Jacques Giesbertz: everyone has the capacity to learn

Our city is a school: an educational model that does not rely on classrooms, whiteboards or curriculums, but is predicated rather on building a learning community.

Jacques Giesbertz

Short Bio

I’m a 60 years old Social entrepreneur, and I tend to be drawn to projects that combine educational pursuits with connecting different social and professional networks. There’s my brainchild Gilde Plus, a community for business owners, professionals and job seekers. I provide workspaces, facilitate exchanges and an online platform, and bring together community residents from various backgrounds.

My story

Professional life and Gilde Plus

Before I decided to become an independent business owner, my career ran the gamut from IT services, sales, and consultancy work at the Berenschot consulting firm to arts management. After trying all these different jobs, I was eager to strike out on my own, being particularly interested in networking and bringing people together. Twelve years ago, we saw the emergence of what was then known as ‘the new world of work‘ or the ‘wireless workplace,’ meaning you could work pretty much anywhere, anytime. Around the same time, I facilitated workspaces in locations around the city that were vacant and unused in the daytime, including theatres. My original plans focused on the workplace: I wanted to connect people and provide them with opportunities to work together in central locations in their city. Another objective was to encourage people to learn from each other. This ethos eventually led me to create the Gilde Plus concept.

Our concept is based on the notion that our city is a school: an educational model that does not rely on classrooms, whiteboards or curriculums, but is predicated rather on building a learning community.

At Gilde Plus we offer many benefits and opportunities to participants. By setting up learning communities in existing community locations, you can make the most of the existing social capital and the methods and locations available within a city, village or neighbourhood. The result is a learning model that is both sustainable and profitable.

Learning communities are about more than just networking – they are also outlets for people to exchange knowledge and experiences.

These successful alliances between individuals and organizations have helped participants develop more strategic ways of collaboration and creating employment for job seekers.

I believe the ultimate learning experience is teaching a skill to another person – something I experience firsthand all the time when tutoring my 14-year-old son. This is also, in fact, part of the Gilde Plus philosophy, as the model also involves offering workshops and lectures taught by members of the community. The professionals giving these lectures and workshops might share valuable insights into their line of work and cover areas as diverse as presentation techniques, working with social media, and making strategic plans, to learning how teams operate and the method and theory of ‘family constellations’, to the relevance of the teachings of St. Augustine to the twenty-first century. 

Learning outside the classroom

I believe learning is a continuous process, but above all that, it’s a social process you undertake together. It involves connecting with the outside world, so you can contextualize what you’ve learned. But learning also is about subtle details; we learn by stepping out of our comfort zones.

I firmly believe not only that everyone has the capacity to learn, but also to teach others. It’s important to make people feel confident that they can learn.

I have experienced through my own learning process that giving people that confidence is vital. I’m an avid amateur tango dancer. I wanted to learn it, and I was lucky to have a teacher who encouraged me to keep at it and practise. I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it if she hadn’t done that, as my innate talent for dance is modest. Once you get into the learning flow, you gain more courage, and that’s where you learn to nail it.

Current teaching methods, including classroom teaching, courses and training programmes, keep us from making the most of our learning capacity. Just look at the education offered at primary schools: the learning process is divorced from pupils’ home situations. We currently have a teacher shortage in the Netherlands, and we could address that problem by drawing on parents’ expertise and knowledge – they have a lot of valuable lessons to impart to the children. Based on this philosophy, I worked with other parents to develop the stadsouders (‘Urban Parents’) programme, through which I seek to get parents involved in the school and have them share their knowledge. 



Through Gilde Plus, I want to help people develop confidence in their ability to learn and – even more importantly – teach others.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Gilde Plus project, please visit:

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