España 2023 - Full summary of our Institute of Engaged Leadership

From January 13 to 20, 2023, the Foundation's 2021 Scholars explore, along with Fellows, Mentors and special guests, the theme "Language, Culture and Identity" during our Institute of Engaged Leadership in Spain. Here is a daily summary of the meetings, field visits and exchanges of this very first Foundation Institute outside the Canadian borders.


BARCELONA - Friday, January 13, 2023


Visit to the Recinto Modernista de Sant Pau

This first Institute of Engaged Leadership outside Canada gets off to a strong start with a fascinating visit of the modernist complex of Sant Pau, a superb garden city erected at the beginning of the 20th century and intended for the sick. This jewel that we discover at sunset is the work of Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the embodiment of interdisciplinarity and the plurality of perspectives so dear to the Foundation. Beyond his expertise – he is a professor at the age of 24! - the young Lluís travels to many countries to perfect his knowledge and visits more than 200 hospitals as a preparation for the construction of Sant Pau.

At a time when cholera is wreaking havoc, medical resources are terribly limited (ventilation, sunlight, hygiene, etc.) and social security coverage is non-existent, Domènech i Montaner succeeds in gathering the necessary expertise in order to tackle complex issues towards the common good. In a way, we are discovering the work of a precursor of the Foundation's transversal and humanist approach!

a collage of images; a building with a clock tower and group of people


Multilingual exchanges

This exclusive visit to Sant Pau concludes with a panel in Catalan, English, Spanish and French - quite a challenge for the interpreters! - moderated with brio by journalist Alexandra Szacka and Maria Juliana Angarita Bohórquez (2021 Scholar).
Through a rich and sophisticated exchange, we discover the complex relationship between language, culture and identity, from literature to food to museums! Nathalie Bondil, museologist and art historian, talks to us about culture, exchanges and above all the possibilities offered by intercultural dialogue. Catalan writer and editor Lolanda Batallé, who herself speaks 6 languages, explains with passion why all languages are windows to the world. “Catalan is in no way an attack on Spanish,” she illustrates. Finally, Isma Prados, renowned chef and great ambassador of Catalan cuisine, puts into perspective the importance of the historical, social and technological context in the creation of an identity, but above all in its evolution. Catalan cuisine was well known in Europe as far back as the Middle Ages, he explains, long before the tomato and potato, which today are key catalan ingredients, were brought back from America by early explorers, and make it evolve into its current form.

Alexandra concludes that gastronomy is really the vector of choice for dialogue on cultures! 
It’s time to sit down and put that conclusion into practice…

a group of people at a podium
BARCELONA - Saturday, January 14, 2023


Clarity and efficiency in communication are basic conditions for the democratization of knowledge, one of the key concepts of the Foundation's leadership curriculum. To tackle the most complex - or the most sensitive - issues, one obviously needs to have the expertise specific to the subject, but also to master the interview process and fully understand the expectations of journalists, their employer and the public.

This second day of the Institute was therefore exclusively intended to prepare our Scholars for the media interviews that will mark their careers. These training sessions are under the seasoned eye of Alexandra Szacka, who shares her experience of more than 35 years as a journalist in various Canadian media outlets. She is assisted by members of the 2021 cohort, Dr. Emmanuel Kattan, 2021 Mentor and director of the Alliance program (Columbia University), and Stéphanie Chouinard, 2021 Fellow and associate professor of political science at the Royal Military College in Kingston.

Three mentors from the 2020 cohort and outstanding trainers also strive to get our Scholars out of their comfort zone: award-winning director Patrice Sauvé, Janice McDonald, a businesswoman identified several times by the Women's Executive Network as one of Canada's 100 Most Powerful Women and Dr. Eric Meslin, a world-renowned expert in public health issues and pandemic emergencies.

Our media trainers (from left to right) : Patrice Sauvé, Stéphanie Chouinard, journalist Alexandra Szacka and Emmanuel Kattan. Below : Janice McDonald, Eric M. Meslin and our Leadership programme Director, Maude Choko.


BARCELONA - Sunday, January 15


Media training sessions continue in our studio in the heart of the Santa Caterina district, a stone's throw from the port of Barcelona. In turn, each of the Scholars conduct an interview led by Alexandra Szacka. A specific and detailed case frames each interview, based on each participant's own expertise, but also the type of media and the public for which the intervention is intended. Everyone must learn to communicate often complex issues, draw upon the essentials and adapt their language to effectively reach the general public. Simplify, circumscribe, enlighten... all without reducing the scope or the meaning. It is an applied exercise in the democratization of knowledge!

Simulating interviews on radio, on TV and even recording podcasts punctuate the day. Each interview is followed live by our trainers, but also by all the other Scholars in an adjacent room. This brings a lot of richness to the feedback session that follows each of the exercises. Vocabulary, flow, clarity of speech and non-verbal language are scrutinized constructively, and everyone offers their impressions in a spirit of collegiality and collaboration. Comments and suggestions intended for one person then benefit the whole group.
Venturing beyond technical considerations, our trainers do not hesitate to enter into more personal considerations, for example inviting a Scholar to abandon their impostor syndrome or explaining to another how to use their personal history as leverage in an intervention in order to make it more human. After all, developing leadership requires audacity and resilience and you must to be prepared to step out of your comfort zone.

A free evening in Barcelona is welcome after a full day of these efforts!

Jour 3
BARCELONA - Monday, January 16


After a busy weekend of media training, our Scholars tackle the theme of our Institute: Language, Culture, and Identity. The roles from last few days have been reversed, and the Scholars move from the interviewee chair to the role of interviewer! Divided into four groups, Scholars meet personalities from various backgrounds (politics, academia, media, the private sector, etc.) to familiarize themselves with the history, culture, and linguistic issues in Catalonia. The main objective is to understand how the Catalan language and history have shaped contemporary Catalan culture and identity.
Each group must collect information on different issues surrounding the question of identity and culture in Catalonia, in order to produce a series of podcasts "La cultura in diàleg" (Culture in dialogue) which will be broadcast by the Foundation, in collaboration with 2021 Fellow, Stéphanie Chouinard, and 2021 Mentor, Emmanuel Kattan. This exercise is also an opportunity for Scholars to carry out research in the field and to engage in a real dialogue, with the plurality of perspectives that this implies, with the members of various local communities.
The different groups meet with Judith Colell Pallarès of the Blanquerna Universitat Ramon Llul, (Professor at the School of Communication and International Relations), Carles Duarte i Montserrat, a poet, linguist, and Catalan politician, Josep Mª Castellà, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Barcelona, and Irene Rigau i Oliver, who was notably Minister of Education in Catalonia. After a short break, the groups return to the field to fuel conversations with journalists Rafael Jorba i Castellví and Marius Serra, to hear from Mònica Badia Ibanez of La Caixa Foundation, an important charitable foundation whose mission is engagement and social justice, Gabriel Pinós Guirao director of the Museu del Modernisme de Barcelona and Francesc Xavier Vila, Secretary General of Catalan Language Policy.
As is the case for each day of the Institute, the program, activities, meetings, and training sessions are the result of a joint organization between a Mentor and a Fellow. Upon returning to the hotel, delighted with their experience, Scholars underline the generosity and passion of the speakers they met and note the diversity of perspectives expressed, including sometimes opposing positions on various issues. All that remains is to choose the best moments, from several hours of recordings, that will make up the different episodes of the podcast!


a group of people in a room
BARCELONA - Tuesday, January 17


The entire day is spent at the magnificent Museu Nacional d'art de Catalunya, located at the top of Montjuic, a hill overlooking the ancient city and the old port. The view is spectacular, and the building’s architecture, built for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, is equally so.

As soon as we arrive, professor and jurist, Xavier Arbós Marín, from the Faculty of Law of the University of Barcelona, leads our Scholars, Fellows, and Mentors in a walking conference in the museum, illustrating his proposals on Catalan language and culture through works of art. Some are drawn from the vast collection of art from the Romanesque period (11th to 13th centuries), others are much more recent, such as a magnificent mural by the painter, sculptor, and ceramist Joan Miró.

Linguistic rights specialist, Professor Eva Pons, also from the Law Department of the University of Barcelona, then presented a conference on the rights of the Catalan language with a focus on the the education system. Our Fellow-Mentor organization duo for the day (François Larocque and Aldéa Landry, respectively), as well as our Scholars, do not fail to identify the differences as well as the similarities with the linguistic rights of Canadian minorities.

The afternoon is devoted to two impassioned meetings and discussions in working groups, first with Dr. Altor Montes Lassarte, doctor and activist for the rights of Basque minorities, and then with Dr. Tomàs Cobo Castro, vice-president of the General Medical Council of Spain and Head of the Spanish Delegation to the European Union of Medical Specialists. Their two strong and different visions of what defending a language entails sparked debate and fueled conversations.

The day ends on a high note with a hands-on activity in which our delegation participates in the preparation of a delicious paella, which we then taste together while discussing the bond between identity, culture, and culinary art! 

BILBAO – 18 janvier 2023


C’est dès les petites heures du matin que notre groupe se dirige vers l’aéroport pour un vol vers Bilbao, au cœur du « pays de la langue basque » (Euskal Herria), à l’extrémité nord de la péninsule. C’est là que se déroule la suite de notre périple dont le programme de la journée a été concocté par la mentore Azola Zuma Mayekiso et le fellow Dr Robert Blair.

Dès la sortie de l’avion, notre groupe se dirige vers le Centre d’études sociales et politiques Agirre Lehendakaria, une initiative d’innovation sociale collaborative mise en place par l’Université du Pays basque et l’Université Columbia. Le directeur, M. Gorka Espiau, nous présente le centre et sa mission.

Les boursier.e.s assistent ensuite à une conférence sur l’histoire culturelle, économique et sociale du Pays basque présentée par M. Andres Urrutia, président de l’Académie basque avant de se déplacer vers le bâtiment le plus emblématique de Bilbao : le superbe musée Guggenheim.

Nous avons le plaisir d’y être par le directeur, M. Juan Ignacio Vidarte, qui présente à notre délégation une brève introduction sur le musée et quelques explications relativement à son impact sur le développement culturel et économique de Bilbao. L’artiste en arts visuels et chargée de cours (Université Concordia) Mme Michèle Delisle accompagne ensuite notre délégation pour une visite guidée d’une sélection d’œuvres du musée avant de diriger un atelier de création artistique avec nos boursier.e.s..

En soirée, nous recevons M. Christian Berzeinz, attaché culturel à l’Ambassade du Canada à Madrid, qui nous partage quelques réflexions sur les situations comparées du Canada et de l’Espagne et échange avec nos boursier.e.s à propos de son expérience au sein de la diplomatie canadienne.

18 janvier




The penultimate stage of our Institute takes place at the Martin Ugalde Basque Cultural Center located in Andoain, on the way to San Sebastian. Our Scholars learn about the history of Basque culture and the public policies aimed at ensuring its preservation, enhancement and development in a modern and multilingual Spain.

The speeches of Lorna Wanosts'a7 Williams, Fellow 2021 and co-organizer of the day, Paula Laita Pallarés and Paul Bilbao, both from the Centre, and the ensuing lively exchanges with our Scholars put the similarities into perspective between Canada and the Basque Country in view of the importance of preserving indigenous languages. The discussions also allow everyone to be confronted with the very real threat of seeing a language disappear. 

I am grateful that our energy came together throughout the Institute” said Lorna Wanosts'a7 Williams “and that each of us learned from one another through our openness to share stories, questions, laughs and tears. Language and knowledge revitalization reminds us that we have the responsibility of remembering the past and generate the sociolinguistic knowledge that has been sleeping. This day was very special for me. It was connected to the land and the community.  It honoured First Nations, Métis, Inuit and Basque ancestors and collaboration between our nations. Supporting communities themselves to revitalize languages through culture and identity allows us to build strength and create alliances in our struggles." 

Our afternoon is devoted to a guided tour of Pasaia, a traditional Basque maritime factory that has become a training school for the construction and repair of wooden boats. The factory also houses the shipyard for the reconstruction of the Nao San Juan, a replica of a Basque whaler that was shipwrecked at Red Bay on the coast of Labrador in 1565. The school and its work are an opportunity to question the disappearance, over time, of certain knowledge, which was fundamental in another era.

The Kukai Dantza troupe, which renews traditional Basque dance, takes advantage of our visit to Pasaia to impress us with performances that are as sensitive as they are athletic. We will thus have been exposed to almost all forms of art during the Institute. Thanks to Karine Asselin, the other co-organizer of this day for this busy but very instructive day.

A collective creation workshop, under the supervision of our artist Ani Müller and a dinner in a sidreria complete the program.

The bravest among us come out at midnight towards Plaza de la Constitución where hundreds of percussionists and a large crowd underlines the Tamborrada de la San Sebastián, the most important – and the loudest! - city festival.


19 janvier
San Millan de la Cogolla - January 20, 2023


Our group moved to San Millan de la Cogolla in the hills of La Rioja for a last day exploring modern Spanish civilization, its politics, its literature, and its art. After an introduction by our two facilitators for the day, lawyers Julius Gray (Mentor 2021) and Gregory Tardi, Scholars left in small groups to explore the picturesque, millennium-old village, all reflecting on a series of questions about Spain’s modern identity as well as its founding forces.

The link with our theme is easy: after having explored Catalonia and the Basque Country, we are in the same place where the first words of the "popular" language that will become Spanish were first written.

Our delegation visits the monastery of Yuso, whose different architectural styles are a testament – each in their own way – to the evolution of the building over the centuries. Fortunately, our heritage expert, María Juliana Angarita Bohorquez (2021 Scholar), knows the history and offers explanation. Successive visits to the church, the cloister, the sacristy, and the oratory housing relics decorated with ivory plaques carved in the 11th century allow us to understand the historical context of the region, strongly marked by fervent Catholicism. 

Over lunch, held in the monastery itself, delegates have an opportunity for rich conversations on Spanish identity, its duality – between traditionalism and modernism – and the influences that have shaped its modern face. The day is an excellent conclusion to the stay, allowing the integration and contextualization of week’s learnings in a holistic way, offering many points of comparison with our Canadian reality.

Back in Bilbao, a community dinner allows us to close this first ever Institute of Engaged Leadership held outside of Canada.

Tomorrow, the members of the cohort will fly back to their respective universities after a tremendously immersive experience, with tangible learnings that will bring a much finer understanding of the issues related to the 2021-2023 Scientific Cycle: Language, Culture, and Identify.

20 janvier


Photo Credits - Joe Alvoeiro | Fotografika

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Pascale Fournier

  • Scholar 2003
  • Alumni
2003 Scholar, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation (2018 to 2023)