In November 2021, we interviewed our long-time company partner The Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) about their Emerging Leaders Internship (ELI) program experience, including the cohort model they have taken to enhance support and create space for interns to grow in community.
Emerging Leaders Team: Over the past 5 years, we’ve had the opportunity to successfully place 13 Emerging Leaders at OCF. Why does your organization choose to partner with ELI?
Oregon Community Foundation: The ELI program is the premier intern diversity program in Oregon, and aligns well with OCF values to advance equity, diversity and inclusion—both in our organization and across the state. Inviting young professionals of color into our organization creates a collaborative learning and knowledge-sharing environment that delivers a host of vibrant and diverse perspectives that we can connect immediately and directly to our mission to improve lives through philanthropy.
We began hosting ELI interns in 2017 and over the years these talented individuals have added so much value to our organization—in research, community impact, communications and donor engagement initiatives.
“Inviting young professionals of color into our organization creates a collaborative learning and knowledge-sharing environment that delivers a host of vibrant and diverse perspectives that we can connect immediately and directly to our mission.”
EL: OCF uses a cohort approach, and has hosted from 2-4 Emerging Leaders each summer. What does it look like to host and support multiple interns; what are the benefits?
OCF: With a cohort, the interns get to interact and learn from each other. This is one of their first professional experiences. It can be isolating for people of color in Oregon, and the cohort model helps them feel connected. Over the years, we’ve also been able to reach out and talk to previous cohorts, and have them come and talk to the current interns, and so we are building community.
Our staff benefit too. Having a group of interns allows more of our employees in different departments to participate in mentoring young professionals. People can volunteer to be supervisors, host trainings and participate in informational interviews with the interns.
EL: How does your organization center intentional engagement and inclusive work culture?
OCF: OCF is strongly committed to advancing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), and we foster a robust learning and growth culture. We recognize that each employee contributes directly to our mission through the richness of their diverse backgrounds and experiences. Staff participate in EDI learning opportunities and lead internal dialogue groups to identify the needs of specific populations and share findings with the organization.
EL: What do you find to be the key benefits of ELI company partnership (versus hosting internships independently)?
OCF: The program is so well designed and supported, it’s very easy for us to participate. (ELI) does outreach that brings forward more quality candidates than we could hope to do on our own. It’s a complete hiring process, and it provides the interns with training, timelines, colleague engagement and mentorship throughout the internship experience.
EL: Please share any key lessons learned over the last few years, or things you’d encourage potential ELI Company Partners to consider.
OCF: Make a full commitment to the internship experience. That may mean having someone, in addition to their supervisors, who is available to guide them every day.
Encourage the interns to explore career pathways by conducting informational interviews with staff members. Help them with their resumes and coach them in their job searches. Introduce them to your professional networks, so relationships are established and helpful as they continue on their career exploration.
Be open to their questions, but also to their talents and their contributions. You might be surprised what you learn from them.
“Be open to interns’ questions, but also to their talents and contributions. You might be surprised what you learn from them.”