Alumni support social project “Concordia”

December 01, 2016

Romanian vocational school to receive funds

Next Tuesday, December 13, 2016, will see the annual highlight in the WU Executive Club's event calendar: On the occasion of the Christmas Charity Party, national and international alumni will come to Vienna in great numbers to reunite with former classmates and make new contacts in a relaxed atmosphere.

For many years, the event in the run-up to Christmas has been not only about networking but also about helping a good cause: This time, the WU Executive Club is supporting the Concordia vocational school, an ambitious social project in Romania that aims to prepare disadvantaged adolescents for the world of work by providing them with practical training.

Regine Eitelboes talking to a man, smiling
Philanthropy, celebrating together and networking all at the Alumni Christmas Charity Event

Every year, shortly before Christmas, MBA & Master of Laws alumni from all over the world get together at the exclusive Erste Bank Lounge in Vienna to celebrate with former classmates and make new business contacts. However, that is not all.

“Many people around the world are less well off than we are, which is why some years ago we decided to raffle off prizes during our alumni Christmas party and donate the proceeds to charity. This year, we are supporting a Romanian organization for two reasons: For one thing, all of us should take a keen interest in ensuring that adolescents from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to education and vocational training.

For another, the Executive MBA Bucharest has been around for more than 10 years. We wanted to give something back to the society where we have been so successful the past years and share the success with those who are less fortunate. That is why we have a special connection to Romania,” says Prof. Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy, who will once again moderate the charity raffle.

Concordia — practical vocational training for disadvantaged adolescents

Students learning how to wait tables, garden and cook
The Concordia non-profit organization supports adolescents from disadvantaged backgrounds with their development into independent, working adults.

Concordia is an internationally active, independent aid organization that aims to make it possible for adolescents to grow up happily and become self-determined adults. The organization provides them with safe homes and solid education and training, so as to open up future prospects for them.

In times of severe crisis, Concordia offers them family-like environments with attachment figures they can rely on. It is a large, professionally run organization that focuses on improving the lives of the poorest people in Romania by directly reaching out to them. The proceeds of the Christmas Charity Party will go to a vocational school in Ploiești (60 km north of Bucharest). Founded in 2010, the school provides adolescents from disadvantaged backgrounds with practical vocational training, helping them prepare to work as bakers, cooks and waiters.

Small gestures, big impact

“Thanks to the WU Executive Club's wonderful raffle, we will be able to respond even better to the educational needs of the adolescents we help,” says Alexandra Humer, project developer at Concordia Sozialprojekte Gemeinnützige Privatstiftung, expressing her gratitude for the support. “Apart from teaching our students the necessary hard skills, we place great emphasis on making it possible for them to develop vitally important soft skills such as their ability to communicate and express themselves.”

“Like in previous years, this charitable event can take place not only thanks to the help of our alumni, who come to Vienna in great numbers and buy many raffle tickets, but also, and especially, thanks to the generous support provided by our partners—thyssenkrupp Elevator (Alumnus Thomas Salensky), ERSTE Group, Facultas, VIVERSIS (Alumnus Michael Bicsik), Smiles Bags (alumna Oana Vaideanu) and many others—who have once again donated great raffle prizes this year. Let me take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to them,” adds Prof. Stöttinger.

Review: Last year's charity event was a great success

Last year, the proceeds of the WU Executive Club's Christmas Charity Party totaled EUR 2,800 and went to an Austrian education initiative: “Schule im Aufbruch” is a social project aiming to nurture the talents and creativity of students with a view to unlocking individual potential.

selling of raffle tickets
Last year’s charity funds went to supporting children in Austrian kindergartens and schools.

“A lot has happened since last year. By now, we are active all over Austria, and hundreds of schools are embracing the philosophy of ‘Schule im Aufbruch’,” enthuses Martin Ruckensteiner, co-founder and head of the project. “What is really great? Schools are changing. The transformation is happening—every single day.”

In the following interview with Martin Ruckensteiner, you can read more about the difference that the proceeds of last year's event have made.

Interview with Martin Ruckensteiner, co-founder and head of “Schule im Aufbruch” Austria

Portrait of Martin Ruckensteiner
Martin Ruckensteiner at the Christmas Charity Event in 2015

How is your project going? What has happened so far?

Martin Ruckensteiner: Our dream is to make school fun for students—because you need to be enthusiastic about what you do in order to learn something—and to ensure that we learn for life, not for school. As a grassroots movement, we want to take this idea into schools. In late 2015, we had a feeling that 2016 would be an eventful year for us, which it has indeed been: By now, we are active all over Austria. This year, there have been huge events lasting a day or more in Vienna, Lower Austria, Styria, Upper Austria, Tyrol and Vorarlberg—each attended by 150 to 200 head teachers and teachers. Many inspiring presentations, many networking events, many education symposia, many regional kick-off events. And the first ten films about innovative schools in Austria have been shot. Today, hundreds of schools across Austria are embracing the philosophy of “Schule im Aufbruch”. What is really great? Schools are changing. The transformation is happening—every single day.

What exactly have you been able to accomplish thanks to the support provided by the WU EA alumni?

Martin Ruckensteiner: Following the preparatory work carried out in summer, we launched our series of webinars in late September: Once a month, schools tell their stories of how they are bringing the philosophy of “Schule im Aufbruch” to life—and hundreds of people all over Austria participate in the event in real time. I am sure that in the future the “Schule im Aufbruch” webinar—powered by WU Executive Club—will be a crucially important element of our initiative.

a powerpoint presentation in the background, the outline of a man in the dark presenting
Part of the presentation about “Schule im Aufbruch” at the 2015 Christmas Charity Event

Are there other partners besides the WU Executive Club that support your project?

Martin Ruckensteiner: We are really grateful to have such a marvelous mix of partners and supporters. Without this network of contacts both within and outside of the education community “Schule im Aufbruch” would not have been able to develop the way it has. The spectrum ranges from designers and facilitators of major events, other education initiatives, universities and teacher training colleges all the way to supporters such as the Berndorf Private Foundation, Gebrüder Weiss, the Köck Private Foundation or the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber—and, of course, the WU Executive Club: A big thank you to all of you! :-)

What else do you think is needed to help the philosophy of “Schule im Aufbruch” gain widespread acceptance and revolutionize Austria's education system?

Martin Ruckensteiner: What matters first and foremost is how we see our children, i.e. to believe in their eagerness to learn and in their creativity, to create environments in which they are encouraged to take ownership of their learning, to empower them rather than just teach them. Building a new corporate culture takes an ambitious vision, a lot of courage and time. So does building a new culture of learning and schooling. This is not something that can be accomplished overnight. The greater the number of people in our schools who embrace this philosophy (and bring it to life), the more likely we are to achieve our goal. Success depends on each and every one of us.

Share this