Published by StuFram on 12 Aug 2011 at 07:59 am
My main task has been to work with Camilla, WiserEarth’s Communications Director, to scale up the presence of WiserLocal gatherings around the world (for a more detailed description of WiserLocal, see the first paragraph of my previous blog post). The prospect of setting up events in foreign cities was quite intimidating when I first signed up for the job, but Camilla was great; once I officially started working she eased me into everything at the perfect pace.
I started off by doing some research and by familiarizing myself with the WiserEarth platform. Some general outreach followed that, whereby I both contacted those who had previously expressed interest in setting up a WiserLocal gathering and tried to find new people interested in somehow getting involved in the future. One of the chief means of fulfilling the latter objective was through the WiserLocal Twitter account (@WiserLocal) that I created back in May and managed (with the occasional help of Peggy) thereafter.
Throughout the months of June and July I helped to reorganize the WiserLocal group as well as put together a WiserLocal “toolkit” (which includes surveys, checklists, and the like) to help streamline the planning process for volunteers interested in setting up a gathering. I also set up a conference call with both seasoned and prospective WiserLocal organizers so that those present could share experiences and ask questions.
I then went on to make a couple of PowerPoint presentations: one about basic functionalities of Twitter and its usefulness for a nonprofit like WiserEarth and another about WiserLocal. After downloading these to SlideShare, a useful presentation-sharing website, I used the Twitter presentation to give a webinar to a few people.
During my time as an intern, five WiserLocal gatherings took place in cities all across the world: two in Jakarta, Indonesia; one in Dakar, Senegal; one in Paris, France; and one in Delhi, India. Though I can admittedly take little credit for these events’ success, I was able to maintain/establish contact with people in England, France, Italy, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, South Africa, India, Indonesia, and Australia throughout my time with WiserEarth.
So that’s been my internship in a nutshell. It’s been great, and to be honest, the time I’ve spent observing and assisting with the amazing work done by WiserEarth has only reinforced my desire to ultimately make a living by contributing to something much larger than myself. To try to briefly give a taste of some of the triumphs and challenges that came with my job, I’m going to expand upon a few adjectives that I feel aptly describe my experience, as alluded to above.
It was amazing to meet and work with such an amazing group of people, especially considering the breadth of geographic diversity on the WiserEarth team. I don’t think any other job could have given me the chance to interact with people from so many corners of the world, and on top of that, everyone was so willing to reach out and lend a hand whenever I had questions or difficulties. With so many problems plaguing the world, it gives me real hope to see such passionate, intelligent, and light-hearted people at the forefront of this “unnamed movement,” which leads me to the next word…
The world will never be a utopia, but it’s incredibly invigorating to see just how much positive change people can affect in a non-hierarchical, collaborative setting. What working for WiserEarth has reinforced for me is the importance of social and environmental capital. My thought has always been that when a company is focused solely on profits, the employees become lost in the shuffle since they’re rarely thought of as more than mere means to financial gain. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that money is an important part of any organization, be it for-profit or not-for-profit, but such an impersonal system of blind economic pursuit strikes me as fiscally idolatrous and fundamentally superficial. WiserEarth breaks that mold, and working with the team has shown me that by putting social and environmental concerns at the forefront, one can make measurable progress in a much more meaningful way.
Because this was a “remote” internship, or one that I did from my own computer, it was unlike any job or post I’ve ever held in the past. Not having a physical workplace like an office to go to every day was nice, for it meant that I could complete my work when I wanted and where I wanted as long as there was Internet access. But it also meant almost no human interaction outside of weekly check-in Skype calls with Camilla and Peggy. Talking to faces on a computer screen, while a definite step up from hearing a voice on a phone, is just not the same as being next to someone in the flesh. For this reason, my internship was at times
My motivation is derived largely from people, and with most of my tasks being given to me via email, I at times found it very difficult to buckle down and do work without the implicit pressure of others to stimulate me. Also, because my job involved reaching out to and communicating with people from all across the world, there was very little tangibility in terms of my impact. Sure, I could look at pictures and read about the WiserLocal gatherings I had helped to organize, but not being there for the actual events left something to be desired. Overall, however, my experience was without question.
In short, I got a real taste of what it’s like to work in the social/environmental non-profit sector and I got to work with an amazing group of people. At the end of two and a half months, I couldn’t ask for much more.
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