Halfway through AJWS

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 The Work

Halfway through my internship, my work in the Experiential Education department has progressed with increased clarity and productivity. Now with a stronger grasp on the organizational culture, language, and processes, I am making greater headway on various tasks. One project I am working on is a retrospective for the service programs, that are now coming to a close, in order to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of these programs, share learnings and reflections, and highlight the transition to the new educational and leadership program that AJWS is pioneering, the Global Justice Fellowship. Another element of my work has been conducting research, also in support of this program. I am conducting interviews with other international programs that similarly aim to deepen understanding and commitment to global justice. My research and supportive work behind the program has demonstrated that AJWS is innovating in the world of global justice solidarity work and organizing, with the combination of an immersive educational opportunity, activist training, and campaign mobilization in the U.S. Another function I am contributing to is a Campaign Toolkit, which will serve as a resource for activists in the forthcoming campaign of AJWS. I have additionally spent some time reaching out to alumni, updating the database, and plugging upcoming events.

One of the biggest highlights of being an intern, though not exactly task oriented, is the multitude of  sessions the interns have with various directors and executives of the organization. This opportunity gives us the chance to see how these dynamic individuals each uniquely contribute to the greater mission, managing their their various teams to address critical functions of the organization’s operations. Getting exposed to the ways in which each of these functions – from development and communications, to grant making and advocacy – fit into the theory of change, has opened my eyes to the far-reaching work that makes an organization effective at driving change.

Staff and friends of American Jewish World Service marching in the 2013 NYC Pride March.
Staff and friends of American Jewish World Service marching in the 2013 NYC Pride March.


Learnings in an International Non Governmental Organization

Efficiency, Coordination, and the Role of Process:

Some of my most significant leanings at AJWS have been about process; how an organization (or any group of people for that matter) with a serious mission, drive, and no time to waste, can work best to accomplish their goals. I have witnessed a number of tools that I will undoubtedly continue to use at any workplace or organizing situation in in the future. Foremost, I have seen the significance of role clarity. It happens informally, revealed naturally through conversation, and institutionally, in various forms of “responsibility assignment matrices.” And the results are noteworthy. It better assures a shared vision, creates accountability, prioritizes tasks, and helps utilize people’s skills most efficiently. For the type of work I aspire to accomplish in life, prioritizing both stakeholder participation and productivity, these lessons of process are invaluable.

Furthermore, I have encountered modes of facilitation and delivering information that additionally emphasize the role of process. While in the university setting I have learned to write with an affinity for words and delve into the depths of ideas, I see how these skills are not necessarily best for productive functioning in an organization. Conversely, using as few words as possible to articulate an idea, ask a question, and deliver an update is critical for dynamic and efficient collaboration. How important to recognize and develop this skill early on!

And perhaps most importantly, process and efficiency includes people feeling good! Google has received much attention for their remarkable incorporation of this value into the workplace – with play time, healthy food, haircuts, and childcare, all complimentary at the workplace. And while AJWS (like every other company and organization) is no Google, it does quite. In the office, we are fortunate to hear inspiring grantees come and share their stories, and it is not rare to find oneself celebrating a colleague or historical moment. I feel invigorated each morning walking into an office that radiates with positivity, passion, and work that matters deeply.

AJWS staff members celebrate the repeal of DOMA

– Samuel Porter