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Internship in community service: One stop access to change you can bring.

Young people have lots of energy, they just need to channelize it in a direction. This idea is to provide them an easy meaningful way to see themselves bring a change. Internships provided by NGOs, Government or a collaboration of both provides a credible environment for youth to work for a change confidently.

Photo of Shruti Ojha
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The concept
I focus on providing a more organized way of providing youth with credible opportunities where they can learn themselves and make others learn. I also look for effective and efficient approach, where students get to act and not just get the idea, I focus on providing them with good results of their action so that they feel more positive and confident, and are encouraged to take lead in the future.For providing youth with such opportunities, I suggest a effective connection of their education (and so career in a sense), government and non government institutions and individuals motivated and capable for this cause.
My idea is inspired by the Elenor Ostrom, Nobel Laureate in economics who advocates for a polycentric approach, where key management decisions should be made as close to the scene of events and the actors involved as possible. I am also inspired by the thought that  collective cooperative action of people can bring upon huge changes and people have a tendency to cooperate. This has been in light recently and many online examples like wikipedia which run without any central profit motive only through cooperative action , affirm the belief.

The Idea
My idea is to have a forum, which lists all the Government departments, NGOs and individuals working on specific issues. These would provide information about the kinds of projects they are working upon and students they need for the job. This forum is to provide opportunity of selecting desired internship by just one click. This forum can operate through a user friendly website providing all this information and allowing for filtering internships through area, cause, mentors etc.

This forum can be established by Government or as a private initiative - this determines where the funding comes from. What is required is as follows :
  • A core team to collect the list of all registered NGOs, government departments in different cities and contact them. They would tell them about the idea and ask them for the necessary details about their projects where they could make use of such interns. Once collected, these details would be organized in a manner to be publishable on the website.
  • A web design team to develop a highly user friendly website (for example, like Coursera or openIDEO website or socialpsycology network).
  • Staff for handling students' request of information, receive and respond to their calls, mails, enquiries etc.
  • Funds for all of the above.
Once the site is functional, to begin with, it should be sent to student community by contacting universities, colleges and schools. Students would be required to have a account on the site and browse the available internships (just the way we browse for online courses). Depending on the information they fill about themselves they would get suggestions for the internships. They could search for such internships based upon their priorities of the issue they want to work upon, the choice of region, the amount of time they can give, the mentor they want etc.
The site would have following people to benefit from participation of young students as interns :
  • Government functionaries : Let us take an example of city which is very unclean, piles of garbage and waste material at roadsides, improper sewage, pollution, slums etc. The municipal corporation of the city is trying to formulate and implement a plan to clean the city. They can invite interns to take upon a project about how to implement the plan successfully? The students can do surveys, read case studies from different countries etc and come up with a solution.
  • NGOs : The non-governmental organizations can reach a wide audience of people to work for the cause. For example, an NGO working for sex workers can greatly benefit from the interns from medical colleges or Nursing schools. In turn, the students from a medical school looking for an internship can visit the site and find this NGO where they can make best use of their knowledge.
  • Individuals : Many times there are individuals working for a cause, but require a team. Retired professors, civil servants, teachers etc have a lot of knowledge and experience. They could invite interns to work for the cause, developing ideas and/or implementing them. This work could be theoretical or groundwork. For example, a retired professor of psychology would want to work for changing the mindset of people about gender bias. He would have lots of ideas and knowledge but he can't afford to go door to door for surveys etc. He can easily invite interns according to his requirement (from the same locality etc) through the site.
  • Students themselves : Students willing to work for a cause will get a huge support from this website as they can get all the options available and filter them according to their priorities. They are assured their work is going to be successful as it is a part of a bigger machinery to guide it. Also, such internships will add to their work experience and make them learn more - they would acquire many skills working there and getting acquainted with the field, they can move on to take lead in the future.
  1. Easy and one stop access to such internships would encourage students to participate. They are learning as well as working simultaneously. Website would provide for counsellors to help students choose the best internship.
  2. The students can work more confidently as they are under guidance of a more experienced and knowledgeable person.
  3. The ultimate goal of the social good can be achieve only through a collaborative cooperative approach. On the website the students working under different internships can share their experience and progress, give and take advice and update the results of their surveys/Trials. This would create a open pool of information in benefit of everyone. The NGOs as well as GOs can post about their problems, organize competition for ideas etc.
  4. Often it is seen that despite having common ultimate goal (for example eradicating poverty or climate change), the government, people and other actors become antagonistic. Students, deprived of any constructive channel to use their energies, often direct it towards anger for the system - opposing it instead of revamping it. Through these internships, students will get an opportunity to contribute.
  5. The NGOs and GOs will be hugely benefitted by the participation of such interns. Often accused of age-old techniques and inefficiency, these can get out of the box ideas and solutions from the young interns. For example, a psychology student could change the government advertisement campaign increasing its effectiveness multi fold, just a small change like signing honour code/pledge at the beginning of tax return form increases the compliance by significant amount. Interns from a drama school can organize street plays in the rural areas where people are illiterate to make them aware of family planning.
  6. The participation of people in governance makes them feel more responsible and supportive towards government and therefore compliance with government rules, in general would increase.
  7. Through these internships entire generation of Youth can be trained to take up leadership in future.
  8. The certificate of achievement would add up to their work experience. The students from diverse background can take up the internships according to their suitability (long term/short term, paid/unpaid, local/outside). Even those with not a hard rock commitment will be able to contribute as much they can - and at least get acquainted with the field.
  9. A successful awareness campaign can be carried out by sharing the work of such interns online. Videos, plays, songs etc produced as a part of internship can create much sensation.
  10. The forum can build collaboration with different educational institutions to provide for participation as part of the course, or participation in some specific program/competition on the website (For example, students of communication studies would have to intern in an old age home where they would talk to, say 5 residents who would grade them)
  1. Funds:  The task can be taken up by the government as the benefits are numerous. Private organization can also take the initiative. If the organization is for profit, they would try ro generate profit by charging for website usage or advertisements. Long story short, for profit organizations would miss the goal of setting up such forum in the long run. Non profit organization, if initiates, it would have charity as the major source. By several examples today, we can assume this can also work well.
  2. Widening the reach : Since the use of website will be restricted to people having internet connection only, it might miss some candidates not having that facility. The schools, colleges and universities generally have internet connection. Also, taking example of my country India, the pace at which mobile companies are progressing, at least internet in mobile will become as common as mobile themselves. However, Currently such problems can be solved by connecting people through postal/calls/SMS alerts. We can ask the registered members of website to register five other members for such postal/call/SMS alerts.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to test any assumptions you might have about your idea?

There would be a two step experiment: first surveying NGOs and Government offices, about their requirements like what kind of projects they can open for students, how much they are willing to pay them, what kind of qualification they require. Secondly, I would mail all the students in a college providing internships for different issues under different guidance (as many choices as possible) and ask them which one they would want to work in and for how much time. What kind of work they would like (Technical/theoretical etc ). The paid and unpaid both type of options would be there. Both having several variations (For ex, unpaid but food and accommodation provided) Analyzing both the expectations from students and institutions we can imagine where there is a common point and what are the problems. The feedback would help to rectify and improve the idea.

What aspects of your idea could benefit from the input, skills or know-how of our OpenIDEO community?

My idea depends upon making different people's expectations meet. I certainly require the feedback of people on both ends - receiving and giving. From the assessment at my personal level, I assume that there are a quite a number of students willing to work for a cause and just require an opportunity suiting their demands. This assumption itself can be questioned. Community can help me 1. Suggesting ways of motivating more students and institutions to join the forum 2. Suggesting solutions for the "Challenges" section 3. Pointing out additional challenges 3. Form a general opinion upon why or why not this idea might succeed. Thanks in advance.


Join the conversation:

Photo of BK Veda Vyas

Good idea. I feel a wiki sort of site where people can post internship opportunities would be even better. And use formats like online employment websites for job search.

Photo of Shruti Ojha

Hi BK! I wanted to know what do you mean by "wiki sort of" Do you mean community managed or any thing else?

Just check this site : I think this one is a good example. What say?

Photo of BK Veda Vyas

I do mean community managed. Another example would be sort of free classifieds pages. is pay for membership site and it has lots of links to various kinds of resources. Do you aim to provide links to various pages advertising internships? or Is it like classifieds where people can advertise internship positions for free. or it can be both?

Photo of Shruti Ojha

I would want the use of site to be free for everyone: more like classifieds. The site can still be centrally managed in the technical sense (a core team, a web team etc. ) I prefer that because such sites need a lot of attention for maintenance etc. The site can still be free for users - maybe free for students. I have explored the option of ownership in last point, non profit or for profit. The example of site I have given is just to show what several features there can be. Just that.