(Photo via twitter.com/PHParksAlliance)
The Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania has been making it clear recently that it’s here for nonprofits.
When it comes to diversity in nonprofit board leadership, or rather the lack thereof, Fels’ new board governance program is aiming to train more leaders of color. And 10 nonprofits just completed a nine-month journey with the Fels-affiliated ImpactED in exploring how data can be used to better measure and communicate their impacts.
Now, another fairly recent initiative under the Fels Institute called the Fels Lab wants to make another kind of resource available to local nonprofits and government agencies — its graduate students.
The Fels Lab, introduced in early 2016, has Fels graduate students work with nonprofits and government agencies on specific projects submitted by these organizations. Cassie Tomkins, assistant director at Fels, and Josh Power, director of admissions and graduate studies at Fels, have been overseeing the program for the past year and a half, working with the nonprofits that submit projects or helping match students with the orgs.
"It was born out of this desire to more intentionally connect students to the work that's happening with nonprofits in Philadelphia."
“It was born out of this desire to more intentionally connect students to the work that’s happening with our organizations, nonprofits in Philadelphia,” Power said.
Tomkins said part of the process of accepting projects involves Fels listening to the students themselves, what their interests are and what kind of work they want to do. The most common areas of interest they found were strategic planning, program evaluation, data analysis, policy analysis and program development.
As of right now, 30 projects are listed on the Fels Lab website and some of the organizations associated with these projects include Public Citizens for Children + Youth, Philadelphia Parks Alliance, Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, Project HOME and the Office of Innovation and Technology’s Digital Literacy Alliance.
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Power said most of the students they work with take part in Fels Lab as part of the Institute of Government’s new capstone experiences, which are focused on the “learning-by-doing” kind of project work that can help boost their résumés and build up their professional network.
And while the Fels Lab projects are available year-round for students as internship experiences as well — this year’s graduate students will choose their capstone projects in late October and begin preliminary work in November to complete it in the spring or summer of 2018 — Tomkins said the experience can be thought of as bigger opportunities for nonprofits and agencies.
“It gives organizations a chance to think outside the box — what’s something you’re working on but there’s a component that’s not clicking?” she said. “It gives them the opportunity to get some support on that initiative and finish it out. It just helps to get that extra support, and students have an energy, enthusiasm and knowledge to offer.”
Got a project in mind? You can submit a project proposal right here.
And for interested students, they will have a chance to meet with leaders of participating organizations at an upcoming Fels Lab Opportunity Showcase on Oct. 11.-30-
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