Expanding the Horizons of Philanthropy and Effective Community Investment: My GreenLight Experience

Jan 4, 2019

San Francisco Bay Area


Author: Sharon D’Costa, GreenLight Fund Bay Area Fall 2018 Intern

The experience of moving to a new country is never short of its adaptive challenges. However, the moment you land in a place where you feel like you truly belong, the entire journey feels absolutely worthwhile! I encountered this feeling when I began my internship at GreenLight Fund’s Bay Area office in September 2018. I moved from my hometown in India to the United States in 2017 to pursue my master’s degree in public policy at Mills College located in Oakland. Since beginning at Mills, I have been exploring the social responsibility and impact investment landscapes in the Bay Area in order to find my new roots in the sector I knew so well in India.

My passion for the nonprofit sector began in India while working at United Way of Mumbai and the Ram Prasad Goenka Foundation. I was introduced to the innovative thought leaders in the nonprofit sector, all of whom were attempting to resolve some of the gravest social challenges through very impactful and structured programs yielding great results. Many such projects were undoubtedly situated in under-resourced rural communities with the leadership focused on sustaining their good, impactful work. Since my role required me to scout for promising organizations at multiple locations in the country, I often asked myself what it would take to scale successful organizations and replicate their work in additional communities.

Given my background, I was absolutely thrilled when I heard about the GreenLight Fund internship opportunity through a Mills College peer. The prospect of interning at GreenLight over the span of several months and exploring the field of venture philanthropy immediately caught my interest.

Two months into my internship (and know I am not exaggerating when I say), every day is a new learning experience. I can honestly admit that the exposure has garnered many new skills and enhanced my perspectives on a range of issues. The capstone of my internship, and area that I am most thrilled about, is the San Francisco landscape analysis report I had the opportunity to research and compile in anticipation for the Bay’s sixth selection cycle. Having lived in San Francisco for a year (I can never get enough of the Golden Gate!), I appreciate the opportunities the city has to offer, as well as learning about the existing gaps and community needs. This landscape analysis allowed me to take a deep dive into understanding the most pressing needs of the community. San Francisco is known for its economic dichotomies. On one hand, you have some of the top companies worldwide headquartered in the city. On the flipside, the enormous growth seen in the city over the last decade has drastically increased housing prices, making San Francisco one of the most expensive cities in the world to live. This constant upward surge in housing costs and very few affordable units available has, in turn, left the city grappling with a viscous homelessness crisis. I feel a great sense of accomplishment knowing that my research will contribute to GreenLight’s future investments toward addressing critical requirements in addressing San Francisco’s low-income communities.

Lastly, the work culture at GreenLight is welcoming and so supportive in valuing growth, both in terms of entrepreneurial thinking and individuality. I am very fortunate to gain such great insight from GreenLight colleagues in the Bay Area.  They have been positive role models and have truly inspired me through their professional journeys. The exposure to the world of philanthropy that I gained through GreenLight Fund helped me expand my horizons in the social impact sphere.

  Stacie Mills (left) and Sharon D’Costa (right)