Author: Rahima Jamal, GreenLight Philadelphia Spring 2018 Intern
In the first few weeks of my internship at the GreenLight Fund this Spring, my biggest challenge was succinctly explaining what exactly GreenLight does to my inquisitive friends and family. After various iterations and quizzical looks, I was finally able to explain that GreenLight operates at the intersection of venture capital and philanthropy. After researching the systemic issues a city faces, GreenLight imports high-performing, innovative nonprofits from across the country that address these specific gaps.
During the course of my five-month internship at GreenLight, I was able to understand how unique, efficient, and operationalized GreenLight’s model truly is. Unlike the for-profit world where efficient solutions can access capital to rapidly scale, nonprofits often have difficulty juggling their day-to-day operations and expansion possibilities. By serving as a local partner and grant-maker, GreenLight recognizes the nonprofits that are making an exceptional impact in their communities and seeks to expand their reach.
Despite GreenLight’s deep impact in the seven cities in which it operates, only two employees work full-time in each site – in Philadelphia, the Program Associate, Ami Diallo, and the Executive Director, Omar Woodard. As such, the most valuable part of my internship was the opportunity to truly have a “seat at the table” and be fully immersed in decision making from the day my internship began. My internship at GreenLight provided structured skill development, the opportunity to gain knowledge about the challenges facing Philadelphia, and exposure to the nearly forty individuals in our Selection Advisory Council who serve as leaders in government, philanthropy, and business.
In these last five months, I’ve become comfortable using a multitude of applications, tools, and resources for GreenLight’s Landscape Assessment. By completing a Landscape Assessment of Philadelphia, I was able to understand the most pressing issues facing our city – ranging from the devastating effects of lead poisoning on children to the exceptionally high maternal mortality rate for women of color. Finally, I was able to forge personal connections with individuals ranging from leaders in corporate philanthropy to those involved in lending to minority-owned, socially impactful businesses.
In many internships, the work you do as an intern sits indefinitely in a Google Drive folder, never seeing the light of day. In stark contrast, I was able to see exactly how I was pushing the needle on a day-to-day basis at GreenLight. The prospect research I conducted served as a platform in guiding to which foundations we will apply to for funding. The issue area research I completed on childhood asthma and lead poisoning was read by each member of our national team and by each representative of our Selection Advisory Council. The nonprofits for which I conducted preliminary diligence could potentially be the one we import into Philadelphia within the next year.
Although it was certainly sad to say my goodbyes to Ami and Omar, I walked away fulfilled from all that I gained these past five months. I’m looking forward to seeing all that GreenLight accomplishes nationally and in Philadelphia in the years to come.