Ashoka

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Fernado Bonilla, SEAS ’20

This summer, I spent 8 weeks as an intern at Ashoka, a leading NGO that works to empower social entrepreneurs. Being a part of Ashoka’s communications department in Mexico City was a fulfilling experience where I learned how to reach out to as many people as possible in support of the events and programs that make a difference in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

While working on social media networks, newsletters, and other media channels for Ashoka formed the bulk of my agenda, each intern also participates in evaluating applications for the CEMEX-Tec award, an international acknowledgment of excellence in innovative social entrepreneurship. I was given a set of applications to review and the process helped me realize the extent of the social impact that social entrepreneurship and organizations like Ashoka can have.

Ashoka participates in the CEMEX-Tec award to encourage social entrepreneurship across the world, and it generated enough interest to receive hundreds of applications featuring incredible social projects.  It was eye-opening and inspiring to read through the applications and recognize the level of commitment and passion that these community leaders were pouring into their projects.

These start-ups ranged from new ways to teach disadvantaged kids English and mathematics to a network of 3D printers operated by youths in jail that could make affordable prosthetics. In the applications it was apparent that there were many people equipped to handle the problems that our society faces, but it’s also easy to see that they could use resources and funding to further their impact. There’s interest in almost every field of issues, but great ideas need to convince capable agents like Ashoka to invest by presenting an organized and detailed plan on how the project will progress and how many people it can ultimately impact.

On the level of Ashoka Fellows, Ashoka’s flagship program that provides support to a select few social entrepreneurs, the aim is to cause a systemic change and eventually scale the project to a size and impact that enables a paradigm shift in how people think about an issue. Working at Ashoka has already given me a new set of tools with which to scrutinize social issues and has helped me recognize the special group of leaders that are taking these issues into their own hands.

I was able to meet with several of the Fellows, whose projects brimmed with creativity and ambition, and whose personalities inspired me to look for ways in which I could contribute and lead a more socially responsible lifestyle. The communications department created a series of videos featuring the fellows and their projects, including Carla Fernández, a designer who’s fashion house draws inspiration from traditional Mexican clothing and incorporates the disadvantaged indigenous artisan population in its design and revenue generating process.

Ashoka does all this great work as a non-profit, and the internship was an unpaid opportunity. Thanks to Career Services’ funding, I was able to take part of this memorable summer  and use it to build my professional experience. This summer helped me identify which skills I need to improve and develop in order to one day be better positioned to make a positive change in the world, in whatever form it might take.

By Career Services
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