I had lunch today with Alain Deneef, the secretary general of an organisation called Aula Magna. Alain was the prime organising force behind the Brussels Citizens University, at which I spoke (post here). A Belgian businessman, he has held top management positions in Canal+, Belgacom and the SNCB (the Belgian railway company), among other companies. Today, he serves on various corporate and non-profit boards and has developed a strong philanthropic side, particularly in relation to Brussels. He served for ten years, for example, as the director of the Fonds Quartier Européen, a corporate fund of the King Baudoin Foundation dedicated to the renovation of the European quarter of Brussels, and now he is devoting his energies to such organisations as the Aula Magna and the Citizens’ University. We discussed many ideas and aspects of how better to integrate European civil servants into the city where they reside and work. One in particular caught my imagination. The French Conservatoire Nationale des Arts et Métiers is a government-operated educational establishment that puts great emphasis on life-long learning. Inspired by the spirit of this organisation, Deneef is working on the idea of tapping into the under-utilised intellectual potential of European civil servants to create a self-governing educational organisation that would enable civil servants to lecture on their passions and skills to Belgian citizens. It is true that many European civil servants have ‘hinterlands’ and hidden skills or specialisations. An idea to watch!