynote speakers:

Dame Ellen MacArthur

Dame Ellen MacArthur made yachting history in 2005, when she became the fastest solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe, and remains the UK’s most successful offshore racer to date. Having become acutely aware of the finite nature of the resources our linear economy relies upon, Dame Ellen stepped away from professional sailing in 2009, to launch the Ellen MacArthur Foundation following four years researching the challenges facing our current global economy. Dame Ellen strongly believes in the power of our student generation to rethink the future; inspiring young people to become change makers and shapers of a regenerative and restorative economy is a key motivation for her. As Chair of Trustees of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, she emphasises the importance of both investment in and inspiration through education as a powerful lever for positive change. 


Inspiring young minds to rethink the future

What do you learn when you sail around the world on your own? When solo sailor Ellen MacArthur circled the globe – carrying everything she needed with her – she came back with new insight into the way the world works, as a place of interlocking cycles and finite resources, where the decisions we make today affect what's left for tomorrow. She proposes a bold new way to see the world's economic systems: not as linear, but as circular, where everything comes around. This vision for the world’s economic systems enables us to transition to an economic system that is restorative and regenerative by design, and aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. It is business and education that needs to drive such systemic change. The young people we educate today will be leading this transition tomorrow and we need to do our best to prepare them for that. Together with a positive vision for the future, we believe that young people also need a grounded understanding of complex adaptive systems, economic literacy and the courage to innovate through trial and error.


Margaret Heffernan

Dr. Margaret Heffernan produced programmes for the BBC for 13 years.  She then moved to the US where she spearheaded multimedia productions for Intuit, The Learning Company and Standard&Poors. She was Chief Executive of InfoMation Corporation, ZineZone Corporation and then iCast Corporation, was named one of the “Top 25” by Streaming Media magazine and one of the “Top 100 Media Executives” by The Hollywood Reporter.

The author of five books, Margaret’s third book, Willful Blindness : Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril was a finalist for the Financial Times Best Business Book Award 2011, and the book was named one of the most important business books of the last decade. In 2015, she was awarded the Transmission Prize for  A Bigger Prize: Why Competition isn’t Everything and How We Do Better, described as “meticulously researched…engagingly written…universally relevant and hard to fault.” Her TED talks have been seen by over four million people and in 2015 TED published Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes. Through Merryck & Co., she advises CEOs and senior executives of major global organizations and is Lead Faculty for the Forward Institute’s Responsible Leadership Programme. She holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath.


Aptitude, appetite and attitude

School is the beginning of education, not its end. Nobody really knows what the jobs of the future will be or what expertise they will require. Researchers estimate that as many as 42 percent of conventional jobs will be automated in the next two or three decades. Medicine, the legal profession, financial services: all of the traditionally safe, secure professions will change beyond recognition. In that context, the one thing we can be sure of is that our children will need an appetite and aptitude for learning and retraining. Curiosity, generosity, the ability to collaborate well with different kinds of people, to ask hard questions of others and themselves: these are the skills they will need to develop throughout their lives. How are those to be learned? What role do schools play in teaching this? What can parents expect of schools - but what must they also start to demand of themselves?



Sarah Lewis

Sarah is currently an Assistant Professor in the Departments of History of Art and Architecture and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She is the bestselling author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery, which is the biography of an idea—a big idea—that no current term yet captures. It’s about creative human endeavor, and how innovation, mastery, and new concepts are found in unlikely places. The Rise, is a Los Angeles Times bestseller and has been applauded by the who’s who of creative thinkers. Lewis Hyde calls it a “welcome departure from standard accounts of artistry and innovation.” The New York Times calls it “strikingly original”.

Sarah has spoken on the TED main stage, appeared on Oprah’s “Power List,” served on President Obama’s Arts Policy Committee, been profiled in Vogue, and . She has held positions at Yale’s School of Art, the Tate Modern, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her essays have been published in Artforum and The Smithsonian. Her second book, on Frederick Douglass, will be published by Harvard University Press in 2016. She received her B.A. from Harvard, M. Phil from Oxford, and Ph.D. from Yale.


The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery

Where do new innovations, new ideas, spring from? It’s an enduring enigma, however in this talk, Sarah offers a new understanding of what enables creative endeavors. What really drives iconic, transformational change on both a personal and an organizational level? From Nobel Prize–winning discoveries to new inventions to works of art, many of our creative triumphs are not achievements, but are conversions, corrections after failed attempts. Drawing on figures such as Frederick Douglass, Angela Duckworth, J. K. Rowling, and others, Sarah reveals the importance of play, grit, surrender, often ignored ideas, and the necessary experiments and follow-up attempts that lead to true breakthroughs. This keynote will help change the way you think about creativity, innovation, and mastery: the path to success which Sarah notes, is often more surprising than we expect. 



Peter Docker

Peter gets up every day inspired to enable others to be extraordinary in what they do. A partner of Simon Sinek and the Start With Why team, Peter believes in creating great performance by connecting people to a higher, common purpose –  ‘why’. This leads to places to work in which people feel more fulfilled, there is a high level of discretionary effort, innovation and empowerment thrives – and sustainable results follow. 

Peter's commercial and industry experience has been at the most senior levels in sectors including oil & gas, construction, mining, pharmaceuticals, banking, television, film, media, manufacturing and services – across 75 countries. His career has spanned from a professional Pilot; leading an aviation training and standards organisation to teaching post-graduates at an international college and running a multi-billion pound procurement project. A former Royal Air Force senior officer, he has been a Force Commander during combat flying operations and has seen service across the world. He is a seasoned crisis manager, a former International Negotiator for the UK Government, and executive coach.


Harness the Power of Why

Great organisations and great leaders start with  ‘why’ – their higher purpose, cause or belief.  In his keynote Peter will explain the concept of ‘why’ and the Golden Circle as first described by his colleague, Simon Sinek.  Using multiple examples from many industries, Peter will illustrate how starting with  ‘why’ can release astonishing energy within any team and be the source of innovation.  He will show how to use that energy to lead, when you don’t know the answer and how who we are as leaders can fundamentally affect the outcome of any situation.  These techniques combine into what Peter calls five key principles which, when used together, can enable any team to create extraordinary results.

Featured speakers

Alfie Kohn 

Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behaviour, education, and parenting. The author of fourteen books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations. Kohn's criticisms of competition and rewards have been widely discussed and debated, and he has been described in Time magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades [and] test scores".

Performance vs learning: The costs of overemphasizing achievement

Educational researchers have discovered that there is a significant difference between getting students to think about their performance (that is, how well they are doing) and getting them to think about the learning itself (what they are doing). These orientations often pull in opposite directions, which means that too much emphasis on performance can reduce students’ interest in learning — and cause them to avoid challenging tasks. When the point is to prove how smart you are, to get a good grade or a high test score, there is less inclination to engage deeply with ideas, to explore and discover. Thus, as Alfie Kohn argues, the problem with standardized testing is not only how bad the tests themselves are, but also how much attention is paid to the results. Even new, “authentic” assessments may backfire if students are constantly led to ask, “How am I doing?” Getting students to become preoccupied with achievement may paradoxically undermine this very goal because of what happens to their motivation in the process.


Javier M. Valle

Javier Valle is a professor in the area of Theory and History of Education at the Teacher Education College of the Autonomous University of Madrid, and is a specialist in Education Policy of Supranational Institution; mainly in the European Union.

Currently, Javier leads the ‘Supranational Policies of Education’ research group in the Autonomous University of Madrid and is the Director of its scientific journey, the Journal of Supranational Policies of Education. Javier was also awarded an extraordinary PhD Award and the 1st National Award for Doctoral Thesis in Comparative Education ‘Pedro Rosello’, for his work within Education.

Read Javier M Valle’s recent blog post on the IB Community blog.

Common core values for International Education in a global society: A supranational approach

This talk will explore the common core values proposed by international organizations as a crucial part of current schools’ curricula. In a postmodern society, with globalization as a main characteristic, different human groups (with particular values and cultures, but living in a very close interdependent world) face two risks. On the one hand, absolute relativism; and on the other hand, the imposition of a unique thought. To face these risks, it is important to foster in the next generations the competence for critical thinking and the intersubjective way of building common core values. This presentation will propose common core values built from a supranational perspective, arising from documents by international organizations.


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