The Partnership’s Summer Internship Program

The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation’s Summer Internship program is accepting applications through Feb. 11, 2024

January 23, 2024, 5:01pm EDT

Written by Karen Kirkpatrick

What do mental health initiatives in Macon, the arts in Augusta, infrastructure in Albany, city data and parks have in common? They are among the project host sites for the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation’s (Partnership) 2024 Summer Internship program.

The Partnership is a statewide public-private collaboration to promote innovations that drive inclusion and growth to build economic mobility for a more resilient and equitable future.

The Summer Internship program, formerly known as the Smart Community Corps, is seeking a record number of interns this summer. The public innovation projects address important civic challenges facing Georgia, South Carolina and Washington, D.C.

“We’re continuing to grow,” Cody Cocchi, the Partnership’s student engagement manager, said of the upcoming sixth cohort of students. “Last year we had 35 internship opportunities. This year we have 42. That gives us opportunities for 84 interns, compared to 62 last year.”

The internship is an immersive 12-week program that pairs two students at each project site from universities and communities around the country to work on innovative public projects that foster economic mobility and sustainable living.

One other thing that will be different with the 2024 cohort is the opportunity for a student to build their own project, Cocchi said.

“Interns have to identify what the project is going to be, where their host site will be, and who the site supervisor will be,” he said. “They also have to find a peer to work with on the project. That’s a really interesting addition this year that has already drawn one application.”

Ornela Gjoni, a master’s student at Georgia Tech in city and regional planning, interned with Park Pride in 2023. Park Pride is an Atlanta nonprofit organization that works with communities to help develop neighborhood parks. Gjoni and her project partner worked on community engagement in Peoplestown, a historic neighborhood in Atlanta’s southeastern quadrant where Park Pride is helping to develop Four Corners Park.

Gjoni, who is from Albania, found the project helpful to her future career. “It was interesting to get a sense of what working with communities in another country will be like,” she said. “It was a taste of what I could expect after I graduate, if I’m able to find a job and do something similar.”

In addition to gaining job experience, the paid internships offer an opportunity to boost students’ professional level, expand professional networks and take advantage of professional development programming.

Georgia City Solutions (GCS), a nonprofit unit under the umbrella of the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), was so impressed with the two interns they had in 2023, that the GCS signed on as an anchor partner, which means the organization is committed to hosting interns for 2024 and 2025.

For the GCS summer interns’ project, which started in 2023 and will continue, students measured, reported and shared GCS information related to work the organization is doing with cities around the state on equity and inclusion, municipal workforce development, and youth leadership and engagement.

“The most important tip,” said Brian Wallace, director of content strategy and engagement for the GMA/GCS, “is to have a project ready to go, then let the interns be creative.”

It was huge, he said, that they had two very good interns, who could spend 12 weeks completely focused on one project. “We hit a homerun with the two interns,” Wallace said.

For most of the projects, the Partnership funds the cost of one intern – a stipend of $8,000 is provided – and the site funds the other.

“Of course, it’s on a sliding scale all the way to zero,” Cocchi said, “Because of the inclusive nature of what we want to do, we don’t want to not support organizations that can’t afford to pay for interns.”

Interested in serving as a project site? There’s a process for that.

“We do an open call,” Cocchi said. “We want the projects to be community driven, community-identified issues, with community-driven solutions. Then we recruit students so that they know which organization they’re going to work with.”

The program is open to organizations from around the state and higher ed students from any institution, any degree level, and any major. Project sites for 2024 have already been selected. Intern applications will be accepted through February 11. Check out the Summer Internships website for more information.

a student intern shares their project presentation at the end of the semester.
Student interns pose for a photo.

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