Hello Lara! So happy to meet with you, please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Lara Starck and I was a 2020 Millennium Fellow at the University College London. I just graduated with a bachelors in International Relations and will soon be starting a Masters Degree in Management at ESSEC. I chose to go there because, as you may know, it has a strong focus on social impact. I’m currently pursuing a summer internship program here in Paris, and will soon be starting a new challenge as a 180 degrees consultancy branch founder.
I have been involved in Social work since I was little. It always came automatically for me, trying to find solutions for social problems around my community. But I never really considered it as a potential career path, until I got really serious with it during my bachelor's degree. I worked at an Incubator affiliated with the University of Bologna called Almacube, where I learnt about Social enterprise & initiative. But I found my north star when I volunteered to help mentor refugees at an NGO called Salusbury World in London. My time there really opened my eyes to the plight many refugees in England and around Europe face, particularly on the question of access to education. you find that many aren’t able to apply to higher education institutions because they don’t have access to the right resources, like someone helping them write a personal statement, and so are unable to improve their situations. I then had this vision to bring university students together to help refugees in London access higher education and learn English, but I did not know where to start or how to proceed with the idea. That is when I applied to the Millennium Fellowship to learn how to actualize this social impact vision.
"I applied to the millennium fellowship to learn how to actualize my social impact vision"
Amazing! Could you please share how you came to learn about the fellowship, why you chose to apply, and how it has impacted you?
Honestly, I just saw the fellowship and immediately applied! I thought it was a wonderful concept, and turns out it was also wonderfully executed. I really appreciate how fellows are guided and accompanied through every step of their project building and social impact planning, because personally I really needed it. Sometimes you just need someone to believe in your vision, to assure you that it makes sense, and to hold your hand through every step of the way. But the most amazing part for me was the community and networking! I know you get this a lot, but the idea of meeting like-minded people, creating a positive community and forming a common bond that is held together by shared ideas of social impact is so powerful. I’d finally found people with whom I could interact, ask questions, share insecurities, and sometimes even speak endlessly about my dreams without feeling like I was a bore. It’s so important for young people to have such spaces. It also allows space for people to draw inspiration from each other and to create potentially lifelong bonds. I remember one thing that really inspired me was watching how people were able to adapt their projects to conform to a Covid-19 world, even though most were actually created in non-covid realities. My schoolmate Alex, for example, adapted quickly and created a beautiful project where he interviewed local shopkeepers in London, asking how the pandemic had affected their lives. It was all just really awesome. You're taught not only to create projects, but also to focus on responding to concrete community needs.
I also deeply appreciated the focus on values. I can't stress enough just how important it is to stay humble, especially for young people who are just about to start their careers. This world needs empathy, kindness and inclusion and the fellowship curriculum stressed this a lot.
Awesome! Tell us about your new challenge at 180 Degrees.
Yes! I’ll be starting a 180 Degrees consultancy branch at my school! 180 provides consultancy services for nonprofits and social organizations by leveraging young people’s social impact knowledge, training them in consultancy, then sending them out to assist social organizations and NGOs within their communities. It felt natural to take on this challenge so soon after the millennium fellowship, because they are two very complimentary programs. Imagine how impactful it would be if Millennium Fellows were able to get assistance on areas such as feasibility development for projects, sharpening their strategic missions, capabilities development and impact measurement during or after the fellowship? I've made it my long term goal to try to make this possible. External help is always so useful, and I know many young changemakers need it. I would love to create an optional service for fellows who are stuck with their projects to get consulting services.
Thank you so much Lara! Having gained all these lessons, how do you plan to use them at 180 Degrees and in your future social impact work?
Learning the power of a network was lifechanging for me! There’s a lot of good ideas out there - so many projects, but not enough collaboration. But I think we can only achieve the Sustainable Goals if we work together. In London for example, there’s over 100 education oriented refugee projects, so imagine how overwhelming it must be for refugees trying to find information.
"Learning the power of a network was lifechanging for me!"
I realized that if there was a way to connect NGOs working in near-similar areas, helping redirect innovative projects to work with organizations with similar objectives, would hugely benefit people in need easily find organizations or projects that work best for them. That idea of a reference in social impact is what the fellowship does for young undergrad projects. I then realized that though my passion remains in social impact, my next logical step should be consulting. I’d like to use this “behind the scenes” knowledge to help NGOs find solutions.
Lastly, what advice do you have for any young undergrad looking to go into social impact?
The first thing is don’t be afraid to get started! When I started my fellowship project, I honestly didn’t know what in the world I was doing! (we were laughing about this with my friends). But you try this, you try that, and suddenly you are on the right path. Also just surround yourself with the right people - those that nourish you and get the best out of you. Our organization has only 10-12 people and they're all so great! Without them we’d be nowhere. Lastly, please reach out! Look for people you could learn from and contact them-ask lots of questions, even when they seem obvious. It’s scary at first but it builds you exponentially. I remember after starting my project, I was messaging 3 people everyday on LinkedIn. Many didn’t reply, and that’s fine. But the ones that did gave me the most priceless guidance/advice.
So stay curious, because you’ll always have something to learn!
Thank you Lara for sharing your story with us! Alumni, tell us how your post fellowship impact work is going: firstname.lastname@example.org
Connect with Lara on LinkedIn
Follow her Impact Initiative Project on Instagram.