Building a Bridge Between Two Worlds – Lillie Carroll, 2017 Farber Intern

Throughout my career, I’ve often felt as if I am moving between two worlds. My experience has taken me from the social sector in India to the private sector with Ernst and Young, and from discussing business cases at MIT to dissecting challenges in the public sector at the Kennedy School.

Surpassing high expectations
Given the Farber Internship Program’s reputation, I had high expectations but also a lot of questions before starting my summer with REDF and Community Housing Partnership (CHP). I wondered how much of an impact I could really have in one summer. And would I be able to apply the lessons I’ve learned in the private sector to the business of running a social enterprise?

I am happy to report that the Farber Internship wholly surpassed my expectations.

I had the privilege of working with CHP’s social enterprise, Solutions SF. By providing training and a transitional job as a front desk clerk in their temporary staffing business, Solutions SF supports individuals who have experienced homelessness while they seek full-time employment, eventually helping them get permanent employment as front desk clerks.

My main project with Solutions SF was to create a career ladder program that would help their desk clerks progress to “middle-skill” jobs in property management.

Among other things, this project allowed me to build out a near- and long-term financial model, conduct market research, and a feasibility study—skills I had honed in graduate school.

As part of my second project, I facilitated focus groups with residents of CHP’s supportive housing facilities. My goal was to understand the internal and external barriers that formerly homeless individuals face when returning to work.

Many of the people I spoke with had experienced discrimination in previous jobs, while others shared their prior struggles with addiction and how it was difficult to communicate their unique health needs to employers. These insights helped me develop recommendations that will inform Solutions SF’s strategy and programming to effectively anticipate and respond to these challenges.

A rewarding career
I could not have asked for a more meaningful internship this summer. My experience with REDF and Community Housing Partnership proved that it is possible to combine a social mission with a financially sustainable business model. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work closely with the head of a social enterprise to understand the daily challenges and also, the many wins that makes this such a rewarding career.

Lillie Carroll is currently pursuing a joint MBA and MPA degree from MIT Sloan and the Harvard Kennedy School. Prior to starting graduate school, she worked for Ernst & Young’s human capital consulting practice. In addition, Lilli spent a year in India working with a social enterprise start-up and a low-income school.

This is part of our Farber Blog Series.