Alyssa Lopez ’20: Inclusive Action for the City

Name: Alyssa Lopez
Class Year: 2020
Major: Growth & Structure of Cities and Spanish
Hometown: Los Angeles

Internship Organization: Inclusive Action for the City
Job Title: Policy and Economic Development Intern
Location: Los Angeles

What’s happening at your internship?

It varies! I am so grateful to not have jumped into a super structured internship placement because I am learning so much on the go and am constantly stimulated. About a month ago, Inclusive Action for the City underwent a name change (formerly Leadership for Urban Renewal), which was announced at our annual event (incredibly well attended by more than 300 people), while the team graciously answered around 500 of my burning questions and curiosities. I am primarily working on a couple ongoing research projects ranging from the costs of displacement/relocation (inclusive of eviction in some cases) for individuals in Los Angeles to investigating municipal initiatives to repurpose and revitalize urban vacant land across the country. The preliminary research that I am participating in is in collaboration with a couple other team members and will lead to publications on IAC’s Research Blog and other forms of long-term tactical research. The research that IAC conducts then informs their programming strategies and shapes the implementation of policy initiatives across multiple city-relate topic areas.
I am also helping out with some data collection and streamlining for Inclusive Action’s micro-loan program, Semi’a Fund. Semi’a aims to provide short-term healthy loans for individuals that are business owners and are likely to be at risk of predatory lending and are often not able to borrow through traditional means. The streamlining of this data will help better organize and prepare for more clients in the future and provides a structured representation often necessary for funding purposes/opportunities.

Although I get learn client stories and backgrounds through the Semi’a data, I am glad to say that I also have the opportunity to directly engage with the communities that Inclusive Action does this work for. Through my support of COMPRA (our healthy produce delivery service), I take clients’ orders and am able to hear out their concerns to in an effort to improve our service. I have recently also participated in our work with Best Start, an initiative that focuses on the bettering the lives of children (0-5 years old) in historically disenfranchised communities. I was able to participate a couple weeks ago by facilitating a parent conversation regarding the necessary educational tools/knowledge children need before entering formal education — it was challenging but also a lot of fun to learn so much from complete strangers!

Why did you apply for this internship?

Having previous experience interning within the nonprofit sector in L.A. and during the school year in Philadelphia, I was fairly confident of wanting to get some more hands-on work with a nonprofit this summer before entering my senior year. I had learned of Inclusive Action a couple years ago and was able to attend their annual event plus2, which is a convening of professionals, residents, and educators that work to better urban communities. This experience is one that had informed and guided my academic research and personal interests over the past year — so I thought it would be a great idea to work with the group of people that that pulls this and so much other work together. Inclusive Action, through economic development and community engagement, has actively worked to shape and better low-income communities of color across Los Angeles for the past 10 years. I wanted to support their projects to the best of my ability, but I mainly wanted to learn about what is missing in this field: what is the work that could get done if there were unlimited resources at Inclusive Action? Apart from the collaboration that IAC foments, what avenues of collaborative work should be present in cities? What figures of urban leadership are we missing? What existing work should be elevated?

These questions and many others are ones I get to participate in discussions about on the daily, and there is actual real work that the team at IAC leads to address these cornerstones of urban life, every day! I am incredibly grateful that I am able to marry my academic passions with my experience living in Los Angeles and nerd out about urban planning with my coworkers on the daily!

Was this internship what you expected it to be?

No … it is so much more! I was prepared to learn and be challenged and engage in mindful moments, but the past few months at Inclusive Action have been so stimulating and spurred motivation to think about my future in this sector and the many different paths that have led people to this work. I think because I have had a couple different internship placements in the past — I am in the habit of reflecting on my role within the organization that is guiding me. At Inclusive Action I feel comfortable sharing my concerns and recommendations on how to shape the work I am doing — the welcoming atmosphere and leadership has elevated the confidence I have with the work I produce and contributes to learning experience/process overall. I am extremely grateful to work with people that are very self-aware and that constantly question, in very thoughtful ways, how they are doing the work and how they can further be engaged.