One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is working with terrific young talent at the Greenbelt Foundation. You see, about four years ago we started an “Intern Program” which seeks out the next generation of leaders in the field. Bringing them to the Foundation on a one year employment contract, we help build their talents and skills sets for that one year, and then set them free to apply what they have learned at the Foundation to other organizations.
Whenever we post an intern position, I am amazed by the number of applications we receive. It seems like there’s a whole army of young, dedicated Canadians from all walks of life and all professional backgrounds that want to work for the Foundation because they believe in its mandate, vision, and of course, they need to earn an income.
Each of the interns that we have engaged in this fashion, and I think we’re getting into a few dozen now. Since their departure from the Foundation, they have found stable and meaningful work. In other words, we get terrific talent at very, very low costs and they end up with a full time job.
I pay particular attention to a number of criteria when choosing the appropriate candidate for an Intern Position. They need not, and in some cases, should not, come from the “environmental” background. Quite the opposite, actually. Frequently, I look for talent in the professions of journalism, policy development, or grant making.
Except for one chap, all the interns have been women. That is an interesting observation that connects to the larger debate of nature versus nurture, in gender relations and gender politics. Another common thing is their youth and the fact that they have recently graduated from a university or college program. A third observation is that our interns thrive because we give them meaningful work. Yes, there is that photocopying and filing and answering the phone to be done, but we pay particular attention to allowing our interns to fail. That is, give them a really high level job that if they screw up, it’s manageable or fixable but they are given the opportunity to shine. Perhaps not surprisingly, failure happens very infrequently, if at all.
So thank you to Amy, Carla, Sharon, Aviva, Erin, Cam, and all others who have contributed so much to the success of the Greenbelt Foundation.