Jacobs Foundation Announces Laureates of the Klaus J. Jacobs Awards Endowed with 1.2 Million Swiss Francs

  • The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2011 goes to Professor Michael Tomasello, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany
  • The Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Award 2011 is bestowed upon Christiane Daepp, founder of the Swiss program “Ideenbüro”

Zurich, October 13, 2011: The Zurich‐based Jacobs Foundation, an international foundation in the field of child and youth development, has announced the laureates of the two Klaus J. Jacobs Awards 2011, endowed with a total of 1.2 million Swiss francs. The developmental psychologist Professor Michael Tomasello is the recipient of this year’s Research Prize, while the Best Practice Award goes to the founder of the Swiss program “Ideenbüro”, Christiane Daepp. Both prizes will be presented during an awards ceremony on 2nd December 2011 at the University of Zurich.

Born to cooperate

The central findings of Professor Michael Tomasello’s research show that even oneyear‐old children who cannot yet speak are capable of cooperating and helping other children. This behaviour exists without being taught by adults. Professor Tomasello’s comparative research into communicative behaviour and learning processes of preschool‐aged children on the one hand, and those of the great apes on the other, provides evidence that humans are born to cooperate – and that this is a primary difference between humans and great apes. Young children do not perceive space, quantity or logical correlations any better than great apes do, but they are able to learn more easily with others and can recognize the intentions of others more quickly. This is the primary basis for the ability to speak. The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2011, endowed with 1 million Swiss francs is a spur for Professor Michael Tomasello’s future work in his research field: “The money allows you to do some research things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. In particular, it allows you to plan larger research projects with a greater time horizon.”

Cooperation at school – Schoolchildren acting as problem-solvers for fellow pupils

During her career as a teacher, Christiane Daepp realized that children are excellent listeners and problem solvers. On the basis of this knowledge, Christiane Daepp founded “Ideenbüro”, a program in which schoolchildren help their fellow pupils solve problems. “Small children are impressed by older children and depend on their behavior rather than listen to well‐intentioned advices of adults”, explains Christiane Daepp. “This is the reason why consultations at the Ideenbüro are so
efficient and effective.” The “Ideenbüro” is the contact point in a school for all types of problems, ranging from bullying and vandalism to the troubles that arise in pupil‐teacher interaction. The children in charge of the “Ideenbüro” take responsibility for solving problems independently and participating in the social community.

The Klaus J. Jacobs Awards

In honour of its founder, the entrepreneur Klaus J. Jacobs, who passed away in 2008, the Jacobs Foundation has awarded two annual prizes since 2009. Endowed with a total of 1.2 million Swiss francs, the prizes recognize exceptional achievements in research and practice in the field of child and youth development. The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize acknowledges scientific work of high social relevance to the development of children and young people. The Jacobs Foundation attaches great importance to scientific findings from interdisciplinary research which can yield practical applications. The Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Award recognizes the exceptional commitment of institutions or individuals who put innovative solutions in the field of child and youth development into practice. The Best Practice Award is endowed with 200,000 Swiss francs.