An intern’s take on ECOLISE – flexible, caring, experimental

Lilian Seidler recently brought her can-do attitude, good humour, intelligence and creativity to the ECOLISE team for an action-packed internship. Here she tells us how she found the experience:

My Master’s degree in peace and conflict studies at the Phillips-University of Marburg required me to do a three month international internship in a foreign country. I ended up spending six months interning for ECOLISE and meeting people from many foreign countries. As an add-on I came to embed my Master’s thesis (about evaluation of equity, diversity and inclusion in social innovation initiatives) into the internship, making it more true-to-life, more practically relevant and probably more fun than any of my previous desk projects.

Why did you choose ECOLISE to do your internship?

On my quest for an internship I was looking for an organisation that was involved in socio-ecological transition. I wanted to move beyond my local – indeed pretty comfortable, but still limited – activist bubble and see how our and other’s ideas and solutions could be connected, scaled up and professionalised. In other words, I wanted to know how socio-ecological transition could be accompanied, facilitated and catalysed, beyond local niches.

This networking and scaling effect was what excited me about ECOLISE.

Besides, it was really tempting to experience ECOLISE’s alternative ways of working together, beyond orders, hierarchies and pressure. ECOLISE also seemed to give me freedom to explore so that I could find the right place to bring in my own skills and knowledge in the work on socio-ecological transition.

Did the time live up to your expectations and if so why?

Right at the beginning of my internship, which was based in Luxembourg, I helped to organise two events –  a workshop for the Sustainable Communities of Practice program in Brussels, Belgium and the kick-off meeting of the BLAST project in Cloughjordan, Ireland. I even started working on it before I had ever met Markus, my internship advisor, in person. One can say, I jumped right into it.

This experience was very intense. A lot of new information needed to be processed and I had responsibilities right from the beginning. I must admit that I also struggled with suddenly co-working in a virtual world. I have never really been into digital stuff!

Still I was honestly impressed with the openness and warmth of everybody in the ECOLISE universe. Many people I met immediately tried to connect on a deep personal level and expressed interest and appreciation. It was fascinating to learn how many inspiring people and initiatives are out there sharing the same vision of a just and sustainable society – way more and more diverse than I had known.

I was also given a lot of trust. This allowed me to explore the ECOLISE world and find my own niches within it.

What are your main learnings?

My most obvious learnings were around digital and remote co-working. Before my internship I had never heard of many of the online tools!

I could also practice my facilitation skills in some meetings and practice working in a team. I also got to understand better concepts like Communities of Practice and transformative learning or action research.

Getting to know the ECOLISE network and some of its members and their work is also an important learning from my internship.

Would you recommend it to other students and if so why?

The internship started as an experiment. Is it possible to intern in a remote team? How can internship and a Master’s thesis be integrated?

I was surprised how well this experiment worked out. There are definitely some challenges to being an intern in a remote team and connecting your thesis with this work. But with ECOLISE being flexible and caring this experiment was a great learning opportunity to me. If you are open to experiment and to deal with a little bit of experimentation and uncertainty I can definitely recommend an internship with ECOLISE!