Fourth Quadrant Partners, Boston, MA
I spent my summer interning with Fourth Quadrant Partners (4QP), a consulting firm working with foundations and nonprofits based both in the United States and abroad. As the first intern at 4QP, it took some time to figure out what work would be most helpful for me to do, both in terms of my own learning as well as for the organization. I eventually took on a few different roles, including tech support on their various internal and client Zoom calls, and research for software to support the team.
The main project I worked on was the Emergent Learning Impact Project. 4QP is currently attempting to evaluate the impact of its very own EL tools and principles. I helped conduct interviews with previous clients and practitioners regarding the impact that EL has had in their work, consolidating information for the entire team to see the effects of their work beyond the few short meetings they have with their clients. Although these 4QP-created frameworks are not particularly complex or detailed, it was amazing to see how helpful they continue to be across multiple organizations in allowing them to push back against the “norms” of client organizations and unearth insights and hypotheses to effect change.
Even as a college student, I could see how the tools, grounded in EL principles, could help anyone better understand and practice their goals. Some EL principles resonated very strongly with me, including Holding Experts in Equal Measure and Strengthening Line of Sight. These principles highlight issues that I have been grappling with as a Williams student, where the constant academic focus and superfluous classroom language made me lose sight of my own role as a student.
I was first drawn to 4QP because of our collective love of storytelling, and I am reminded constantly of the value of storytelling and intentional listening. Working on the Impact Project required me to pay close attention to the language used by the interviewees, picking up on certain words and phrases that reveal more qualitative changes. While qualitative research can be quite labor-intensive, it was exciting to work on such a new project, as I saw my own work being used to shape and guide the direction of the project.
Overall, my time at 4QP was wonderful. I felt welcomed into many different spaces, and despite my inexperience and young age, my opinions were always asked for and listened to. Additionally, I was able to have very candid conversations with my supervisor and mentors; we even discussed the ethics of working as consultants or the sometimes- problematic nature of foundations and philanthropy as products of American capitalism.
As an international student who could not return home for the summer, I am especially grateful for what the ASIP grant has enabled me to do. Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Case as well as the ’68 Center for making this possible!