2019 Parents Fund Internship Grant Reflections: Katie Cox

Katie Cox

Internship Location: impl. project

Journal Entry #1:

Hello!  My name is Katie Cox, and I am a rising second year.  This summer, I am honored to be working as a research and operations assistant for impl. project, a nonprofit NGO based in Washington, D.C. that uses micro-data in order to facilitate community-led solutions for international development and stability.  This nonprofit is unique from many other international aid programs because it uses intensive data analysis in order to effectively vet the sources of the problems that underserved communities are facing, leading to solutions that truly address the issues at hand, rather than simply treating the symptoms of them.  By surveying locals, the goal is to allow communities to identify their own needs, rather than having outsiders impose their own, usually misinformed, “solutions.”  My job as a summer intern includes projects such as helping to write a final report on an Azerbaijan datamapping project, researching the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Haiti, creating analytical slide decks based on quantitative data, and posting on the organization’s social media platforms. 

Before beginning my first week of work, I was really nervous and intimidated.  After completing my first week in the office, I feel very comfortable and love all of my coworkers.  Many of my them work remotely, meaning that if we need to collaborate, we communicate largely via conference call on Slack.  This means that my work environment is probably slightly different than other internships, but I like it a lot because there isn’t any busy work and I already have a lot to show as far as things that I’ve worked on and completed.   I’ve been able to attend business development meetings with my bosses, which has been really interesting.  During these meetings, potential clients discuss working with our organization for projects in foreign countries that they think would benefit from our unique data-collecting methodologies.  I’ve learned a lot about how programs like USAID work, and how different NGOs like impl. project receive money in order to carry out their work.  I’ve already created a slide deck using exported data from QuickTap Survey, and looking at all the survey responses that were collected while the team was in Azerbaijan from May to June has been really cool.  I’m looking forward to the rest of my time here at impl. project because I’m able to be very involved in all of the team’s ongoing projects, and I might even be able to fly out with the team to Chicago later in the summer as we begin a data-mapping project with the Anti-Defamation League. 

Several goals I have for myself for this summer include gaining data-analysis skills, getting a better perspective on what I like and don’t like within this field, networking with people within this organization and amongst other organizations that we interact with, increasing the organization’s social media presence and post interactions, and getting feedback on my resume and LinkedIn profile from my bosses.  Everyone is so helpful and truly trying to give me an educational experience as an intern here, and I couldn’t have asked for a better first internship!  It helps that I am very passionate about the unique impl. project approach, as I believe that they are doing the type of work that the world really could use more of.

Journal Entry #2: 

Hi again! My internship is about halfway over at this point, and I have truly fallen in love with the work that I have been exposed to over the past several weeks. I’ve learned a lot about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Haiti as I’ve spent some time researching for a blog post that will be published after the team returns later this October.

I’ve also spent some time building several databases for impl. project to use, including a spreadsheet containing important peace conferences to attend and film festivals that we can submit a documentary that is currently being edited about the work that we do abroad. I’ve also been tasked with an exciting new project: managing the impl. project Instagram account! Currently, our Instagram is not very active, and when we do post, it is inconsistent. I’m in charge of creating new content and a posting schedule. I get to look through our Google Drive’s photos and find images from past projects we’ve worked on, in areas such as Tanzania, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Azerbaijan. I write captions based on research, following impl. guidelines and incorporating information on our mission of implementing peace around the world. This has been a really fun job for me, as I think I’m pretty good at using social media, so it’s nice being able to take over and channel my vision for the organization and contribute in a meaningful way. I have noticed an improvement in our follower engagement and I like that the Instagram now has a revamped digital presence.

I look forward to what’s in store for the rest of my internship, and I can’t wait to update you then!

Journal Entry #3:

My internship with impl. project has sadly come to an end. I am so grateful for the experience that I had this summer. I had the incredible opportunity to work alongside some of the most genuinely kind and innovative people, and I was exposed to the international aid field through an organization that uses data to help humanity.

One of my biggest takeaways from this internship is that I am much more aware of what I want my future career to look like. I no longer want to endlessly chase some sort of financial career goal. I want to work in a field that helps people and contribute meaningful work alongside people who share my goals and dreams of a future in which communities are empowered and inequalities are nonexistent.

Looking back at the goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the summer, I’d like to reflect on how much progress I made and if I ended up meeting all of the goals that I set. First, I said that I wanted to improve my data-analysis skills. Through the data analysis software training that I underwent this summer, I am competent with certain data analysis software platforms and feel much more prepared for future data analysis endeavors. I am excited to put these skills to use in the future, both in my future internships and schoolwork. I most definitely reached my goal of getting a better perspective on what I like and dislike within the international development field. At this point, I’ve realized I really want to go into this type of work. I used to want to be a lawyer, and while that is still on the table, I’ve fallen so in love with the development field that I don’t really see myself doing something different. I’ve also gotten to network with people in this organization, staying in contact with people from around the world that are a part of the impl. team and mission. I’m able to keep my job as a social media intern and will continue to create content throughout the upcoming school year. I’m excited to stay in touch with the impl. team and even got offered a position if I want to return next summer! Hopefully next summer I will be able to get out into the field and travel to one of the countries to gather data with the rest of the team. Most importantly, I’ve grown a lot as a person from this internship. I now see data as one of the keys to solving the puzzle of poorly designed and ineffective aid programs. I’ve noticed that when you combine quantitative and qualitative data and engage directly with the communities involved, sustainable solutions emerge. I want to be doing the right thing. Before we can help other communities, we need to make sure that our approaches truly have the communities in mind, and we have to be careful that we are not exploiting them or imposing western-designed aid programs on them. I’m thankful for impl. project for showing me that with hard work and good intentions, effective development programs are possible. I’m grateful to the PFIG for encouraging and supporting me to explore this career path, and I look forward to what my future now has in store.