Co-op's Converse: An Inside Look into the Social Innovation Forum Experience

SIF Fall 2018 Co-ops
SIF's Fall 2018 Co-ops, Nia Carter (left) and Michelle Faulkner (right), at Winter Reception.

Michelle Faulkner and Nia Carter are nearing the end of their six-month Northeastern University Co-ops at the Social Innovation Forum (SIF). Michelle, the Program Co-op, has been heavily involved in supporting the Program team throughout the 2019 Social Innovator selection process and the 2018 Capacity Camp. She read and reviewed applications, managed all logistics for evaluation and interview sessions, and conducted due diligence on the Nonprofit Accelerator applicants. Nia, the Special Events Co-op, has led the event logistics for SIF events, including managing RSVPs, creating event materials, and event communications. She was also involved in general communications, the 2019 Social Innovator selection process, and co-working operations. They met to reflect on their journey at SIF.

An excerpt of their conversation follows:

Michelle: It’s already been six months. Can you believe it?

Nia: No, it’s gone by so quickly! What was your most memorable experience at SIF?

M: I’ll always look back and remember the whole selection process of picking the 2019 Innovators. Every step was crucial and contributed to my whole experience with SIF and engaging in its work. Doing outreach to nominees, handling logistics for information, evaluation, and interview sessions, as well as site visits were all memorable experiences in what they meant at each process. But to be specific, the site visits, when we went to visit organizations with funders, was the most immersive part for me. Watching the organizations in action really leaves an impact on you. How about you?

N: My most memorable experience was definitely Winter Reception. It was an amalgamation of all of the work that I’ve done over my six months here: event planning, as well as the announcement of the 2019 Innovators. Watching the innovators stand on stage as they were revealed to over 200 members of the SIF community was awe-inspiring after having been a part of the evaluation and selection processes. It was also satisfying seeing all of the hard work of the SIF team come together in such a cohesive way. Knowing that Winter Reception was a collaboration of all of our team members and a reflection of the team’s dynamic was fulfilling.

M: Yes, I agree! The team has been very helpful and thoughtful in helping us feel welcomed and valued in the nonprofit community. Learning about the unique marketplace approach from the team helped me to understand the bigger picture of social impact work. Through SIF’s marketplace, I have met so many passionate people throughout my co-op experience! For example, during the evaluation sessions, I was able to meet local experts who widened my perspective and knowledge of social issues. It motivated me to do my own research about how organizations are trying to tackle these issues. I know you also got a chance to participate in an evaluation session, did you feel drawn to your tracks?

N: Yes, I was a part of the Environmental Justice and Out-of-Classroom Engagement tracks. It was a great learning experience to sit in on those evaluation and interview sessions, as we learned more about the issues from experts, and about some of the organizations in Boston that are involved in these issue areas. Learning about some of the most pressing issues in Boston was one of the reasons why I was drawn to working at SIF. Environmental justice, specifically, was an issue that I came in being very interested in and gained a great deal of knowledge through our process.

M: We also great a chance to learn about what past Social Innovators have done and continue to do to tackle different issue areas. Encore was a great opportunity to hear the 2018 Innovators present their pitches to SIF’s network and those who were interested in hearing more about their work. I reconnected with many familiar faces that I had met throughout the months. It was an example of how the nonprofit community is sustained. We also have our coworking members too, who I got to build relationships with, in and outside of our monthly coworking gatherings.

N: You’re right, it was great coming into work everyday and seeing others who were working just as diligently on some of our region’s greatest social issues. As I helped with the move this fall, one of our greatest concerns was keeping that sense of openness between everyone in the space, and I’m glad that I can still talk to our coworking members during the day and learn more about what they’re working on. I think that the community aspect of SIF is so important to our mission, and we uphold that both internally and externally. The team has given both of us so many opportunities for leadership, and has been there to support us through our personal and professional growth with smart advice and guidance. It has been such a fulfilling experience!

M: It really has! I’ll miss the working environment and all the life and career lessons I’ve learned along the way. It’s good to know that we’ll forever be in their portfolio and they're forever in ours!

About the Authors

Michelle has been at the Social Innovation Forum from July to December 2018 as the Program Co-op. She is a junior at Northeastern University studying Journalism with a minor in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies.

Nia has been at the Social Innovation Forum from July to December as the Special Events Co-op. She is in her fourth year at Northeastern University studying Communication Studies and Music Industry.

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