Foundations of Social Impact Fellowship
Hi everyone! I wanted to use this week's post to provide an update on some extracurriculars I'm involved in. The Foundations program has been one of my favorite and most time-consuming involvements thus far and has been influential in solidifying my interest in public health and social impact work. I highly recommend it to all future students as it provided me with consistency and community during my first few terms at Dartmouth.
At first, I was very apprehensive about joining the program. I thought it would be too much of a time commitment as I balanced the academic and social transitions of college life. The content very much interested me–I love working directly with people in my community and enjoy the data analysis/research parts of consulting projects. I ended up taking the risk and going for it ... and it ended up working out! There was a written application and a low-stakes group interview, so the application process wasn't too intimidating.
The program formally starts in the winter and involves weekly seminar-like sessions on Wednesday nights. We first engaged with social impact theory, learned best practices through case studies, and developed skills from partners within the Dartmouth community. The pace was a little slower than it is now, but I appreciated how each session engaged a different part of my brain, allowing me to call on and contextualize a lot of my previous experiences with community engagement, even if I didn't realize I was engaging with the community. A few of my favorite sessions included a trip to the Social Impact game lab, reading through archives on Dartmouth's co-educational transition, and a networking event with the Tuck School of Business. We also went on a weekend retreat, exploring the different social services and community institutions in a nearby town, Lebanon.
Once the spring term started, so did our consulting project. We received a brief from DCSI with project details, contacts, and background information, but most of the research and proposal of solutions were to be done on our own. My group of 5 is specifically working with the Public Health Council of the Upper Valley and HAVEN to increase inter-food pantry communication, networking, and resource/data sharing for pantries along the Connecticut River. I was initially overwhelmed and a little pessimistic about the scope of the project - how are we supposed to get this all done in 10 weeks? However, I quickly realized how efficient dividing and conquering can be. Some of us worked on the literature review while some focused on outreach with clients, administrative folks, and community members. We convened each week for a one-hour "team" meeting and then a one-hour workshop/seminar session with our advisors, Tori and Evan. I'm happy to report that we've made great progress on the project. After consulting many community partners and adjusting our approach according to feedback from all parties involved, we are now working on our final deliverables. First, we are making a slide deck that presents our research, analysis of the problem, approach adjustments, and proposed solutions. Our deliverables include a Facebook group "hub" with different forms of messaging and levels of access so pantries can have intra and intercommunication. We also attached a Google form that is linked to an automatically-updated, comprehensive Google Sheet that is a central location for pantries to offer or request assistance in specific categories. We also are currently designing a way for the community members to offer input for the sustainability and longevity of our solutions.
I'm excited to share the final product with you guys and can't wait to let you know how our final presentation goes next week!