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Learning How to Use Business for Good – Brian Sokolow, UCLA Anderson School of Management

During the first year of my MBA, I set out to find a summer internship that would allow me to apply the skills that I learned during my first year of business school, learn more about the social sector, and make a meaningful impact. Throughout the interview and decision-making process, I became convinced that REDF would help me achieve all of these goals.

Brian Sokolow with the staff of CCNB.

I spent the summer at Conservation Corps North Bay (CCNB), a Bay Area nonprofit that serves opportunity youth. CCNB provides its program participants (known as corpsmembers) with work in recycling, waste management, and other conservation projects, and the opportunity to earn a high school diploma. Prior to business school, I worked to provide equal access to education for children from vulnerable populations, so when I found out that I would be working for CCNB this summer I was extra excited.

I focused on two projects during my ten-week internship. The first was a feasibility study of whether CCNB should start a new business line. Through interviews and secondary research, I evaluated the new business line from a market, financial, and programmatic perspective. In order to make sure that my project was useful for CCNB beyond this summer, I created a financial model that shows CCNB the market and financial conditions that would need to exist for them to be profitable in the industry. One of the key factors I had to consider as well is how the corpsmembers could gain valuable skills to further their careers.

My other project this summer was an analysis of how CCNB could recognize and appreciate its corpsmembers. For this project, I applied a human-centered design approach, which is meant to elicit the genuine thoughts of corpsmembers on how they would like to be recognized. I conducted interviews with corpsmembers and staff to compile ideas for appreciation, then led corpsmembers through a ranking exercise to see which ideas would be the most meaningful. As a final deliverable, I categorized the recommendations for corpsmember appreciation by impact, cost, and effort to implement, and created a roadmap for implementation. I particularly enjoyed getting to interact with many of the corpsmembers through this project, and hearing about their stories, dreams, and determination. I left feeling inspired by their career aspirations and their connection to CCNB’s environmental mission.

Throughout my internship, I was welcomed into CCNB’s strong and fun community by leadership, staff and corpsmembers. I even got to play on CCNB’s staff kickball team. Management meetings were routinely filled with laughter, joy, and a sense of purpose. It is this environment and mission that helped me to reaffirm my commitment to the social sector. Beyond CCNB, I was supported throughout by the team at REDF, and by my fellow Farber Summer Fellows. I truly enjoyed getting to know the other Farbers during the REDF programming throughout the summer and look forward to staying in touch with them (we have a reunion planned)!

For prospective Farber applicants, my advice would be to consider the power of doing your MBA internship with an organization that has the internship process down, but still puts so much care into ensuring that each Farber has a meaningful summer. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to be a Farber Summer Fellow at CCNB this summer, and I look forward to helping to recruit the next cohort!

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