When I began my search for an internship last winter, I knew I wanted to focus on urban anti-poverty policy and I had a strong preference to return to New York City, where I had lived and worked before moving to Cambridge. Prior to HKS, I worked as a program analyst at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon. At HUD, I worked closely with New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and spent much of my time visiting housing developments and speaking with residents and employees. Through these conversations, I became interested in how governments can support economic mobility given the entrenched, multifaceted nature of poverty – a question that spurred me to apply for HKS.
Robin Hood is New York City’s largest anti-poverty organization and has spent decades working to support economic mobility in the city; I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with them on their Young Adults team this summer. On the Young Adults team, I worked on annual reviews for Robin Hood’s grantees. The annual review process consisted of meeting with the executive director of the organization and listening to their recap of the year, using performance data to formulate a cost-benefit for the past year, and writing a summary for Robin Hood’s board. My favorite part was the cost-benefit analysis (which I had just learned about in Econ 102!). Robin Hood uses specific benchmarks like degree obtainment, wage increase, and recidivism prevention to calculate the dollar return on their grant. This metric, although imperfect, is a fascinating framework for understanding the social impact of the organization.
Alongside grant review, I worked on crafting a proposal for a community of practice of workforce development organizations. Specifically, the community of practice was meant to address persistent challenges in recruiting and placement Gen Z into mobility-wage jobs. This project began with desk research on Gen Z in the workforce. I learned about the disparate impacts of the pandemic on young, low-income workers who were more likely than other demographics to work in the hard-hit hospitality and retail sectors, were more likely to lose stable housing as a result of job loss, and often did not receive adequate academic support if they were in school. I had a chance to interview nine community partners on their specific experiences with Gen Z, then present my findings back to Robin Hood. The most interesting part was trying to differentiate between perpetual inter-generational conflict in the workforce – “kids these days” type complaints—and emerging challenges specific to this generation, the legacy of the pandemic, and today’s social and political climate. Ultimately, Robin Hood decided the community of practice was worth pursuing and I wrapped up my summer by writing a request for proposal for a third-party facilitator to bring the proposal to life.
Last spring, I had the opportunity to take part in CPL’s Public Leadership Development Cohort, a seminar in which I explored my interests and goals for the coming year with a small group of peers. The experience was invaluable, and I was able to use the focus gained from the seminar to make the most of my summer at Robin Hood. Specifically, I knew I wanted a sense of the landscape of economic mobility-focused organizations in New York City, better understand the role of philanthropy in social welfare, and apply new skills from my first year at HKS to real world work. Robin Hood provided all that and more. After my internship, I also have a newfound interest in policies aimed at young adults and a desire to learn more about labor market policy and equitable economic recovery. Lastly, I had the chance to work with deeply knowledgeable and interesting coworkers, many of whom took extra time to get to know me and include me on projects they knew would be of interest. I am grateful to CPL’s support, without which this experience would not have been possible.
by Grace Martin, Master in Public Policy Candidate, 2024
CPL Summer is a collection of essays submitted by HKS students with connections to CPL highlighting their internship experience during the 2023 summer break. The views and opinions expressed in Student Voices are the solely those of the author and are not endorsed by the Center for Public Leadership.