The SIMagination Challenge Course

The SIMagination Challenge course is an essential curricular pillar of the Master of Arts in Strategy and International Management (SIM-HSG), the international flagship programme of the University of St.Gallen, and intends to enable participants to develop key leadership qualities, competencies, and skills needed for tomorrow’s global leaders.

Students are in charge to plan, initiate, advance, and reflect upon a challenging initiative which aims at leaving a positive and sustainable social impact in our society. The implementation of the initiative itself usually consists of a 5-10 day stay in the community where the team executes the proposed activity, often in conjunction with an NGO, often over many years, and always in a community in need.

The year-long course is of explorative and experimental nature by approaching the relevant topic components in a practice mode. The diverse teams of 6-8 members are to expand and substantiate already founded initiatives from preceding SIM generations to foster long-term strategic thinking, effectiveness, and long-lasting impact considerations. Often, students work with experienced partner organizations and have become treasured contributors thanks to their exceptional effort and innovative thinking toward solving social issues. SIMagination Challenge initiatives need to have their geographical focus areas outside of the country of citizenship of the team members. Students are therefore encouraged to enter a new cultural context and find constructive ways to profit from cultural diversity.

So far over 650 students from over 70 different nationalities have contributed to initiatives in 35 countries over the years 2009-2023 – and counting.

The students

  • usually are in their early 20’s;
  • make up a class of around 60 per year of selected highly motivated students;
  • often choose to apply to the SIM programme because of the SIMagination Challenge course;
  • feel passionately about their personal (inner and outer) development and driven to make a contribution to the holistic development of global leadership skills, in a culturally sensitive way;
  • are eager to be part of a global transformative movement, and to participate in the co-creation of a growing integral knowledge and practice base by collaborating with others individually and institutionally.

The students are challenged to

  • work in a highly diverse environment that forms a strong contrast to the structured course environment;
  • deal with ambiguity of task structure and definition;
  • handle situations with a high potential for ethical dilemma;
  • move in situations where instant need for advanced soft skills, e.g. communication, decision-finding, timing under high time pressure are required;
  • increase awareness of and the desire to grow and learn about sustainability and the social dimension of business.

“The SIMagination Challenge made me reflect upon the concept and importance of finding purpose in your work, asking why rather than what. The SIM program gives us the gift of an excellent education. It is now on us to use the skills we have acquired to do good in the world. SIMagination taught us to always question our own assumptions and beliefs while doing so.”

Lena Rudat, SIM16, Germany
PureDrops Uganda


“The SIMagination Challenge was one of the key reasons why I chose to go to the University of St.Gallen…! Through the SIMagination Challenge, I experienced how businesses can be a key part of the puzzle to the world's greatest challenges. Subsequently, it has shaped the career choice I have made and, not to forget, given me great experiences with my classmates that I will never forget.”

Morten Rask Lybaek, SIM14, Denmark
PureDrops, Guatemala