An exciting partnership is happening at the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise (CSIE) between UNH students and a handful of New Hampshire innovative businesses, nonprofits, & government organizations.
In its 8th year, the Social Innovation Internship program is experiencing exponential growth. Since 2011, 81 students have been placed at 39 leading New Hampshire Organizations. CSIE works with NH partner organizations to run this summer internship program; but this is not your ordinary internship. There’s no office-wide coffee running, no piles of copying and faxing to complete, no all-day phone answering.
Instead, in these full-time internships, students are working on a pre-agreed, major project related to the host organization’s key strategic priorities and gaining invaluable skills along the way. They are organizing virtual fundraising run/walks for non-profits, executing communication and outreach campaigns for clean energy programs, helping to advance sustainable business operations at one of the most sustainable firms in the architecture, engineering, and construction world, and conducting research and analysis on environmental, social, and governance issues, just to name a few. The magic in this program is that it is designed to be mutually beneficial to both the students and to the host organizations. Students and organizations are carefully vetted and matched. Students must be high performing rising juniors or seniors trained by CSIE in a small cohort model. Host organizations are chosen for their innovation and drive to advance triple bottom line performance (People, Planet & Profits) and for their use of market-based approaches to tackle pressing social & environmental challenges.
Once an organization has been selected to host an intern (or more!), highly motivated students are interviewed for positions which match their skills, passions, and potential careers. The internships are 9 weeks, paid, and are designed to address specific and deliverable projects that are significant to the host organization.
What’s In It For The Students?
Yes, students gain a leg up on the competition and are more work-ready than their peers who have not had the experience of a high-impact internship. But what’s more is that they’ve been exposed to professionals, careers and fields at the intersection of business and social/environmental mission! They’ve gained the knowledge that their causes CAN be transformed into their careers. The $3,000 stipend they earn helps pay off student debt, defray the costs of living, or save for the future.
What’s the Return on Investment for NH Businesses and Non-Profits?
On the flip side, internship hosts sites and the generous funders who help defray the costs to non-profits who might not otherwise be able to host an intern, gain a pool of screened and vetted students who can add true value to advancing the organizations’ strategic priorities. By hosting and/or funding the program, organizations and individuals are investing in and creating a future employee talent pipeline that they will be able to access in the future that is socially minded and understands where the future of business lies.
At the end of the summer, CSIE hosts a high-profile Social Innovation Internship Showcase at UNH in Durham, where all participating students present mini TED-style talks about their experiences, give insights into their futures, and help give exposure to the host organizations and their business initiatives and projects. Attended by an audience of over 100 community members, the presentations are also recorded and shared on websites and on social media.
It’s a win-win for students, host organizations, donors, the University of New Hampshire, our state, the future of business – and of course – social and environmental justice.
Cathy Meyer is CSIE’s Marketing and Promotions Assistant and provides strategy and support for events, marketing, and communications. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Fine Arts from William Smith College and an M.Ed. from Lesley University. Her career began in the classroom, where she taught in public schools in Massachusetts and later, Portsmouth, NH. At that time, she also consulted for Tufts University’s Center for Applied Child Development, educating colleagues on research-based reading and writing teaching practices. In 2009, Cathy’s career shifted back toward her art background as she transitioned to graphic design and marketing to start a freelance practice. Working with both for-profits and non-profits, she found new passion for businesses with a mission while working with a client, Camber Outdoors, whose mission is to “achieve equality for all women in the outdoors, from backcountry to boardroom”. Her role at CSIE allows her to blend her two professional worlds to further her passion for Social Innovation.