SDG Internship Program

Rethinking student internships for International Geneva

Starting in 2018, the Geneva Tsinghua Initiative (GTI) has offered a unique internship program with some of UNIGE’s partners in International Geneva, which include the dozens of UN agencies, hundreds of NGOs and many other International Organizations and Diplomatic Missions that represent over 10% of Geneva’s economy.  The GTI has developed bespoke internship agreements that enables partners to tailor internships to their needs, while ensuring that students can combine internships with their regular academic workload in an effective way.

A big plus for the host institutions is the possibility to have teams of up to 4 students working together on an SDG-related issue or project. Team internships and project-based innovation are actively encouraged by the programmes hosted at the SDG Solution Space, in particular the Master’s program called Innovation, Human Development and Sustainability (IHDS), launched in 2017.   

Although the GTI concentrated initially on securing internships for the students of IHDS, in recent years the SDG Internship Program has been gradually extended to other relevant Master programs in areas such as information technology and international law, and the possibility to include students from other strategic partner universities can also be negotiated through the University of Geneva’s exchange semester programs. 

In addition, positive experiences with online collaboration during the Covid crisis emboldened several International Organizations and NGOs to pursue fully online or hybrid internships as an option with select host institutions, on the basis that this can be a more sustainable and equitable approach, both financially and in terms of CO2 footprint, even if the work experience may be somewhat less enriching. 

The internship is compulsory for students of the IHDS Dual Degree program and optional for the Single Degree track. To earn 24 ECTS credits for IHDS, an internship must last at least 3 months full-time, or the equivalent if working part-time, and lead to an academically sound internship report that links the practical work with the theoretical and academic concepts studied in the program, and specifically identifies and analyzes the relevant SDG goals and indicators.

Students are supervised by both an academic supervisor from the UNIGE faculty and an institutional supervisor from the partner organization, thereby ensuring the deliverables expected by both partners are met. Internships can be carried out part-time during the academic semester or full-time during a dedicated semester as well as during inter-semester breaks. 

The SDG Internship Program allows considerable flexibility in setting up internship working hours, and host institutions are encouraged to offer well-adapted working conditions. The SDG Solution Space also provides working space for students, so a host institution can take on interns even if it does not have enough office space available.

Examples of host institutions include the UN Environmental Program (UNEP), which has taken in one or two teams per year; the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which has hosted up to 10 interns in some years, to work on the organisation of the WSIS and AI for Good summits; the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) with up to 5 student teams per year; the SDG Lab at UNOG; UNCTAD, UNITAR and many more.  

The SDG Internship Program has also developed a unique Student Entrepreneur internship with FONGIT, Geneva’s prime start-up incubator, thereby linking our students with the wider Geneva innovation ecosystem. Other institutions that have successfully hosted GTI students include the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Terre des Hommes an B-Lab Switzerland.

If you are interested in finding out more about the SDG Internship Program, either as a student or a host institution, please drop us a line