So what really happens at Giving What We Can HQ? That was the question on my mind as I prepared for my 2-week September internship at the Oxford offices of Giving What We Can. As I coordinate events and publicity for the Cambridge Chapter, I had experience within a University setting, but had no idea what else was involved. So with my laptop ready for action I arrived at the offices on Monday morning with an open mind to what would be happening in the following fortnight.
A morning of ice-breaker games gave the 20 interns a chance to get to know each other before we started work on our projects. We were all given detailed briefs and had a meeting with a member from the central Giving What We Can team to explain to us what we would be doing in our time there. These projects ranged widely, with some working on new promotional videos and info-graphics, some writing blog posts and grant proposals and some researching the value of interventions such as Water Sanitation and Hygiene.
My tasks drew upon my degree discipline, Psychology, as I was to research the psychology of persuasiveness and how these principles could be applied to both the website redesign and conversations about Giving What We Can. Many others were also engaged in projects that made the most of their strengths and throughout the internship there were always opportunities to tailor our roles to our interests. Talking to the other interns near the end of the fortnight it was clear that many shared my perspective of having been pleasantly surprised to find themselves entrusted with such responsibility in their roles. It was great to know we were contributing to the future of Giving What We Can by providing really valuable information, resources and research.
The projects however were only the half of it. There was a rich programme of workshops and information sessions for all the interns which gave us many opportunities to learn more about Giving What We Can as well as improving our own skill sets. For example, a public speaking workshop made us face up to our fears and gave us really valuable tips and pointers relevant in any professional field. An ethical careers session by Ben Todd of 80,000 hours (Giving What We Can's sister organisation) provided us with some really constructive suggestions, particularly relevant for those of us going into a final university year. After a one-to-one session I walked away with a list of contacts to talk to, career paths to explore and new ways to view the impact my career could have in the world.
The Chapter Workshop day was another highlight for me. In one day we covered important issues in running a university chapter, including consistent branding, event management, the psychology of speaking persuasively about Giving What We Can and how to run a Big Match campaign, a great new initiative started by the Warwick Chapter. Not only did we all learn a lot about Giving What We Can throughout the day, the opportunity to talk with members from other chapters really helped with the generation of new ideas. Exciting things will definitely be happening in the coming months!
At the end of two weeks I feel like I have learnt an incredible amount and not just about Giving What We Can. With no prior experience of an office environment I really valued the insight into this kind of working life. Having daily check-ins with senior staff, observing the structure of an office team, and seeing how to develop a great working ethos were all new to me but will definitely stand me in good stead for any future career. Others mentioned the benefits of being able to see a relatively new organisation in a period of growth and how this was being managed. Discussing our post-internship plans a number of us are keen to get more involved with university chapters, writing blog posts and fundraising for our recommended charities. Many of the ideas thought up over the two weeks will be developed further and implemented over the next few months, so hopefully the impact of our time at Giving What We Can will extend beyond the two weeks work we have done.
Summing up the internship is difficult for me, as I don't feel like it's the end of something. There isn't a sense of finality as I prepare to return to University because so much of what I have learnt will be coming with me. My only words of advice would be that if you are at all interested in Giving What We Can and their vision of alleviating world poverty by 2030, then apply for next September's programme. In the meantime just watch this space, as between now and then we have a whole lot of exciting plans.