Five more years for Engage

Engage has recently been granted an extended period of 5 years. What have we done and what is the future plans of Engage?

By Tina Larsen

“Our panel’s review… led us to the conclusion that Engage has become a world-leading centre for entrepreneurship education.”

Review comitee

You can read the Diku comitee report here

The centre has been a Center of Excellence in Education since 2017 and our vision is to develop learning initiatives in higher education to increase the number of students with entrepreneurial skills and mindset to become change agents for the better. This is in line with recent societal developments – we need to develop and change our society to be more sustainable and adaptable to changes.

Change can, generally speaking, be done through top-down or bottom-up initiatives. Engage wants to contribute to make the latter possible – we want to enable people to be drivers of change. We focus on developing student’s entrepreneurial skills and mindset for them to handle changing circumstances in an uncertain world.

“A change agent is a person who is constantly looking for or is creating opportunities, putting resources together in a new way to create value, who dares to deal with uncertainty and risk, and who takes action.” 

Øystein Widding, Centre Director at Engage

The first period of Engage Centre

Over the last years, Engage has initiated a number of projects at the student, educator and research level, both within and outside the centre. Overall, Engage has launched nearly 300 learning initiatives, development and dissemination activities to various audiences in different contexts. Everything revolves around Engage’s educational framework. The framework has five elements that are considered key in developing and enforcing students’ entrepreneurial skills and mindset. These five key elements can be used in any field or tradition at the higher education level, but they are not a “one-size-fits-all” and need to be adapted. 

“We try to make our students act to solve issues through practice or real experiments, interact with other students or external stakeholders, challenge the world outside the university, embrace uncertainty instead of shying away from it, and reflect to create personal sense-making and transform raw experiences into internalized knowledge.”

Erik Medbø, innovation leader at NTNU and leader of Train-the-trainer at Engage

When the corona pandemic led to lock-down measures, we had to think differently in terms of communicating our knowledge. We therefore started Engage Talk which is a digital series in the field of entrepreneurship where we highlight current topics that can be useful for professionals, experts and businesses. Engage Talk is led by Nord University Business School, one of Engage’s partners. 

The most valuable experience from the first period was the need to focus the effort on three main areas – engaging students, educators and research. In addition to this, Engage includes sustainable aspects into these areas. 

“Our panel’s unanimous evaluation is that Engage has achieved the stated goals for its first five years…”

Review comitee

Engaging students

Engaging students is of primary importance for Engage. Through this focus area, the centre establishes and develops learning initiatives utilising the educational framework. Engage wants to enable students to increase their entrepreneurial skills and mindset. This is done by facilitating and offering activities, sharing of knowledge and learnings, letting students have ownership of the activity and experience uncertainty. 

For example, Engage is involved in the establishment of a center with a collection of several student initiatives under the same roof. This supports the culture of sharing. One of these student initiatives are Spark* NTNU, the student-to-student mentoring program. They are one of Engage’s partners and the centre has contributed to expanding the concept-model to other universities, such as Spark* Nord, and has plans to expand further in the next period. You can read more about the project here.

Engage has also been involved in developing new courses. As an effect of the increased layoffs during the corona pandemic, the centre developed an online course in entrepreneurship and business development for laid-off and partially laid-off workers. Experiences from participants of the course is that it has been useful and that it has created new opportunities. Another course the centre has developed is the entrepreneurial course for PhD students. The aim of the course is to develop the entrepreneurial mindset of PhD students to increase their engagement with practitioners, and create knowledge transfer from their research projects. At Engage we also have developed a sustainability course where the students learn and practice sustainability and entrepreneurship through interdisciplinary teams. In addition to this, they have “The Blast of the Week” where students in Master of Science in Business work together on cases. The course has a focus on experience-based learning. 

Engaging Educators

To gain momentum and broaden the scope of the centre, there is also a need to engage and involve educators in different disciplines. Therefore, Engage’s second focus area is enabling educators in increasing their students’ entrepreneurial skills and mindset. This is done through collaboration, development and knowledge sharing on learning initiatives applicable in a broad range of higher education contexts and disciplines. This too is a result of best practice within the Engage Partners TrollLabs, EiT, NTNU School of Entrepreneurship, Nord University Business School and Spark*NTNU.

The educational framework mentioned above is used in Engage’s biggest initiative – Train-the-trainer. The aim of this project is to give other educators the opportunity to use Engage’s pedagogical tools in their disciplines. In the next period Engage will develop “Engage Academy” which aims to professionalize the activity we are doing aimed at educators today. 

“It will be important to scale up our business. We can engage in one-on-one dialogue with educators, but it is important that we also manage to scale it up so that we can have a bigger impact. That will be our priority in the next period.”

Øystein Widding, Centre Director at Engage

Engaging Research

Engage also puts great effort into researching how to integrate experience-based entrepreneurship education into various disciplines. Engaging research is therefore Engage’s third focus area. Currently, Engage has about 15 ongoing research projects – all of which contribute to new insight regarding key themes of entrepreneurial learning, student engagement and development of entrepreneurial skills and mindsets.

In collaboration with ECSB – European Council for small Business and Entrepreneurship we have started EE Explore which is a virtual platform for research interaction globally about Entrepreneurship Education. It is a way to start a debate on the pedagogical framework we advocate and the activity we are doing. This brings us great impact. 

The future of Engage

In the next period of the Engage Centre these focus areas will be continued and strengthened. The educational framework will be important for the centre; testing it, improving it, and dimmeniating it. Based on this, we believe Engage will be able to become a significant resource for higher education.

“Engage is a role model for other current and future centres of excellence in Norway and around the world which seek to blend teaching, research, and practice, and through a multi-disciplinary set of stakeholders across faculty, students, staff, industry, and other partners”

Review comitee

Engage Organization

Engage is a consortium consisting of:

  • The NTNU School of Entrepreneurship
  • Nord University Business School
  • NTNU Experts in Teamwork
  • TrollLABS
  • Spark* NTNU