More than a Book Club

SIF's revamped Book Club offers rich discussion on social issues in the greater Boston area
  • By Ngoc Pham
  • Published on December 11, 2017
SIF Book Club members discuss A Chance in the World
SIF Book Club members discuss A Chance in the World

I first got involved with the Social Innovation Forum in about 2013. As a consultant at Analysis Group, I helped Social Innovators with pro bono data analysis. I continued to stay connected with SIF when I left my firm to pursue my MBA at MIT Sloan.

Being part of the SIF book club gave me a way to connect with a community and engage on social issues to which I would never otherwise be exposed.

When I heard that SIF was hosting a book club, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to attend. Despite having lived in the Boston area for six years, first as a young professional in Boston and then as a student in Cambridge, I found that I had become enmeshed in a bubble that did not allow me to understand all the complexities facing the city that I had grown to love. Being part of the SIF book club gave me a way to connect with a community and engage on social issues to which I would never otherwise be exposed.

The book this time around was A Chance in the World by Steve Pemberton. After having read the book from the first Book Club meeting, I knew that I was going to be in for a very emotional journey. And sure enough, Pemberton’s memoir is a harrowing account of child abuse and neglect from a manipulative foster care family and a seemingly blind foster care system, from which somehow Pemberton manages to emerge to craft a stable life for himself.

As emotionally draining as this read was, I am very glad that SIF selected it – I would have never picked up this book on my own and I have never really tried to learn more about the foster care system. The book provided me with a deeply personal account that made understanding the flaws and challenges within the foster care system much more accessible. This understanding was further enriched by the Book Club meeting, which brought together a community of people that had direct experiences with the foster care system, along with very knowledgeable and passionate facilitators from Boston CASA and Silver Lining Mentoring. I learned a lot through the small group and larger group discussions: about the magnitude of the foster care system in Massachusetts, about the personal challenges some of the attendees faced with their own foster care situation (either as a foster parent, a former child in the system, or a mentor to young people in the system), and about the different resources and organizations dedicated to working on a variety of issues in the foster care system.

Through events like these, SIF has helped me get exposure to a wide range of social issues in the greater Boston area, both ones that I am already passionate about and others that I have barely thought about. I am grateful to be a part of the amazing community that SIF continues to foster and look forward to the next Book Club meeting!

About the Author

Ngoc Pham is an MBA Candidate (Class of 2018) at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Prior to that she worked for the Analysis Group, one of the largest private economics consulting firms and an SIF in-kind partner.

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