Case study: OIKOS
Oikos Copenhagen is the local branch of Oikos International, a student non-profit organisation dedicated to sustainable development in economics and management. Oikos Copenhagen is part of an international organisation founded in 1987, whose mission is to support environmentally friendly entrepreneurship and sensitise students of various faculties to issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals. In Copenhagen, operations began in 2011 when the two student organisations Develop and Well merged to form part of an international network.
Oikos Copenhagen promotes sustainable development through 6 key projects:
"Oikos Case Competition"
The organisation engages students (currently 42) from the different universities in the Copenhagen area.
Several stakeholders are involved with the organisation, the main ones being:
Oikos international: it is supported by the local Oikos chapters, where knowledge is shared, providing different tools.
Student organisations: especially the ones from Copenhagen Business School (CBS)
Individual students: as already mentioned, Oikos is a student organisation and therefore, students are at its centre. The main part of the students involved is from CBS.
Other partners: companies involved in workshops and events, such as Student & Innovation
Sponsors: they help to maintain their activities
Professors: helping them getting specific knowledge
Advisory Board: people guiding and helping them
CBS Management: CBS, in all its parts, is one of the main stakeholders for Oikos. CBS Management specifically helps with network, approvals and advice
Media: social media and university press have a central role in reaching out to more people
Purpose and values:
The main goal of Oikos Copenhagen is to create awareness about issues concerning:
Environmental, social and financial sustainability in companies and organisations
Ethical and responsible business and organisational practices
Opportunities in the developing world for the private and public sectors.
The students in the organisation share some values, which is what brought them together and what makes it work. At the core, we find sustainability: social, environmental and economic. An essential aspect about Oikos is its community: personal growth is incentivised through building friendships, focusing on integrity and embracing diversity.
They currently have their offices at Station and the events often take place at CBS.
The organisation has developed keeping the following points as essential:
Involvement of the stakeholders: the importance in involving the stakeholders throughout the whole process so that they really feel part of the change and the final product
Friendship: Building friendship between members and therefore a strong community while sharing knowledge
Communication flow: making sure that everybody knows everything that is going on
Balance: finding a balance between all the different parts and considering sustainability in all its aspects
Diversity: students from diverse background have different approaches and impacts
Interviews with the leaders of the organisation revealed several challenges Oikos has to face. One of the fundamental is to involve new members in the statutory activities and keep their attention. The interviews showed that the organisation's leaders saw the essence of the problem in the difficulty of persuading new people to engage in voluntary work.
Another challenge is the organisation of a schedule that would allow for a combination of Oikos responsibilities and student responsibilities.
The final challenge highlighted is trying to balance the numbers of Danish and international students. The organisation's multiculturalism is a significant value, but it is equally essential to base the organisation on the Danish culture and integration approach.
Oikos seems to have a strong strategy for keeping up with the demands of new students. They developed a good communication strategy (Fig. 2) that always helped them keep on track with every new season recruiting while maintaining the team's integrity. It's important to highlight that this association's strong points are based on the importance of communication and gratefulness.
From a social impact perspective, Oikos seeks to raise awareness of sustainability by giving students reasons to commit to a greater goal. Besides, they help their members improve practical skills and build experience spanning various fields. Another area of support is career counselling and assistance in career development, including research. It is an essential element in creating a lasting, extensive and reliable community based on a collaborative network.
Good practices. What inspired us?
According to the authors, the greatest strength of Oikos is its emphasis on community-building activities. By showing a strong sense of community, an organisation can achieve a significant level of interest from its members. Involving students from different backgrounds, who have diverse approaches and ideas, is key to community development. The main activities include building a sense of community, identity, and shared goals. Another essential attribute of Oikos is an organisational system based on a matrix that combines functions in the organisation and projects, i.e. each project has assigned people responsible for six different tasks (i.e. management, finance, commitment, communication, relations and development).
In the authors' opinion, even though Oikos Copenhagen is part of a global organisation, it isn't easy to understand what ultimately activities and opportunities they offer to their members based on digital communication. At the same time, it is worth noting that the Danish branch's communication, compared to the global offer and compared to other student organisations, is not very encouraging, which in the long term may lead to a decline in the interest of its members and new students.
1. Oikos Copenhagen. (n.d.). https://www.oikos-copenhagen.com/
authors: Chiara Spezzati, Andreea Toma