What Does It Mean to Be an Impact Fellow?
By Jake Harper
The Sorenson Impact Center at the University of Utah is one of the nation’s leading social impact organizations, and is at the forefront of the impact revolution. What is the Impact Revolution? What is Pay for Success? What is impact investing? Why should you apply to be an Impact Fellow at the Center? Let’s answer these questions.
Impact investing found its beginnings about 100 years ago when an investment fund began making financial decisions with something larger in mind than money. Simply put, impact investing means making investments in companies that do good, solve society's biggest problems, help their communities, and still provide a positive financial return. Dubbed “The Impact Revolution,” interest in these investments has skyrocketed over the past few years and it’s currently one of the fastest growing financial fields in the world.
As an Impact Fellow at Sorenson Impact, you’ll be involved in projects around the world that aim to solve massive global problems and help thousands of people. From researching potential investment opportunities, to presenting ideas to CEO’s and investment boards, to managing projects as they begin and grow, Impact Fellows are intimately involved with nearly all of the pieces that go into making the Sorenson Impact Center a leader in social innovation.
All Fellows, regardless of which sector they work in, share many commonalities. Everyone involved with the Center has a passion for improving the world and solving social problems. We’re all committed to using financial assets to do good. In addition, all Fellows meet together at least once a month to hear high-profile speakers from the policy, impact investing, and data science communities, engage in student activities (such as ropes courses or mini golf), and take part in community service projects.
Being selected as an Impact Fellow on the impact investing team is competitive and prestigious. Fellows engage in a two-month training program to learn the ins and outs of investing. This training helps students become familiar and confident in navigating the impact investing world, and at the end of this training, students have the opportunity to be involved in massive deals with partners from around the world. Fellows research possible investment opportunities and perform extensive due diligence to determine the potential of each deal. If it seems like a good opportunity, the students will present their research to a team of prestigious, high profile investors. This is the real deal. You’re involved in the same types of high-caliber deals that investment companies are engaging in all over the globe.
The investing and finance worlds present a serious catch 22. Big companies require experience before they’ll considering hiring someone to work for them. How can you get experience in these fields if you can’t get a job without it? Getting involved with the impact investing team requires zero financial experience, but by the end of your two semester stay, you have an impressive asset that adds value to any resumé.
You do not need to be a finance major to apply for the impact investing internship. You simply need to have knack for learning new things, a desire to improve the world through the mobilization of capital, and a willingness to work hard.
“This is not an afterschool program or club. This is a legitimate venture fund. I learned more in the first month at Sorenson than I did in my first two years of business school.” – Tommy Lalli, Impact Investing Fellow
“The training I received here is the most valuable I’ve ever received in my life” – Nikita Siddamsettiwar, Impact Investing Fellow
Impact Fellows on the data science team are strong in one or more of the following three categories: statistics/statistical analysis, computer programming, and the junction between data and social policy. It is not a requirement to know computer programming, but anyone with experience using R is strongly recommended to apply. Applicants should have a strong interest in how data affects the world. They should be enthusiastic and self-motivated; much of what students do is self-monitored and it’s up to the student to determine how much they get out of this internship. You’ll receive on the job training, learn new skills while getting paid or class credit, and be exposed to new ideas and sectors in a highly educational environment. You’ll be trained by our incredible data science staff, which includes Ph.D.’s and plural Harvard graduates.
Students said that they engage in a wide spectrum of responsibilities at the Center, including project management, data analysis and entry, report building and presentation, and client interaction.
“We take for granted all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes in to social good and social change. It’s really cool seeing how impact is actually brought about, how stuff actually happens,” said Luke Tuttle, Data Science Fellow.
“This internship has been one of the, if not the absolute, most valuable experiences I’ve had in my entire undergraduate studies. Sorenson Impact taught me how to turn theoretical knowledge into usable, applicable skills, which is very empowering,” he said.
The goal of the Fellows on the policy innovation team is to determine creative solutions to social problems that yield financial and social benefits. They do this by researching the problems and previously attempted solutions to develop innovative, sustainable ideas to solve these persisting issues.
One of the primary fields policy students work in is called Pay for Success. Put simply, government and private investment entities put capital on the line to fund service providers as they attempt to fulfill a need in a community. If the project succeeds and certain goals and measures are met, the investors are reimbursed financially. This exciting new investment strategy facilitates benefit for everyone involved. The investors receive a positive ROI, the population in need receives necessary help and programs, and the government avoids pouring funds into failing projects that don’t yield intended results. Sorenson Impact Fellows are actively involved in these projects in a variety of ways.
In addition to these Pay for Success programs, policy Fellows engage in what is referred to as “impact measurement”. Organizations with high levels of community involvement recruit Sorenson Impact to investigate what impact service providers are actually having. When it comes to social good, it can be difficult to measure the effects. Sorenson Impact finds creative approaches to measuring these effects and presenting them to the interested parties.
The policy team is a multidisciplinary team from a variety of backgrounds. You don’t need a specific major or particular experience to be considered. What you do need is a passion for solving society’s most critical needs and an interest in using data driven approaches to solving these problems. You’ll work in sectors such as homelessness, childhood education, workforce development, criminal justice, and community and public health.
Communications & Marketing
After the deals have been made, the world needs to know about them. That’s where the communications team comes in. As a Communications and Graphic Design Fellow, you’ll work to share stories of social impact through. From blog articles about the projects, to infographics explaining data, to creating large window decals to display our endeavors, you’ll do it all.
It doesn’t matter if you have the next big groundbreaking idea, if you can’t communicate your ideas and goals, nothing will move forward. The communications students learn invaluable skills that help them articulate their thoughts as well as present data and events in a straightforward way that conveys the importance of what Sorenson Impact does in the world of social progress.
The comms team is made up of diverse, friendly individuals from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds. From graphic designers to business majors to future medical students, there’s something here for everyone. There isn’t a required major to apply, though interested students with backgrounds in writing, communication, art, or graphic design are strongly encouraged to apply.
As an Impact Fellow, you’ll get to see your work on the company website, displayed on campus, and on official reports that get sent to Sorenson’s vast network of high-level business executives and non-profit partners.
“Working on the comms team has been an incredible experience. I’ve learned so much, not only about communications, but business and investing too. I knew almost nothing about finance or investing before my internship here, but the people at Sorenson are all very good teachers and very patient with the students.” – Jake Harper, Communications Fellow
Whatever your background, major, or experience level, if you have a desire to help the world, Sorenson Impact has something for you. If you’re passionate about social impact, this is the internship for you! To apply, go here.