We Care: Civic Engagement Internship
The immersive We Care: Civic Engagement internship program builds students’ competencies in applying management tools to societal challenges, supporting their optimism for creating an inclusive and sustainable global economy.
Madhavi Gokhale, Professor, School of Business, SVKM NMIMS University
Call to Action
At the turn of the millennium, the world’s nations adopted the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to combat global poverty and reduce inequities. The 2008 global financial meltdown, alongside the climate crisis, social unrest, and demand for transparency in governance, moved environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues to the core of business decision-making.
Like its global peers, India saw an increased focus on inclusivity, equity, and environmental sustainability due to existing disparities and their effects on human well-being and prosperity. Consequently, the Government of India mandated that businesses integrate social, environmental, and human development concerns into their value chains and recognize the broader community’s relevance as a stakeholder.
Since 2004, the School of Business Management (SBM) NMIMS has embedded sustainability-related issues in its MBA curriculum. In alignment with its mission to create socially responsible managers, the school progressively offered specialized courses and experiential learning opportunities anchored in ESG issues. To further strengthen its commitment to sustainability, SBM instituted the Jasani Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Sustainability Management in 2010. The center focused on creating socially adept managers and transformational leaders by formally engaging learners in designing creative solutions for the social agenda.
This effort was driven by the belief that such an exposure would be instrumental in developing values of inclusion, compassion, and resilience and inspire them to create an inclusive and sustainable world. Given this context, since 2010, SBM has incorporated a three-week We Care: Civic Engagement internship in the third trimester of the first year of its MBA program.
During the internship, students are placed in social-sector organizations at the pan-India level for 150 work hours over three weeks. To strengthen the service delivery system of the organizations, students work on projects such as developing management plans, systems, digitization, resource mobilization, and research, and align their work to relevant U.N. Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs).
The objectives are to develop analytical, management, and critical thinking skills in students so they can address social issues, and to endow graduates with the ability to be socially sensitive and inclusive. The internship process includes onboarding 250 to 300 social-sector organizations in need of management interns, profiling students, sharing student CVs, and finding a strategic fit between students’ aspirations and skill sets and the organizations’ requirements.
Students are familiarized with the internship requirements through capacity-building workshops, pre-placement visits, and the appointment of organizational and faculty mentors. To integrate experiential learning with academics, each faculty member mentors 12 to 15 students. In the first week of the internship, students brainstorm with the staff to finalize their proposed action plan. The next 10 days are allotted to project execution. In the last three days, students draft and present their reports. Faculty mentors use weekly reports and a rubric to assess students.
Class discussions, We Care poster presentations, competitions on We Care documentaries, a photo story, and We Innovate B-plans further strengthen the sustainability dimension. Formal feedback from students, organizations, and faculty mentors helps us review and revise the internship components. Experiential learning is also captured in the annual We Care Civic Engagement Anthology.
Between 2011–12 and 2021–22, 6,832 students have interned across 25 states and five union territories in more than 300 organizations and six international countries. Over 65 percent interned with child welfare and community development organizations. The majority of students’ projects were aligned with SDG 4: Quality Education (65 percent), SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being (32 percent), and SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth (31 percent). Survey feedback indicates that 98 percent of students had a great learning experience, and 90 percent of organizations were highly satisfied with our students.
Besides social sensitivity, students developed critical thinking and problem-solving skills. One team shared, “We are happy that our financial literacy module helped adolescent entrepreneurs. Subsequent class discussions unfolded how managers can create value for all in society.” Experiential learning has augmented the intellectual capital of students as well as faculty publications, such as research and case studies, around the SDGs. “Students have novel ideas and skills in executing the tasks,” shared one organizational mentor.
Further, 50 percent of our students offered support in digitalizing processes, technology transfer, augmenting plans, and impacting the organization’s service delivery systems and reach. More than one-fifth of the students enhanced the digital presence, impacting the organization’s brand visibility and funding support.
Recruitment firms feel that social engagement has influenced students to be inclusive, and we have received several accolades for our experiential learning model. This validation has helped us scale the internship to seven NMIMS campuses/schools. Forty percent of our alumni are actively volunteering, and a few have become social entrepreneurs. Our mission of creating socially adept managers and transformational leaders to create shared value has gained momentum.