Interns Wanted: How to Build Value Into Your Internship Program

Do you remember your first internship experience? What was it like? Did it suck? Was it one of those grueling rites of passage that you finished not because you believed you’d learn something but because otherwise, you’d enter the workforce with a page full of summer fast food gigs and high school community service credits?

At Create Forward, we don’t think internships should suck. We’re more than capable of getting our own coffee and usually like to do lunch communal style. As a company committed to advancing equity and justice, exploiting the labor of college students while they take on student loan debt just to pay for the credits they get for working for us, is the kind of contradiction of values we try to avoid. Furthermore, we want to nurture young people of color who often don’t have the family financial cushion to spend a semester working for free.

Two years ago, when I first launched our internship program, I didn’t know where to begin. I put together an internship description and just sent out to various schools and networks hoping to find someone. No one applied and I couldn’t figure out why. Then a friend and fellow entrepreneur, Nia Austin-Edwards of Purpose Productions, offered some really good advice. She told me, interns want to feel like their time and effort is valued. There are lots of ways to create that sense of value you just have to use what you’ve got.

I’m not saying that our internship program is perfect. In an ideal world, we’d be able to pay our interns, compensating them their time or at least cover their transportation costs. One day we will have the resources to do that but right now we’re a small start-up and it’s just not feasible. But that doesn’t mean that an internship can’t come with other creative benefits.

So here are some ways to create an internship experience that creates value for the intrepid humans who think interning with a startup sounds like just the right kind of adventure.

Three ways to add value to your start-up’s internship program:

Extend Their Network:

Host a “lunch and learn” once or twice a month where you invite the awesome people you know to come in and share their expertise with your whole team.

If “lunch and learns” aren’t practical (like, say, because you don’t have an office) then find out who in your network they’d like to connect with a set-up them up on an informational lunch meeting with a colleague who can help advance their goals.

Provide Professional Development Benefits:

When I was thinking about the unique skills that I can share with my interns, I realized that I’m positioned to offer something that most young professionals can’t afford, leadership coaching. Over the course of a semester, Create Forward interns have the opportunity to receive around $1000 worth of coaching support. Figure out what unique skills or assets you can share with your interns. Maybe you can offer a master class on marketing or tutoring in software like Adobe InDesign. 

Another benefit we offer is a $50 PD credit. You can use this PD credit to attend a workshop or conference of your choosing. One of the most creative ways PD credits have been used was to cover the cost of a 1:1 Skype session with the owner of a community farm.

Provide an Opportunity to Shine:

An internship should be an opportunity to build your portfolio, which is why we invite all of our interns to contribute something new to the company. Once they’ve spent a few weeks getting to know the organization they can pitch a new idea, a new system or way of getting things done or even a new project that advances our mission. If it’s the right time and the right fit, we give them the green light to begin working on it. Past interns have researched story archival strategies, developed case studies, or pioneered new ways of documenting and assessing our work.

At the end of every semester long internship, we complete an exit interview with each intern. We ask them what they gained from the experience, we praise them for their offerings, but most importantly we ask for feedback on how we can improve.

The Impact

Since launching this value added internship program a year ago we’ve had three incredible cohorts of interns come through our doors. They’ve become an integral part of our community and continue to be long after they’ve completed their exit interview. Not only have we infused value into our internship program but in turn, our program design has raised the quality of the people who apply to intern with us.

But the best indication that this value-added approach is working is that half of our interns each semester are already college graduates excited about the work we’re doing and eager to learn. Which is the best part, Create Forward is a place where people know that an internship really is an opportunity to learn and grow.

 

Distractions Abound: 3 Ways to Stay Focused

3 ways to stay focused

Yesterday, as I found myself going down the rabbit hole of Tweets about Donald Trump Jr.’s emails, I stopped mid-scroll realizing that once again I had gotten distracted.

It’s busy day. I’ve got proposals to write, client projects to design, and emails to respond to. It’s a Tuesday, which means that most of my team is in the office today and I want to be available to them if they need my input or support. I don’t have time to be distracted.

But distractions abound.

We’re only halfway through 2017 and the year has already presented us with more terrifying distractions than we can all handle. 

Working within social justice with a commitment to making the world a more equitable place often means not only facing the difficult realities but responding with urgency to protect the most vulnerable. It can feel like we’re putting out fires in a fire swamp. Just when you think you’ve made it out, here comes Donald Trump Jr. and his email-gate quicksand threatening to take you under. (That’s a Princess Bride reference.)

In moments like this, you have to remember your “Why”. Why do YOU get up every day and commit to making an impact in the world? Why is it worth it to keep getting up and fighting back no matter how down and dirty the forces of chaos and destruction decide to get? In times like these, you have got to be anchored to your “WHY”. Allow it to be the thing that brings you back when you find yourself working so hard to keep up with the never-ending assault on our civil and human rights.

Three ways to make your "WHY" your anchor in times of mass distraction:

1.    Define and Refine your Three L’s. I love this exercise I learned it from my coach, Jlove Calderon at Move the Crowd. It’s a staple of the MTC methodology. How do you "Live, Love, and Lead"? Three statements that clarify your values and vision for your life and work. When I find myself losing sight of the big picture I come back to my 3Ls. Some days/weeks I need it to be an open tab on my laptop as a daily affirmation of why, who, and what I want to bring to the world. I look at my commitments and use my 3Ls as a litmus test to ensure that the work I’m doing aligns with what matters most to me.

2.    Create a Flame Keeper Circle. These are the folks who know you at your best and know the signs when you are losing your light. This circle is who you turn to when you need to be reminded, affirmed, or held to account. They hold you up and they also keep you grounded. They might be mentors, friends, a Mastermind group of other leaders who meet monthly. Maybe you have regular check-ins via Skype or just a group text chain as long as you know you can depend on them to support you when need it most.

3.   Accept that Change is a Constant. At any point, we have to be prepared for the possibility that what drives you, what feels like your purpose may one day change. Perhaps you woke up after the 2016 election and decided that your new purpose was to protect and preserve American democracy or maybe your “Why” became more radical as you realized that scientists no longer have the luxury of being agnostic when it comes to social justice. Move toward what excites you, makes you feel most charged and ready to take action. But most of all don’t be afraid to say yes, to change when she comes a knocking.

Lastly, keep telling stories. Stories are how we remember what matters.

At Create Forward we use storytelling to help our clients identify what matters most to them. In defining the moments when we feel most excited about our work and the communities we serve, we discover what we most value, we see the kernels of an irresistible vision for the future, and most of all we’re reminded of our “Why”.

For Immediate Release: Create Forward Launches Mass Story Lab in NYC

For Immediate Release
Piper Anderson
Create Forward
718-753-1202
piper@create-forward.com

Mass Story Lab: Designing A Future Beyond Prisons

RELEASE DATE, New York City - On June 29, 2016, Mass Story Lab will kick off a  national tour to 20 U.S. cities grappling with the impact of mass incarceration, starting with Mass Story: Rikers Island.

Mass Story Lab is an innovative art & design project by Create Forward that seeks to arm communities with creative tools to design solutions to mass incarceration.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 in 36 adults is under correctional supervision. In 2015 when the Justice Department took the historic step of releasing 6,000 people from Federal prisons, the largest one-time early release of prisoners in history, it signaled the end of an era marked by tough on crime rhetoric and a ‘war on drugs’. Yet the federal system accounts for less than half of the U.S prison population and efforts at criminal justice reform on a state level continue to fall short.

“There are as many criminal justice systems as there are states. So if we want to change the systems then we need to give each a community a voice and platform to envision change.” Says, Piper Anderson, creator of Mass Story Lab.

Mass Story Lab is currently being incubated in the TED Residency Program in New York City. Known for the thousands of filmed talks given by innovators from around the world, TED is now incubating and supporting break-through ideas in-house through their 4-month TED Residency program. Piper Anderson is a member of TED’s first class of Residents who work out of the TED office and receive support to develop their ideas.

“I spent the last 15 years traveling the country using poetry, theatre, and community art projects to inform the public about the impact of mass incarceration on communities of color but it just never felt like it was enough.” Says, Piper Anderson, creator of Mass Story Lab.

Mass Story Lab brings together some of the best tools available to create empathy and cultural change from the worlds of arts and design; storytelling and design thinking. “Its time we give people the tools to actively design a world beyond prisons,” explains Anderson, who is also the founder of Create Forward, which delivers creative strategies for social change to activate the collective imagination.  Mass Story Lab is the first national initiative Anderson has developed under the banner of Create Forward.

The project will launch in New York City on June 29th, from 9am – 12pm at The New School 55 W 13th Street, with Mass Story: Rikers Island. To launch this ambitious initiative Create Forward has teamed up with national criminal justice advocacy organization, JustLeadershipUSA. JLUSA’s Close Rikers Campaign is calling for the closure of the country’s largest jail complex sighting decades of violence, abuse and mismanagement. The launch will be hosted at the New School in partnership with Humanities Action Lab (HAL). HAL produces public history projects to create dialogue on urgent social issues. Their most recent project is “States of Incarceration”.

At Mass Story: Rikers Island, ten people whose lives have been changed by Rikers Island will share their story, and audience members will then break into small groups to begin a imaginative ideation sessions to generate creative strategies to redesign justice.

Some of the stories you’ll experience at Mass Story: Rikers Island include:

  • Khalil Cumberbatch, who witnessed the senseless and brutal beating of an inmate by correctional staff to instill fear in the population.
  • Johnny Perez, was 16 years old when he was detained on Rikers Island. He recalls a feeling of helplessness and a culture in which survival meant a transformation from victim to victimizer. 
  • Ann Pastorasta spent several days searching for her son in the system before she was informed that he was sent to Rikers Island. “I kept searching on the internet and could not find Riker’s Island until I finally located a gray spot on the map.

These stories and many more provide a fuller picture of what Rikers Island represents in the lives of so many New Yorkers. Mass Story Lab aims to ensure that their stories drive a movement to build safer, healthier communities while eliminating that dark ominous spot called Rikers Island that is a blight on the New York City skyline.

Event Info:

Mass Story: Rikers Island

Wednesday, June 29, 20169-12pm

The New School 55 W 13th Street New York, NY

 

 

Reflections on the One Year Anniversary of CREATE FORWARD

Create Forward, the company, officially launched on February 9, 2015 but the Create Forward the idea began with a broken heart and a willing spirit Labor Day weekend 2014. I was on a personal retreat at Omega Institute, as a guest of the Omega Women’s Leadership Center. OWLC offers retreats to women leaders from around the world. A rare yet vital opportunity to rest and reflect on your leadership for a few days while staying in the beautiful Juno Cottage on the grounds of Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. It had been a long while since I had a break but I was also at a crossroads professionally and wanted to determine my next steps.  I wanted to make good use of the three days away to do some planning. Yet, once I walked into my cottage the full weigh of fatigue seem to descend upon me and I just couldn’t do it any more. I couldn’t keep doing, doing, doing without stopping a moment to check in with my spirit and make sure all this motion was in alignment with what matters most to me. In fact, I wasn’t sure I really remembered what mattered most to me.

What I needed more than anything was to be still and so I did nothing. I made no decisions that weekend. I did not plan and chart out my path. I just made myself fully available to the present moment. I meditated, walked the grounds, got a massage, sat on the porch, read, and rested. Then it happened: the end of the 2nd, I grabbed my sketchpad, and I wrote the word “INQUIRY and then the word IMAGINATION. I stayed with those two words and trusted that when the time was right I would know what it meant. I returned home having made only one decision about my career: I did not want to go to work for another non-profit. There was not one job out there that I was excited about applying for, which meant that I was going to work for myself. So I had one decision: I would work for myself, and I had two words: inquiry and imagination.

Two days later, I received an email from 651 Arts inviting me to facilitate a creative think tank that would be guided by a single inquiry question. And that is how Create Forward began to take shape:  Faith, listening to spirit, and saying yes when opportunities were revealed.

Five months later, I left my job and woke up on Monday, February 9, 2015 the founder and Chief Creative Strategist at Create Forward LLC. A year later and I stand in awe of what we’ve accomplished:

  • Designed and facilitated imaginative containers for dialogue, community building, and social change with 18 clients and partners.
  • Reached more than 3000 people through events, trainings, and performances.
  • Convened the first Summit on Youth Education at Rikers Island to question, challenge, and exchange best practices across organizations serving incarcerated youth. We centered the arts and social justice education in this convening.
  • Joined the Humanities Action Lab team as Community Engagement Strategist to design the “States of Incarceration” exhibit, which will travel to 20 cities and reach over 500,000 people in the next three years.
  • Received funding from North Star’s Let Us Breathe Fund and the New York Humanities Council to fund creative strategies dreamt up in our Forward Innovation Lab.

But most of all we built community and we believed, believed, believed in the radical possibilities of the collective imagination. Cheers to another year! Let’s Create Forward!

(Re)Imagining Community Safety

This past December the NYPD orchestrated a ‘work slow down’ that revealed that most everyday policing practice amounts to taxing people of color in low-income communities through quality of life violations.

Having spent the last 15 years doing cultural organizing and healing work in response to mass criminalization the truth about policing was not new to me but it occurred to me that many people might just be discovering this fact for the first time.. Maybe this is a critical moment to engage people in the conversation that practitioners of transformative justice have been theorizing, analyzing, and experimenting with for well over a decade: alternatives to policing.

So what does it take to get people to imagine a world without police? This is not a new inquiry. Again community organizers have been engaged in this work for some time on many different levels and in communities across the country; much of this work led by queer folks of color have created alternatives to calling the police in order to survive and combat state violence and marginalization.

So the conversation is not new but by no means is it over. In fact, it’s more urgent than ever.

In January I began teaching a winter term course at The New School on the intersections of community art practice and transformative justice. It was a course idea I proposed a year ago. I wanted a reason to explore the ways artists were thinking about community accountability, prison abolish, challenging state violence by working with communities to envision new possibilities for how we create safety in our homes and neighborhoods. By the time January 2015 rolled around the course was more urgent than ever. The questions more ever present. I deployed my students into their communities with a few simple questions:

community is...accountability is...

What makes you feel safe?

Do police make you feel safe?

What resources does your community have or need to be safe?

They came back with a range of responses which of course differed based on the age, race, gender, class, citizenship status of the people they talked to. We shared the results of these interviews with a small audience at The New School. What I thought was most interesting was when asked about what made them feel safe most people talked about the people close to them-relationships, recognition in space, visibility. Not police. Yet the moment the word police was introduced imagination shut down. Suddenly our conditioning kicks in and we remember to give deference to the security force we’ve come to expect and depend on.

There’s a concept called the Constructivist Principle, which suggest that we create the world through the words and metaphors that we use. What we focus on becomes our reality and that reality is born out of the meaning that we make from language. 

So when invited to facilitate vision boarding process at the Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturday for Harriet’s Apothecary. I knew that this would be a perfect opportunity to revisit the project in a new way. What if we ask people to create an irresistible vision for community safety? How might they respond? Questions posted around the table, images pre-cut from magazines, colorful crafts paper, glue sticks, and a wall 7 x 5 feet waiting for their collective visions of community safety.

 

            What does it taste/feel/smell/look like to feel safe in your neighborhood?

            What words, symbols, images, represent wholeness in a community?

Who in your neighborhood makes you feel most connected to the place and seen?

What would it look like for EVERYONE to be safe in your community?

 

BK Museum Community Vision Board

As the 10,000 museum visitors traveled around the various healing stations being held by Harriet’s Apothecary healers and volunteers dressed in white our vision tables were never empty, there was a constant flow of folks coming in, sitting down, creating intricately thoughtful boards, beautiful visions, adding them to the large collective board, fusing them together on that wall. People of all ages, races, and gender expressions created a vision of community safety. 

I understand that it takes a lot to even get here: to be able to imagine community safety when the right to feel safe in your body as been stripped taken away by state agents. I know because I’ve been there and the journey back home to myself is a privilege I don’t take for granted. I want us all to get there and then I want us to create a world where we live in healthy, safe, supportive communities free from all forms of violence; where we are accountable to ourselves and each other.

I’m not quite sure what is next for this project but I’m actively seeking thought partners, visionaries, healers, and artists to join me on the journey. Let’s build.

Piper

Email me at piper@create-forward.com