October 16, 2020 – By Matt Fortier

Traditional models in higher education, centered on classroom learning, lectures, and  textbooks, have fallen short of preparing the next generation of leaders. Fortunately, innovators from within and outside the institution of higher education have developed compelling models, centered on applied and experience-based education, to prepare students to have a positive impact in society. Through “gap years,” experience-based semesters, and problem-based courses, students are developing self-awareness, learning how to work with communities, and gaining a nuanced understanding of how to tackle the complex challenges of our time. 

Experiential learning is not new – educators have long-recognized the value of providing students with opportunities to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world problems. These immersive experiences enable students to get their hands dirty while pushing them out of their comfort zone, where they learn both from “failure” and “success”. As COVID-19 has forced students out of the classroom, we can seize the moment to take a closer look at these experiential learning models and how they help form the types of leaders our world needs.

This is the conversation we hosted in the third installment of our Ideas That Transform (ITT) Series, as we examined the question What if Colleges Designed Impact-Oriented Bridge Years. We dug into the transformative potential of bridge years and other experiential learning programs, while seeking to understand both the challenges and opportunities of integrating this model within the institution of higher education.  


Watch the entire conversation now.

Going Beyond the Comfort Zone 

After completing high school, Jamie Cohen made the difficult decision to go against the grain, overcoming pressure from peers, parents, and society by deferring her acceptance to George Washington University and enrolling in Global Citizen Year’s bridge year program. She worked in Ecuador for a year, learning Spanish and Quechua from her host family, while apprenticing at a fair-trade jewelry company focused on elevating indigineous women in the community through access to jobs and healthcare. 

Living in a host community and not speaking English for weeks on end, she developed “grit, adaptability, and cross-cultural communication skills,” giving her a better understanding of self and of how to best take advantage of the education offered to her at GW. She had transformed into an agent of her own journey, equipped with self-awareness and purpose, ready to navigate her undergraduate experience with a level of intentionality unmatched by her peers. 

In 2016, Jamie was among the 1-2% of students to break from the high school to college pipeline, avoiding the fate of excellent sheep by undertaking a bridge year program. Due to the impacts of COVID-19, schools like Harvard are seeing a 20% deferral rate, and nationally, first-year enrollment is down 16.1%.we’re seeing a huge increase in that number. This is a tremendous opportunity – what students do after they defer will have a formative impact on their personal and professional journey. As educators, we need to go beyond the classroom to meet students where they are and to ensure that the time “off” is not time lost rather, a positive and pivotal moment in their education.  

In founding Global Citizen Year, Abby Falik has worked for more than a decade to intentionally design a year-long experiential learning program between high school and college to do just that. She helped rebrand the term “gap year” – a metaphor implying you’re falling into a hole you may never escape into a “bridge year” that offers a safe passage to your destination. By designing a year-long experience between high school and college that is more than simply backpacking across Europe, Global Citizen Year created a deliberate transition that draws on the theory of the aptly named William Bridges. He notes the difference between the type of change that happens to you, and the type of change that puts the student in the driver’s seat, empowering them as agents of their own journey. 

Abby’s goal is to encourage young people in their curiosity and to help them build the courage to follow their convictions. She wants them to figure out who they are when they’re out of their comfort zones, to discover what it means to be human in the world, and how they can use their higher education to further their interests and goals. Her mission has increasingly resonated with educators who recognize the value of these experiences, though our conversation also highlighted some of the key challenges. 

Challenges to Colleges & Universities

When Jamie started at GW after her bridge year experience, she encountered a disconnect. She did not receive credit towards her graduation requirements, making her feel that her experience was not valued by GW. She also found it difficult to connect with her fellow first-years who came straight from high school. During our conversation, she suggested that in the future, GW could formally partner with or directly offer bridge year programs, provide programs to integrate students as they matriculate, and offer credit for the experience so that students could better afford these opportunities, highlighting the important topic of equity and access.

While there is widespread agreement among educators regarding the transformative impact of bridge years and other forms of experiential learning, changing established models within the institution of higher education is very difficult. Randy Bass, Vice President for Georgetown University’s Strategic Education Initiatives, spoke to the root challenge of implementing these innovations in institutions of higher education. He noted how “Universities like Georgetown are very invested in a very particular model. You’re either here, or you’re not. You’re either in traditional classes, or you’re not. You’re either immersed in this community, or you’re not. You’re either around people who will become your mentors, or you’re somewhere else.” The “COVID disruption” however, has changed that.

Georgetown’s Randy Bass discusses the new situation universities find themselves in.

“We have jumped the binary.”

“That you can be here and be elsewhere is newly imaginable,” Bass continued. In the wake of the pandemic,  students login to their class from anywhere in the world, or take a break from class all-together, choosing either a formal bridge year program or an independently driven experience. In fact, he noted that innovating our approach to education is no longer a luxury for some to consider but rather, a matter of survival for many universities, as enrollment numbers wane and students around the world question the value proposition and price tag of a traditional university education.

Randy summarized the idea aptly, asking 

“How do we meet the moment – this moment that is characterized by a sense of trauma for large numbers of people in our world, deep, polarization – a growing gulf of people trying to talk to each other but who don’t see eye to eye. There is a looming question: what is the role of higher education in helping to develop the next generation to be part of the world that increasingly feels disintegrative rather than integrative? How can higher education help students figure out how to be human in the world?”

Bass talks about the goal of higher education to do more than just educate.

While Georgetown does not have its own bridge year program or partnership, it recently launched the Capitol Applied Learning Lab (CALL), which provides a semester-based off-campus opportunity in DC, enabling students to center their semester on an internship, rather than their classes, and then wrapping the coursework around that experience. He referenced other burgeoning programs, from summer global immersions, social justice immersions, and alternative break programs, which enable students to “step outside the bubble of the Hilltop and meet the world.” He also shared pragmatic opportunities for the integration of applied learning to more traditional sources, such as “field work, community-based work, and client-based work, all of which can be incorporated into the formal curriculum.” 

“If you’re a parent, don’t let your kids schooling interfere with their education,” advised Abby, quoting Mark Twain as she noted that high school is increasingly a high stakes game to get into college, with diminishing room for risk-taking, failure, and authentic experimentation. 

Abby Falik from Global Citizen Year speaks directly to students and parents.

She spoke to the institutional partnerships that Global Citizen Year has successfully made, where universities like Tufts directly offer admitted students the opportunity to defer and undertake a bridge year program, with varying forms of tuition and credit integration to make the opportunity accessible to students of all financial means. These partnerships also enable students like Jamie to “find their people,” through programming that integrates students as they arrive on campus.

Seizing the Opportunity Ahead

To be clear, these innovations were underway and necessary well before the impacts of COVID-19. But amidst an incredibly difficult year that continues to test us, there are a few silver linings. In the “before times,” mainstream institutions of higher education shied away from innovations for the very reasons Randy underscored – they were heavily invested in a particular model and it was working, at least well enough. The model is no longer working, and COVID-19 has made that abundantly clear. 

Moreover, the pandemic has made clear that the landscape of education is shifting and that forward thinking organizations like Global Citizen Year, pioneered by inspired thought leaders like Abby, will deservedly gain an increasing foothold in the higher education space to form students like Jamie, equipping them with the mindsets and skills necessary to tackle the big hairy problems of our time. At the Beeck Center, we’ll continue to work both inside and outside the institution of higher education to catalyze these critical innovations and improvements while developing new models that anticipate and address the needs of the future. 

Interested in how you can drive impact in your communities, check out our Project Builder.

Interested in how you can work directly on Beeck Center projects while developing your skills as a future leader for social impact leadership? Check out our Student Analyst Program.

Stay connected with the Beeck Center for future opportunities through our Social Impact Opportunities Newsletter.

Interested in more events like this? Stay up-to-date on the latest from our Ideas That Transform Series.

 

September 11, 2020 – By Joanna Moley

When I graduated from Georgetown University in 2018, I thought I should strive for a linear career path, one that would end in the all-important dream job. Now, I can admit I don’t even know what my dream job might be. Internship experiences and two years in the workforce have taught me to approach every professional opportunity with intentionality and embrace the skill-building process instead of narrowly focusing on a specific aspirational role.Thus far, I have started each of my jobs with a hypothesis about what I want to learn and where the opportunity might take me in the long term. Just like in school, I have found that it’s ok when your hypothesis is wrong, you simply figure out why and pivot.

During the summer of 2017, I had the privilege of being selected as a Beeck Center GU Impacts fellow working for Yanbal International, a global for-profit company with a social impact mission. I was based in Lima, Peru and despite being nervous about working in Spanish for the first time, I took the position in order to test the hypothesis that my Latin American Studies degree in the School of Foreign Service meant I wanted to work in Latin America. During my 10-week fellowship, I collected valuable information about what I wanted and didn’t want in my post-graduate career. While I loved the social impact focus of my work, I felt unsatisfied within the corporate structure of the enormous company. It was sometimes difficult to adjust to living abroad, but I also found traveling throughout Peru and making new local friends exhilarating. I noticed that the experience of living abroad was enriched by the support and mentorship provided by the Beeck Center back home, which clued me in to the potential structure of international work I might be interested in after graduation. I took note of every aspect of this professional experience and emerged at the end of the summer with more fully formed goals for my upcoming job search.

woman and man talking to group outdoors under a tent
Joanna Moley judges an English-language spelling bee for students served by the organization where she worked during her time in Medellin, Colombia.

During my fellowship, I solidified my desire to work in Latin America and gained the skills and connections to do so. For my first post-graduate job, I tested a new hypothesis that my ideal job would include working abroad at a small, local NGO, and accepted a position on the communications team of an international education organization based in Medellin, Colombia. I quickly realized that communications is not my calling, and positioned myself to earn a promotion to the role of International Volunteer Coordinator. In this role, I hired and managed a group of international volunteers, all older and more experienced than I was in international service. While I was initially intimidated by this dynamic, I reached out to my personal and professional network for support and resources that helped me successfully tackle challenges such as navigating the Colombian visa process and leading volunteer onboarding and trainings.

After working abroad for a year, I felt surer than ever that my career path was centered around Latin America and social impact work. However, the frustrations of a tiny organization led me towards my next hypothesis, that I would be most satisfied working at a large international NGO with a focus on Latin America based in the US. Specifically, I was looking for a position where I could gain grant management and other transferable administrative skills that my previous position in Colombia had not necessitated. This brought me back to DC, where I currently work on the Latin America team at a mid-sized international NGO. When I began this job, I felt intimidated by all the unfamiliar procedures I had to learn just to catch up, but, through hard work, I learned the administrative skills I needed to become a valuable team player. Additionally, my previous experience at a small, local NGO in Colombia gave me unique insight into the operating capacities of our team’s partners in Latin America, which is invaluable to my programmatic work. Coming from such a small organization, I initially felt anonymous on a larger team. However, I soon learned how to advocate for myself in order to earn more responsibility, and how to lean on my team members for support and mentorship.

As ridiculous as it feels to write “looking back on my career so far…” when that career has only spanned two years, I have learned some valuable lessons that would certainly surprise my college self. I now believe that building a career is not a linear exercise, but is an ever-evolving process, and the jobs you end up in at the beginning of the journey are not as important as the skills you build and the connections you add to your network along the way. I am extremely grateful to the people who have mentored and supported me throughout my professional experiences thus far, and I have no regrets about the paths I have taken. In every position, I built the skills and contacts to help me to move on to the next one, each time getting closer to the fulfilling career that I am striving toward. The key has been seeking out professional experiences and mentors who give me room for growth and push me out of my comfort zone. Each new professional opportunity should be a tiny bit terrifying, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, because that’s when you’ll find the exciting opportunity to grow.


Thinking about how to navigate your career journey with intentionality? Check out the Beeck Center’s Social Impact Navigator to gain a better sense of self and the mindsets and skills you want to develop in becoming a social impact leader.


Joanna Moley is a 2018 graduate of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service and 2017 GU Impacts fellow. Connect with her at joannamoley[at]gmail[dot]com

The Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation is hosting a student-led team to participate in The Opportunity Project’s (TOP) Fall 2020 University Sprint. Our student-led team will be participating in a 12-week sprint facilitated by The Opportunity Project to leverage federal open data to create a public-facing digital prototype that illustrates the amount of plastic on local beaches and in the ocean and actions that can be taken to alleviate the problem. This sprint is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and The Wilson Center.

The deadline to apply is Friday, September 4 at 9pm ET.

Watch the information session with Anna from TOP and the Beeck Center! WATCH NOW!

Learn More  –  Apply Now

 

August 14, 2020 – By Rachel Wilder

I arrived at the Beeck Center two weeks after graduating with my bachelor’s degrees in Economics and International Studies from the University of Central Florida. I came to D.C. from Orlando with two suitcases, a cloud of after-college uncertainty, and many questions. I wanted to make a career that let me follow my interests and work for something good – but what should that look like? What paths were possible for someone like me? And with so many potential paths, how could I choose? I suspect these questions are more common than not for students, especially those who are interested in or currently working at the Beeck Center. If that’s you, I hope that parts of my experience resonate and serve as encouragement to make the most of the opportunity.

With all my questions, the Beeck Center was the perfect place for me to land. I stepped into the Student Analyst role alongside a team of undergraduate and graduate students with academic backgrounds ranging from mathematics to sociology to public policy. I split my time each day between projects with two different fellows and the communications team, engaging in a fascinating cross section of social impact work.

At its heart, the Beeck Center is a community. My summer there was defined by the connections I made through coffees, seminars, brown bags, and countless casual but important conversations with students, staff, and fellows over laptops in the center’s open workspace. The people I met brought big ideas and practical advice from their diverse life experiences, helping me digest and reflect on the questions I had.

This community in turns challenged, taught, and reassured me. We passed an advance copy of Anand Giridharadas’s “Winners Take All” around the office and had an ongoing, spirited debate about the role of elites in social change. In one of our weekly Student Analyst workshops, I was excited to map the path from inputs to impacts in a social program for the first time. I worked with and learned from Lisa Hall, whose decades-long dedication to economic justice was modeled in her daily efforts to ensure the value of inclusive community impact investing. Through the Beeck Center I attended gatherings of the Women Innovators & Leaders Network and Women of Color in Community Development, where I connected with still more people who inspired me. Betsy Zeidman discussed her nonlinear career path with the Student Analysts over a brown bag lunch, assuring us that a life of meaningful work is often not conventional or planned from the beginning; I exhaled in relief.

I met too many important mentors and friends that summer to list, so I won’t try. I will say that just as we mapped the impact of our projects at the Beeck Center, I see the impact of the Beeck Center on me. The many conversations I had helped me narrow down my goal for my next step to pursuing work in my mom’s home country, India. Once I made that decision, the Beeck Center team rallied to give me support and help with connections, including a referral to the Indian nonprofit where I secured my first full-time job.

three women looking at a clipboard
The author (center) doing some event planning with colleagues in India, January 2020.

In the fall of 2018, I moved on to what would be an amazing 16 months living and working in Hyderabad at Naandi Foundation. During that time I analyzed data and created presentations for policymakers, designed a qualitative program evaluation, spent a month running around in fields as a facilitator for a girl’s sports project, and ate a lot of dosas and biryani. It was often joyful, sometimes a little messy, and always educational. My time at the Beeck Center gave me tools to get more from the opportunity. I felt more comfortable reaching out to and engaging with a range of people in the social sector, from social entrepreneurs to policy officials, because of my exposure to those working in similar roles through the Beeck Center. I also brought with me a useful schema for discerning and evaluating impact in the work I was a part of, remembering that first input-to-impact chart.

Now, back in D.C., I’ve just started my role as a Project Associate in the Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Division at Dexis Consulting Group. I’m excited to be supporting a team that’s working to increase the effectiveness and impact of international development, and I’m looking forward to the community I will build and lessons I will learn here. I still have just as many big questions – but from my Beeck Center summer, I know the process of answering them is truly the best part.

Rachel Wilder was a Beeck Center student analyst in the summer of 2018.

August 10, 2020 – By Grace Rector

As a freshman, I thought I knew everything – what job I wanted, what I was interested in, my future path. So when I wasn’t selected for GU Impacts during my freshman year, I was disappointed, but little did I know how this rejection would change my life. As I start my senior year, so much has changed. My interests, expectations, and personal goals are new in part because I didn’t give up on the Beeck Center, and in return, I received the opportunity to discern, reflect, and ask questions.

My sophomore year, I returned to campus determined to be a part of the GU Impacts cohort. I visited the Beeck Center to speak with Matt Fortier, the Director of Student Engagement. I explained how much I wanted to take part in the program, and I asked for feedback on how I could improve my application. He complimented me on my ability to pursue feedback. To my surprise, Matt asked if I had an interest in working for the Beeck Center as a student analyst. This was not part of my linear plan that I envisioned, but I decided to take a risk and say yes.

woman in red dress giving presentation in front of a yellow wall
The author giving a presentation to Women for Women International in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

My first day of work at the Beeck Center was terrifying. I had no idea what to expect. But I took a breath and focused on listening until I better understood how I’d fit in. I met incredible and brilliant individuals that made up the Beeck Center family, and I found my place. Matt came to me for feedback on projects, and even asked me to improve existing programs. He did so because he trusted me. He even encouraged me to create new projects where I saw fit and he gave me the freedom to innovate. I’d never been in a space with so much emphasis on creativity, innovation, and collaboration like the Beeck Center promoted.

After my first semester working for the Beeck Center, I understood the flow of the office, and the team had doubled! I was so excited to help onboard new student analysts and to share this incredible space with them. I hoped that they would learn as much about themselves and their professional interests as I had. At the Center, I learned the importance of having a cohesive team when aiming for innovative work. The closer I felt to my coworkers, the more responsibility I felt to produce excellent work. Upon the arrival of the new student analyst cohort, I made it my goal to make them feel included and part of the family.

With time on the team, I became comfortable giving feedback. I was audacious enough to propose new projects and ideas! With support from Nate Wong and Matt, we created and formed the Discern + Digest program (D+D) as a space for students to engage with their work, ask questions about the social impact space, and explore how their experiences inform their perspectives. Bringing students together deepened our community, and gave me the confidence to reapply to the GU Impacts Program, where I’d soon find another community. My fellowship sent me to Women for Women International (WfWi) in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Summer 2019. I brought values the Beeck Center taught me to this position: the importance of constructive communication, collaboration, humility, and a playful attitude. As a storytelling intern for WfWi in Sarajevo, I embodied these values and worked hard to make a sustainable impact on my partner organization. With every job comes difficulties, and after a few weeks I acknowledged that I wanted more from my role. I wanted to lead a storytelling project for the organization, so I navigated a constructive conversation with my boss. She supported me because I presented my proposal well and, ultimately, I published several interviews with women that the organization served.

student (right) performing video interview with subject
The author (R) interviewing a Bosnian woman during her fellowship in Sarajevo.

The Beeck Center not only provided me with tools to navigate social impact work, but it also affected my professional goals. During my internship, I took a Bosnian language course to support my cultural immersion. This course allowed me to build deep relationships with locals, who taught me more about their country’s history. Exposure to Bosnia’s history pushed me to take a related course in the spring of 2020 and ultimately enabled me to do research for a professor on the role of the arts and culture in post-war reconciliation between Bosnian citizens.

GU Impacts also deepened my passion for education. During the fellowship, I created my own skill-building workshops used during the Democracy Academy for Young Women in Bosnia. Upon my return to Georgetown, I continued this new passion by declaring a minor in Education, Inquiry, and Justice. It also influenced my decision to take part in a comparative education study abroad program in Chile and Argentina in Fall 2019.

Over the last two years, I’ve discerned what I care about and what spaces I should explore to further uncover my interests. This past February, before the outbreak of the coronavirus, my single mother passed away. It was and is a devastating loss. Soon after, I received a package from the Beeck Center containing handwritten cards from every team member. That’s when I knew it was time to go back to work for the Center.

This summer and fall, I am managing Discern + Digest so that it can continue to impact other students the way it has me. The Beeck Center is not just an organization that thinks about ultimate outcomes of its projects, innovates audacious ideas, and then acts on them. It’s a team of extraordinary people who care deeply about their work and the people that they work alongside. Working at the Beeck Center is like being part of a family because the staff challenged me to grow but also supported me 100% of the time, and for that, I can’t thank them enough.

August 6, 2020 – By Ananya Amirthalingam

The following is a diary from a GU Impact fellow, on her experience with a distributed work environment this summer.

March 27, 2020: “All summer academic offerings will use remote delivery platforms and summer study abroad programs have been suspended”

screenshot of email from GU Provost
Screenshot of email from Georgetown University

The message from the Georgetown University Provost was disappointing but understandable. We were (and still are) in the middle of a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while, and the University’s decision was a practical one. Weeks earlier, when I officially committed to be a part of the 2020 GU Impacts cohort, I knew there was a slim chance that I’d be actually traveling abroad.

What I didn’t know: if I wasn’t traveling abroad, would I still have a fellowship?

I had been planning on working with the Mann Deshi Foundation, in rural Maharashtra, India, helping the Foundation serve local women entrepreneurs and the community with programming ranging from business school courses to sports education to farmer cooperatives. In my conversations with Prabhat Sinha, one of the Foundation’s heads, Mann Deshi’s region had limited resources and little internet access.

I readied myself for more bad news.

April 9: “We are happy to share that Mann Deshi has committed to working with you over the summer, remotely!”

I was overjoyed! I had a fellowship! This is happening! I am going to be working remotely!

Remotely.

Screenshot of email from GU Impacts
Screenshot of email from GU Impacts

At this point, I had only been in virtual classes for three weeks. Getting to roll out of my bed and into a Zoom call was beginning to lose its charm. A twinge of doubt set in. What would I be able to do remotely? Would I be able to connect with people? I already had to deal with a language barrier, and now I had to tackle time zone differences and spotty internet, not to mention the overall awkwardness of virtual interaction over Zoom and WhatsApp. Would I even be making a difference?

June 2 (at 3:50 AM ET to be exact): “Here are some projects: a report on COVID-19 relief work, a report on our Youth Development Center, a report on our Champions sports program (we are especially trying to get funding for traveling and coaching), a case study on the Mann Deshi Community Radio …” the WhatsApp message proved there was plenty of work to be done.

Screenshot of What'sApp chat
Screenshot of What’sApp chat

As someone with an interest in education, I started on the Youth Development Center (YDC) report. Researching and reading through past reports left me with endless questions, and each question brought a new idea. What resources are available to teachers? Let’s make a resource. My cohort-mates (Danny and Kia) and I can compile suggestions into a Teacher Toolkit for Interactive Lessons. How do Zoom classes or recorded WhatsApp videos differ from regular in-person lectures? Let’s interview the YDC students and teachers, I can include their first hand experiences in my report.

June 12: “Over the lockdown, she’s been getting more info on exams. For fun she plays an interesting game – I’ve never heard of it before. There are certain roles …”

10 days later, Omkar, a Mann Deshi staff member, was translating one of the YDC’s student’s answers to a question I had asked. Things move at rapid-fire speed at Mann Deshi, and a nine and a half hour time difference was no deterrent.

As I listened to him explaining this ‘interesting game’ I began to laugh. It was Mafia – a game I had just learned about. Sure the roles were different (they had kings, queens and soldiers while the game I played had sheriffs, detectives, and gang members) but the general premise was the same: the uninformed majority trying to outsmart the informed minority. Everyone’s faces lit up as I marveled at the similarities aloud.

It was a small thing to be sure. A glimmer of silliness, during our otherwise serious interview about the impact of COVID-19. I remember wishing I could be there in person, but I wasn’t feeling wistful or disheartened of what could have been. Rather, I couldn’t stop beaming thinking about how in spite of the time zones, language barrier, and internet reliability, I was doing it – I was connecting.

July 7: “ I have been a teacher since 1994, and no one has ever done an event like this for teachers. This was amazing!”

Or maybe it was July 8. I had stayed up until 4 AM for two consecutive days; my concept of time was definitely distorted. But this comment, made by a local government school teacher attending our conference – made it all worthwhile.


Read More: GU Impact Interns Organize First of Many Teacher Conferences in Rural India


Two weeks earlier, the Teacher’s Conference had been a spur of the moment suggestion by my teammate Kia, who believed as we all did, that a lockdown didn’t have to stop learning, and that this time could be used to bring innovative methods, resources and support for Mann Deshi and local government school teachers alike. From that idea, in just over a week, we researched, contacted, connected with, and secured Indian experts in child psychology, pedagogy, and technology. While my teammates designed pre-assessment surveys, posters, and schedules, I grappled with Zoom. I familiarized myself with breakout rooms, mute features, and live streaming capabilities as I prepared to be the host of the two-day conference.

But as prepared as I believed myself to be, running the logistics of such an unprecedented event was by no means an easy feat. Suffice to say, I ran into multiple technical problems. Many participants were unfamiliar with Zoom – unsure of how to change their names or rejoin when they got kicked out because of their internet connection.

As I was panicking and trouble-shooting, I remember receiving text messages from Mrunal (another Mann Deshi staff member who had worked with me extensively to help make the conference run smoothly): “You are doing great! The teachers are loving this!” She told me how teachers were sharing things they had never shared before, and how this experience was all at once new and exciting.

I thought it was a cute sentiment meant to make me feel better for what I thought was a profound failure on my part. But when the conference ended and Prabhat shared some of the teachers’ comments I found myself filled with pride.

We had done this: Prabhat, Omkar, Mrunal, Danny, Kia and me. I was making the impact I had dreamed of.

Screenshot of Zoom participants at Mann Deshi Teacher's Conference
The author (upper left) with Youth Development Center students and teachers during a recent interview.

July 18: It’s been nearly two weeks since the conference. Work hasn’t slowed by a bit! I continue churning out reports, and am going to be reinterviewing some of YDC students soon. Working remotely has far exceeded my expectations. I’ll be the first to admit, it hasn’t been easy – what with all the late nights and Zoom fatigue. But it certainly has been worthwhile and definitely impactful (pun intended!)

August 6, 2020 – By Kia Muleta

“I have been a teacher since 1994, and no one has ever done an event like this for teachers. This was amazing!” said one attendee of the Mann Deshi Foundation’s Teacher’s Conference, the first of its kind in Maharashtra state.

screenshot of Zoom participants at Mann Deshi Teacher's Conference

This spring, I proposed the idea of a teacher’s conference to my peer GU Impact fellows as a means of sharing knowledge among teachers, developing a support system for them, and providing lessons on topics like communicating with students, and developmental psychology, areas that most Maharashtra teachers haven’t been trained in. We’d design a conference for government school and Mann Deshi Youth Development Center teachers who are rarely given opportunities for training, especially in identity development, gender equity, the impact of poverty on academic performance, and several more avenues.


Read More: Remote but not Removed: Making an Impact through a Virtual Fellowship


Everyone enthusiastically agreed, and in less than 10 hours of opening registration, 100 people had signed up. Teachers were more than eager to share and improve their teaching strategies.

Due to COVID-19, the event was held virtually, and was a smashing success with 80 teachers, 4 education experts from various fields, a member of Parliament, the State Minister of Human Development (Education), and the District Commissioner in attendance. We were honored to have Brookings Institute Fellow and Study Hall Founder Dr. Urvashi Sahni as our keynote speaker to talk about the application and vitality of Critical Feminist Pedagogy in Indian classrooms.

screenshot of Zoom participants at Mann Deshi Teacher's Conference
Brookings Institute Fellow and Study Hall Founder Dr. Urvashi Sahni addresses the Mann Deshi Teacher’s Conference.

Goals of the Workshop

To help Government and Mann Deshi Youth Development Center, teachers:

  • Implement and create their own innovative and interactive teaching strategies and curriculum
  • Become familiar with digital learning models and technology
  • Close the authority gap between teachers and students
  • Develop closer relationships between teachers and students
  • Become more efficient and effective in educating students to become confident, creative, knowledgeable problem solvers, leaders, and lifelong learners.
  • Create a support group for teachers and offer tangible resources

Teachers and students in rural Maharashtra face a number of challenges to getting an education. Many students struggle to finish school: some families rely on marrying their daughters to men if they need financial support, electricity/internet is unreliable, many students are wage laborers or farmers. Due to major issues in food insecurity, public health, and infrastructure, training for teachers is limited or nonexistent as the government focuses on other regional challenges. As such, training occurs once every 1-2 years and is often organized by the state, which means there are 1,000+ teachers in the state training program. In order to ensure a close knit teacher community and interactive workshops, our conference Zoom breakout rooms had a teacher-to-expert ratio of only 13:1.

Dr. Yajyoti Singh, an expert on developmental educational psychology, led lessons on efficient and emotionally conscious communication between teachers and students. She created a safe space for a research- based workshop that allowed teachers to be vulnerable with their challenges as teachers as well as successes.

screenshot of Zoom participants at Mann Deshi Teacher's Conference
Dr. Yajyoti Singh, an expert on developmental educational psychology speaks to the Mann Deshi Teacher’s Conference

During her workshop, Mrunal, a Mann Deshi staff member, excitedly clapped, smiled and messaged me:

“They shared experiences where they made some mistakes in their classes without considering the student’s perspective and how they felt bad about it later. Many teachers do not usually share such experiences. Now they are sharing some of the best moments in their lives as a teacher…This teacher is sharing how he wasn’t happy with his students as they didn’t study for one of the competitive exams. Later, when the results came out, 5/7 students passed the exams with good grades.”

“Education is not about filling the buckets. It’s about lighting the fire.”

In another session with Sushant Kamble, another educational psychology expert, Mrunal explained, “[Kamble] is explaining how adrenaline generates in our body when we are scared and how it could also happen in a classroom if the teacher communicates in a loud voice or if you yell at students it could affect them for a lifetime.” I watched as teachers took notes, nodded, and raised their hands for further questions. In a region where authority is an important part of culture, Kamble explained how authority can both negatively and positively affect the success of students.

As an aspiring lawyer in international politics and development, engaging teachers, education researchers, government, and an NGO in supporting local schools taught me that education is far more complex than standing at the front of a classroom. Education has a historical legacy, a cultural footprint, is a means of inquiry and validation of one’s identity, and cannot be directed by one person or group but rather requires the consistent and unified cooperation of multiple fronts. And most of all, teachers are incredible and genuinely care about the prosperity of their students.

As Kamble said, “Education is not about filling the buckets. It’s about lighting the fire.”

Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation

Student Analyst Sustainable Student Impact

Job Description, Fall 2020 

About the Beeck Center

The Beeck Center brings together experts and students to surface, accelerate, and scale promising social impact efforts that drive institutional-level change – that to us is impact at scale! These promising efforts are what we call “grasstop” level change in between “grassroot” efforts (such as a disruptive idea or advocacy efforts) and institutional efforts (such as government policy or corporate governance). 

To that end, we’re an experiential action hub at Georgetown University that helps accelerate positive and lasting social change through our projects within two main portfolio areas of fair finance and data + digital tools for the public interest technology community. All of our projects work with thought leaders (fellows) and students (our analysts) that provide an experiential hub to teach our scaling methodology. 

About this position

Student Analysts at the Beeck Center are motivated self-starters looking to drive social change at scale. They are passionate, responsible, detail-oriented, and intellectually curious. As an Analyst, you will be expected to contribute to team efforts, requiring flexibility and a strong work ethic. 

The Student Analyst – Sustainable Student Impact position works closely with the Director of Student Engagement, Matt Fortier and the GU Impacts Program Manager, Franchesca Rybar, to support the Beeck Center’s mandate as a training ground for students through the Sustainable Student Impact (SSI) portfolio. In this role, you will support our team in improving and expanding upon experiential learning, such as with the GU Impacts Fellowship program and the Student Analyst program. You’ll also have the opportunity to support broader impact initiatives at Georgetown and beyond, through open-source programming such as the SSI Project Builder, which provides students with guidance and resources for independent social impact work. Students who are interested in social impact education and professional and personal development will find this to be an invigorating, challenging, and fulfilling experience!

We care deeply about our Student Analysts’ academic, professional, and personal development. The Student Analyst experience centers on experiential learning, where you learn through applying theory to your project-based work at our Center. We complement the experiential learning component with further professional development opportunities, such as conferences and workshops. Finally, you will participate in introspective exercises that are designed to help you reflect on your journey into social impact work and design your personal pathway as you embark on your career.

Responsibilities

We are recruiting 1-2 part-time Student Analysts to support our Sustainable Student Impact portfolio. This is a unique opportunity to help execute the Student Analyst Program itself, providing administrative and programmatic support to the full cohort of Student Analysts to enhance their learning experience. Moreover, the Student Analyst(s) will help develop and implement the Fall 2020 student engagement plan, helping the Beeck Center develop an engaging and inclusive suite of fall programming to connect students with our work. Finally, the student analyst(s) will support our new Project Builder, taking it from a pilot phase to a sustainable web platform and collaborating across campus to gain interest and support. Additional support may be needed with our GU Impacts Fellowship program, with details forthcoming as there are current developments within these programs that will impact the exact nature of the work this fall.

 Below is an example of core responsibilities for this position:

  • Provide administrative and programmatic support for the Student Analyst program, assisting the Director of Student Engagement to curate an experience for students that enhances their learning in the social impact space by supporting, co-creating, and proposing programming centered on experiential learning, skill-building, and reflection.
  • Lead planning and facilitation for the Discern + Digest lunch series, cultivating a psychologically safe space where students can engage in reflective and provocative discussions that deepen understanding of self and one’s journey in the social impact space.
  • Conduct program assessment; design surveys, collect data, analyze findings to draw insights and inform program refinements
  • Propose, plan, and lead team-building activities, skill-building workshops, and community partner field trips.
  • Identify resource needs and develop relevant resources to support team-based and self-directed learning and development.
  • Assist in preparing and executing our Fall 2020 back-to-school program and events
  • Identify and cultivate strategic partnership within Georgetown, including student organizations, programs, centers, and faculty

In addition to supporting student engagement programming, primarily around the Student Analyst Program, the Sustainable Student Impact Analyst may also provide additional support to either or both the GU Impacts Fellowship Program and the Project Builder. Below are some brief examples of the type of support that might be needed for these two programs:

 

  • GU Impacts Fellowship Program

 

    • Assist in documenting best-practices on “how to” run an experiential learning program and specifically how GU Impacts operates.
    • Identify resource needs and develop resources to prepare for a 2021 cohort.
    • Analyze existing data to culminate more efficient best practices
    • Ideate scaling of a high-touch program (more details to come)

 

  • Project Builder

 

    • Analyze hard and soft data from pilot summer to implement improvements
    • Gather feedback and impressions from collaborators across campus, integrate feedback into second version
    • Develop marketing and communications around advertising the tool to various student audiences
    • Assist in visualizing a transition from google doc to an interactive web platform

In addition to the specific responsibilities related to the SSI portfolio and outlined above, Student Analysts will integrate their work with the broader Beeck Center team, including the Data+Digital and Fair Finance portfolios. Moreover, this position will assist with core functions such as communications and operational tasks, related to student engagement. 

Eligibility

You must be a current or incoming undergraduate or graduate student at Georgetown University to apply. This position is the right fit for you if you are looking for a challenge and want to grow professionally. 

We are looking for candidates with a strong combination of skills and abilities, with an emphasis on strong writers and students with research and analytical skills and professional workplace experience. Applicants with an interest and experience (related coursework and/or employment) in data, business, and/or finance are encouraged to apply. This position is paid (details below) and students on work-study are encouraged to apply.

The Beeck Center strongly encourages those who hold the following intersecting identities to apply: Black, Native or Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQIA+, non-binary, poor or working class, persons living with disabilities, neurodivergent, young, undocumented, speak English as a second language, and others with lived experience in overlooked and/or underestimated communities.

Qualifications

Ideal candidates are comfortable with a start-up work environment and strive to tackle social challenges greater than themselves. An understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing the social sector is preferred, but not required. Knowledge of ongoing efforts in higher education to prepare students for social impact is a plus. In addition, the following skills and abilities are desired:

Must Have

  • Strong organizational skills; attention to detail 
  • Project and time management skills
  • High level of professionalism
  • Strong writing, analytical, speaking, and interpersonal skills
  • An interest in social impact leadership and education

Nice to Have

  • Experience as a participant in an experiential learning program
  • Previous engagement in Beeck programming, including workshops, events, and programs; GU Impacts alumni strongly encouraged to apply
  • Facilitation experience; ability to facilitate dialogue around challenging issues
  • Event planning experience
  • Strong technology and digital skills
  • Visual design abilities and experience with Adobe Creative Suite
  • Familiarity with social media management & scheduling tools
  • Survey design and analysis; data collection and data analysis 
  • Knowledge and understanding of Georgetown campus, including student organizations, faculty, centers, and programs

***Positions involve access to confidential material. Discretion, maturity, and confidential management of all incidental information acquired on the job is essential.

Hours and Compensation

During the fall semester, student analysts can work up to 20 hours/week, though typically hours fall in the 10-15 hours/week range. Applicants must be able to commit a minimum of 10 hours per week. Wages for hourly student employees are based on Georgetown University’s Student Employment Office guidelines, starting at minimum wage for undergraduates ($15/hr) and $15-20/hour for graduates.

To Apply

Please submit your application through this Google Form. Please be sure to upload your (1) resume and (2) a writing sample (both required), as per the instructions of section II of this online application form. 

Applications will be considered on a rolling basis, with final applications due Sunday, August 9 at 9pm. Applicants are strongly encouraged to apply early. We are planning for a start date of September 14, though please note that this may be subject to change and your preferences, as identified in the survey, will be taken into account.

Location – Remote Work

Please also note that the Fall 2020 Student Analyst Program will take place in a remote and distributed work environment. The Beeck Center’s team, including students, will NOT have an on-campus presence in the fall semester. Applicants should be prepared to work in a remote environment and through this experience, you will learn how to effectively work on a distributed team.

APPLY NOW

Needs Assistance

If you are a qualified individual with a disability and need a reasonable accommodation for any part of the application and hiring process, please click here for more information, or contact the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Affirmative Action (IDEAA) at 202-687-4798 or ideaa@georgetown.edu.

Need some assistance with the application process? Please call 202-687-2500. For more information about the suite of benefits, professional development and community involvement opportunities that make up Georgetown’s commitment to its employees, please visit the Georgetown Works website.

EEO Statement

The Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer fully dedicated to achieving a diverse faculty and staff. All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply and will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation), disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

May 28, 2020 | By Franchesca Rybar

Universities everywhere are wrapping up what turned out to be an unusual spring semester. Virtual classes, virtual graduations, virtual meetings– and yet, there was no other choice, and things worked out for the most part. As teachers breathe a sigh of relief before diving into fall planning, students are starting internships– or are they? 

A survey conducted by Yello revealed 35% of students nationwide had their summer internships cancelled. For many students, summer is a time to take their classroom learnings and put them to the test in the “real world” while also discovering what they still don’t know. Internships are also a huge networking opportunity for students to wow their colleagues and hopefully return to a full-time role with the company after graduation. Other students use the summer to study abroad, volunteer, or gain additional income– all of which have been affected by COVID-19. 

With “Innovation” in the title, our Center grouped up to discuss the implications a remote-shift would have on our summer programs: we had already extended offers to 21 undergraduate students for GU Impacts, a global fellowship program centered around a 10-week social impact project with one of our eight partner organizations. After having individual conversations with each of our partners to understand the effects the coronavirus was having on their organization and community, five committed to supervising their fellows virtually for the summer, foreseeing helpful contributions despite the distance. The Kunde Social Cafe in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan offered a common explanation for continuing to work with us,

With restaurant businesses closing and in-house customer numbers dwindling, we embraced the need to develop online business models at Kunde.

We are confident that GU Impacts students will create great impact for our mission: to help people with mental disabilities to stay employed and included in the society. We will be working on developing online market, adapting our rehabilitation procedures to online formats, and expanding our reach this summer.

Unfortunately, the other partners were facing larger disruptances and could not commit to summer fellows this year, though we look forward to working with them again in the future.

After figuring out what was in our partners’ capacity, we had individual check-ins with each fellow – our sympathy and support in identifying other opportunities was extended to the students whose partners could no longer facilitate a summer project. Of the 13 students who still had an opportunity, all of them re-committed to working with their organization. The commitment each student made to continuing social impact work, despite no longer being able to travel and interact with a new community, was truly inspiring. 

For the past 7 years, the Beeck Center has prioritized holistic experiential learning opportunities for students to engage in social impact. With commitments from students and partners in hand, we’ve worked endlessly to adapt the GU Impacts program to the current situation. Embracing our core value of experimentation, this summer we’re launching the Sustainable Student Impact (SSI) Project Builder. The builder, a guideline for any student to self-guide a research project using human-centered design, was created in an attempt to fill predicted gaps in community-learning the GU Impacts program may face switching to a virtual environment. While this summer will be a true pilot session, the pandemic has forced us out of our comfort zone and potentially created a new, more accessible way for students to learn about and get involved with social impact. The GU Impacts cohort is typically dispersed across 7 different timezones working full-time with their partner organization; however, with fellows following Georgetown policy and staying indoors, we look forward to seeing how our implementation of the program may improve and evolve with the “hands-on” opportunities we have to work with our students this summer. 

We’ve transitioned our onboarding workshops from “health and safety abroad” and visa applications to “equity and privilege” and “navigating your social impact learning.” Our hope is that our students can still provide value and see their contribution to social impact working with our partners, but also feel empowered and confident in leading their own learning journey. We can’t wait to be a helping hand along the way. Congratulations to our 13 GU Impact fellows!

Fellow
GU Impacts PartnerPartner Location
Arnav KumarFederal City CouncilWashington, DC, USA
Jacob VanderZwaagCenter for Civic InnovationAtlanta, GA, USA
Michael XuCenter for Civic InnovationAtlanta, GA, USA
Sophie StewartCenter for Civic InnovationAtlanta, GA, USA
Yingying MeiCenter for Civic InnovationAtlanta, GA, USA
Anika VenkateshŽene za Žene InternationalSarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Claire BeezleyŽene za Žene InternationalSarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
John MucklerKunde Social CafeNur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
Sydney YinKunde Social CafeNur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
Victoria LeiKunde Social CafeNur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
Ananya AmirthalingamMann Deshi FoundationMhaswad, India
Daniel WolfeMann Deshi FoundationMhaswad, India
Kia MuletaMann Deshi FoundationMhaswad, India

April 9, 2020 | By Matt Fortier

On Friday, March 6, Georgetown students put their laptops and books away and left Washington, D.C. for spring break. But while they were taking that much-deserved rest, COVID-19 exploded across the U.S. and students were told not to return to campus. Since then, the pandemic has affected every facet of student life. Students found themselves separated from family or suddenly living back at home, striving to maintain focus and motivation in virtual classes, while grappling with this crisis and its far reaching impact, from health to economic hardship.

As educators around the world work to adapt the ways they support students, here at the Beeck Center, we’ve had to rethink how we prepare students to be effective leaders for positive social impact. As we recalibrate our work and lean into the core strengths of our student programming, community-building, reflection, adaptation, and resilience will be of paramount importance. 

One of our core values is Authentic & Constructive Communication, so when Georgetown announced its transition to a remote environment, we quickly reached out to our entire team, including students, providing information, sharing resources, and beginning contingency planning. With genuine care for one another, we have consistently emphasized that the health and well-being of our staff and their families is vital. We’ve backed this up by providing flexible work schedules, sharing tips for personal care, and listening to each other through frequent “pulse checks”. By opening a dialogue and demonstrating our commitment to each individual student, we’ve set a healthy foundation from which to move forward.

screenshot of students in a Zoom meeting
Students engaged in our second virtual Discern + Digest, discussing the question: How do you tell your story when you’re still figuring out what it is?

Our Discern + Digest series, a safe and brave space for challenging and often uncomfortable conversations, is a big part of the feedback loop our student analysts participate in. But body language cues, much better conveyed in person, are critical so it would have been easy to postpone or cancel. Instead, we felt strongly that in the wake of COVID-19, a space for dialogue and reflection was needed more than ever, so we doubled-down on our effort, switching to a virtual environment and adapting the conversation to acknowledge the pandemic and its impact on all of our lives. By modeling resilience and adaptability, we sent a clear message–we can unite and collectively problem-solve to overcome a common challenge. 

Led by Forrest Gertin (SFS’20), more than a dozen students joined from remote positions across the United States to share their workspace, their lunch, and their ideas. They reviewed their community guidelines, discussing modifications and additions for a virtual format, most notably, how to acknowledge that the “no technology zone” was now anything but. In (re)establishing norms, we shared a vision for rediscovering our community.

screenshot of adapted community guidelines
Screenshot showcasing our adapted community guidelines.

The speaker, Molly Porter, opened by sharing some personal reflections before asking how we could reconcile our understanding of community with others while physically distancing in an effort to “flatten the curve.” Students responded eagerly, sharing their challenges and highlighting new ways to connect with their community. The conversation made it clear: we are resilient, we can adapt, and now more than ever, we need to listen to each other and reinvigorate our human connections.  

 “I was in a pretty bad space. I decided to join the call because I knew it would be full of positivity and compassion. Also, I would be able to give myself time to reflect on how I’m feeling amid everything. I am very grateful for the D+D sessions because it provides space for me to find community and reconnect with myself without pressure.” -Donovan Taylor, MSB’20 

We are fortunate to have strong collaborators across Georgetown University, from the Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship, which readily deployed tools and resources for instructional continuity, to the Cawley Career Center, which has adapted its career support to provide virtual advisor meetings while working with employers to move events to virtual formats and reaching out to alumni to cultivate networking opportunities. 

We are excited to witness an inspired spirit of collective problem-solving and sharing of ideas and resources from these partners and the greater social impact community. The Beeck Center remains firm in its belief that to solve the most complex problems of our time, we must work across sectors, leveraging all the tools and knowledge at our disposal. Today’s pandemic is no exception and we hope we can model an approach to our students through how we adapt, collaborate, and rise to the challenge in front of us.

 Do you have a best practice or resource to share? If so, please let us know!

Here are some resources that we’ve shared with our students:

Career Planning

Managing Remote Work

Wellness


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January 15, 2020 | By Nate Wong, Sheila Herrling & Audrey Voorhees

As public trust of business and markets wanes, there’s an ever important call for everyone to play a critical role in reforming the system “so that it delivers prosperity for the many, rather than the few.” The Beeck Center has been observing the trends in the corporate social impact (CSI) space for the past few years as mainstream rhetoric has shifted from a shareholder to stakeholder-centric view of capitalism, most importantly seen in the recent United States Business Roundtable announcement

The question remains, where does the CSI movement stand and where do we go from here? As a “grasstop” player, the Center links grassroot and institutional efforts poised for action, and puts our energy toward the messy infrastructure work that can accelerate and sustain positive social impact movements like corporate social impact. It’s what we’d call “Impact at Scale.”


CSI Defined: The increasing recognition that corporations need to rethink their role in society and embed social purpose into their business model in order to manage risk, maintain market share, and secure competitive advantage. For those more bullish, you could be more specific that purpose will drive higher profit.


We set out to explore the topic – who is doing what – and to identify gaps in the CSI landscape that require concentrated action to accelerate impact at scale. My colleagues Sheila Herrling and Audrey Voorhees conducted this analysis to consider potential roles for the Center, but believe it serves as a “global public good” for all interested parties to help move this movement forward.  

Analysis highlights include:

  • The CSI movement arguably began over 12  years ago… with at least 11 key flashpoint events that have been foundational in building momentum, but there is still more work to do to tip the movement. 
  • 22 actors stand at the forefront of accelerating this movement and their efforts are worth looking out for.
  • There are 4 major gaps standing in the way of mainstreaming this movement that require attention.

We have 7 gap-closing ideas. Dive deeper here.

Our hope is that this will ground people’s understanding no matter where you may sit in the space – a corporation finding its position relative to others, a policymaker navigating the shifting system, or an academic seeking to teach business through a more current lens – and empower coordination.

With all of the Beeck Center’s work, we pair learners and expert practitioners. Watch MBA candidate and Student Analyst Audrey Voorhees’ capstone presentation as she shares her own journey and some of the research highlights.

Engage with us. 

This is our first pass at creating a comprehensive landscape analysis of the corporate social impact movement. As a community of practitioners driving impact at scale, we want this analysis to provide value along the learning continuum, from initiate to expert. How does this analysis resonate with you? And the market? We’d love your feedback.

The potential for corporates to drive social impact is scale is enormous. If partnerships can be leveraged, strategic alliances formed and critical gaps in the movement filled, this movement just might tip!

Sheila Herrling is a Fellow at the Beeck Center, where she pursues initiatives in impact investing and measurement, inclusive entrepreneurship and social innovation at scale.

Audrey Voorhees is a Student Analyst at the Beeck Center. She is currently pursuing an MBA at the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.

Nate Wong serves as the Interim Executive Director at the Beeck Center, where he leads the Center’s pursuits and thinking on social impact at scale across its major portfolios. He previously helped launch social impact units at Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte Consulting LLP.


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January 14, 2020 | By Matt Fortier

We’re excited to announce the Spring 2020 Student Analyst Cohort. They will play a critical role as they both learn about and contribute towards the Beeck Center’s mission of creating systems-level change for social impact. This semester’s cohort welcomes back seven analysts from previous semesters while introducing six new students. 

“The Beeck Center helps students expand their idea of what social impact opportunities look like, which is so important when considering future career paths.”

– Casey Doherty, College ’20

Every semester, Student Analysts work across our different portfolios: Fair Finance, Data + Digital, and Sustainable Student Impact, while helping us explore new areas of work such as Corporate Social Impact. The analysts take on key roles across the team, contributing new ideas, conducting research, managing projects, and supporting our operations, much of which you can see in our Student Analyst Capstone Showcase.

Our Student Analyst program embraces an experiential learning model where students learn to tackle real world problems in the social impact space, put theory to practice and work alongside staff and fellows, including seasoned social impact practitioners. This model is enhanced through a variety of programming, from skills-based workshops on public speaking and dialogue facilitation, to thought-provoking conversations in our Discern + Digest lunch series. Our goal is to provide a holistic education in social impact that enables students to develop their skills for social impact leadership and propel them towards a career that contributes towards the common good, in the spirit of Georgetown’s Jesuit tradition. 

“The Beeck Center does some of the most forward thinking and fascinating work on campus, and I’m so excited to join the center’s efforts. I find their approach of using the intersection of technology and social impact to inspire large scale social change both innovative and effective!

– Saumya Shruti, College ’20

To tackle the most complex challenges of our time, we require an interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral approach. The 2020 cohort includes undergraduate and graduate students from six Georgetown schools and an even greater variety of majors, interests, and experiences. This rich diversity of skills and perspectives makes our Center stronger and creates an ideal learning environment in which we learn from each other as well as from the work itself. 

Students are a key audience of our work as we seek to develop future leaders for social impact. If you are interested in learning more about how you can contribute to the common good and learn about a cross-disciplinary approach to driving systems-level change for social impact, we invite you to engage with us and our work. Career opportunities with the Beeck Center can be found here and Student Analyst opportunities for Summer 2020 will open in February, so stay tuned! 

Below you’ll find some quick statistics on the 2020 Spring Student Analyst Cohort.

First Name Last Name Graduate Level Year of Graduation School Major(s) Minor(s) Hometown Portfolio Focus
Cristina Alaniz-Ramirez Graduate 2021 American University School of International Service (SIS) Ethics, Peace and Human Rights : Concentration: International Economic Affairs N/A Brownsville, Texas Fair Finance
Tyler Yat Long Chan Undergraduate 2021 COL Economics Sociology/Asian Studies Las Vegas, NV Fair Finance
Casey Doherty Undergraduate 2020 College Government and American Studies n/a Charlton, NY Student Engagement
Elaina Faust Graduate 2021 School of Foreign Service Global Human Development Social Innovation and Global Development Southborough, MA Data + Digital
Forrest Gertin Undergraduate 2020 SFS International Political Economy French Rochester, NY Student Engagement
Hayley Pontia Graduate 2020 Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Communication, Culture, and Technology NA Pittsburgh, PA Data + Digital
Justus Pugh Undergraduate 2020 MSB Marketing N/A Chicago Student Engagement
Taylor Savell Undergraduate 2020 School of Foreign Service International Politics Spanish; Economics Nashville, TN Data + Digital
Saumya Shruti Undergraduate 2020 COL Government, Philosophy N/A San Ramon Fair Finance
Cameron Smith Undergraduate 2020 College Computer Science N/A Saratoga Springs Data + Digital
Donovan Taylor Undergraduate 2020 McDonough School of Business International Business and Management n/a Baltimore Fair Finance
Audrey Voorhees Graduate 2020 Georgetown Business Administration Social Entrepreneurship Des Moines, IOWA Corporate Impact
Tongxin Zhu Graduate 2020 McCourt School of Public Policy MPP N/A Guangdong, China Fair Finance

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January 7, 2020

2020 is the last year of the millennium’s first decade (fight me), and promises to be an interesting one with a presidential election, Brexit, 50th anniversary of the start of the disco era, and whatever other surprises will surely arise.

We asked ourselves what we might see in the year ahead in the social impact space, here’s what we see in our crystal balls.

Impact at Scale Means Accelerating Movements

Today, scaling impact is too often conflated with scaling programs or organizations. No single program or organization, no matter how great it may be, can truly solve the complex social ills vexing the world. Rather it will take a coordinated effort across numerous sectors– from social ventures to policymakers to local social service providers. 

In 2020 and beyond, we’ll observe a sea change as funders and impact organizations alike tackle intractable social problems through a coordinated ecosystem lens rather than scaling pointed solutions in silos. Donor collaboratives like the Tipping Point Fund (a $12.5M coalition of nine foundations and family offices) and radical coordination like Imperative 21 (a business-led coalition of 72,000 businesses across 80 countries) will continue to increase as more investment in field building is needed to sustain the impact we want to see long-term. We believe grassroot efforts need to reach institutions where change can be more widely adopted and ultimately create the intended positive impact for all.

For the Beeck Center, that means playing the necessary role as a “grasstop” player, linking grassroot and institutional efforts poised for action, and putting our efforts toward the messy infrastructure work that can accelerate and sustain positive social impact movements.

– Nate Wong, Interim Executive Director 

Thoughts from Outside the Center

CEOs Will be Judged Both as Commercial Leaders and as Social Architects

It is clear the current dynamic business environment, combined with evolving social, economic, and political realities, the role of the CEO is transforming faster than many had expected for both public and private concerns. Specifically, CEOs are realizing the need to take more active and/or vocal roles around stakeholder issues such as healthcare, education and retraining, climate change, affordable housing and the like. The most effective and most successful CEOs for the near future will need to be both strong commercial leaders as well as courageous social architects to ensure that the community of stakeholders they serve is as engaged and productive as possible.

– Tierney Remick, Vice Chairman and Co-Leader, Board & CEO Services, Korn Ferry. 20 Predictions for Business & Society

person holding clear glass ball

Photo by Jenni Jones on Unsplash

Students Want a More Hands-On Approach to their Education

Experiential Learning will continue to play an increasingly prominent role in higher education, with further blending of the curricular and co-curricular in equipping students for careers in social impact.

The Beeck Center will continue to break down silos at Georgetown, accelerating collaboration across campus as we’ll work with different schools and student groups to better educate students for social impact leadership.

Matt Fortier, Director, Sustainable Student Impact

Thoughts from Outside the Center

Rising Student Voice Will Prompt a Paradigm Shift among Professors

Today, students enter business school increasingly aware and concerned about the critical issues of our day. Faculty – charged with equipping these students with the context and skills to make responsible business decisions – will face louder questions about how the concepts they are teaching relate to issues like climate change and inequality.  These collective student voices will be hard to ignore, forcing faculty to make a conscious choice between teaching the seemingly discrete theories and models in the same siloed manner or exploring these challenging questions by looking at business concepts through a broader, more multi-faceted lens.

– Jaime Bettcher, Program Manager, Aspen Institute Business & Society Program, 20 Predictions for Business & Society

gray and yellow tape measures and rulers

Photo by William Warby on Unsplash

A Demand for Results Means a Need for Tools to Measure Impact

We launched our Fair Finance initiative last year with the goal of righting the rules for shared prosperity, and we expect to see more partners engaged in our efforts as the year progresses.

Impact management practices and processes will converge as companies and investors increasingly look not only for measurable results, but for standard guidelines, commonly accepted tools and aligned frameworks to achieve positive and sustainable impact in communities.

If unemployment stays low, awareness of the need and opportunity to employ refugees and immigrants will increase.

The legislation that created Opportunity Zones (OZs) has only been in place for a short time, and as early movers begin to develop projects, more positive narratives about OZs will continue to emerge.

For us at the Beeck Center, we’ll bring together more of the key stakeholders in these areas as we convene our OZ Investor Council and complete a landscape analysis of workforce training opportunities for refugees and immigrants.

Lisa Hall, Director, Fair Finance 

Thoughts from Outside the Center

Move Beyond Gender to Include Broader Diversity

Gender equality and the inclusion of women on boards and founding teams has been a big theme over the past year and will continue to be an important agenda item.

However, as more investors recognize that diversity translates into more representative, better informed teams, we’re likely to see a bigger drive to redefine diversity beyond gender alone.

When it comes to diversity, there is still a lot of work to do and we shouldn’t limit this scope to gender alone.

– Karma Impact: Top 10 Impact Investing Trends for 2020

 

person holding clear glass ball with QR code background

Photo by Mitya Ivanov on Unsplash

Public Sector Workforce Grows Its Digital Skillset

In 2020 and beyond, data and technology will continue to drive the way our society builds systems and delivers services and we will need a workforce in the public interest and public sector—not just the private sector—that is equipped with the hard skills and policy expertise to leverage the tools of data and digital to deliver better outcomes. We need technologists in government to buy smarter so we don’t keep spending taxpayers dollars on software and products that vendors can’t or won’t deliver. We need technical skills at the policy making table in the public interest community and in government so major initiatives consider data opportunities and risks as well as tech implications in their design and also plan for rollout and implementation from the start. 

At the Beeck Center, I predict we will continue identifying ways that society can invest in the public interest technology community to ensure a workforce that meets our needs, and investing in projects and partnerships to drive forward the changing future we want to see. 

Cori Zarek, Director, Data + Digital

Thoughts from Outside the Center

Companies Will Expand CSR to Include CDR

More and more companies will embed data responsibility principles into the way they do business — and embrace corporate data responsibility, or CDR. The acronym may be new, but in a digital world, it’s the logical next step for companies committed to meeting their responsibilities to individuals, one another and society as a whole. For the Center for Inclusive Growth that means leveraging Mastercard expertise, data, technology and philanthropy to help ensure the digital economy happens for people, not to them.

– Shamina Singh, Founder and President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, EVP, Sustainability, Mastercard, and member, Beeck Center Advisory Board, 20 Predictions for Business & Society

In addition to our thoughts, here’s some of the predictions we’re seeing from outside our offices:

December 10, 2019 | By Ben Lang

For someone interested in working at the intersection of cities and data, I didn’t find a clear pathway for either classwork or experiential learning here at Georgetown, at first. There simply is no guide for students to work in cities and data unlike the vast amount of resources on social impact at a national level. 

To fill this gap, I researched these types of opportunities and interviewed expert practitioners in this field to create the basis of a resource guide for students like myself seeking to formulate a career path through data and impact in cities.


“Lead your search with causes you’re passionate about, rather than working within data itself.”

– Natalie Evans Harris


As a starting point, I visited Georgetown’s Cawley Career Center last year to better understand what to prioritize when choosing a career. They gave me good input and a helpful framework. That led to a summer internship in my hometown of Atlanta working at a nonprofit devoted to community investment, social impact, and the leadership of Downtown Atlanta.

This semester, I came to the Beeck Center, where I’m working with fellows and partners who have built their careers working in this exact area. Current fellow and former director of Enterprise Information for the City of New Orleans Denice Ross shared with me the importance of finding local leadership that values the same type of innovation as you do.

I’m also supporting fellow Natalie Evans Harris, a former Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer and data expert for the National Security Agency, as we finalize a guidebook on responsible data practices. Through the process, I’ve learned the importance of engaging the community and data stakeholders every step of the way to help drive impact. On a more specific level, she’s shared with me the importance of leading your search with causes you’re passionate about, rather than work within data itself. 

As expected, despite my hours of research and interviewing, I did not come up with a one-size-fits-all solution. Luckily, I was able to formulate a few best practices along with a basic framework of where students can enter the field at a local level. 

First, because at the local level you are directly engaging with a community, it is imperative to be aware of your own internal biases. Resources like “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” and “Building Technology With, Not for Communities” are just the tip of the iceberg on the necessary perspectives to keep in mind when working inside any community. To effectively provide equitable solutions, we need to fully understand why and how data work will drive impact.

Second, we should try to find opportunities in impact that fulfill our own personal values before leading with data as a whole. Drawing on the framework I learned from Cawley to formulate my career path (prioritizing your values, interests, personality, and skills), if you do not recognize and pursue opportunities that engage all four categories, what you might gain in external recognition you will likely lack in personal drive. Additionally, the Beeck Center’s own Social Impact Navigator is a great tool for self-assessment before starting a career in social impact. 

With that in mind, here are three attainable ways for students and young professionals to get involved at the local level: 

  • Getting involved with your local Code for America Brigade
    • In cities all across America, the brigades meet regularly to educate, discuss and create tools for local government and impact. Involving yourself with these opportunities allows you to network and grow on a professional and local level.
  • Opportunities in city governments through data, technology, and innovation offices such as offices of CIOs, CTOs and CDOs
    • These offices of government provide the foremost opportunity to manage and use data for public impact from entry-level positions all they to the top. Moreover, outside of data offices, one can take advantage of data in many departments of local government like sustainability, transportation, and education.
  • Careers at nonprofits and foundations like Downtown Improvement Districts (DID) and the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP)
    • Every city has different types of nonprofits, but most cities have organizations committed to data-driven approaches for government efficiency, community investment or simply data for the greater good. DID’s are tax-funded organizations that provide economic development and other services to bridge the gap between the public and private sectors. The International Downtown Association(linked above) is a national organization that helps organize these DIDs. The NNIP is another example of local nonprofits working to use data for the common good.

Working with local data gives people the opportunity to think creatively about new solutions without suffering from as many bureaucratic issues at the national or even state level. One can look to examples from Broward County and New Orleans to see the fantastic innovation done at the local level. This research provides a brief introduction to the important and extensive opportunities for students and professionals to engage with data at a local level and drive impact. 

In the future, I look forward to pursuing opportunities in my hometown to help Atlanta run as effectively, equitably, and efficiently as possible. For me, this means actively searching for roles that balance data and service. While I cannot say specifically what this will lead to, I can already see a more defined framework of paths to follow as I go into my final three semesters at Georgetown and begin the job hunt. 

Ben Lang is a Fall 2019 Student Analyst at the Beeck Center studying Economics and German in the Georgetown College. Contact him at bel46@georgetown.edu or follow him on Twitter at @blang716.

November 20, 2019 | By Robert Roussel 

A great idea is a terrible thing to waste, and people do it all the time. 

In academia and policy institutions, research is often regarded as a key analytical asset. However, research alone has limited utility. Research needs to be resourced with practices and structures in order for that research to be activated, iterated upon, and deployed. Failing to do so shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of research—a failure to understand that research is a means and not an end. This approach begins with how we train students and I worry that, all too often, academic training has entrenched problematic approaches to teaching aspiring professionals what the value of research actually is.

I went to graduate school to learn how to evaluate and implement public policies, which, at the end of the day, was about translating statistics and analysis into writing. My peers and I considered writing both our biggest pain point and our most powerful asset. I was reminded of this recently as I sorted through old papers and memos to pick a writing sample when applying for a job that would, in part, pay me to write. I started remembering all of the topics and arguments I had so eloquently and passionately inked onto a digital page. Undeniably, my graduate program taught us how to write and think logically and persuasively but as I perused my hard drive for old papers, I could not shake the feeling that my new ‘ideal’ job at a think tank — the one I’ve been wanting for years — would relegate my writing to a fate similar to my academic exercises: gathering dust, and longing for eyeballs.

Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

To businesses and consultancies, the idea that research without applications is useless is obvious. In academia, this culture is not always the norm. At Georgetown, I had the privilege of practicing valuable quantitative and analytical skills through thoughtful exercises led by experts in their fields. Even at this institution, however, I couldn’t help feeling that some professors often seemed quite willing to ignore the need for a more applied approach to teaching, tacitly implying that an efficient division of labor within the policy-making ecosystem would translate our clever and thoughtful words into action.

Researchers in academic settings need to be rewarded for being consulted by policy makers, not cited by fellow researchers.

Researchers in academic settings need to be rewarded for being consulted by policy makers, not cited by fellow researchers. Even when professors were practitioners themselves, their in-class behaviors often failed to reflect that fact. It seems more likely than not that this approach is not just borne out of convenience, but a culture rooted in academic tradition. Though universities like to talk big about their cutting-edge research, often their approaches to pedagogy seem remarkably risk-averse. Academic culture is very slow to change, and the incentives for taking such a large departure are just not there. This culture shift will likely need to occur from the bottom-up, as students demand to be more involved in the activation of research—meaning that any education should be as much about writing words as it is about resourcing those words in clever intentional ways that help, rather than hope, words to translate to actions and actions translate to impact.

How to ‘Activate’ Research: A Brief Case Study

During my time at the Beeck Center, I noticed that the leadership was placing a lot of emphasis on activities other than research, such as convenings, workshops, interviews, or meetings. One of my projects was to design a framework and resource repository for establishing responsible data-sharing practices for social impact. Many third-party organizations have emerged to help facilitate data-sharing for social impact but the resources for sharers and the bandwidth of these facilitators are limited. From the start, it was clear this research was just a launching point and not the end product. We were also going to build a community around this research product that would help activate it and keep it alive, constantly open to change as new best practices and case studies emerge. To me, this approach — one that is both highly collaborative and constantly seeking input — is exactly the way we should be approaching public problems.

One of the most often given pieces of advice is that people should spend 99% of their time understanding the problem and that, if working this way, finding a solution should be so obvious that it takes just the remaining 1% to solve. If that is true, we need to be extra sure that we are solving the right problem or else our deployed solution might not be all that useful. The cleverness of keeping the Beeck Center’s data-sharing guidebook ‘alive’ was that it made the guidebook both a solution and a problem exploration process at the same time. Certainly, it aimed to create a solution to a problem but its openness serves as a way to constantly re-evaluate this solution. That malleability and that openness to collaborate is what will activate the research in the guidebook.

This is a smart approach to making sure that research is activated, but it might not go far enough. With the resources and bandwidth of stakeholders being limited, there are clearly gaps in capacity that limit the scalability of this project. While being careful of the hubris of applying a ‘there’s an app for that’ mentality to complex social problems, I proposed a solution that can help activate the guidebook and resource guide. This solution was borne out of a seemingly impossible trade-off between brevity and usefulness. A shorter guidebook would have recommendations that are more digestible but would have to be more generic, and by extension, not useful beyond a surface level. 

My answer, which is an answer I urge researchers facing problems of activation to consider, is a customizable tool (a ‘wizard’, if you remember Windows ’98) that creates unique guidebooks and resource-repositories for each ‘bin’ of users, reflecting the variety of resources, motivations, and barriers or different stakeholders. When it comes to translating research into action, this approach would significantly help constrained organizations that may not have the resources to discover new approaches wade through the literature and see how it might apply to them.

Advice for Policy Students and Researchers

Seen in the most generous of lights, writing academic papers and memos is training for conducting professional research in the real world. I fear, however, that many students will trip on these bad habits as they enter the professional research world—and that those worlds are comprised of ex-students with similar tendencies. With so many vital issues facing the social sector, we need to be sure that our research efforts build out our ability to generate actionable recommendations and tangible impact. A relevant internship or part-time job while in school could be one possible step forward here, but many students complain that their time is spent on passive class assignments and papers that remain all too often unread and unused. Opportunities that give students a real taste of what it is like to see research applied are lacking — and this is a role that academia needs to fill. In my opinion, applied graduate programs should be thoroughly experiential, matching students with real clients in real teams to solve real problems. Across the country, universities are experimenting with this model, but this new approach is a heavy lift and would require a major revamping of the tenure model — an unlikely proposition in many settings.

Unlike coursework, research doesn’t end when a paper is handed to a superior. If you believe that, by handing someone a memo, you have just handed that person everything they need to know for them to get the job done, you are likely mistaken. You dove deep and you need to be intimately involved in applying that research. The term policy maker is a catch-all term and its vagueness makes it rather difficult to understand when the research stops and the policy creation begins. I urge policy students to reject the suspicions borne out of the structure of their academic program that see a clear demarcation between these two fields. Only when we are deeply involved in a project from ‘start’ to ‘finish’ can we effectively suggest action that is researchable and create research that is actionable.

Don’t let your great ideas gather dust in the cloud; have them gather stardust.

 

Robert Roussel was a student analyst at the Beeck Center in Summer 2019. He is a 2019 graduate of the Georgetown University McCourt School for Public Policy and is currently working at Accenture Federal Services as a tech analyst.

November 15, 2019 | By Casey Doherty

Georgetown students are encouraged to be “people for others.” We are taught to give back to our communities and jump into social impact work. Here at the Beeck Center, we conceptualize social impact as looking at how the current system affects people, and focusing on how to improve that impact through a systems-level approach.

You might know you want to make a difference. However, it can be difficult to identify the best space in which to work on honing your strengths and areas for development in the social impact sphere. In my experience, Georgetown seems decentralized – so many organizations are doing amazing work, but they are isolated from each other. It’s daunting to discern which opportunity would be best for you, both in terms of the value you can add to the organization, and the skills you will gain from joining the venture. Hoyas care deeply about “making a difference” in their communities but many students don’t know where to begin. 

A critical step in the process is developing a self-awareness of one’s strengths and areas for development, enabling intentionality in these decisions. The Beeck Center is working to make this process easier. The team I am a part of created a tool called the Social Impact Navigator, which helps students navigate their social impact journey. Students complete a self assessment, then we help them identify programs at the Beeck Center that will hone their strengths and improve their development. Over time and through collaboration, we’re looking to share this tool with programs across Georgetown and beyond. 

The Social Impact Navigator identifies the six skills critical for effective social impact leadership. 

graphic of a human head with puzzle pieces representing the social impact skillsets

Growth Mindset: Leaders must have a growth mindset that enables them to appreciate complexity, creatively embrace challenges, see opportunity where most others see dead-ends, and take risks with an experimental attitude. 

Relentless Learning: Leaders must be lifelong learners. Driven by their relentless pursuit of knowledge, leaders go beyond building the cognitive skills necessary to execute their ideas and eagerly pursue opportunities to grow their knowledge base and adapt to our changing world.

Self-Awareness and Courage: Leaders constantly work on building their self-confidence and courage, balanced with humility, so that they are prepared to act when others hesitate. Self-aware and courageous leaders take initiative, whether or not the path is conventional, to change a system for the better. 

Influential Collaboration and Communication: To ensure the sustainability of their ideas, leaders must trust others. Leaders must have the flexibility to work in multidisciplinary teams, communicate across sectors, mobilize diverse groups of people, and inspire them to work together towards a common goal. Working across differences and actively seeking new perspectives is critical for savvy and effective social impact leadership.

Empathetic Problem Solving: Leaders must be willing to listen, withhold judgment and acknowledge preconceived notions. They must empathize with people to better understand the underlying root-cause of a challenging situation. Once empathetic leaders have fully understood a problem, they can then develop and implement a solution that serves the common good.

All of the above-mentioned skill areas make for a great leader, but this final skill is what makes a social impact leader:

Discernment: Leaders take time to reflect on how their actions align with their purpose and most deeply held values. This discernment lights their path and ensures that no matter the problem or sector, they never lose sight of the common good. 

I wonder what paths I would have followed if I’d had this tool when I arrived as a first-year student. As a senior, I see all of the opportunities to engage in the social impact space both on and off-campus, and with some guidance on connecting my skills and strengths to existing impact programs and organizations, I could have begun my social impact journey earlier. I am excited to release this tool to the student body and watch all the amazing things Hoyas are able to accomplish.

The Social Impact Navigator program is starting here at the Beeck Center, but our goal is to expand its use through adoption and collaboration, bringing it to scale. We want to share our knowledge of how to navigate the social impact space and equip social impact leaders everywhere with the tools needed to create positive change. 

Casey Doherty is a student analyst at the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation, studying Government and American Studies at Georgetown University. Connect with her on email at cgd43@georgetown.edu.

November 11, 2019 | By Tongxin Zhu

“I’ve only been cooking for myself and my husband for over 10 years since my sons moved to Canada. It really amazed me when the team first came to me and said that I can work as a chef to showcase our local cuisine and pastry.” Madam Xie told me when I was helping clean up after lunch during my tourism geography fieldtrip in Candong Village, Kaiping City. 

Majoring in Tourism Planning as an undergrad, I had plenty of experience working with local communities and government on tourism planning and renovation projects. I found myself interested in connecting with local people and hearing their stories. The case that motivated me the most to pursue community development is my field trip and volunteer experience in a heritage tourism village – Cangdong Village in Kaiping City, China

Woman with umbrella stands in front of ancestral hall in Cangdong Village, China
The ancestral hall after community-engaged renovation. Photo by Tongxin Zhu

The village itself was almost empty before the renovation project happened, with about 50 elder residents who didn’t want to move overseas with younger generations – Madam Xie is one of them since her husband is the village head. Led by a professor at a local university, a group of architecture students came to the village and engaged residents to renovate the historic buildings. They rebuilt an ancestral temple and other public areas based on residents’ oral history and current needs. Residents were encouraged to work as chefs, handicraft makers and most commonly, storytellers, to share the village history to tourists and the younger generation. 

The renovated village attracted over 400 overseas Chinese during the 2017 Chinese New Year and helped to build connections between multiple generations. When compared with another heritage village in the same city, Cangdong Village surpassed expectations in the sense of keeping a living memory of the village and building connections between people and community. Other heritage villages in comparison were managed by a tourism company and barely profited by charging an entrance fee.

I joined the Beeck Center with the expectation to learn similar cases in the local-level development program. I hope to start my own local-level development program back home after graduation. I used to be confused about the different paths that I could take. Between small scale, instant influence such as the renovation project that I participated in, and the longer-term, systematic level change that can provide broader influence. like what the Beeck Center is trying to achieve through Fair Finance, Data + Digital, and Student Engagement initiatives. 

My experience at the Beeck Center changed my views on social impact to a great extent. The Beeck Center has a unique approach to scaling impact – acting as a grasstop organization that accelerates change through collaborations with ecosystem players. Local-level, instant changes can be encouraging and create a sense of fulfillment when the programs work, but they can also be discouraging if I’m feeling self-contented or meet some uncontrollable contextual changes. 

Take my work here in Opportunity Zones as an example, I might deep dive into a project for several years to achieve significant impact in one O-Zone, but there are over 8,700 of them facing different challenges across the country. Therefore, a small-scale approach might not be the most effective way when dealing with big social problems. On the other hand, back into reality, not all local voices could be heard or taken into account in decision making. Therefore, there is a real need for holistic change since the system hasn’t fully discovered the value of its people and enabled them to reach their potentials.

the former PEMCO factory site in southeast Baltimore
The redevelopment of the former PEMCO factory site in southeast Baltimore — a project four years in the making — got underway with a formal groundbreaking this winter. Photo Baltimore Sun

Systematic changes always take time, and it is discouraging to see people criticizing Opportunity Zones making the “ultra-rich even richer while those in need end up worse-off. From my perspective, this is the trade-off between type 1 error and type 2 error in statistics. If too much effort and restrictions are put to limit the types of investors and investment in O-Zones, there is a larger probability that people who would have benefited from some investment – either getting a job or living in a mixed-income community – would no longer be able to get that positive outcome. Thankfully, I hear and see impact investing stories happening both inside and outside the OZ landscape. With the present level of data collection and impact evaluation tools, I think it would be much easier to make an evidence-based conclusion on the impact of OZ in the near future and make timely adjustment if needed.  We also need policymakers to think about the unintended consequences and possible solutions while moving on these issues. That helps me keep faith in what I’m doing, and excited for what’s to come. 

 

Tongxin Zhu is a student analyst at the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation, studying Public Policy at Georgetown University. Connect with her on Twitter/email at tz163@georgetown.edu.

November 4, 2019 | By Grace Rector

“Do you take your privilege and use it to the best of your ability and/or do you use your privilege to make way for others?” That was the question one of our fellows, Sheila Herrling, presented to me and the other Beeck Center student analysts for our weekly Discern + Digest conversation. As we sat around the table trying to unpack what privilege means and whether it is demeaning to use your privilege to give voice to another person with a less privileged background, we talked about representation in politics and whether someone should or can truly support a specific population without sharing their identity. We discussed these implications within the social impact space when organizing projects and how to support a community without claiming authority. Taking the space to ask what is on my mind and really struggle with questions is one of the ways the Center fully engages students and provides tools of learning beyond just a job.

History

Historically, the Beeck Center hosted weekly Brown Bag discussions in which a speaker from the social impact space came to speak to the student analysts about their experiences and to share their expertise. These lunches were very informative to students including myself, but it could be very one-sided; the knowledge resided alone in the mind of the guest speaker while the students asked questions about how to get the job that the guest held.

Our current Interim Executive Director, Nate Wong, and the Director of Student Engagement, Matthew Fortier identified this issue and desired to use this time every week to hold a more impactful conversation rather than coffee chat. I was grateful to be invited into their brainstorming process, and together we created the Discern + Digest program. The goal was to create a brave space for student analysts in which they could ask questions that they are struggling with within the social impact arena and use their peers’ experiences to digest these questions more fully, serve the needs of the student analysts and allow them to develop as individuals. 

The Beginning

In Spring 2019, we launched the Discern + Digest Series to the Beeck Center student analysts as well as a group of external undergraduate and graduate Georgetown students interested in social impact. We kicked off the series by gathering together as a community to list all possible questions that students have encountered or struggled with during their interactions with social impact in order to see where the interests of the group lay. Another important step we took as a group before beginning the discussions was establishing group rules; we established that Discern + Digest is a space where students can feel confident sharing difficult stories or experiences, where every experience is valuable, and where one can question the idea, not the person. These ground rules are important to set in order for a vulnerable and meaningful conversation to take place.

Student holding sign of ground rules for discussion

For our first official discussion, Nate shared his experience from his time in Mozambique that prompted the question, “Whose role is it to align perception in reality?” He shared his story for 15 minutes, then we opened the discussion up to the students. Students discussed race, privilege, allyship, and more in the mere 50 minutes that we had together, but it was so powerful to see the students sharing their experiences and asking why certain structures exist in society. Other questions we discussed throughout the semester included:

  1. Is international development driven by nonprofits’ wants or the community’s needs?
  2. How do you stay rooted while trying to change the system?
  3. How to move beyond diversity and create inclusive spaces?
  4. How to serve yourself to better serve others?

Feedback

These weekly discussions became the highlight of my week because I looked forward to learning from my peers and because I felt comfortable sharing my thoughts and concerns in that space. I devoted my time at the Beeck Center during this semester to the development and flourishment of Discern + Digest and I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback we received from participants. One student reflected on the series:

“I loved the questions that we never seemed to unravel, especially ones that spoke of diversity and inclusivity. Feeling unresolved at the end, with more questions than answers, was a mark of success for me throughout the series.” (Anonymous participant)

Students around table

This comment was a mark of success for me too because this student walked away feeling comfortable with the many questions they gained during the experience. I often find at Georgetown that we value knowledge over curiosity, and while both are important, I feel the curiosity is lacking, and it makes me happy to know such a space exists for students thanks to the Beeck Center. Another student shared, “this concept should be part of every GU program!” This comment is very reassuring and makes me feel the Center has created a space for students to feel supported. 

Other important results we gathered include the fact that 91% of participants felt that “By digging beneath the surface, I’ve uncovered questions that I hope to continue exploring.”

This means the experience added something to the participants’ lives, and lit a spark from which the students will continue to explore. Additionally, 72% of participants who answered the survey agreed or strongly agreed that “the discussions have deepened my understanding of the social impact space.” 

While the goal of this space is to create curious and innovative 21st-century thinkers, it also aims to educate students about social impact and its role in modern society.

Personal Impact

Not only do I hope the Discern + Digest series impacted the student analysts and outside students, but I know that facilitating and organizing this project has significantly affected me. Nate helped me obtain the tools necessary to be a great facilitator who listens and moves the conversation based on the flow of the group. I met with the guest speakers before they would come in to formulate a question encompassing the topics we wanted to address and ensure that the conversation was accessible to all students. I learned how to be a good facilitator and obtained so many new questions that I continue to ask myself regularly including, “how to serve yourself to better serve others.” 

Through my experience in Discern + Digest, I came to love listening to the stories and experiences of others; I found it fascinating how one’s experiences can impact the way one interacts with everything else in their life. Accordingly, I was grateful to serve as the storytelling intern for Women for Women International this summer (2019) through the Beeck Center’s GU Impacts program. I worked with the young women beneficiaries of the organization to listen to their stories and to share it with Women for Women’s networks. I felt prepared in my work because I had learned so much about interpersonal skills and listening skills during my time facilitating the Discern + Digest series. 

This fall, I am studying comparative education and social change in Chile and Argentina, and I was looking for a space in which I could find something similar to the community I had at the Beeck Center. I found the American Space, co-funded by the U.S. Embassy and the National Institute of Chile, in which they have regular conversations for Chileans and anyone else who wants to join about cultural issues such as women’s rights or the local job market. I plan to get involved by facilitating a conversation on the comparative role of women in Chile and the United States, and I am grateful to the Discern + Digest series for awakening curiosity within me and for giving me the bravery to seek out innovative spaces outside of the Beeck Center.

How YOU can get involved

The Discern + Digest series has proven to be an innovative and supportive space for students at Georgetown University, but I strongly believe that curiosity and dialogue is scarce everywhere in our country: in universities, workplaces, the government, and more. Accordingly, if you are involved in an organization where you  feel that you could benefit from regular discussions about questions related to social impact and social justice, I implore you to create your own Discern + Digest Series according to the following steps:

Step 1: Goal setting for the discussion series

  1. What is the purpose of creating this space?
  2. How is it different from pre-existing discussion spaces?

Step 2: Identify a facilitator

  1. Who will best ensure the aforementioned goals of this series?
  2. Who has the time to dedicate to ensuring the discussions are well organized and well thought out?
  3. Who has excellent people skills and can articulate the goals and objectives of the series?

Step 3: Identify participants

  1. What students would most benefit from this experience?
  2. How many students should be included in the discussion?
  3. How diverse should the group be in regards to experiences and backgrounds?

Step 4: Establish ground rules

  1. What are the necessary rules to ensure a safe and brave space for participants?
  2. Are these rules agreed upon by every participant?

Step 5: Select guest speakers and work with them to create interesting questions

  1. Who would bring a unique perspective on the question they want to share?
  2. Will the guest speaker be a facilitator in the discussion rather than dominate the conversation?
  3. Is the question dynamic and engaging for a wide array of people?

Step 6: Enjoy and learn!

  1. Open your ears and hearts and take advantage of this opportunity to learn from the experiences of the diverse group in the room.
  2. Find ways to incorporate the goals of this space into daily life so that the impact is sustainable.

Group sitting around a table

If you’re interested in learning more about the Beeck Center’s Discern + Digest series, or participating in one of our sessions, please contact Matt Fortier, Director of Student Engagement.

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Grace Rector is a Junior in the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, studying Culture and Politics with a concentration in global education and a minor in Education, Inquiry, and Justice. Connect with her via email at gr455@georgetown.edu or follow her blog globalgracegazette.wordpress.com.

September 10, 2019 | By Jillian Gilburne and Dennese Salazar

Student Analysts Jillian Gilburne and Dennese Salazar produced the report How to Get Started in Public Interest Tech: Recommendations for Recruiting Early-Career Tech Talent. The following is an edited version of their findings.

There is a point in every college student’s academic career when they begin to wonder what it’s all for…. It might be the sense that using a freshly minted computer science degree to perform A/B testing on app interfaces feels soul sucking — or they can’t get past the cognitive dissonance of using their design chops to help kids make healthier school lunch choices one day while designing marketing materials for a fast food empire the next. 

While we know this sounds dramatic, it comes from personal experience. In joining the Beeck Center this summer, we realized that we had the opportunity to use our newly obtained knowledge and networks to highlight opportunities for careers in public interest technology and design that combined technical skills with social good. 

While some experts have indicated that the public interest technology movement is currently going through its “tween years,” when tasked with designing a research capstone of our own, we wanted to take on a topic that would be important for the sustainability of this field through its adolescence and into its adulthood — the recruitment of young technologists into public interest and public sector jobs. We wanted to create a project that would allow us to focus on how to better assist early-career job seekers interested in civic tech and government service design positions. 

Much like the popularization of “public interest law” in the 1960s and ’70s, the possibility of a career in “public interest technology” is rapidly winning over the hearts and minds of university students seeking to make an impact in their professional lives. However, in the status quo, many recent graduates are encouraged to start their careers in the private sector and circle back to government after they have gained some experience through the tour of civic service fellowship models offered by the Presidential Innovation and Management fellowships, TechCongress fellowships, Code for America fellowships, New Sector RISE fellowships, or other similar programs. While many before us have found this to be a totally fulfilling pathway, we know that the government’s need for technical skills is rapidly outpacing this approach. And we also know that entry-level job seekers like us don’t necessarily want to start in the private sector and come in through a fellowship — we’re looking for careers we can start and grow in these great civic organizations. 

According to a 2017 NextGov Survey, there are four times as many government IT specialists over the age of 60 as there are under 30. In California, 38% of current Government IT employees are at retirement age or will be within five years. While recruiting top tech talent requires government agencies to compete with well-resourced private sector recruitment teams, organizations like Coding it Forward have proven that younger generations have a strong interest in using their technical skills for good. 

The Design Challenge

Faced with a problem as nebulous and multi-faceted as rethinking the way early-career technologists are recruited into public interest and public sector roles, we started by breaking the project into smaller pieces. We outlined our project objectives, stakeholder and assumption maps, and research methods, and conducted hours of precedent research and interviews with representatives from Code for America, the New America Public Interest Technology University Network, Design Gigs for Good, the team that runs the federal government’s employment website USAJOBS, and the Georgetown University Cawley Career Center. After learning more about the issue area and synthesizing our research, we broke our findings into six major problems facing early career professionals wanting to pursue a civic technology or digital services career:

Infographic of common issues for students
Major problems our research and interviews surfaced based on the status quo for early-career job seekers who are interested in public interest technology. 

To address these problems, we came up with three phased approaches that includes focusing on changes with job boards, career centers, and government teams.

First We Started with the Job Boards

Recognizing that the government hiring process was not something that we could fix overnight, we decided to focus our project on stakeholders who we had access to and who had some degree of agency over their piece of the puzzle.

We started with job boards since they are an obvious entry point for newcomers starting their civic tech journey. Our research was prompted by the belief that job boards can be doing more to orient potential recruits and build up interest in the absence of well-resourced public sector recruitment strategies. After a series of interviews with public interest job board managers and user-experience research with ourselves and other job seekers, this is what we found: 

Context

A major barrier facing the public interest technology recruitment pipeline is that new job seekers often lack context for what their future career might look like. While resources and university partnerships have been developed by organizations like Code for America and New America, newcomers don’t always know where to find them or that they exist. Given that job boards are often the most public facing and frequently used pages for some of these organizations, we believe that they can function as translators between public interest and public sector tech organizations and new job seekers.

Representation

As entry-level people begin their career searches, location and work environment often have major influence on the decision-making process. The existing Code for America job board and the data science microsite on USAJOBS have an emphasis on featuring civic technologists with diverse backgrounds, which we greatly appreciated, but we also want job boards to emphasize geographic diversity. Currently, many of these job boards recruit predominantly from large cities, like San Francisco, New York City, and Washington, D.C. While the geographical distribution of jobs is a larger and more complex issue than we could address in a few weeks, we believe that job boards should be doing more outreach to organizations and local governments in smaller, less well-represented cities.

Pathways

A common misconception that students and entry-level job seekers have is that their career journeys have to be linear. This belief makes the blurred boundaries of public interest and public sector technology especially overwhelming. Because there are so many ways to use technical skills in government or to support public interest projects, there is no formal “pipeline” or “pathway” for newcomers to follow. To combat this, we are proposing that job boards create “are you new here?” pop-ups with links to resources, instructions for access online civic tech communities, and fellowship opportunities.   

Student writing on blackboardToward the end of July, as we carried out an ideation sticky-note session, we began to think about overarching recommendations that would aid job seekers. Photo by Dennese Salazar. 

Then We Consulted with the Career Centers

Through our interviews with the New America Public Interest Technology Network and the Georgetown Cawley Career Center we realized that civic tech barriers start earlier than interactions with job boards. As a current student and recent graduate, we have had firsthand exposure to the discrepancies between public and private university recruitment strategies, and we know that a handful of professors do most of the labor when it comes to providing civic tech specific advice and resources to students. To better understand the design opportunities within the university context, we mapped out our own journeys into this space and made note of the pain points where we could have benefited from clearer guidance. 

Infographic on career path
In order to better understand how we could help university students access the civic tech space, we mapped out our own experiences to identify pain points.

 

The final product was a “How to Get Started in Public Interest Tech” guide, designed to introduce, entice, and break down what we think a student would need to get started. 

We used recruitment materials from a dozen different civic tech and digital service organizations to put together a list of the most common civic tech roles, scraped 91 job postings on Code for America’s job board using an open source word analytics software to put together the most frequently requested skills, and interviewed current practitioners to develop a better understanding of what civic tech work looks like and the pathways to it. 

Our goal was to not only make something that a student could understand, but also a guide that faculty or career service professionals could use to recommend public interest technology to their students. 

Infographic of important career termsThis is a subsection of our student guide that maps out some of the thematic takeaways we learned during our summer working on civic tech at the Beeck Center. 

And Finally, we Pitched to Government

We know that we are not the first people to take on this project — in recent years, the Office of Personnel Management redesigned USAJOBS, the White House proposed a legislative plan to overhaul federal HR services, and the organization Coding it Forward has placed young tech talent across federal agencies during the past three summers. However, based on the insights and recommendations we collected throughout our research, we have compiled a list of changes that we believe governments could make to help early-career tech professionals find their way into public service. 

First, we think that government agencies should take a cue from recruitment techniques used by the private sector. This could include resume books, which are collections of resumes compiled by a university based on a particular semester and industry that are then sent to employers seeking employees. This would shift the burden of reaching out to desirable applicants to government hiring managers, but also the likelihood of agencies finding a perfect fit. Or increased career fair presence at universities across the country, to ensure that the public sector is able to establish relationships with top talent. This method would include thinking more intentionally about how to convince young people that working in the government will help them to hone their skills and develop new qualifications. Given the skyrocketing cost of tuition and student loan debt, extending federal scholarship programs to tech, design, and management degrees might also help the government agencies compete with the allure of Silicon Valley. 

Second, there are a number of reforms that could be enacted during the hiring process. This could include creating direct hiring permissions for technologists and designers across the agencies — this model has already been tested to recruit short-term cybersecurity experts. This process is not commonly practiced in the status quo due to its complexity and human resources offices with various agencies not knowing of its existence. While more research and clarity is needed, our hypothesis is that this shift would make the recruitment process faster, ensure that those who understand the requirements of the job have more of a say, and bring in temporary hires who could prove the value of a more long-term hiring strategy for technical talent. We also think that developing microsites like the USAJOBS pages for data science and cybersecurity could help to provide specific direction for federal job seekers with in-demand technical skills, and might be a model for further standardizing job posting language across agencies.

What’s next?

For us, taking on this problem through our capstone was deeply personal. During our summer on the Beeck Center’s Data + Digital team, we have been exposed to an innovative and diverse community of technologists and do-gooders who are working to hack and bootstrap our democracy. They work across different sectors, on different topics, and came to this line of work and this community in a multitude of different ways. 

Our capstone project as part of Beeck’s Digital Service Collaborative, an effort in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation, has been working to support unification efforts to increase idea sharing and mentoring across a decentralized public interest technology ecosystem, and we hope it will contribute to the ongoing efforts to reduce barriers of entry for university students and early-career professionals. We know that this work is instrumental to the sustainability of the civic tech community in the long term, and we look forward to a future where young technologists seeking out government positions is the norm. 

Dennese Salazar was a Summer 2019 Student Analyst supporting the Data + Digital team who recently graduated from Brown University. 

Jillian Gilburne was a Summer 2019 Student Analyst supporting the Data + Digital team and will return to Northwestern University this fall where she will be a senior majoring in Communication Studies, Political Science, and Human-Centered Design. Follow her on Twitter @JillianGilburne

 

September 10, 2019 | By Dennese Salazar

Human-centered design can be a powerful tool for solving problems in the social impact space. I joined the Beeck Center this summer to find ways to leverage and sharpen my design skills. I worked on social impact problems on data sharing and digital service delivery. One way I put these skills to work was to hold a workshop with my team of student analysts to train other teams of student analysts in human-centered design. My team used that workshop to problem solve a improvements for a Beeck Center program called Discern + Digest. This program consists of weekly lunches that offer a communal space for reflection on working in the social impact space. Started in 2019, it features reflections around privilege in the workplace to the boundaries between work and home. 

The dual objectives of our workshop were to learn and practice the fundamentals of the design process: problem assessment, empathy, lateral thinking, ethics, iteration, and implementation, and to use those skills to address an actual challenge at the Beeck Center. 

students working around tableDiscussions around ideation signaling a core strength of the Discern & Digest Series in the Human-Centered Design Workshop at the Beeck Center on July 29, 2019. Photo by Dennese Salazar. 

Through this workshop, we were taking on identifying recommendations and solutions for this Beeck Center program. In addition, we were also taking on the challenge of teaching design thinking as a form of problem solving to our fellow student analyst colleagues — even as we were refining those skills for ourselves. 

Stepping up as a Project Manager

As we began the process, one of our first observations was that we needed structure and organization. We spent hours talking in circles about our respective visions, what we wanted out of the workshop, and how we wanted to go about it. But with only one month to plan and facilitate the workshop, we needed to make more progress on planning so we could use findings from the workshop to develop a proposal to the Beeck team. We were also mindful that we wanted to practice our human-centered design skills throughout the planning process for our human-centered design workshop — some might call that “dogfooding.

We needed to be more focused on objectives and work purposefully at a rapid pace. With a group of many leaders taking on this project, someone needed to step up and help manage us — so I stepped into the role of project manager. Here are some ways I worked with the group to help us focus.

Goal Setting

One of the key mandates of the Beeck Center is to deliver better outcomes, and it was important to integrate this into the project’s life cycle. 

This is where objective-driven meetings came in. During each of our planning meetings, we had three to five time-constrained objectives that the whole team agreed to.. At the end of the first objective-driven meeting , one student analyst compared it to a thrilling obstacle course. Her heart beating rapidly at the finale but feeling triumphant. Everyone felt productive, and that became the structure for the rest of the process. This approach to project managing was further supported by key performance indicators (KPIs), to gauge whether we had completed objectives or reached our initial goals. One of the KPIs included gaining valuable insights from the workshop to address pain points of Discern + Digest. Ultimately, we ended up collecting more than 30 issues and 30 ideas for how to address those issues. 

Earlier this year, I was part of a user experience project that created an escape room. A participant would enter the room with the goal of “escaping” the room, or solving the necessary puzzles to get out. One focus was making sure there were small victories along the way to keep the participants invested and excited, whether they ended up escaping or not. The same principles translated into managing this project, where all team members could have that same investment and excitement with small victories, in addition to the completion of the project. 

Organization

No matter how unpredictable and lengthy a project is, it should be tethered to an overarching goal. When I first learned about the civic tech space, there was a seemingly insurmountable amount of gray area that I needed to trek through to get my bearings. With team members varying schedules, we had to emphasize consistency and order. By agreeing upon objectives, timelines, tasks, and important links or outputs front and center, everyone on the team could stay on the same page. 

Project Management Tools

A paper and pen are priceless, but digital tools have allowed for the rapid advancement of shareable ideas and organization. Shared documents allowed us to collectively create, produce, and collaborate. A graphics editor software allowed us to quickly draft digestible content, such as workflows, decision trees, workshop and structures. Perhaps the most significant and challenging tools were sticky notes. The bulk of our ideas and constructive feedback emerged from stickies, and we had to learn to strike a balance between categorizing through color, size, and quantity.

To keep track of the team members and check in on work load, I input tasks onto both a project management software tool and a physical project management board. By timing each objective around our meetings and scheduling frequent in-person and email check-ins, I was able to make steady progress and complete all of our objectives on time. 

Students working around a table
A physical project management board tracked our progress in our Beeck Center workspace throughout the entire project. Photo by Dennese Salazar. 

Screenshot of a Trello boardTrello, a common digital task management tool, helped make our objectives accessible to anyone on our team. 

Communication

Going into the project, I knew that communication was always a top priority in order for delegation to really work and to complete tasks. About a week before the workshop, we were discussing one of the main activities that would guide the participants through rapid ideation, which we had decided on several weeks prior. After doing a run-through, it became clear that it was too confusing to actually include, and we made the game-time decision to modify that entire part of our workshop. 

Ultimately, the reason it worked out to change course so late in the project is because we were all active participants in the run-through and discussion, we agreed to the modification, and the team members who were not present were all notified and acknowledged. This also included implementing a feedback loop through surveys, reviews, or one-on-ones, so we could get continually evaluated on our decisions. People make up the backbone of every project, so we prioritized holding regular check-ins to make sure we had balanced workloads and were mentally prepared to continue moving ahead. By bringing all voices into the conversation and documenting our decisions, we were able to handle pivots in our project. 

What We Learned

Through the management of a workshop plan through human-centered design principles, we did not set a lot of quantitative measurables. Instead, we were grounded in values and goals. Despite the management improvement, we recognized that there were ‘could’ves’, ‘would’ves’, and ‘should’ves’. We had to put good ideas on the shelf due to constraints, we juggled multiple projects and had to divide our time, and introducing new tools took some adjustment. Nonetheless, we learned very important lessons: 

  • Expect the unexpected – not everything can be planned and we needed to be ready for pivots
  • Communicate effectively – no matter what decisions are made, everyone should be in the know
  • Plan a timeline – even if a project seems hazy, attaching dates to objectives can serve as a guideline 

At the end of the day, project management is essential to complete core objectives. It can be challenging to keep the object of the project in mind when you’re swimming in decisions and ideas, but a good project manager can build those skills and help keep a team on track. Through this experience at the Beeck Center, I hope to continue equipping myself with user-centered management skills to deliver better outcomes by including everyone in the conversation around the work we are doing. 

Dennese Salazar was a Summer 2019 Student Analyst supporting the Data + Digital team and recently graduated from Brown University. 

September 10, 2019 | By Margarita Arguello, Jillian Gilburne, Vandhana Ravi, Alberto Rodriguez Alvarez, Robert Roussel, and Dennese Salazar

As an experiential hub at Georgetown, the Beeck Center continuously teaches students real-world skills on delivering impact at scale for our Fair Finance and Data + Digital portfolios. While approaching our projects this summer, we leveraged human-centered design skills throughout the research process. As the summer progressed, we realized that we could use design principles to think through how the Beeck Center approaches the student experience as well.

Learning about human-centered design as a research methodology provided us with a new set of skills for tackling complicated problems in the social impact space. Many of us already had some familiarity with human-centered design as a concept, so we organized a workshop to refine our understanding of the methodologies and how to apply them in practice.

Our goal was to guide fellow student analysts through a set of immersive, hands-on activities. Each activity focused on a specific design challenge that would equip our participants with new problem solving tools and allow us to collect data points about the student analyst experience. During this workshop, we revisited the format of the Beeck Center’s Discern + Digest weekly conversation series, events led by faculty, fellows, and staff to navigate complex topics as part of Beeck’s student engagement portfolio. But first, we had to navigate the process of organizing the workshop itself while keeping in mind our original goal.

Project Management

As we designed our workshop, we quickly realized that what we thought was going to be a simple and straight-forward process was impeded by lack of structure and organization. We spent hours talking in circles about our respective visions for the workshop structure, and given our tight timeline, we needed to be making more progress.

To help us work more purposefully, we focused on three key elements. First, we collectively defined our core objective for the workshop, which we used as a “North Star”. Second, we selected a project manager, a role that ensured someone kept an eye on the big picture and moved the project forward. Finally, we started time-blocking our meetings, so that by the end of each planning session a clear goal had been met and each person had an assigned task allocated based on individual team member’s personal goals. We kept track of our collective work load using an online project management tool and a physical project management board to track projects and tasks.

By constraining deliberation time during our meetings and having frequent in-person and email check-ins, we were able to make steady progress and complete all of our objectives on time. The structure ensured that we all stayed on the same page, we were upfront about hang-ups, and served as a support network for each other.

Screenshot of a Trello board
Beeck Center Student Analysts used agile methodologies to manage tasks for Human-Centered Design Workshop on Trello.

Structure

After developing a project management strategy, we turned back to our design challenge. The Discern + Digest program was a good focus for our workshop because of its transversality and familiarity. It is a core part of the student analyst experience and something that all of our participants would be intimately familiar with. Importantly, it was a program the Beeck Center was open to revisiting.

Throughout the design process, we continuously reminded ourselves to think about the participant experience. It took a lot of intentional refocusing to remember the needs and interests of those we were designing for — the participants — instead of our own learning goals around human-centered design. For example, one of our early structure proposals was to hold a design sprint where we could quickly prototype and test solutions, which would have allowed us to practice our facilitation skills while extracting student analyst insights about Discern + Digest for our own report. However, we quickly realized that if we were going to request two hours of our colleagues’ time, we needed to do more than treat them like a focus group.

So, we pivoted to include a presentation section where we would break down how human-centered design can be used to solve complex social problems, the important ethical considerations of user research, and how design methodologies can be helpful for resource-constrained teams.

Once we finally delved into workshop design, quick internet searches revealed hundreds of different design activities we could mix and match as we please. There were a number of different factors that we had to keep in mind throughout the process. These included the relevance of the proposed activity to our primary workshop goals, how they would fit in with the overall narrative of our workshop, how difficult they would be to facilitate, and how long they would take. After hours of research and discussion, we finally settled on a group of activities that would expose our workshop participants to some of the essential components of a design, such as: identifying pain points, synthesizing/creating categories, solution ideation, and prototyping solutions.


Students organized their thoughts in the Human-Centered Design Workshop at the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation on July 29, 2019. Photos by Alberto Rodriguez.

Facilitation

Preparing to facilitate the workshop helped us glean new insights about ourselves and our presentation styles. By field testing our existing skills, we established our strengths and identified areas for improvement. In our post-workshop reflection, we took on higher-level topics like best practices for keeping people’s attention by weaving a compelling narrative throughout an otherwise technical presentation. This exercise and the following introspection forced us to think about how to break down complex topics and confront biases and terminology that might be unfamiliar to our audience. We practiced humility when we realized that we could not achieve everything that we had set out to within our allotted period of time. We were pushed to develop a stronger growth mindset that we helped us see every challenge as an opportunity to learn in the future.

As predicted and intended, the process of organizing and facilitating this workshop pressure-tested a number of skills that we had hoped to develop throughout our summer at the Beeck Center. This left us feeling more confident and well-seasoned to bring them with us into the work we do throughout our careers.

Synthesis

The final phase of our human-centered workshop process was to synthesize the student input we received on the Discern + Digest program. We began by summarizing more than 50 different comments into key takeaways about the “current state” of the program as well as a “future state”. This phase was one of the most interesting parts of the human-centered design process, as we merged our personal observations with the ideas and opportunities provided by the participants to help the series grow. This was especially true when we were analyzing the current strengths or “anchors” of the program, and various students voiced how critical the series was in building community within the student cohort.

Synthesizing the students’ experiences led to a lot of ideation around recommendations for the future of the Discern + Digest series. We identified small changes that can be tested in upcoming iterations of the series to create an even more impactful experience for future cohorts of student analysts.

Post-it notes on a whiteboard
Sticky notes clustered signaling a core strength of the Discern + Digest Series on July 29, 2019. Photos by Alberto Rodriguez.

Working on Beeck’s Data + Digital portfolio, we believe in championing human-centered approaches for how data is leveraged and digital services are delivered. The biggest takeaway from this workshop was one we never really anticipated: other student analysts working in different portfolios using human-centered design principles and activities in their end-of-summer capstone projects. A perfect example of meeting the Beeck Center’s mission of creating impact at scale.

As we continue our journeys as students and young professionals, we will keep exploring and sharing human-centered design tools and methods with our peers across all sectors and always advocate for putting people and communities at the center of our work.

Special thanks to our two mentors in this project who were instrumental in guiding us throughout this process: Estefania Ciliotta, a Student Analyst at the Beeck Center who helped us ensure we were asking the right questions, supplied us with lots of really great frameworks and tools and was our #1 cheerleader in getting us to the finish line, and Emily Tavoulareas, a fellow on the Data + Digital team who first inspired us to develop this workshop and gave us the confidence to know that we could actually pull it off.

September 4, 2019 | Matt Fortier

We’ve been busy at the Beeck Center, pursuing our mandate as a training ground for students. Our student analyst program, which included 16 undergraduate and graduate students from 5 different universities, culminated in capstone projects that featured our entire portfolio of work, from community investment and opportunity zones in our Fair Finance portfolio, to various elements of our Data + Digital portfolio such as Census 2020 and a playbook for data sharing. 

Our capstone presentations also featured an exciting new initiative that helps students map their social impact journey, which we will introduce this fall. Be sure to attend our upcoming open houses to find out how the Beeck Center is defining a social impact leader and how you, as a student, can participate in our programming to acquire the tools and mindsets to drive social impact at scale. The open houses will also provide more information about upcoming events, seminars, and workshops. 

Speaking of this fall, we’ve been preparing an exciting back-to-school calendar as we welcome new students and returning students. Our fall calendar provides opportunities to learn about social impact, to explore topics in the field more deeply and engage in reflection, to experience social impact through applied learning, and to partner around social impact – all in accordance with our LEAP framework

This fall, we are also excited to welcome back our 2019 GU Impacts Fellowship class. 21 fellows completed their independent projects with one of our 10 different partners this summer, spanning from entrepreneurship in Atlanta to eco-tourism in the Philippines.  These students will complete their fellowship upon returning to campus, participating in reintegration activities such as reflection, mentorship, and additional guidance. We’ll be hosting an exposition this fall to showcase the exciting work that our GU Impacts Fellows accomplished this summer and the growth they experienced as a result of the program, providing insight into how our students are applying themselves as budding social impact leaders.

If you’ve held a curiosity about social impact and are interested in learning more about how you can approach some of our generation’s most pressing problems, we invite you to engage with us and to join us in our social impact journey. 

Get Involved

August 30, 2019

On August 6, 2019, the Beeck Center’s Fair Finance team and a Georgetown Law professor toured seven projects in Opportunity Zones in Baltimore City. These projects included vacant lots, refurbished rowhomes, and newly developed mixed income apartment buildings. At the conclusion of the tour, the Hotel Revival in Baltimore hosted a community dinner with Opportunity Zones Investor Council members, local faith leaders, and community organizers where Beeck Center Student Analyst Donovan Taylor presented his personal story and why social impact is invaluable to him.

The following is a transcript of Donovan’s speech.  

When I was 12 years old, my mom used to wake my sister and me up at 9 am to take us to church in East Baltimore. On Hillen Road, Lake Montebello was surrounded by beautiful single-family homes and lush grass. Driving down Harford Road toward North Avenue, things were a little different. There were brick row houses, concrete, and check cashing expresses. As my mom turned onto North Caroline St, the neighborhood was inundated with abandoned buildings, liquor stores, and potholes. The tension in the air was palpable. This community is juxtaposed with Harbor East’s cobblestone streets, extravagant fountains, upscale restaurants, and Whole Foods less than a mile away. How could anyone find purpose or joy in a world plagued by so much inequity and suffering? Baltimore is struggling to survive. In 2017, 342 people were killed in this city compared to 290 in NYC, a city with nearly 14 times the population. The issue of gun violence affects many families personally, including my own. In May 2014, my uncle was shot in the face and killed instantly, and the police still don’t know who’s responsible. 

Since 5th grade, I attended a summer program for talented Baltimore youth called Bridges at St. Paul’s School. St.Paul’s is a prestigious private school in the Baltimore suburbs with a huge campus that was once a slave plantation. I remember being absolutely amazed that students could drink from water fountains and had central air in their classrooms. Baltimore City Public Schools are struggling to meet the needs of the next generation of students, including providing a comfortable learning environment. In the winter of 2018, Baltimore made national news as a photo of preschool kids in heavy coats in their classroom went viral online, exposing just how poor conditions are in some Baltimore City schools because the city fails to provide adequate heating. If you’ve been exposed to gun violence, you must figure out ways to cope and heal from this trauma. If you don’t have access to healthy food, you will deal with an increased risk of obesity, hypertension, and heart attack. If your zone schools are underfunded, you have limited opportunities for upward mobility. In some of these communities, people are dealing with all these issues. Some people from outside of Baltimore can sit in their prestigious office and write these communities off as “rat infected, rodent infested mess(es)” that no-one wants to live in. But, Tupac lived in Baltimore for a part of his life and I believe it was in these communities he got the inspiration to exclaim “long live the rose that grew from the concrete.” My grandfather calls us “God’s miracle people” because even though we’ve been through so much, we always find joy and the will to press forward.

This is a critical point in our society. Our generation has seen the impact of fear and hatred on a global scale. We’ve seen a few people amass great wealth and power, while some parents abroad are forced to feed their children dirt patties. Today, we have an opportunity to change the world for the better. We can choose to see the value of these communities and equip them with the tools to recover from decades of apathy and exclusion. 

Impact investing is a relatively new perspective on investment through which social and environmental outcomes are just as important as financial returns. In the US, impact investors manage over $255 billion in assets. Opportunity Zones are a federal tax incentive that allows investors to defer taxes by investing their capital gains in low-income communities. Through the combination of impact investing and opportunity zones, with a clear focus on community empowerment, the narrative can be changed. The next generation deserves to live in a world free from the pain and trauma of today’s youth. The children of Sandtown should live in a community that they are proud of and afforded the same opportunities as those from Roland Park. Your passion and dedication to investing in Baltimore Opportunity Zones will lead to real change in communities that are desperate to be heard and healed. It is important to exemplify the adage “nothing about us, without us” and actively seek to understand community need. There are invaluable insights that residents can offer in this work that are equal to those of ivy-league educated professionals. To continue with the words of Tupac, these community members, these roses, are grounded in the reality of their lived experiences. Therefore, it will take the collaborative efforts of all to create a more equitable society. That rose in the concrete should live without fear that a stray bullet will kill it. That rose should have access to the best food, housing, and education available. That rose deserves the highest respect for embodying resilience and surviving the impossible. Eventually, that rose will no longer struggle from the weight of systematic injustice and the concrete will no longer exist.


Donovan Taylor is a Student Analyst supporting the Fair Finance team, and this fall will return to Georgetown University, where he will be a senior majoring in International Business and Management. Follow him on Twitter @donovantaylor01.

 

 

August 29, 2019 | By Jillian Gilburne

It takes grit to advocate for change in the public sector. The process of making a meaningful social impact can be lonely and slow; the levers of political power too rusty, and the egos manning them too large.

For students and young professionals just starting out, the prospect of such a hostile work environment can be overwhelming. Without the proper support system, confidence, and resources, many simply give up on challenging the status quo. And who could blame them? Pushing boundaries, breaking molds, and working interdisciplinarily are not nearly as simple and glamorous as we’re often raised believing. 

In fact, it was my pursuit of a community and support system that brought me to the Beeck Center Student Analyst program this summer. I wanted to join a team of innovative optimists working to scale social impact and support efforts to bring young technologists and designers into public service, and I found it. But I quickly realized that there were hundreds of other students across the D.C. area interested in developing innovative solutions to complex problems that I hadn’t met yet. In the spirit of collaboration, I started making plans for a Summer of Social Change Intern Convening. 

Community building, especially within the public interest technology space, is one of the core premises of the Digital Service Collaborative, the project I’ve spent the summer working on. We know that when thought leaders and practitioners come together to problem solve and collaborate, morale strengthens and we generate better ideas. But what about those of us who are just getting started in our professional careers or just beginning to understand how we fit into the public sector innovation ecosystem? While reading about the work being done by practitioners in the civic tech space is useful, it’s also important to develop a newcomer network — a group of co-collaborators and sounding boards who understand what it’s like to just be starting out. 

This is especially important for students entering the civic technology and social impact fields. Because we are usually working at the intersections of multiple disciplines, we don’t quite fit in anywhere. We are technologists, designers, discourse fixers, legal and policy wonks, activists, and economists bonded by a desire to make government and its related institutions work better for the people they are intended to serve. So, it’s important for us to find others who understand or sympathize with the mission. 

On a Tuesday afternoon in the Idea Lab of the Georgetown University Library, the Beeck team gathered 18 interns and young professionals from 10 different organizations and 11 universities to identify and address some of the most frustrating roadblocks to being a young person in a social innovation space. These organizations spanned sectors and included leaders in government transparency, human-centered design, election reform, funding social impact projects, and recruiting tech talent into the public sector.  

students talking around a conference table

Beeck Center Student Analyst Jillian Gilburne facilitates our Summer of Social Change Intern Convening on August 6, 2019. Photo by Céline Chieu.

We started by sharing methods and techniques that we’ve used to support our change making efforts in the past — mentoring, storytelling, challenging ourselves, and looking out for people whose voices are often ignored. We realized early on that regardless of where we came from or which organization we worked for, we had all developed similar toolkits for assessing complicated problems. 

The similarities didn’t stop there. As we started talking about the successes and hardships of our summer work, we encountered more of the same. Topics included changing perceptions around public sector work, navigating hierarchies and bureaucracies, helping non-technical bosses understand technical constraints, and figuring out what a career in social impact might actually look like. 

students writing sticky notes

Convening participants capture the highs and lows of their summer work on sticky notes. Photo by Céline Chieu.

Together we shared our concerns about finding mentors, pitching new ideas to skeptical co-workers, and feeling understood. We also offered up anecdotes about and suggestions for how we had dealt with similar problems in the past. For example, many of us had struggled with selling new ideas to upper level management. If we pitch an idea that is too half-baked it will be disregarded as infeasible, but if we wait too long, our internship will be over before it ever comes close to being actualized. In the end, we left with some good advice and a better understanding of how our interests might fit into the larger public reform ecosystem. 

I normally hate networking events but I really enjoyed talking with the other people I met today! It was really reassuring to hear that other people have a lot of the same problems I do. — Convening Attendee 

Obviously, we were never going to fix everything in an afternoon, but when working towards something as nebulous as social impact, simply coming together as young people to talk about our experiences and support each other can go a long way. So, thank you to the Beeck Center for creating a space for the social impact interns of D.C. to come together to develop new relationships and to debrief after a summer of changemaking. As the summer comes to an end, I can’t wait to see how the Beeck Center will continue to help interns and early career professionals from across the city and the country come together to strategize by hosting more of these convenings throughout the school year. 

And as I return to Northwestern University for my senior year, after a summer of researching how we can better support newcomers to the public interest technology space, I have plans to host a series of interdisciplinary salons where students and faculty come together to discuss how their field might approach a particular problem to ensure that technologists, designers, and policy leaders alike know that social impact is an option for their work.

Jillian Gilburne was a Summer 2019 Student Analyst supporting the Data + Digital team, and this fall will return to Northwestern University, where she will be a senior majoring in Communication Studies, Political Science, and Human-Centered Design. Follow her on Twitter @JillianGilburne

Data + Digital Student Analysts | June 2019

It has been a busy first month for the six student analysts supporting the growing Data + Digital Portfolio at the Beeck Center. They’ve truly hit the ground running — from attending coding meetups to discussing data privacy for an upcoming PBS special to learning how to facilitate human-centered design workshops. 

The Beeck Center’s Data + Digital work includes supporting efforts in the public and private sectors to responsibly share and use data to address some of society’s most challenging issues, as well as creating tangible resources and cultivating the community for government digital service leaders to help them share and scale efforts. As newcomers, our student analysts are learning about what it means to work in the fields of civic tech and digital service design while simultaneously supporting the team’s ongoing projects. And as students who are already thinking about their own professional futures, they’ve taken the time to explore the diverse range of pathways they can take into government innovation work in the future — including through efforts led by our colleagues in the Georgetown Tech & Society Initiative and the Public Interest Technology University Network

We hope you’ll read on for some of their takeaways for the month of June.

Vandhana Ravi, Data + Digital Program Associate

Beeck Center Student Analysts pose outside of New America in Washington, D.C. before “The Commons Live!” an event about storytelling in government held on June 10, 2019. Photo by Alberto Rodriguez.

Learning while doing: Beeck Center as a training ground

The Data + Digital Student Analyst team had our work cut out for us when we first arrived at the Beeck Center earlier this summer. We are a group of students representing a number of different universities and backgrounds from Rhode Island to Chicago, from chemical engineering to public policy united by our shared interest in using data and technology to make government work better for the people it serves. In our first month, we have worked together to advance the work of the Beeck Center while also developing our own understanding of the major themes within the government Data + Digital space. 

Community Building

One of the major themes we’ve encountered is the importance of building a community of practice, of professionalizing and creating clearer access points to this type of work in order to inject new energy into it. We have seen that systematically recruiting, training, and supporting young technologists represents a major challenge that government agencies at all levels are looking to address. 

Thankfully, there are currently a myriad of different programs and initiatives to provide training opportunities and create a community of practice to help orient newcomers. We had the opportunity to learn about two such efforts early on, including BetaNYC’s Civic Innovation Fellowship and the Coding it Forward Fellowship. Both of these programs have taken on the task of training students in a variety of data, technology, and design skills, giving them exposure to professional experience in various levels of government, and creating networks for them to share their experiences and meet other like-minded practitioners. During a roundtable conversation with former U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil, we further explored the many opportunities and challenges that data scientists and engineers can expect to face when they enter the field of public service and how we can continue to build a support system for newcomers to the field.

We are a group of students representing a number of different universities and backgrounds from Rhode Island to Chicago, from chemical engineering to public policy united by our shared interest in using data and technology to make government work better for the people it serves. 

Aside from the importance of support and training for students and others who are early in their careers and interested in government reform work, we have also been thinking a lot about how to improve communication between the policy wonks and technologists who often have to work together to accomplish civic tech projects. For this reason, some of our student analysts have been attending and participating in Code for DC brigade meetups to get a better understanding of what communication barriers might exist between parties with diverse professional backgrounds, but shared goals. 

Storytelling

Another major theme we have encountered is one that is directly related to the Digital Service Collaborative’s goal of documenting and spreading the work of digital service leaders. Sarah Sullivan, the former Chief of Staff for the United States Digital Service (USDS), emphasized the importance of storytelling at an event hosted by the Public Interest Technology team at New America. Sullivan drew on her personal experiences in the USDS and the Massachusetts State Senate to explain how creating a storytelling culture within organizations is key to promoting truth telling. While she acknowledged that telling the truth and standing up to authority — whether to the public or even just internally in government — can be really challenging, she asserted its importance for those in the business of fixing government. We have also been exposed to story-telling as a powerful tool for helping governments serve the public. At the same event, Aaron Foley, the Chief Storyteller for the City of Detroit, spoke about local news coverage and the role it plays in mitigating feelings of alienation that some residents experience as a result of psychological gentrification.

We have seen that systematically recruiting, training, and supporting young technologists represents a major challenge that government agencies at all levels are looking to address.

In taking on the challenge of documenting the work of the civic tech sector, we have acknowledged the importance of learning what stories have already been told, what resources exist but might be hard to find, and finding new ways to disseminate existing information. To support this, we are working with Code for America to capture and centralize existing informational resources for civic technologists and government service delivery teams across the country.

Data, Ethics and Privacy

As the concepts of digital government and civic tech become more well understood, some of the most pressing questions we will have to confront are about data privacy and the ethical use of technology. We delved deeper into the subject during a conversation with Beeck Center Fellow Natalie Evans Harris as part of a PBS series that highlights the accomplishments of women in STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — fields. Natalie, whose research focuses on the responsible use of data, guided us through a conversation about the privacy implications that should be considered when users give companies access to their data in exchange for a service. Our understanding of data ethics was pressed further during DJ Patil’s conversation when he introduced us to the topic of ethical data management and use as well as the new concept of a code of ethics for data scientists.  

As the concepts of digital government and civic tech become more well understood, some of the most pressing questions we will have to confront are about data privacy and the ethical use of technology. 

To further our knowledge on ethical data use practices, we attended a Deceptive Design and Dark Patterns Capitol Hill briefing. This panel addressed the Deceptive Experience to Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation that protects users from relinquishing their data on online platforms due to deceptive user interfaces, or “dark patterns.” This was a particularly illuminating event given our team’s previous feelings of discomfort about the prevalence of deceptive data practices during our conversation with Natalie. 

Given our concerns, we took the opportunity to hear different stakeholder viewpoints regarding data privacy legislation during an expert panel held on Information-Sharing Ecosystems at Brookings. During the debate, it became clear that many companies want some form of regulation but significant tensions exist on the best approach. We’re particularly interested in this debate between the proposal to allow consumers to own and monetize their data and the ability to more tightly control its collection. 

Moving forward, we aim to continue to spread awareness about the implications of data collection and look forward to learning how to tackle these ethical hangups.

Beeck Center Student Analysts participate in a human-centered design workshop held at the Beeck Center in June 2019. Photo by Estefania Ciliotta Chehade.

 

Human-Centered Design

In order to effectively tackle the incredibly nebulous and complicated problems we’ve been exposed to in the world of civic technology, we’ve sought out training in the principles of human-centered design. Many of us arrived at the Beeck Center having already been exposed to design principles, however, to sharpen our skills, we participated in a workshop led by Beeck Center Fellow Emily Tavoulareas where we learned the tools for designing workshops and applying problem scoping, ideation, and iteration to our own work processes. 

We also had the opportunity to see a human-centered design workshop in action by attending a policy prototyping workshop hosted by the Harvard Kennedy School, Stanford Cyber Initiative and IDEO CoLab, focused on the future of work, including how automation will affect jobs and how we can make these inevitable job transitions equitable. We worked in breakout groups to design prototypes of products to address different aspects of emerging problems, such as the scarcity of high-quality jobs. The diverse backgrounds of the group, which included civic leaders, government professionals, academics, librarians, and industry representatives, helped bring different perspectives to the prototypes, and we left with a better understanding of the problems and tangible next steps for solutions. 

International Perspectives

Finally, our team has been particularly interested in harnessing international perspectives in order to place the U.S. civic tech movement into a larger context. Members of the team have been hard at work designing a case study framework to create detailed accounts of innovation and digitization efforts in different Latin American governments. These case studies are meant to serve as learning tools both in the realm of academia and for practitioner usage. We hope to help key decision-makers expand their frames of reference as they design and draft digital transformation strategies for their own governments. 

As part of the Beeck Center’s mission to support the civic tech community and assist in the delivery of better digital services, we, as Data + Digital student analysts, have been working hard to understand the existing ecosystem in order to better understand the most pressing questions and challenges involved in using data and technology to improve public services. 

By listening to diverse voices in the sector and creating tools to build better government, our team is cultivating the community of digital service leaders and introducing new perspectives into the debate about the future of government work. 

Student Analysts on the Beeck Center Data + Digital team who contributed to this piece include Margarita Arguello, Kell Crowley, Jillian Gilburne, Alberto Rodriguez Alvarez, Robert Roussel, and Dennese Salazar.

July 1, 2019 | Forrest Gertin

On June 3, the Beeck Center welcomed its largest Student Analyst program cohort ever! 16 student analysts have joined us from as far away as Peru and China for the summer semester.  The Beeck Center’s Student Analyst program is designed as an experiential learning experience for students who are interested in social impact at scale. This program provides students, thought-leaders, and academics a common space to dream, break rules, collaborate across disciplines, and ideate solutions for rethinking the social sector. Students are paired with a Beeck Center fellow or staff member to work on projects ranging from Righting the Rules for Shared Prosperity to developing workshop methodology on social impact scaling. Get to know our summer 2019 cohort and what they are working on below.

2019 Summer Student Analysts Cohort by The Numbers

  • They hail from 9 different countries: Bangladesh, China, France, India, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Spain and the United States.
  • 6 are current undergraduate students.
  • 7 are current graduate students.
  • 2 have completed their graduate degree programs.
  • 1 has completed their undergraduate degree program.
  • They have earned or are pursuing degrees in fields as varied as Chemical Engineering, International Political Economy, Social Enterprise, and Experience Design.
  • 12 are enrolled at or earned degrees from Georgetown. HOYA SAXA!
  • The 4 non-Hoyas study at American University, Brown University, Northeastern University and Northwestern University.

What are they working on? 

Digital Service Collaborative

Student analysts are supporting the Digital Service Collaborative (DSC) in building a body of research around government digital services, creating tangible resources for practitioners and cultivating the community of digital service leaders in governments to share and scale efforts. Students are also supporting the DSC’s work on data collaboratives and multi-party data sharing by exploring policy considerations around ethics and privacy. 

Opportunity Zones Investor Council

Some of our student analysts worked with the Opportunity Zones team to launch the Opportunity Zone Investor Council. The Council includes 15 fund managers, developers, and investors working in urban and rural communities to drive impact through Opportunity Zones. Their work has included supporting membership outreach, developing communication materials, and managing event logistics. They’ve also researched past tax incentives to discover best practices and lessons learned that their team, and investors, can apply to Opportunity Zones investing.

Student Passport Project

Student analysts on the student engagement team are working to help students navigate their social impact journey. Their work centers around identifying the core characteristics of a 21st Century Social Impact Leader, and determining the myriad pathways that students can take to develop and apply those skills. Their work will give students a clear model to reference as they chart their own course towards a social impact career that incorporates their individual passions.

To learn more about our current cohort of student analysts, click here. If you’re interested in joining our student analyst team for Fall 2019, sign up for our newsletter. Applications currently aren’t open but we will send out an announcement when they are with more information.

by Alyssa Alfonso and Afras Sial

Afras Sial (left) and Alyssa Alfonso (right) attended the Sorenson Impact Center Winter Innovation Summit as Student Delegates this past February.

What was your first impression of Utah? What were you thinking on the way to WIS?

Alyssa: As I caught my breath in the Salt Lake City airport before heading to the University of Utah campus for the summit, I was nervous, excited, and a bit unsure of what the week would have in store. A foot of snow was in the forecast, which I had a feeling my work-appropriate flats squeezed into my carry-on were not equipped to handle. Similarly, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for three days of nonstop networking, panels, and ultimately creating a proposal to solve college affordability and the student loan debt crisis. An introvert at heart still learning how to share my narrative, the idea of giving my spiel to a “real professional” at a mission-driven organization made my feet go cold. But soon after arriving at the welcome dinner with each of the other 20 student delegates from social impact centers based in universities around the country, I felt much more reassured. A mix of undergraduates and graduate students, it was comforting to be surrounded by students who were all engaged in and passionate about the social impact space.  

Afras: Arriving in Utah, although I was returning to my home state, I found myself in a different state of mind. Rather than returning home for a winter or summer break, I had come to represent the Beeck Center in the Student Coalition for Social Impact as part of the Winter Innovation Summit (WIS). WIS describes itself as “the premier cross-industry event in social impact, innovation, and investing,” gathering “policymakers, funders, nonprofits, and social entrepreneurs to explore the future of social innovation across the globe.” From our dinner on the first night, I could already see how WIS was realizing this vision as I met diverse students from across the country who shared a commitment to leaving the world better, but each in their own unique way. The next day, the summit began with a keynote by Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton, California. His story of choosing to return to his struggling hometown after “making it” in more elite circles set a reflective mood for the summit, challenging me to recenter my goals on impact, even if they were not nestled in buzzword-laced sphere of social impact.

What experiences prepared you for this moment?

Afras: Without my experiences with the Beeck Center, I would not have had the vocabulary or perspective to digest the discussions and challenges we encountered at WIS. As a student analyst, I learned about the impact investing space, early childhood development programs, and public-private partnerships, all of which featured prominently throughout the summit. Later as a GU Impacts Fellow at the Center for Civic Innovation in Atlanta, I experienced a more grassroots approach to social impact. That experience enabled me to think more critically during the summit about how policy innovations, like income-share agreements in higher education, affect individuals beyond the data. Nevertheless, the data remains important, which I learned while studying impact evaluation systems as a student researcher at the Sorenson Impact Center, an opportunity the Beeck Center was instrumental in helping me access. Now as a student of economics, I was pleased to hear from panelists on topics ranging from AI to housing affordability and health innovation how the empirical methods we learn and practice are being implemented in real-time (as opposed to multi-year academic endeavors) to achieve better outcomes.

Alyssa: As a junior, I had the opportunity to work with Harlem Commonwealth Council on their annual Impact Report, where I partnered with a team of graduate students to identify a range of measurable factors to correlate with impact. I also had the opportunity to work with Federal City Council as a GU Impacts fellow in summer 2018. Federal City Council worked in a variety of project areas, all centered around helping growth benefit all residents of the District, not just a select few. In writing a grant to pilot an Accessory Dwelling Unit program and working group to increase the amount of affordable housing in DC, building curriculum for students with community-based nonprofits, and attending meetings with BIDs and executive agencies, I was exposed to a huge variety of players and ways to get involved in mission-driven work. As I engaged in conversations with other students and young professionals from social impact organizations like the Lumina Foundation, Third Sector Capital Partners, and the Urban Innovation Fund, I was almost surprised at how much how much my work as a fellow informed my participation in conversations and what I was able to contribute.

What surprised you most about the WIS?

Alyssa: What most surprised me about the Summit was the network of connections I was able to form in just three short days of panels, keynotes, and skiing. While chatting with a student delegate over lunch on the first day, I coincidentally ran into a woman I had the opportunity to work with as a GU Impacts Fellow last summer – at the time of writing this blog, we’re planning to get coffee next week to talk more about her work and how she found her way into the social impact space. When another student delegate heard I was interested in affordable housing, she immediately put me in touch with her peer at Berkeley. We hopped on the phone together and spent over an hour talking about the importance of housing as a social issue that encompasses questions of mobility, equity, and the wealth gap in our country. Engaging in organic conversations like these made me feel much more comfortable sharing my own narrative as well as asking questions about their work. Now that the summit has concluded, I feel confident that I can not only continue but also initiate these conversations. I’m grateful that I was able to build on my previous experience at the WIS Summit to further conversations and my understanding of social impact. In the end, a summit is just a series of questions and conversations. We’re glad these conversations were ones we won’t soon forget.

Afras: One of our final experiences with the Student Coalition for Social Impact at WIS was its first-ever Impact Hackathon on college affordability and student debt. After five hours, our solution was still a bit rough. As a group of twenty-one students, we struggled to maintain consensus and seam together all the solution’s disparate components. However, at the end of it all, even if our solution does not generate impact itself, I know I will not forget the impact of the stories shared by our peers. As we worked to hone in on our issue, we heard from inspiring students like Alex, one of the few to leave foster care and complete an advanced degree, and Huda, who would not give up on the fight to increase student access to mental health resources.

 

By Regina Titi Ofei

I first got involved with the Beeck Center in the summer of 2017, as a student analyst, at a time when the Center was in the early stages of exploring and experimenting with various projects and focus areas for research and thought leadership. As a global health major and economics minor, I long sought after a space on campus where I could further explore the value of the intersection of these two disciplines, and I am happy to say that my time as part of the Beeck Center family afforded me this opportunity and more.  

As a space that prides itself in providing students, thought-leaders, and academics a common space to dream, break rules, collaborate across disciplines, and ideate solutions for rethinking the social sector and improving the lives of people everywhere, my passion to chart a career in the international development space was ignited.

My first project at the Center was to design a new student engagement strategy. Over the course of the summer, we developed a partnership with the Georgetown Weeks of Welcome, joined the steering committee of the Georgetown Student Entrepreneurship Exchange, and strengthened our partnerships with student led organizations on campus that shared the Center’s values.

With time, I took on more research responsibility, working specifically in the innovative financing portfolio. I supported the Center’s pay for success work and attended hill briefings and seminars across the district that explored the role of performance-based financing in accelerating progress and outcomes in numerous projects across the social sector. As part of this research, we worked on a on a case study on innovative public-private partnerships in New Zealand and explored how recidivism can be reduced in public prisons by leveraging innovative financing mechanisms in such settings.

While the Beeck Center has always been committed to investing in top student talent and nurturing students to be innovative and unafraid to take risks, it is undoubtedly at a very exciting period in its history, with a sharper focus and more concerted effort on student engagement with the development of the LEAP Framework, which places an intentional structure around how the center envisions student growth and participation over their four years on the hilltop. 

I share below how my social impact journey with the Center, and at Georgetown more broadly, fit into this framework: 

Learn: I first got introduced to some of the topics and research areas in the international development space through a class I took on the political economy of health and development. In that class, we explored the role of results-based financing in the health sector and the ways in which some international agencies like GAVI, the Global Fund, and UNITAID have leveraged innovative finance mechanisms for resource mobilization in their activities globally.

Explore: This class sparked in me an interest to find a space, outside of the classroom setting, where I can continue to test these ideas and learn more about how they are transferred and applied in other sectors beyond health. Having the opportunity to be sponsored by the Beeck Center to attend the Harvard Africa Business Conference broadened my knowledge and served as the trigger for my interest in social impact and pursuing a career in the international development space. I was also inspired by the voices I heard in an array of seminars and panels including with Shu Dar Yao, Head of Capital Formation at Social Finance INC., and with Beeck Center Director Sonal Shah, who brings a wealth of experience from the finance world to solving some of the most complex and intractable challenges that face the social sector today.

Act: As a student analyst at the Center, I continued to learn, be mentored by some of the brightest minds in the social sector, expand my knowledge in the space and assist in research and publications that seek to push the boundaries of thought in the social sector. One of the most formative experiences I had as an analyst was the opportunity to speak on a panel with Matt Fortier, Director of Student Engagement and Michael Bakan (GU Impacts Fellow ’17) at the annual Georgetown Board of Regents Meeting on our experiences learning and working at the Center and how it has shaped our understanding and interest in the social sector and achieving impact at scale.

Partner: Now as a student analyst alum, I continue to stay plugged into the events at the Beeck Center and look forward to strengthening the relationship between the Beeck Center and the African Society of Georgetown in my capacity as president this year. It will be a great way to get more students, especially from minority backgrounds, involved and interested in the impact at scale agenda and exposed to more opportunities to learn and grow in the social impact space.

As I get ready to graduate in May, I have accepted a position in Dakar, Senegal as an associate with IDinsight, a social impact advisory and impact evaluation firm. I am extremely excited to be entering the world of work, knowing that my experiences at the Beeck Center have created a firm foundation and launch pad for me to pursue my goals in the international development arena.

I remain grateful to mentors like Matt, Sonal, and Marta who were highly instrumental in my intellectual growth and sparked in me this desire to go back home and be part of Africa’s development at such an exciting time. 

Thank you Beeck Center and Hoya Saxa!! 

 

by Matt Fortier

We have an exciting student engagement program prepared for 2019, emblematic of the Beeck Center’s invigorated strategy and growing team. When I joined Beeck at the end of 2015, we were, as an organization, not yet two years old and very much in the exploratory phase of our work, engaging in a variety of projects from impact investing and data for social good, to evolving our flagship student engagement program, GU Impacts. At the verge of our 5-year anniversary, we still love to explore new ideas and concepts – that’s half the fun in our work in fact and core to our identity as an organization that thinks differently and learns from its failures as much as its successes – but we’re also applying a new rigor and proceeding with a sharper focus. Through previewing our Spring 2019 Student Engagement program and introducing our LEAP framework, we find a strong example of how the Beeck Center is maturing and progressing towards its goal of impact at scale.

The LEAP framework is grounded on the concept of a student’s journey in the social impact space. This journey invites students from across all Georgetown’s schools that have a range of interests and who will ultimately work across every sector. The journey is a progression that begins by establishing baseline knowledge and then builds on that knowledge through deeper learning that focuses on introspection, application, experience, and partnership. It pushes students to understand how systems work and to think about how they can be innovated upon to work better; to serve all people, and to promote equity. It pushes students out of their comfort zone and seeks to marry best practices in social impact education with an integration of our own leading-edge research.

LEARN
In the first stage of the LEAP journey, students are introduced to a topic such as impact investing; they Learn. Last semester, students learned about impact investing and Opportunity Zones through our inclusive economies fireside chat with Nonprofit Finance Fund Director Antony Bugg-Levine and Beeck Center Resident Fellow Lisa Hall.

EXPLORE
From there, they are invited to Explore – to dig deeper into a topic through a more hands-on, discussion-based and often client-based workshop or course. Last semester, students explored inclusive finance through our place-based impact investing workshop. This semester, students are exploring Opportunity Zones further through our Social Impact @ Scale course, taught by Beeck Center Executive Director Sonal Shah and through the School of Foreign Service’s Science Technology and International Affairs Program.

ACT
Next, we urge students to Act, engaging them in experiential learning programs such as our flagship GU Impacts fellowship or our Student Analyst program. These experiential learning programs have been a catalyst for the growing movement at Georgetown and more broadly for experiential learning as an integral part of today’s curriculum.

PARTNER
At the final stage of the LEAP journey, we invite our students to Partner. In this stage, Beeck student alumni partner from their own social impact platform; from within organizations or at the helm of a project or initiative. Last semester, we partnered with GU Impacts alumna Camille Bangug as the Co-Director of the Millennium Fellows Program. The inaugural program supported students across multiple universities, including sixteen Georgetown students, all leading social impact projects that addressed the Sustainable Development Goals. We celebrated their work last fall in our Youth Impact Conference, recognizing students like Camille, who joined a breakout panel that examined the role of youth in making the world a better place.

Through our partnership with Camille and the Millennium Fellows program, we engaged three Millennium fellows founding an initiative called Plan-It Earth. The Plan-It earth team was organized around a single idea: to host an annual ideathon at Georgetown that focused on climate change. These student leaders were motivated – they had witnessed the event at Duke and proposed to replicate and adapt the model at Georgetown, but they needed an institutional partner. They approached the Beeck Center to propose a partnership.

We are proud to share that we are leaning in to serve as a thought partner with Plan-It Earth, supporting the leaders of this seventeen-student team and working to make this event not only successful, but to serve as an incubator for our own approach to social impact. For example, we are working to ensure the ideathon is inclusive; that it presents and engages a diversity of ideas and people. We are integrating our own market-research, providing mentors from our incredible team of Fellows and leading breakout sessions on civic voice, data, and finance. On top of all this, we are integrating what we’ve learned from co-hosting our own challenges. This year’s inaugural ideathon examines the link between economic development and environmental protection. It has already attracted some 15 candidates, $20,000 in sponsorship from six different sources, and keynote speakers such as former science policy fellow at the EPA, Barbara Martinez, and noted policy consultant, Professor Jeremy Mathis. This event represents a true synthesis of our prior work and promises to be a great success.

From our founding five years ago, we’ve always hosted events, conferences, workshops, and classes. We’ve always done experiential learning and partnered with student leaders. We’ve always engaged in leading-edge research and worked across sectors for social impact at scale. But 2019 is different. As we celebrate our 5-year anniversary, we have a sharper understanding of how all these disparate pieces fit together. We have a clear and coherent vision that enables us to successfully train students to become the 21st Century leaders our world so sorely needs. Through the framework of the LEAP Journey, we are ensuring that our students have the tools and mindsets necessary to fulfill St. Ignatius’ mandate to “go forth and set the world on fire.”

November 19, 2018 | By Caprice Catalano

GU Impacts is one of the Beeck Center’s flagship programs. The GU Impacts Program is celebrating its 6th year with the Beeck Center and has allowed 121 students to participate in a wide variety of internships across 14 countries. The GU Impacts experience is one of a kind. Students have cited their GU Impacts Fellowship as a milestone that altered the trajectory of their personal, academic, and professional paths.

Take Camille Bangug, a senior in the School of Foreign Service majoring in International Politics and pursuing a certificate in International Development. Camille was a 2017 GU Impacts Fellow at El Nido Resorts in the Philippines the summer after her sophomore year.

Following GU Impacts, Camille was inspired to seek out other social impact opportunities, such as the Millennium Fellowship, which she currently leads at Georgetown. Camille also spoke on a panel at one of the Beeck Center’s latest conferences, Youth Impact. Finally, she attended the Vatican Youth Symposium in late October. We were able to speak with Camille prior to her departure for the Symposium to dive deeper into how her GU Impacts Fellowship shaped her life trajectory.

 

What motivated you to apply to GU Impacts at the time and what made you interested in working with El Nido Resorts?

Camille: During my education, I’ve spent a great deal of time figuring out how to make the most of my parents’ sacrifices, as well as of the privileges they’ve afforded me. I’ve always felt a strong call to serve. My parents are originally from the Philippines, so being able to orient this purpose in a place so important to my family was the perfect opportunity for me.

 

Did GU Impacts have any impact on your academic life? Was there anything that sparked your interest during your fellowship?

Camille: I’ve always had an inkling to work in international development — and GU Impacts solidified this decision. I decided to pursue a certificate in International Development entirely because of my GU Impacts experience. I saw the certificate as a way to learn about all of my interests, particularly those that didn’t intersect directly with my major.

Camille (middle) with other El Nido GU Impacts Fellows.

          

Could you share some more information on the Millennium Fellowship that you run on campus?

Camille: Under the guidance of Sam Vaghar, Executive Director of Millenium Campus Network, we were able to build a network of Millennium Fellows at Georgetown. The Fellowship convenes, challenges, and celebrates students advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are 530 Fellows at 30 campuses and their projects will advance all 17 SDGs and impact 310,000 people across 13 nations.

The Fellowship’s vision is to integrate the disjointed development conversation on campus. Many students are participating in research or small activities centered on the SDGs, but many of these efforts aren’t well known across campus. It’s been great to create an outlet where their work can be recognized and celebrated.

 

Have you seen a great intersection between GU Impacts and the Millennium Fellowship?

Camille: In both outlets, I learned that students have the capacity to do amazing things, regardless of age or experience. In fact, GU Impacts’ partner organizations originally wanted masters students, but undergraduate students were so effective that they began specifically asking for undergraduates. It’s been great to recognize that same potential in Millenium Fellows as well.

Camille with the Georgetown Millenium Fellow Network at the Beeck Center.

What were some insights you provided on the Youth Lens Panel at the Youth Impact Conference?

Camille: At the panel, I discussed the challenges students face in understanding what it means to work towards the SDGs. It is important to raise awareness for on-campus organizations like the Beeck Center that can help students learn about social impact opportunities. These organizations should also serve as formal advocates for students who want to get involved. It is important to create these channels because they can expand opportunities for students to engage with these issues early on.

 

Can you tell us about the Vatican Youth Symposium and what excites you about the opportunity?

Camille: The Vatican Youth Symposium gathers a diverse group of young people from different backgrounds and disciplines to work toward solutions to the world’s toughest challenges. It is important to remember that a lot of development work is driven by faith-based community organizations. At Georgetown, we constantly reflect upon our Jesuit values, so I am excited to see how the Vatican engages in this development conversation from a Catholic perspective — especially under the leadership of a Jesuit Papacy.

Camille with other youth leaders at the Vatican Youth Symposium (left) and speaking at the Symposium (right).

It appears that GU Impacts had a large impact on your time at Georgetown and the path you have paved for yourself. Why should other students pursue a GU Impacts Fellowship?

Camille: Everyone should apply. GU Impacts is interdisciplinary and it will teach you so much that other kinds of internships rarely can. GU Impacts influenced the trajectory of my life. I would not be pursuing any of these other opportunities if it were not for GU Impacts. It is not an opportunity for the faint-hearted, but the rewards of the experience are tenfold.

 

What advice would you give students interested in learning more about international development and social impact? How should they utilize the Beeck Center in this mission?

Camille: I would advise students to begin conversations with people working in this space and to simply ask more questions. Talking to these individuals is how you can translate an inkling or small passion into your full-time career. The Beeck Center is the perfect space for these conversations. Students can learn about opportunities that they may not know exist and they can also learn about different ways to drive impact.

Applications for Summer 2019 GU Impacts Fellowships will launch on November 26th and will close on January 14th. Contact Franchesca Rybar at franchesca.rybar@georgetown.edu with any questions.

This post is part of our Student Summer Series, which highlights the perspectives of students working at the Beeck Center as they engage and explore ways to scale social impact.

August 15, 2018 | By Eunice Jeong, Student Analyst, Georgetown University Class of 2020 

As educational centers serving students as well as larger communities and cities, universities hold great potential for advancing important discussions on modern social problems and the potential for strategies such as socially-conscious investing to help address these issues. Large schools around the world, often with endowments upwards of $1 billion, hold a unique position in the eyes of communities and the media. These schools are developing the next generation of social impact leaders – government officials, educators, and social entrepreneurs – and they have a significant opportunity to shape the future of socially-conscious investing. Through their own investment of endowment funds and the courses they offer to students and executives, universities can lead by example to promote impact investing and build the capacity of the next generation of leaders to do the same.

This summer, Cambridge University confirmed its divestment from companies in the fossil fuel sector as part of its new commitment to using part of its £3 billion endowment to address climate change. The Cambridge University Endowment Fund (CUEF) investment plan includes a comprehensive review of environmental impact funds, education for university leaders on the topic, the creation of a university Centre for a Carbon Neutral Future as a center for sustainable energy research and related policy discussions, and a commitment to complete carbon neutrality on campus by 2050.

Closer to home, Georgetown University’s board of directors announced in June 2015 that the university will no longer invest its endowment in companies whose principal business is mining coal for energy production. They came to the decision after mounting pressure from student and community groups such as GU Fossil Free, which set up pickets on campus demanding accountability from the Georgetown board and presented its proposal in multiple meetings with the board of directors and President DeGioia. In addition to this divestment, the university is committed to evaluating topics related to socially responsible investments and endowment management. While Georgetown’s financial disaffiliation from coal companies is not yet as extensive as Cambridge’s commitment to actively investing in sustainable energy options, divestment itself is an important first step in impact investing on a campus scale.

Socially-conscious investing is starting to catch on in similar ways in other schools as well. Many consider socially responsible decisions to be part of a university’s obligation to its students and larger community. As students and staff demand that school directors and advisory boards tackle relevant social issues, university commitments to impact investing are starting to become more common. Efforts in campus impact investing can be seen in the boards of other large universities across the country, such as Harvard, Brown, and Boston University. For Georgetown, addressing fossil fuel companies’ effect on climate change problems can be considered to be part of the Jesuit mission of the school – in an official statement, DeGioia remarked, “As a Catholic and Jesuit university, we are called to powerfully engage the world, human culture, and the environment – bringing to bear the intellectual and spiritual resources that our community is built upon…The work of understanding and responding to the demands of climate change is urgent and complex. It requires our most serious attention.”

In addition to promoting impact investing with their own endowments, schools can also provide opportunities for their students to learn about impact investing and tools to apply in their careers. This year, the University of Cape Town will launch its first course on impact investment for lawyers through its Graduate School of Business. The course will be convened by the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Program convener Susan de Witt remarked, “Impact investment is growing at a rapid pace, both globally and in [South Africa], and as more international funding becomes available with demands for better social and environmental as well as financial returns, there will be a need for legal expertise to craft the kind of agreements and deals that will ensure these outcomes are realised.” Other universities should consider implementing similar programs so that students can learn to implement social impact investing practices in their future careers. This program is similar to other established programs such as the Social Impact MBA program at Boston University aimed to teach business management with a social impact mindset, aimed toward students interested in the nonprofit and social sector.

How else can schools promote impact investing for students outside the classroom? Socially conscious investing efforts can come directly from the student body in the form of student organizations like the Wharton Social Venture Fund – similar projects exist at the University of Michigan, Columbia University, and the University of California, Berkeley. Students interested in learning about the subject can create or join clubs like Net Impact, a student organization based off the national nonprofit which aims to support business-minded students in pursuing social and environmental impact causes. The organization has chapters in universities across the country. Schools can also host conferences and speaker events featuring impact investing experts and give students the opportunity to learn and network with leaders in the field.

Looking forward, university-sponsored impact investing, whether it’s directly through endowment investments, or indirectly through student education, has significant potential to make a difference in communities and in the next generation of leaders. Schools looking to follow in the footsteps of Cambridge, Georgetown, Wharton, and Cape Town must carefully analyze their priorities and the needs of the surrounding community so that the investments that they produce lead to real returns and social impact. In this way, universities today are in a position to leverage their significant power to create lasting social finance solutions and build the capacity of future leaders.

This post is part of our Student Summer Series, which highlights the perspectives of students working at the Beeck Center as they engage and explore ways to scale social impact.

July 25, 2018 | By Eunice Jeong, Student Analyst, Georgetown University Class of 2020 

This May, the Beeck Center welcomed ten student analysts for the summer. Our 2018 summer cohort includes both undergraduate and graduate students competitively selected from Georgetown University and beyond, all of whom bring a diverse set of strengths, experiences, and cross-disciplinary backgrounds.

This summer represents an important transition phase and planning period for the Beeck Center, and the new summer students are making an important contribution to the implementation of new strategies. Matthew Fortier, the Beeck Center’s Director of Engagement, explains that, “our students are playing a key role in helping us move from a ‘start-up’ to a ‘scale-up’ strategy. They are contributing across all day-to-day operations of the Center as well as supporting major projects and providing strategic input.”

What exactly does that entail, from the students’ point of view? To answer that question, we all got together after the midway point of the summer to share our thoughts, experiences, and reflections on working at the Center.

What was your understanding of the work of the Beeck Center before you started? What first drew you toward working here?

“I was drawn to the unique startup atmosphere of Beeck Center.” – Junaid Masood (Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy ‘19)

“I think that much of the future of social impact lies in the areas of data, tech, and finance. So, this summer, I wanted to see how I could fit in the social impact sector by working somewhere that specializes in it.”  – Orunima Chakraborti (Georgetown University, College ‘20)

What are some of the projects you’re working on this summer?

“I’m helping with research and editing for a project on Designing a Public-Private Partnership to Deliver Social Outcomes in a New Zealand corrections facility, as well as assisting with the  creation of a comprehensive database of pay for success projects.” – Showroop Pokhrel (Georgetown University, College ‘20)

“I’m working on several projects this summer. Most of my time has been spent on a data for social good project, that uses machine learning to identify factors across all urban areas that are correlated with poverty decline. I’m also supporting work related to Opportunity Zones, executive education, and a new engagement related to government use of technology platforms to deliver better social outcomes.” – Will Denison (George Washington University, Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration ‘19)

“I’m designing outreach materials and coordinating with campus partners for upcoming Beeck Center events.” – Eunice Jeong (Georgetown University, School of Nursing and Health Studies ‘20)

What is something completely new you’ve learned by working here?

“As a student with a background in finance, it was really interesting to read about and do research on special topics that I didn’t get to learn about in my classes, such as impact investing and pay for success.” – Caprice Catalano (Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business ‘20)

“I came here with no prior experience in business or finance, and the work I’ve done so far has really taught me about the applications of those subjects in the social sector and government.” – Kevin Mersol-Barg (Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy ‘19)

“There are a lot of buzzwords constantly being thrown around at the Beeck Center [like “social innovation”, “outcomes financing”] that weren’t clear at first, but doing research and working on my projects has given me a solid understanding of their meanings and applications.” – Junaid Masood

“Nowadays, our society faces many challenges. In the past, private entities had one option to enable social change: Donate. Nowadays, new financial instruments, like Opportunity Zones, impact investing, and pay for success, allow us to do well financially, while doing good. – Itay Weiss (Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy ‘19)

How has working here been different from your past work experiences?

“Because of the flexible structure of the Beeck Center, we have opportunities to explore many areas of interest instead of focusing on one. I love both data analysis and communications, and here I am able to work in both.” – Rachel Wilder (University of Central Florida ‘18)

“We’re each entrusted with a variety of tasks which keep us busy, but at the same time the environment is really chill. The Beeck Center has really provided me with opportunities to express creativity in my work.” – Sudhanshu Sisodiya (Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business ‘20)

What have you found valuable about working here?

“Learning from the senior fellows and hearing about their work was really educational and helped contextualize the topics we’ve been researching. I also like that we’ve developed a good community with a mix of undergraduate and graduate students. ” – Kevin Mersol-Barg

“Working here gives us lots of opportunities to attend special conferences, speaker events, and networking events around DC where we can learn more about topics in social impact and innovation from experts and outside perspectives.” – Caprice Catalano

“The Beeck Center allows students the opportunity to take ownership of projects and see their contributions in a tangible way.” – Will Denison

What advice do you have for peers interested in working in the social impact scene or even at the Beeck Center?

“Since there’s a lot of flexibility and independence in this type of work, you have to learn to take initiative and reach out to your higher ups first. For example, the senior fellows are a great resource since they’re really open to talking and giving us new projects if we just ask.” – Showroop Pokhrel

“This field is very trendy right now and it plays for both sides. Do extensive research about the organization and make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into and who are you working for.” – Itay Weiss

Photo Credit: Austin Seaborn. Pictured: Back row, L-R: Junaid Masood, Will Denison, Showroop Pokhrel, Sudhanshu Sisodiya; Front row, L-R: Kevin Mersol-Barg, Orunima Chakraborti, Eunice Jeong, Caprice Catalano Not pictured: Rachel Wilder, Itay Weiss