Sparsh Maheshwari, SP2 Masters in Social Policy & Data Analytics, 2023
This summer, I interned with Atmashakti Trust, an Indian nonprofit dedicated to assisting vulnerable and marginalized populations across Odisha and other parts of the country. This internship helped me embark on a transformative journey that not only enriched my understanding of the development sector but also enabled me to contribute significantly to the organization’s data collection methodologies.
The pinnacle of my experience was a two-day field visit to remote tribal villages in Odisha. This opportunity, made feasible through the funding provided by Career Services, allowed me to witness firsthand the challenges faced by these communities and the critical role that Atmashakti Trust plays in their upliftment. As my primary objective was to enhance data collection methods through surveys, this field visit served as an eye-opening experience. The data collection process in such settings posed unique challenges due to the communities’ isolation and limited resources. However, armed with insights gained from my academic background and leveraging my connections within the development sector, I collaborated with a tech-based organization called Dhwani Transformation Systems, specializing in providing solutions such as online surveys, database management, and impact evaluation. This collaboration not only streamlined the data collection process but also empowered the organization with advanced tools for informed decision-making. To ensure seamless implementation, I facilitated regular meetings involving stakeholders, including the technology provider, Atmashakti Trust staff, and the survey collectors. These interactions fostered a harmonious environment for knowledge exchange and effective problem-solving.
I am still taking meeting and calls with the stakeholders as the CEO of the organization has placed huge trust in me to see this data collection project to completion. She also expressed interest in subscribing to other software products of Dhwani.
My learning objectives were rooted in applying the knowledge acquired during my Social Impact Measurement course and my past internship experience with Children’s International. With these foundations, I aimed to craft a robust program evaluation plan. This internship was aligned with my master’s studies in social policy and data analytics, further enhancing my quantitative skills for program monitoring and evaluation. Aspiring to become a Monitoring and Evaluation associate in the nonprofit sector, this internship marked a crucial step toward achieving that goal.
Additionally, the internship granted me the opportunity to acquire practical skills in assessment, program evaluation design, and implementation. Delving into rural areas and engaging with marginalized communities unveiled the intricacies of grassroots nonprofit work. This experience nurtured cultural competence and adaptability, indispensable attributes for effective engagement with such communities.
Given my prior involvement with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in New Delhi, this internship seamlessly aligned with my professional trajectory. It deepened my commitment to serving vulnerable populations and I am confident in my enhanced career prospects within India’s nonprofit and public sectors.
In conclusion, my internship with Atmashakti Trust was not just a professional engagement but a transformative odyssey. It enabled me to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world challenges, collaborate effectively, and prepare for a future career committed to uplifting marginalized communities. This experience, backed by Career Services’ invaluable support, fortified my journey towards becoming a proactive change agent in the Indian development landscape.
This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 GAPSA Summer Internship Funding Program that is coordinated by Penn Career Services. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.