Life as an intern at Social Finance

Published: 29 August 2019

Sydney Schoonover interned with us in 2019. Here she reflects on the experience. 

As an avid traveller, I had always thought about studying or working abroad but had never taken the plunge. I was presented with the opportunity to do this through a global internship program offered at my university, the University of California, Berkeley. Though I was unsure if internship coordinators would be able to find a position that combined my studies in Sociology, Economics, and Public Policy with my interest in social welfare, I was pleasantly surprised when I was offered an interview with Social Finance. Fast forward four months and countless frustrating hours spent acquiring a visa later, and I was in London.

I’ve spent my last eight weeks as an intern on the Advisory team within Social Finance focusing mainly on two projects: one on serious youth violence and a second on special educational needs (SEN) outcomes. My time on serious youth violence was spent researching potential interventions to prevent at-risk youth from becoming involved in violence. The context of knife violence in London is similar to that of gun violence in the United States, and so I researched interventions from the US- such as multi systemic therapy and functional family therapy – that could be transferred to the UK. This work led to me hosting a meeting with three other non-profits to discuss a potential partnership on a bid for the Youth Endowment Fund, a £200 million fund for interventions that target youth violence. I presented my research in front of the group, and although it was a bit intimidating at first, everyone was receptive to the idea of forming a partnership.

The SEN project was more challenging because I first had to learn how the Department for Education and the SEN system operate in the UK before I could research outcomes. I was invited to come along to Hertfordshire, during which the team and I interviewed the local authority on their SEN system. This is one of my favourite memories during my time at Social Finance as I was able to participate in hands on research. After some intense desk research, I compiled notes on which outcomes and frameworks are best for measuring the success of SEN pupils so that this information can be used to inform the larger DfE report on SEN issues. The best part of this project was that I felt like my contributions were important and valuable to the larger project.

Though eight weeks is a short time for an internship, I’ve enjoyed every moment that I’ve spent at Social Finance. Going forward, I’m sure that the experience I’ve gained in research, social issues, and data collection will help me in my future academic and professional pursuits. I also have to say a special thanks to Sadiq Mussani, who has been a wonderful mentor to me throughout the summer. He has demonstrated patience, despite my many questions, and has challenged me to learn and grow as an individual.

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