Meet the Interns

Between our four portfolio initiatives here at CACE, there’s a lot happening (and a lot of work getting done behind the scenes).

Back in November, we advertised for a couple of internship positions. We received a lot of responses from highly qualified students from across the United States, Canada and other countries (hello, Jordan!). In the end, we ended up hiring three of them (that’s 50% more than planned, though there were a few more we wished we could have brought on board at the same time).

Since mid-December, the CACE intern team has been super busy working on ParticipateDB and the EngagePhase Weekly newsletter. We thought now would be a good time for some introductions.

First off, who are you and what do you do?

Rebecca Chang: I’m Rebecca, and I’m currently a junior at Haverford College with a major in Growth & Structure of Cities and a minor in Spanish. I’m one of the new Content & Data Research Interns on board and work with Annie on ParticipateDB.

Clara Zhao: Hello, my name is Clara Zhao and I’m currently the Communications Intern at CACE. I go to school in UC Davis and I’m majoring in International Relations.

Annie Chen: Hi! I’m Annie, a graduate from the University of Toronto with double majors in Political Science and Criminology. At CACE, I’ve been working with Rebecca on ParticipateDB.

What brings you to CACE and to this internship? And what is your role here?

Clara: My main responsibility at CACE is helping with the publication of the EngagePhase Weekly email newsletter. I think in today’s digital age, it is very important for governments all over the world to engage with the community to achieve long term goals. I’m excited to be working with CACE and using my writing skills to contribute to civic engagement.

Rebecca: A couple of reasons brings me to this internship. First, as a Growth & Structure of Cities major (its most similar parallel is Urban Studies at other colleges), I’m very interested in learning more about all types of cities and urban issues, and public participation in urban contexts definitely falls under that umbrella. Secondly, I am passionate about promoting accessibility to resources for underrepresented and marginalized populations, and I am excited to learn more about the types of public participation strategies, tools, and projects that can engage these populations and ensure that their voices are being heard and considered.

Annie: What is to account for today’s morose public perception of government and apathy for civic participation? It seems to me that, while contemporary digital tools have made promising strides toward mending the trust between citizens and their government (a global phenomenon), many more insights remain to be extracted from these innovative approaches.

Since graduating from the University of Toronto last year in Political Science, I’ve been reflecting a great deal on the relationship between emerging technologies and society, particularly as it relates to democratic governance. Yet, ruminating over Aristotelian philosophies only takes you so far in understanding how theories of government actually play out. The changing role of private and public sectors in the digital transition, the nature of online deliberation and decision-making, and the values of public participation – the desire to acquire a deeper understanding of these processes in practice motivate my work at CACE. Naturally, I’m delighted to be working on a project like the ParticipateDB Engagement Census, which allows me to probe and meditate on these complex questions.

As Canadian physicist Ursula Franklin once pointed out, technologies shouldn’t be narrowly conceived of as systems of gadgets and machines, but as a set of practices in the “here and now” that hold wider societal implications. Ultimately, updating pathways and carving out opportunities for public participation strike me as undeniable social goods. It is in this spirit that I hope to make contributions during my time at CACE with the rest of the team. Here’s to improving civic engagement together!

Anything surprising or unexpected to report from your first few weeks on the job?

Annie: I’d say, I’ve been amazed at the array of different tools and projects out there. All the content review has definitely opened my eyes to the myriad of ways that engagement can be facilitated through a digital medium. Other than that, one of the most valuable tidbits I’ve learned so far is that tools can act as catalysts to meaningful civic engagement, but it’s also a process that requires sustained effort and continual feedback. There are a lot of clever initiatives floating around, but they don’t always get picked up or develop into anything substantial.

Rebecca: I’ve been very surprised to learn about the depth and breadth of all the tools and projects out there related to public participation, as well as all the work that is being done out in the world to develop and promote these projects. In my work in content review with Annie, I have been most surprised to learn about the tool, Legislation Lab, that encourages public participation through online collaboration in writing and editing laws, with a focus on accessible language. Much of my (limited) exposure to law has been characterized by difficult-to-understand language, even as a college student, so the potential for this tool to make the language of law more accessible to everyday people really excites me!

Clara: I was surprised at the diversity of public engagement opportunities from around the world. It’s so great so see that so many governments, experts, and citizens are coming together to address issues in the community and integrating modern technology to better serve the community.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Annie: I’m someone who adores traveling and exploring different cities and cultures. So, as CACE grows, I’m looking forwarding to seeing ParticipateDB continue to expand its reach to all corners of the globe!

Clara: In my free time, I like to write random stories that fall just short of being a novel, play piano, and sing terrible karaoke that only I think sounds good.

Rebecca: I’ll be spending my next semester abroad in Lima, Peru, but I don’t leave until March (flipped seasons in the Southern Hemisphere means that summer vacation there is in January and February), so it’s great to have something on my plate during this extended winter break.

* * *

Thanks, and we look forward to your contributions throughout the remainder of your time here at CACE.

Another round of internship positions might open up as early as March. Please follow us on social media or subscribe to our newsletter in case you’d like to be informed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *