Letting a student initiative win your heart
Christian Kongsbak Refshauge’s commitment has never lacked. In his time as a MSc in Business Administration and Information Systems student, who graduated in September 2013, he was first part of the study board, then of Academic Council, and lastly of CBS’ board for two periods.
It was in relation to the work on the board – following a board meeting in January 2013 – that he, in collaboration with Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen, who is joining the board as a student-elected member, and Mads Svaneklink, recently retired from the board, sowed the seeds for a CBS student house in the old Frederiksberg police station that had just been put up for sale.
It was the beginning of four years of hectic fundraising and project management that has lead from idea to the realisable project of the Student & Innovation House, which will be put to tender in autumn – an enormous effort, which Christian has put in next to finishing his Master’s degree, starting occupational employment, and the relationship to his very understanding and patient partner.
“We took on more than we imagined.”
The large table in the project’s meeting room in the old Frederiksberg police station, which we are sitting in, shows signs of more than one previous meeting this Thursday afternoon. The walls behind us are a mind map rainbow of proposals for projects, sub-projects, processes, brainstorms, and sticky notes. In the next-door office, looking just as much like it has been swept by a whirlwind, three of the other members of the steering committee are working on today’s tasks.
- We probably took on a much larger task than we imagined when starting this project, Christian Refshauge remarks matter-of-factly but without regrets – and continues:
- I have carried out a lot of volunteer work as a student. But this project – the result will be permanent! It will contribute to the development of CBS’ students for years to come. So I feel a large responsibility to ensure its success – to make sure the dream comes true and that the result is sustainable enough to live on.
Christian was one of the originators of the concept and a key person for the steering committee from day one. He has taken part in developing the concept; convincing CBS to buy the building in December 2014; fundraising DKK 52.5 million; bringing the idea to life; fiddling with the details in the turnkey contract; and all the way through having secured the necessary organisational structure and sustainability to carry out the plans.
- My role has changed a lot during the project – today, I am on the lookout for the future secretariat that has to steer the project when it is up and running, and I am developing a sustainable business model. The house not only needs to be renovated but should also be able to function for years to come, emphasizes Christian.
Leave of absence with support from his employer
From 1 May Christian Refshauge will take a partial leave of absence; working half-time in his position in the consultancy Implement Consulting Group to work as a volunteer for the Student & Innovation House project.
- It means that my employer sponsors me and I am deeply grateful for that. They do it in part to support the good cause but probably mostly out of interest for the personal development and vocational training I get out of the project. It will definitely be quite a start-up and project management experience I will take with me from the Student & Innovation House, tells Christian.
But working half time does not nearly match the hours actually spent in the house – his contribution is closer to 40 hours or more per week.
- We apply for funds so that others and myself can take a full leave of absence for a limited period of time, so that we can fully act as project managers through 2017. Of course, it cannot be that way in all eternity so at the time I am focusing on one quarter at a time. At the same time, I am battling to also live a life next to the project – so I need to figure out a good balance, Christian remarks.
The work to secure the legacy has been long
Christian Refshauge is not the only alum to take a leave of absence for the project. Andreas Gjede, cand.merc.(psyk) from September 2016 and also a former student-elected member of CBS’ board, has also taken a leave – in his case from a PhD programme at CBS.
The third alum in the project, MSc in International Business and Politics from September 2016 Anne Marie Larsen, was offered her dream job working for the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. But she will continue working for the steering committee as long as possible.
The two other members of the steering committee, Anne Katrine Vedstesen and Maria Flora Middelboe Andersen, are currently studying at CBS, meaning that some continuity has been created. But it is far from enough to secure the family silver in the long run:
- We recruit into the project each semester so that there is continuously added new energy into the organisation and so that we can ensure continuity with the right, committed people. With the amount of interest for the project that I am met with, I am certain that we will succeed, says Christian and looks ahead:
- The Student & Innovation House has won my heart so I think it will be difficult to let go. But with the initiatives we are working on now – the organisation, secretariat, and future governance – there will for sure be need for experienced people in a board or advisory board in the future.