“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” This quote from Martin Luther King has inspired me so many times throughout my life and is the reason why I chose to participate in the field of social justice.
This summer, I am interning with a nonprofit organization called Ashoka. Compare to other organizations, Ashoka has a rather unique mission and theory of change, that is, to build an “everyone a changemaker world,” and all of their programs and work revolve around this. Through establishing programs in more than ninety countries, Ashoka tries to accomplish its mission from three main approaches:
- Finding and supporting social entrepreneurs around the world by providing financial help, connections and consulting; Ashoka enables these entrepreneurs to make changes and address social issues such as unequal education and women’s rights.
- Partnering with major corporations, helping to evolve their organization model, culture and governance through various workshops, assessments and training. The goal of this is to make companies a powerful source of social change.
- Assisting the next generation to have critical skills regarding initiating social changes and social innovations through various programs such as Ashoka University and Ashoka Youth Venture.
I was drawn to Ashoka almost immediately when I saw it during my job search. To build an “everyone’s a changemaker world,” a world where all citizens are powerful contributors to positive changes, is something I’ve always envisioned but didn’t know how to realize. I chose to intern with Ashoka because I was impressed by the diversity of their programs and the scope of their impact. There are a lot of nonprofit organizations focusing on addressing one specific issue, and I definitely do recognize and appreciate the significance of them, but I’ve never seen any organization like Ashoka. Many may think Ashoka is being too ambitious, but in my perspective, great ambition is the first step toward great change.
Ashoka’s internship programs are very well-developed. Firstly, the interns working under the same branch or department of the organization will be put into a team, and they will be assigned a supervisor. You may think that since there’s a team, the team must be working on one project together, but that’s not the case in Ashoka, and that’s what I love about the organization. Even though the team meets several times weekly to share progress, everyone in the team actually got assigned their individual projects.
The project I’m working on in Ashoka is called knowledge management, that is, to develop a space for my department on Confluence, the internal platform Ashoka is using. The process of developing the space involves designing a structure for the layout of materials, organizing all the existing internal decks, and building out individual pages. Since Ashoka is a global organization with offices around the world, internal communication between different offices becomes especially important. With that being said, the purpose of the space I’m building is to provide a knowledge base where all materials are organized and shared logically, and the staffs can utilize the space to work more efficiently and effectively together. Even though my project is not associated with any of Asoka’s external facing programs, I do think there’s a significance to working on internal development, as it’s the backbone of every well-functioning organization.
Though due to the Covid-19 crisis, my internship in Ashoka was entirely remote, I have learned so many important skills and gained so many inspirations in the past four weeks. I believe the knowledge and lessons acquired here are broadly applicable to every aspect of my life and will benefit me enormously in the future.