Internship Location: Madison WI
Organization Type: Nonprofit
Policy Areas: Housing/Social Welfare
Porchlight, Inc. is a Madison-based nonprofit that provides shelter, housing, and other services to people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. My internship involved projects across several areas including assisting Porchlight with revising its Employee Handbook and making recommendations for incorporating new technologies at the Men’s Drop-In Shelter program. I was also able to represent Porchlight at meetings of the Madison/Dane County Homeless Services Consortium. This allowed me to interface with homeless service providers from other agencies as well as representatives from city and county government who are involved in funding and coordinating homeless services locally. An area of focus during the internship was improving Porchlight’s data collection practices to increase data quality and compliance with contract requirements. In order to do this I needed to first understand the approaches being used by Porchlight programs and the ways in which the current procedures contributed to poor or incomplete data entry. I then made recommendations for improved practices, provided staff training, and created instructional documents to implement change. Much of this was interpersonal work, communicating by email or in person with the staff members who would be responsible for carrying out these tasks. While the impetus for data quality improvement was coming from Porchlight leadership, the changes I helped implement over the course of my internship most directly impacted staff members who work with Porchlight clients. Therefore maintaining an open dialogue with and providing assistance to these individuals was an important responsibility in my role. I also performed some direct data entry and cleanup. This internship allowed me to continue exploring the policy area in which I have the most experience and prompted me to reflect further on the role of data in decision- and policy-making.