Happy new year!
In my first blog post about my internship I said I was amazed how fast a month had already passed. Six months and many, many cartons of animal crackers later, it only feels like a few days have passed. While the original intent of my internship did not pan out exactly as I had planned, I still had a meaningful experience at the Council on Competitiveness and successfully contributed to the Council’s work both on and off energy-related topics.
Quickly recapping the time between my first blog post and the end of my internship, my task in interning with the Council was to attempt to re-energize the energy initiative. My work on the proposed energy initiative coincided with the expansion of the manufacturing initiative, which consistently required resources building up to a sustainable manufacturing event in September and the Council’s 25th Anniversary, National Manufacturing Summit and the release of “MAKE – An American Manufacturing Strategy” (now available here: http://www.compete.org/images/uploads/File/PDF%20Files/USMCI_Make.pdf). Having begun my internship in early June, it was clear by early August that energy would not be successful during my internship and I was asked to be a part of the manufacturing team.
Though an independent energy initiative at the Council was no more, I was able to have an immediate impact in manufacturing – an energy intensive industry. After joining the manufacturing team I authored the meeting materials and discussion guides for the sustainable manufacturing event, contributed to several recommendations in the national manufacturing strategy document and cultivated relationships with outside organizations which are expected to grow significantly in the coming months.
As an organization, the Council on Competitiveness is bi-partisan and recommendations to the administration are member driven. The goal of recommendations is to provide thought leadership on the broader direction of policy decisions rather than prescriptive recommendations; focusing on the why instead of the how. In the process of creating recommendations some highly partisan ideas still emerge. Using concepts discussed in class and conversational skills cultivated during the first year of classes I was able to effectively share my opinions in a manner that resulted in a more even-handed set of recommendations.
One example during my internship where I was able to apply work from the first year of classwork as well as apply some of the skills honed during the writing workshop and presentations was during an event that took place mid-September on sustainable manufacturing (briefly mentioned above). My literature review was about understanding the many definitions of sustainability, and armed with a ready depth of research, I welcomed the opportunity to take the first crack at drafting the event program and creating the discussion guides for the several panels to be distributed to panelists and moderators. The event was attended by manufacturers who may not be familiar with how sustainability can be applied to their business. The literature review defining the vast interpretations of sustainability was extremely helpful in quickly determining the tone of the event program and direction of the conversation to ensure the audience would understand the importance and advantages of operating sustainably.
Furthermore, communication skills refined during the first year of BCEP also came in handy. Learning to appropriately frame an argument and the writing class contributed to the creation of materials leading up to the sustainable manufacturing event. Working with the Council, traditional operating procedure for approval of materials requires several drafts reviewed by several levels of the organization. In both an exhilarating and terrifying occurrence, the program booklet went to print unchanged from my submittal with the discussion guides experiencing only minor changes. (I feared the booklet had either been sent unread or the wrong iteration of the document had been sent; a fear allayed by the minor changes in the discussion guide and my work later on several of the energy recommendations in the national manufacturing strategy document).
In framing the discussion through the discussion guides, research from the literature review and class presentations showed the importance of providing context to make the eventual argument more effective. To showcase the importance of sustainability to an audience that may associate the word solely with environmentalism the basic concept of longevity was first introduced and the common desire to see a business survive. This was followed by popular steps to reach this goal, such as streamlining the manufacturing process to reduce waste and increase marginal profits – a step that coincides with environmental goals of reducing waste and efficient resource use. By providing a number of examples where this overlap occurs, the audience warms to the idea of sustainability as a universal goal rather than a partisan one.
I found that I really enjoyed operating on a national level and appealing to larger audiences. Inevitably, I always cross ideas and viewpoints I have never encountered before which contributes to a greater understanding of the issues at hand.
Working at the Council was a wonderful experience – one I am sad to see end – but it is already 2012, meaning just a few short months and one major thesis to go. Looking forward to being back on campus and seeing the BCEP crew again!