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Taking play seriously - Investing in Europe’s Future


Anna Maria Corazza Bildt

Member of the European Parliament

Anna Maria Corazza Bildt is a Member of the European Parliament. She was elected in June 2009 by the votes of the Swedish people for the ‘Moderate’ Party and she is part of the European People Party group (EPP). She is a member of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, the Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula and a member of the board of the Moderate party for Stockholm.

Her professional career started in 1987 in the field of development cooperation – working for UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome, at the Delegation to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank in Paris – and in the field of human rights for the United Nations in Geneva. Anna Maria Corazza Bildt is also an active entrepreneur and the author of a Swedish bestseller From Parma with love, people, food and tradition. She is a member of the Board of the Italian Chamber of Commerce for Sweden. She has also been awarded many prizes such as the ‘Grand Officer in the Order of the Star of the Italian Solidarity’ by the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano. Anna Maria Corazza Bildt is also a tennis instructor and player at high level.

Fredrik Härén

Creativity Expert

Fredrik Härén is an author and speaker on creativity. He has delivered over 1,500 presentations, lectures and workshops, all focused on creativity, idea generation and entrepreneurship, in over 45 countries. He is the founder of Interesting.org, a company whose business idea is to do business from ideas.

Among his nine published books is the international management bestseller The Idea Book. Translated into 15 languages, The Idea Book made the 100 Best Business Books of All Time list. Designed to awaken creativity, it has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide. His next most popular book, The Developing World examines creativity, dreams and curiosity, how businesses are being more creative, plus the pitfalls of not seeing what is going on in today’s world. His latest book is called One World. One Company.

Roberta Angelilli

Member of the European Parliament

Roberta Angelilli is an Italian Member of the European Parliament and was first elected in 1994. She currently represents ‘Il Popolo della Libertà’ and is part of the European People’s Party group (EPP). She is a Vice-President of the European Parliament and is responsible for children.

Roberta Angelilli is a member of the Parliament’s Bureau, the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee and the Delegation for relations with Afghanistan.

Theresa Casey

President of the International Play Association

Theresa Casey is President of the International Play Association: Promoting the Child’s Right to Play (IPA), an international membership-based association with members in 50 countries around the world (www.ipaworld.org).

As President since 2008, Theresa has co-chaired IPA’s work, with international supporting organisations, on the development of the United Nations General Comment on article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 2011, IPA was invited to manage the drafting process of the General Comment working closely with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The General Comment describes both the significance of play, culture and the arts to children and young people, and the responsibilities of governments and wider society to uphold those rights. With adoption by the UN of the General Comment in February 2013, Theresa is now leading partnership work to highlight those responsibilities and the opportunities that come with them.

Theresa is a freelance play consultant working in Scotland and internationally with special interest in inclusion, children’s environments and children’s rights. Following a degree in Painting from Edinburgh College of Art, her career has spanned adventure play for children with disabilities, developing creative play projects for children in disadvantaged communities in Thailand, supporting inclusion in schools and networks of community settings, and writing on play. She combines advocacy with practical work such as her recent project for the City of Edinburgh Council creating water play environments in nurseries across the city.

Theresa is a fellow of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and her work has been recognised through a number of national and international awards. She founded the Richer Understanding Group which works in the context of the UN General Comment on article 31 in Scotland.

Jana Hainsworth

Secretary General of Eurochild

Eurochild is the European Children’s Rights Network uniting more than 150 organisations from across Europe to fight for children’s rights and against child poverty. Jana Hainsworth is Eurochild’s Secretary General since 2006. She leads the Eurochild team’s efforts to keep children’s rights and well-being high on the EU agenda. Jana nurtured Eurochild’s growing expertise in the fields of early childhood, family support and children in alternative care, ultimately resulting in the campaign on de-institutionalisation.

Jana previously worked in a Brussels-based communications consultancy where she focused on social affairs and anti-discrimination issues. She has also managed a network of organisations promoting long-term voluntary service in the youth field and has worked for several years in private research and consultancy.

She has a Masters degree in environment, development and policy from Sussex University and an Honours degree in Natural Sciences from Durham University in the UK. She is a mother of two daughters and lives near Brussels.

Despina Spanou

Director for Consumer Affairs, European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumers

Despina Spanou is Director for Consumer Affairs at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumers since 16 February 2013. She previously served as Principal Adviser at the Directorate-General, where she was responsible for reshaping its communication department and policy from 2010. She was also responsible for the EU’s nutrition and alcohol strategies and, in this capacity, she chaired the Alcohol and Health Forum, the Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, and the High Level Group on Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Despina Spanuou was previously the Deputy Head of Cabinet for the European Commissioners for Health and Consumers Mr Kyprianou (2004-2008) and Mrs Vassiliou (2008-2010). During this time, she coordinated food chain issues, including the avian flu crisis in 2006, as well as EU food trade relations with Russia, biotechnology, food safety, and animal health and welfare. She also advised on public health policy files, including action against cancer, and relations with third countries on health issues.

Despina Spanou started her career at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition after having practised European competition law with the Brussels branch of a US law firm. She is a qualified lawyer and holds a PhD in European law from the University of Cambridge.

Justine Howard

Senior Lecturer, College of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea University

Dr Justine Howard (CPsychol., AFBPsS) is a Senior Lecturer in the College of Human and Health Sciences at Swansea University. She is also the Programme Manager for their MA in Developmental and Therapeutic Play and MA in Childhood Studies. She has been working in academia for more than a decade. Prior to this, she worked for a number of years in UK primary schools, supporting children with additional learning needs. She is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. She holds a first degree in psychology, a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Science Research Methods, a PhD in the Psychology of Education and is trained in therapeutic play.

Justine Howard’s research focuses on children’s play, in particular the unique role of play in supporting and enhancing children’s development and emotional wellbeing as well as how children’s perceptions of their play can affect their behaviour. She proposes that the inherent developmental potential of play is largely reliant on children believing an activity to be play and this has relevance to theory, policy and practice, particularly in relation to the development of authentic play provision and the role of adults as play partners.

Justine Howard is well published in the field of play and child development and has spoken on the topic of play at a national and international level. Recent books include Play and Learning in the Early Years (Sage), Play in Early Childhood (Routledge) and The Essence of Play (Routledge). She is currently working on a further book entitled Play Therapy Today, which is due for publication by Routledge later in the year.

Irene Gunning

Chief Executive of Early Childhood Ireland

Irene Gunning is Chief Executive of Early Childhood Ireland, an organisation that represents 90% of preschools and full day care centres across the country, which between them support over 90,000 young children and their families. Irene started her career as a clinical biochemist before making the big switch into early childhood care and education. When her son was born in 1971, Irene became fascinated with play in all its myriad expressions and purposes. She took a course with the Irish Preschool Playgroups Association (IPPA) in 1972, set up her own little playgroup at home in Ballinteer, Co. Dublin, and was hooked for life!

Irene went on to study various philosophies and approaches to early childhood and became a tutor and active volunteer with IPPA. She learnt more about herself, adult education, family issues, pedagogy and curriculum. In 1996, she was recruited by IPPA as a Project Leader on an EU educational project and progressed through a number of roles to her current post as Chief Executive. In 2010, IPPA merged with the National Children’s Nurseries Association (NCNA) to become Early Childhood Ireland, one big voice for the early childhood care and education sector in Ireland.

Irene Gunning, through Early Childhood Ireland, is a leading voice in the early childhood care and education sector. Her passion is play and her mantra is that the preschool curriculum is the engine room for skills in science, technology, education and engineering. She says, ‘We believe that early childhood is a critical period for the nurturing of each individual child’s curiosity, resilience, creativity, confidence and potential. We believe that every child has a right to a childhood that is loving, secure and stimulating. Early Childhood Ireland is a professional, caring member organisation that works collaboratively to champion our vision and realise our mission and I am very proud to be part of that.’

George Zisimos

Member of Commissioner Vassiliou’s Cabinet

George Zisimos is a Member of Cabinet of the Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Sport, Media and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou. Mr Zisimos’ responsibilities include primary and higher education.

Catherine Van Reeth

Director General of Toy Industries of Europe (TIE)

Catherine Van Reeth joined Toy Industries of Europe (TIE) in December 2009 as Director General when she established a dedicated Secretariat for the organisation, which now has four permanent staff.

TIE fully supports all efforts to promote children’s rights and their healthy development. Since joining TIE, one of Catherine’s priorities is promoting the importance of play for children’s well-being and development.

Catherine is a regular speaker at events and seminars on topics relevant for the toy sector. For example, she spoke at the presentation of a report on the importance of play written by Dr David Whitebread from the University of Cambridge in the European Parliament.

Catherine has over fifteen years experience in European Union public affairs, with a specialisation in consumer protection policy. Before joining TIE, Catherine was Director of the Consumer Goods and Financial Services team at one of the top-five consultancies in Brussels prior to becoming in-house Global Corporate Affairs Director for a leading international brewer.

A Belgian national, Catherine studied English and Dutch Literature and Linguistics at Leuven University (KUL) in Belgium and Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. She holds two masters degrees: International Relations from Leuven University and European and International Studies from Sophia Antipolis, Nice, France.