By: Amulya Mallu, GreenLight Fund Philadelphia Fall 2020 Intern

Being a part of Greenlight Philadelphia during testing times has been a valuable learning experience and undoubtedly, the most important lesson has been about building resilience. This year, many, including myself, have suffered a personal loss of some kind. While I was interning, Greenlight Philadelphia was conducting a landscape analysis as part of its “discover” phase. We spent months discussing with local nonprofit leaders to make informed investments and also to better understand the impact of the pandemic on Philadelphia’s residents. Through these conversations, I saw first-hand how the people around me were trying to bounce back stronger on a personal, organizational, and community level. These conversations not only fulfilled their purpose of helping us identify central themes in issues affecting Philadelphia but were also inspirational in many ways.

This spirit of resilience was also alive and well in my two mentors at Greenlight, Omar and Garridon. They were quick to adapt to the “new normal” and while remaining sensitive to the issues caused by the pandemic, there was this understanding that we needed to use this opportunity to identify the weaknesses in our current systems to build better infrastructure. Where Greenlight Philadelphia’s resilience shone through is in their desire to maximize their impact by focusing on improving their model and focusing on deeper causes of issues to bring about a long-term solution. I must also thank Omar and Garridon for offering me an equal seat at the table in all discussions, valuing my input, and continuously encouraging me to ask questions and have my voice heard. As the pandemic has also had an impact on their ability to work, I am thankful for their willingness to bring me on to the team and be flexible during these times. Additionally, aware of my interest in healthcare, they were keen to involve me in research regarding Philadelphia’s health systems’ response to social determinants of health and the opportunities that lie there.

I don’t doubt that this experience will prove to be crucial as I work to establish a career in the health policy space. The very first lesson I learned at Greenlight was humbling: “don’t prescribe solutions, listen.” Greenlight’s entire model is structured around listening directly to the residents and local leaders who are informed by their life experiences which is an unbeatable source of insight. Additionally, Greenlight’s focus is always on a local solution. Though Greenlight operates through “import and export,” it only brings in models that are suited for the community’s needs and have the potential to partner with local organizations to amplify their effect. I believe these principles of listening and working with the community is equally applicable to those who will be helping create or advocate for policies.

To reiterate, the most valuable lesson I will carry into my future is to not be constrained by circumstances and instead work to overcome them. While interning at Greenlight and having these conversations, it was sometimes disheartening to see how disconnected (though not intentionally) existing efforts, be it services or policies, fighting poverty are, especially during the pandemic. However, my team at Greenlight Philadelphia never allowed this feeling to replace their sense of purpose. With every conversation, the goal was to figure out ways to collaborate and increase partnerships to rise above the circumstances.

Overall, I am happy to have gotten an opportunity through Greenlight to contribute to continuous efforts to bring positive change in Philadelphia, a city that has been crucial for my personal and professional growth. However, I am certain that I am walking away after receiving from Greenlight a lot more (in the form of valuable lessons) than I contributed, and I am grateful for that. I am excited for all that Greenlight Philadelphia will achieve and will help others achieve, and I look forward to seeing the impact of Omar and Garridon’s tireless work.