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.