SIFE was established in 1975 in the United States of America. The founder of SIFE was Robert T. Davis, a lawyer from Texas. He founded SIFE on behalf of the National Leadership Institute.
SIFE was originally a regional leadership training program attended by university students who were required to teach their communities what they had learned. Eventually, these university students were judged competitively on the outcomes of their efforts. The principle remains the same today but the scope has been broadened to encompass both teaching and learning through practical application of knowledge and skills gained at university, in the wider community by means of student-designed outreach projects.
SIFE New Zealand came into being in 2001 with two participating institutions: SIFE AUT & SIFE Victoria.