Rethinking student engagement: an analysis and strategy framework development for a leading student initiatve

09. Februar 2021

Wintersemester 2020 - SEF Social Entrepreneurship Forum


Student initiatives and organisations are an indispensable part of many young people’s study experience, regardless of their field of study. People enjoy meeting like-minded individuals, being able to work on projects together and most perhaps even making the world a better place with more and more initiatives recognizing the fact that environmental and social issues are more pressing than ever. Social student initiatives offer a platform to changemakers: young, driven individuals who are willing to take action and get involved. However, these organisations are often subject to high personnel turnover because students leave to do a semester abroad or finish their studies.


The question of how an organisation can remain successful needs to be answered so that an initiative can further drive change and strive towards making an impact.


As a first step in the project, the research question was identified in order to then look into organisations with goals and issues that are congruent with the objectives of our project partners [sic!] and SEF. A long-list containing national as well as international student initiatives was created using non-probabilistic, purposeful sampling. The list containing 41 organisations was then used in order to choose initiatives that shall be interviewed. Afterwards, a thorough literature research with a focus on succession planning, recruiting and different motivational factors to participate in a student initiative was carried out. Following that, the project team succeeded in contacting 13 experts from student groups to conduct interviews with, exploring open-ended questions. Additionally, one expert interview was included in order to find out more about the university environment-specific factors with respect to managing a student initiative successfully.

Having gathered data on a variety of student organisations, the grounded theory approach was used in an iterative process to successfully cluster the findings gathered. Therefore, a task force scanned the key findings to retrieve five different key areas: Organisational Structure, Leadership Succession and Handover, Motivational Factors for taking Part in a Student Initiative as well as Promotion and Recruiting. Additionally, the project team found out that the university environment plays a vital part in shaping the ecosystem for initiatives to operate in. Moreover, the project team designed a methodology in order to choose best practices from the organizations interviewed for each cluster so as to equip the project partners with proven examples.


After the five categories were identified, an SOS framework was developed which contains the key findings in a precise handout. These findings can be used and are ready to be implemented in the organisation right away and can be seen as the project team’s recommendations. The findings were then handed over in a 1.5-hour workshop with a specific guideline in order to introduce [sic!] to the framework and discuss the feasibility of the recommendations while allowing for possible inquiries in real time with the members of the initiative.

Cooperation Partner

  • Social Entrepreneurship Forum
    Vienna, Austria

  • [sic!]
    Boku Base, Peter Jordan Straße 82
    Ilse Walentin Haus, 2. Stock
    1190 Vienna

Contact Person

Jana Fälbl

Julia Schwarenthorer

Student Team

  • Valentina Haumer

  • Tamara Neulinger

  • Mislav Petrak

  • Nicholas Pöllinger

  • Maximilian Rudorfer

  • Johannna Sturm

Project Manager

  • Dr. Reinhard Millner

  • Dr. Peter Vandor

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