Goodbye Michael… Our amazing Intern 2016

My name is Michael Atkins and I have just spent the last 10 weeks interning at Solutions for the Planet. I am going into my final year of an Economics and Management (International) degree at the University of Leeds and am so grateful to have been given this opportunity.

I was in Australia just finishing up a study abroad year when I saw the Do It For Real Project Officer position on a Leeds University career website.  Having experience as a teaching assistant, studying social enterprises and a keen interest in sustainability I sent off my application immediately. Two skype interviews, a 24-hour flight and a car journey later I found myself starting the role of intern at Solutions for the Planet on the 28th of June.

The Do It For Real Awards (delivered through Solutions for the Planet) provide young social entrepreneurs with the opportunity to apply for a cash grant up to £500 and a fixed support package to help test out or set up their social venture. Based in an office in Leeds I made frequent trips to schools in Bradford to help teams through the application process and provided continued support after being awarded.

After making clear delivery plans with each team, detailing the support required once they have been awarded, I looked at how to track and review progress of different types of support provided. I thoroughly enjoyed doing research for the teams on what was achievable and carefully considering the best approach and strategy to each challenge.

Having the London Final at the Palace of Westminster so early on in my internship allowed me to see the great enthusiasm held by not only the young people but the business partners and MPs too. The day gave me insight into how hard the teams had worked to get to where they are and I felt proud to be part of the S4TP team.

Jen Baughan and Kathryn Luckock were so welcoming, making me feel part of the team, constantly asking if I thought the programme could be run in a better or differently. They were really genuinely concerned for my learning experience and personal development. When I mentioned I wanted to understand more about the business partner side of the company, they were only too happy to invite me to an annual business partner review meeting in Birmingham and make time to explain further any aspects of the company that I was interested in.

Perhaps the thing I enjoyed most about my time at S4TP was working for a small social enterprise where you know every bit of work you do has meaning and the chance to make big impacts on local communities. From learning about social enterprises and business plan development in lectures it has been a delight to work on real projects. The internship has really allowed me to grow and I will be able to take not only new skills and experiences but key values forward in my career.