IPSS at InterAction, Washington, D.C.
Rose, Thorn, Bud: What I Learned, Overcame, and will Take Away from my IPSS Experience
I recently completed an International Professional Service Semester (IPSS) placement at InterAction, the largest coalition of U.S.-based international NGOs. It serves as a community convener, thought leader, and mobilizer, working to bring nearly 200 member organizations together to tackle issues such as the refugee crisis to global poverty to public health. I supported the communications team in developing and publishing creative content for social media and the InterAction blog, tracking, recording, and logging media content, creating infographics for campaigns, and assisting in the planning and implementation of strategic initiatives designed to mobilize the international development community around key issues. My practicum project involved designing and implemented a participatory monitoring and evaluation plan for the InterAction newsletter, which is sent to a list of approximately 8,000 key NGO stakeholders.
Without further ado, here are the highlights (roses), challenges (thorns), and biggest takeaways (buds) of my IPSS experience at InterAction.
- From assisting the Together Project, a coalition of NGOs experiencing faith-based discrimination, with events to attending Hill events including a lobby day and the launch of Choose to Invest, a report of the necessity of funding the US humanitarian assistance budget at no less than $58.1 billion, it has been great to get a sense of the NGO/policy ecosystem in DC. I’ve been able to sit in on working groups about humanitarian responses to the crisis in Yemen and trainings on effective media communications techniques, giving me real-world insights that have allowed me to build upon skills learned at MIIS.
- I made great connections with a strong network of current and former MIIS students. Career advisor Scott Webb took a group of students to D.C. for a spring break career exploration trip, and they visited InterAction. I met with a few students for an informational interview about my experience and invited the group to an InterAction-sponsored event on the Global Food Security Act (GFSA) on the Hill that corresponded with their time in D.C. In addition, InterAction CEO Sam Worthington is a MIIS alum, and he showed interest in what was happening at MIIS now and my interests and background. He was a wonderful resource. The MIIS mafia is strong!
- I grew my skills in writing, editing, strategic planning, submitting grant deliverables, planning social media campaigns, and graphic design (and produced deliverables for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the Diplomatic Courier, and Devex). I also gained insight into media relations while sitting in on calls with CNN, Devex, and other media entities.
- MIIS classes (especially program evaluation and proposal writing) directly informed my M&E work, and I enjoyed being able to share some insights gained from coursework and conversations with my mentor, Kent Glenzer, during team conversations.
- 4 months now seems like a relatively short time to be in a placement! I wish I had a longer period of time to work at InterAction, as I learned so much and was able to grow in my efficiency and effectiveness after the initial on-boarding process. (This is really a rose and a thorn in one.)
- Transitioning from an academic environment to a workplace environment is always a bit of an adjustment. That being said, MIIS does an excellent job of offering immersive learning opportunities to students to allow them to refine skills related to both environments.
- I look forward to running into InterAction staff and member organization staff around DC. You never know when you will make an interesting connection, and there is something to learn from everyone and every conversation. My advice to future IPSS participants would be to keep your options open and to get to know as many people around the workplace as possible. After collaborating with the Membership & Standards team to prepare for Forum, I was offered a short-term consultancy with them. This was a great experience!
- I learned to value the support system at MIIS that I have. I frequently checked in with faculty with questions regarding projects and met up with other MIIS students and alumni around DC. Two other IPSS students who are in DC and I are collaborating on a project about climate change and food insecurity for The Geneva Challenge.
Overall, I’ve had an educational and gratifying experience at InterAction for IPSS and am grateful to have been able to participate in this program.