Communities are amazing: An internship with IVAR

This summer I had the pleasure of working as an intern on the research team for IVAR as part of the 10,000 Black Interns initiative.  I am a Geography undergraduate student and I don’t have a clear plan of what my next steps after completing my degree will be yet. I applied to summer internships hoping to find something new, something exciting and mentally stimulating, that would ignite a passion to support my career decision. One thing I knew for certain, however, is that my future work must have elements of compassion and empathy involved – ultimately, I want to help people.

For my interview with IVAR, I did some research into what IVAR did, their values and what they aim to achieve through their research. I decided it was a perfect opportunity to explore the voluntary research sector and see if my skill set is suited to this kind of work. I have learned so much about myself and how essential the voluntary sector is for people and supporting communities. In this blog I share what I did and what I’m taking away from the experience.

What did I do on my internship with IVAR?

I was part of three projects; Connecting Health Communities, One Southwark and Community Led Social Justice. All these projects have different focuses which gave me the variety and diversity of learning and experiences that I was craving in an internship. I attended meetings with external stakeholders, both in person and on Zoom; participated in interviews; gave my views and opinions on a range of topics relating to health, inequality and the importance of the youth voice. Oftentimes, I would share my own experiences to inform the team.  

I also conducted and managed my own mini project to cross analyse IVAR’s involvement with youth-led work. Across IVAR’s projects, they have had varying levels of engagement with young people, from learning partners of youth-focussed programmes, influencing the progression of youth-focussed projects but also leading their own like the Jane Hatfield Award. I analysed the effectiveness of the methods they used from the perspective of a young person to determine what worked best and what potential changes could be made going forward when working with young people. I found this project very enjoyable because I was given scope to plan how I’d like to approach this project but I was also supported in the process. I decided where to place emphasis – for example, I wanted to highlight how essential it is that a young person’s voice is always incorporated into conversations regarding their challenges and opportunities. I explored how IVAR actively encourages and facilitates this already in their projects and shared how they might be able to do more of this. I had the opportunity to interview IVAR team members and take the analysis skills I built at in-person team days and apply it to this final project.

What I’ve learned in my internship with IVAR

My two key takeaways from my internship are:

Communities are amazing 

The work that individuals do within communities and the relationships and networks built between people within neighbourhoods is astonishing. They see a problem or challenge being faced in their community and they work to improve opportunities and livelihoods.

Young people being the change they wish to see in the world 

The enthusiasm and energy of young people is infectious. The positive impact that they have in their communities and on a wider reaching scale when faced with today’s challenges is inspiring. This experience has made me appreciate my own opportunities more and ensure that I make the most of them.

I have found this experience invaluable; the relationships I have built with IVAR team members and being able to display my ability and skills has shown me that research is a field I can see myself working in – a conclusion that I was hoping would be the case and it has now been fully realised. My confidence grew during my internship through having 6 weeks to explore topics that I am most passionate about and think and experience solutions that will improve the day to day lives of people. Thank you to IVAR for this opportunity and a special thank you to my line manager Sonakshi for perfectly helping me to settle in and support me throughout my internship.  

It was lovely to have Morgan join our research team for six weeks. Her perspective on our projects has helped us immensely in thinking about how to meaningfully bring in the voices of young people into the entire process of our work. One of my key takeaways is thinking about how IVAR can change the power imbalance to ensure young people feel valued and empowered to share their thoughts, opinions and perspectives.

Sonakshi Anand, Senior Researcher

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