CHIC: Spreading Spark* to Gdansk and Split

This autumn Engage has started the CHIC project which includes several work packages, including one that focuses on spreading Spark*.

By Ingeborg Sofie Bogen

The goal of this specific work package in the CHIC project is to spread this concept to both the University of Gdansk, and the University of Split.This gave the Engage team the chance to hold workshops at said universities, giving the students a kick-start to start their own student-to-student mentoring services.The goal of the trip was to give students an introduction to both Spark*, and the organizations core value, as well as give them the tools to become mentors and start their own organizations. 

Discussion and reflections

During the Workshops the students in both Split and Gdansk got the chance to understand the fundamental ideas behind Spark*, learn about mentoring – Spark*s core activity, and also getting the chance to discuss how they want to build their own organization. A big part of the workshops were focused around discussion and reflections from the students at the two universities. 

When spreading Spark* we wanted to focus on clearly communicating the important core values that shape Spark*. During the workshops it was therefore important to focus on these core values. Spark* is a student-to-student service, where students get the chance to meet a student mentor who can share their knowledge with them. This is part of what makes the mentoring service low threshold, as Spark* is supposed to be a place for students with any ideas to develop their entrepreneurial mindset. In addition, Spark* does not only benefit the mentee, but also the mentor. During this part of the workshop – the students were given the chance to reflect around the value of Spark* for both mentees and mentors, and exactly what value Spark* offers students. The students focused on relevant experience for both the mentor and mentees, as well as the value of putting theory into practice. Students in both Gdansk and Split had many relevant reflections, and seemed to really understand how this concept could be valuable at their own universities. 

Mentoring is the core activity at Spark*, and was also a big part of the agenda during the workshops. The students participating in the workshop were trained to become future mentors at their own Spark* organizations. This included discussions around what tasks a mentor has, and what the role of a mentor should be. It is also important for the students to get the chance to put this theory into practice. The students got the chance to discuss real life issues that mentors face through a case assignment. They also got the chance to try and set up a first mentoring session, and gained even more practical experience with being a mentor. 

When trying to set up their student-to-student mentoring service it is important that the organization is adjusted to the student environment that it is going to be a part of. Every environment will need to have a Spark* that meets the demand among students at the relevant university. This means catering to exactly what the students need in order to develop their own business ideas. The students therefore got to discuss exactly how they could adapt their organization to their own student environments. This included trying to imagine their dream innovation ecosystem, and also reflecting around the role of Spark* in this ecosystem. The students also got the chance to plan how they wanted to shape their organization moving forward, as well as discuss other important questions that are relevant for the setup. This includes reflecting around how Spark* can attract students with potential business ideas. 

Building the entrepreneurial mindset

During the workshops, Spark* NTNUs sponsor Tr√łnderEnergi also talked about the value of Spark*, and why it is attractive for businesses to sponsor this kind of initiative. This included targeted branding among students, changing established mindsets, finding and developing talent among students and the development of new technology. This gave the students an interesting look into how valuable a concept like Spark* can be. 

The students at both universities were very interested in learning more about Spark* as a concept. Some students wanted to be future entrepreneurs themselves, and some students loved working with people – and wanted to become mentors. During the workshops the students also discussed relevant challenges when trying to set up Spark* at their universities. The Engage team really learned about how these university are different, and the importance of how the Spark* organizations need to be adapted to their unique university cultures. 

The next step for this project is for the students at both universities to start their organizations. This includes both arranging practical things and structuring their organization. The students must also adjust their organization on the way, and make sure that it is an organization that meets the needs of students interested in exploring entrepreneurship. Trying mentoring in practice, and getting to mentor real-life student start-ups will also be an important step for the students as they are starting their own Spark*. We are excited to continue to help build the student-to-student mentoring services in both Gdansk and Split.

The overall goal of this project is to develop an organization that in the end benefits students at both universities. The student-to-student methodology is all about building the entrepreneurial mindset and developing entrepreneurial skill sets among students that are both mentors, and mentees. Being either a mentor or mentee is an important learning process for the students, and gives them relevant experience to become change agents in the future. 

Read more about the project

Spreading Spark*
As a part of the Climate-KIC project CHIC – Creating Holistic Innovation Capacity, one of the work packages focuses on spreading Spark*. Spark* is a free student-to-student mentoring service at NTNU Trondheim. The organization focuses on offering mentoring for students with an idea, and through this mentoring building the entrepreneurial mindset and skill set among the students. This concept is found to be quite valuable at NTNU with the following results from 2021: 
570 student projects have been mentored since the beginning in 2014
420 000 euros have been given out in funding to the student projects provided by Tr√łnderEnergi
Currently 30 employees, 70 active startups and 70 alumni startups