The SURPRISE FACTORS SYMPOSIUM 2018 was all about courage. In con­ver­sa­tion with impres­sive per­son­al­i­ties we asked our­selves what it is that encour­ages peo­ple, how coura­geous deeds can advance a soci­ety and why courage does not only have pos­i­tive sides.

Three renowned guests shared their per­son­al expe­ri­ences and knowl­edge: The Pales­tin­ian-Syr­i­an pianist and refugee Aeham Ahmad, who risked his life and advo­cat­ed more human­i­ty, joy and hope by play­ing his piano in the midst of the debris of the con­test­ed Pales­tin­ian refugee camp Yarmouk in Syr­ia. The Sau­di women’s rights activist and leader of the Women2Drive move­ment Man­al al-Sharif, who gave per­son­al insights into a world where women are deprived of their inde­pen­dence and taboo breaks lead to harsh reli­gious and social con­se­quences. And the Aus­tri­an film direc­tor, screen­writer and Oscar win­ner Ste­fan Ruzow­itzky, who point­ed out how impor­tant it is to tell the sto­ries of coura­geous peo­ple and to cre­ate hero­ines and heroes as role models.

The talks were mod­er­at­ed by the aca­d­e­m­ic direc­tor and geneti­cist Markus Hengstschläger and the his­to­ri­an and philoso­pher Philipp Blom.

In addi­tion to in-depth dis­cus­sions in a small group with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of aca­d­e­m­ic board mem­bers and stu­dents of the YOUNG ACADEMIA, the evening event offered around 700 invit­ed guests the oppor­tu­ni­ty to reflect on very dif­fer­ent facets of courage and to take along impuls­es for their own sphere of influ­ence. Pres­i­dent Michael Strugl spoke about the impor­tance of courage for change and its premis­es: from risk-tak­ing in the econ­o­my to curios­i­ty in sci­ence and civ­il courage in soci­ety. Gov­er­nor Thomas Stelz­er invit­ed every­one to brave­ly walk new paths, to be inspired by role mod­els, to define goals and to dare and try some­thing new.