Jennifer Li | CIIP 2023 Blog Portfolio


I went into this having no idea what to expect, but I came out confident in my abilities and excited to see what I have to offer to my placement. I felt a lot of initial uncertainty that gradually disappeared over the week as I became more comfortable with my cohort and my knowledge of the city. In particular, I appreciated the multi-faceted approach the program took to address the challenges Baltimore faces, especially in regard to the university–the different perspectives offered were informative and provided an abundance of context around the various ideas that otherwise would be missed. I was particularly struck by the last presentation, given by Reverend Dr. Herber Brown III of the Black Burch Food Security Network. Upon realizing the dietary crises his church was facing, he set out to the store right across the street, but immediately felt unwelcome. We had spent all week visualizing the Black Butterfly and White L through maps, articles, and images, but hearing his anecdote about the stark difference in atmosphere he observed just by crossing from one side of the street to the other fully cemented the picture of inequality we had discussed.

Many of the issues of race and social class we talked about as they pertained to Baltimore could be applicable to many other problems the diverse group of people within the cohort were facing. I appreciated the theater activity we did on Thursday that culminated in an ask to sort ourselves into groups based on race. A lot of confusion was felt throughout the room, and the urge to sort ourselves into groups based on race made sense initially, but less so when you looked within the groups and saw the wide range in skin tones from the same ethnic regions. Like this activity, many of the discussions we had, particularly those around sensitive social issues, like class and race, required a high degree of vulnerability and self awareness that took me a while to be comfortable with. Although these were difficult subjects to reflect on, I came out of the orientation being able to better verbalize some of the internal struggles I faced with my identity and position in society, as well as being more sympathetic to some of the struggles others were encountering.


Week 1

Fresh off of our countless discussions from orientation, I came into the first week with the mentality of “listen more than you speak” in mind but was pleasantly surprised to hear how much they valued my input and opinion right off the bat. My supervisor was very interested to hear about my previous projects and integrated what I told them into themes surrounding their current projects. This method of reframing made my transition much easier since it defamiliarized the initiatives they were working on, most of which were operating on a much larger scale than I had been accustomed to. Overall, the process was about what I expected. We spent the majority of the week onboarding as my supervisor introduced me to the various platforms and scheduling.

From what I gathered, it seems like my main goal will be to manage the organization’s newsletters, which consist of an “ecosystem” newsletter of thousands of people, a members newsletter of a few hundred or so, and an alumni newsletter of just a couple of individuals who graduated from one of Impact Hub Baltimore’s programs, Empower Baltimore.

It was interesting getting to see how the tone of each newsletter scaled according to its audience. It was also “interesting” getting to see how many times one could rephrase the same event description a thousand times! By the end of the week, I had written almost a combined 10k words worth of social copy for just two of our upcoming events.

Still, I am excited to see where this summer leads me. I know I have so much to learn about Impact Hub, about the nonprofit sector, and about Baltimore in general. I already have a few ideas in mind that I’d like to test out, and luckily, my supervisor is very open to letting me create my own portfolio over the course of the internship.


Week 2

I really started to get more in the swing of things with Week 2. My largest projects are the newsletters and a new addition: member spotlights. Member spotlights are a new concept for the newsletter, so I’ve been given quite a bit of creative control over how these look. These member spotlights have given me more insight into the coworkers in the building and their journey to their destination. I’ve enjoyed getting to see how people and businesses within the Impact Hub “ecosystem” are connected.
I attended my first team meeting today on Wednesday and finally got to meet the entire Impact Hub staff, which consists of less than 10 people. In addition to the regular staff, we also had members of a hiring team in attendance. The meeting was to discuss the hiring of two new staff members, and together, we went through the stages of the hiring process (phone interviews, panel interviews, and strategy tests), and what one should look for in an applicant. This hiring process is a significant ordeal in Impact Hub’s trajectory, since these two new staff members would change the leadership model from a directorship to a co-directorship. As a result, my supervisor plans to be a lot more hands-off in the coming weeks as her schedule becomes booked with panel interviews with prospective directors.
Although it wasn’t directly applicable to me in the moment, the meeting gave me a lot of insight into the behind-the-scenes of a hiring process. For example, one of the example interview questions was, “What’s your favorite place to eat in Baltimore?” From the interviewee’s answer to this question, they could gather if the applicant was familiar with the food scene, perhaps even their familiarity with local small businesses in the area. Asking a “fun” question like this may also start to uncover personality and help the interviewers determine if this person would be a good fit for the team or not.

Week 3

On Tuesday, Impact Hub hosted a Baltimore BASE Partner Celebration Event where around 40 partners from sister organizations (ex., Made in Baltimore, Baltimore Cops, Baltimore Creative Acceleration Network, etc.) gathered together to “share data and equity findings, hear about the catalyzing impact of [Baltimore Small Business Support Fund] investments[,] reiterate the desire and commitment to sustain the work,” and offer suggestions for the next steps. Getting to be in that space was a really valuable experience for me. I tried to talk to as many people as possible and learn how they got to where they were. I met a couple of people who came from a similar path as me (public health to nonprofit) and some who had wildly different journeys—“an education background, a psychology background, a visual arts background, etc. It really opened my eyes to the diversity of the field and the variety of knowledge and expertise that existed in the room.
The value of having small business owners with backgrounds other than in business is sometimes overlooked, and it was surprising to see such a wide community of people getting together and work towards the same purpose. During the presentation that started off the event, some people expressed gratitude that this same group of people had been meeting consistently for years by now—a job that can often be easier said than done, especially for a group established during COVID and in a field with a high turnover rate.
Due to the hiring process and interviewing, my supervisor let me lead a lot of my own projects, and I appreciated the trust they put in me after only a few weeks together. I’m looking forward to doing more of this in the future. They are constantly emphasizing that they value my suggestions and proposed that I create a couple of new templates for the newspaper and later, for the website. I really value the confidence and praise they have for my work and have been very happy with my placement.

Week 4

Business went about as usual. As always, I completed the newsletters (internal-“Member Mainline”and external-“Doers, Entrepreneurs, and Innovators”) and wrote a bit of copy. I can see a shift in my responsibilities where I am given more agency over the design choices my work makes. I was tasked with the responsibility of designing social templates and redesigning the newsletter to optimize for readability, and I also have plans to do some further work on website development.
The highlights this week have been the one-on-one meetings I’ve been scheduling with my coworkers to learn a little bit more about their roles. One of the primary goals of this internship was trying to figure out if I would find joy in working in the nonprofit sector. Because of this, I’ve been trying to meet as many people as possible to ask them about their background, their roles, and their overall fulfillment in their jobs. Interestingly, most people I talk to had no intention of ending up where they are now. People from the nonprofit sector come from all different sorts of fields as they make the shift from their profit-driven corporate jobs to a more mission-driven, people-focused role. I find this particularly pleasing to hear, since the overall consensus is that people are much happier working in this space than their previous jobs. This was also echoed in the meeting I had with the two staff members I interviewed on Friday. Both of them had plans that were wildly different from this current responsibilities, but they indicated that they both made the switch because they saw a shift in their personal goals and priorities.
I’ve learned so much about the nonprofit space and the ecosystem Impact Hub is contained in. As was said on the BASE Partner Celebration last week, the fact that the same people met every week consistently for over 3 years speaks to the love and resilience these people have for Baltimore. My supervisor has said again and again that Baltimore loves Baltimore, and this has never been more apparent than what I’ve seen this summer.

Week 5

Throughout these past few weeks, I’ve been exposed to Baltimore’s incredible community of entrepreneurs, leaders, and passionate individuals. One of the most significant lessons I learned were the values of curiosity and collective action. Working closely with leaders in social entrepreneurship and learning their stories, whether it be through networking events, member spotlights, or as a general consequence of coworking.
You learn a lot be asking questions. People are generally friendly and have enjoyed helping me out. Despite being generally introverted, I found that my curiosity ended up overshadowing any tendency towards introversion. Not only will people answer any questions asked of them, but they will do so with eagerness. Using this to our advantage, we’ve re-started the Member Spotlight series (this time in short-form content) to great success.
Additionally, I’ve also started to grasp the value in empathy and designing solutions that cater to the needs of the community I’m trying to serve. This in particular will be especially helpful in any future career I start, regardless of the field I choose to go into. Integrated within this skill is the ability to continuously learn and adapt to the landscape of social impact, one which has needs that are constantly changing.
Beyond the technical skills and knowledge gained during my internship, the most profound impact has been on my sense of purpose and commitment to creating positive change. Witnessing the dedication of the Impact Hub community and the positive outcomes they were able to achieve ignited a deep passion within me to contribute meaningfully to society. As I reflect on this summer, I am more determined than ever to pursue a career aligned with my values and to work towards creating a sustainable and equitable future for all.