Unlocking the Power of Knowledge: Vienna University Students Strengthen WFP’s Innovation Mission

WFP Innovation Accelerator
4 min readJul 13, 2023

The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Vienna University of Economics & Business (WU) have partnered to enhance knowledge management within the WFP. Through their collaboration, WU’s Master’s Programme on Strategy, Innovation, and Management Control (SIMC) is playing a vital role in supporting the WFP, the largest humanitarian agency combating hunger.

By Sara Cuevas Gallardo and Sophie Paul

WU students and WFP’s Innovation and Knowledge Management team after the final project presentations. Photo: WFP/Johannes Schade

In an exciting collaboration between the World Food Programme (WFP) and the prestigious Vienna University of Economics & Business (WU), its top-ranked Master’s Programme on Strategy, Innovation, and Management Control (SIMC) has become a catalyst for strengthening knowledge management inside the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger.

This dynamic partnership offers students a unique opportunity to apply their classroom learnings to real-world challenges, deliver impactful recommendations to the organization and open opportunities for internships and career progression in the humanitarian world.

Since its inception in 2022, the collaboration has flourished into an immersive experience, enabling students to contribute to WFP’s Nobel Peace Prize mission of saving and changing lives. With their entrepreneurial mindset and a deep understanding of today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, two cohorts of students have already delivered over 70 targeted recommendations, revolutionizing WFP’s innovation and knowledge management strategy. Their recommendations cover crucial areas such as cultural change, governance, and innovative technology.

“I’m always amazed by how these students can deliver not only exceptional presentations but also engage in meaningful conversations with the organization’s experts within such a short timeframe,” said Bernhard Böhm, Lecturer of the Business Planning and Performance Management Course.

Bernhard Böhm and Professor Barbara Sporn, who initiated the endeavour between WU and WFP, jointly teach the Business Planning and Performance Management Course as part of an offering by the Institute for Higher Education Management, part of the Department of Strategy and Innovation at WU.

The partnership has progressed with WU for its renowned academic excellence and vibrant international community. With a rich heritage spanning over six centuries, the university stands tall as a symbol of knowledge, innovation, and global collaboration.

One of the student groups presents their innovation and knowledge management proposal to professors, classmates, and a panel of WFP’s Knowledge Management staff. Photo: WFP/Johannes Schade

The collaboration programme sets students on a mission to tackle real-life challenges identified by WFP, immersing themselves in specific focus areas, and crafting comprehensive action plans. The process culminates in group presentations to WFP staff, who actively participate by asking questions and providing valuable feedback. These presentations are then uploaded to WFP’s internal website, creating prospects for collaboration between the students and WFP’s global staff.

A success story from the 2022 case study involves Johannes Schade, a WU alumnus who initially contributed to WFP as an intern. Now returning to the organization as a Junior Consultant, Johannes is set to continue the implementation of his cohort’s recommendations. Witnessing the tangible impact their suggestions will have on WFP’s knowledge management, the students gain valuable insights into strengthening organizational effectiveness.

For the 2023 Case Study, three student groups tackled problem statements under the guidance of Brittany Persinger, Knowledge Management Officer at WFP’s Innovation and Knowledge Management Division. Each problem statement addresses crucial areas where knowledge management can drive innovation, relevance, effectiveness, and efficiency.

Brittany praised the students’ exceptional solutions, stating, “To say we were impressed by the solutions presented to us would be an understatement. These students represent the ‘next generation’ of knowledge management, and their recommendations will ensure that WFP’s knowledge management and innovation work remain strong, relevant, and impactful.”

WFP’s Innovation, Change and Knowledge Management Director, Dominik Heinrich, providing live feedback to one of the group’s project proposals. Photo: WFP/Johannes Schade

This partnership between WFP and WU is an exemplary model of leveraging academic collaborations to strengthen WFP’s response to real-life humanitarian and development challenges. Knowledge Management stands as a key pillar of WFP’s Zero Hunger Strategy, with academia and research institutions playing a vital role in advancing knowledge and evidence agendas within the organization.

Bernhard Böhm, reflecting on the collaboration, expressed,“I can only see benefits from doing a project together.”

By fostering partnerships with renowned academic institutions like WU, WFP unlocks cross-cutting methodologies to enhance organizational effectiveness, ensuring that every dollar saved can be redirected toward saving and changing lives.

To learn more about the Vienna University of Economics & Business (WU) and their Master’s Programme on Strategy, Innovation, and Management Control (SIMC), visit their website: WU.

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.