#CCIIntern: Risha Parikh

A Day in the Life of a #CCIIntern


Tell us a little more about yourself.

I have a love/hate relationship with coffee and getting news updates on Twitter. I have a love-love relationship with Waffle House and Atlanta’s art scene. I have a hate-hate relationship with mean people and the Comic Sans font.

How has your internship made you think about the role you and others have in the community?

I love that CCI doesn’t try to assume it knows everything about the Atlanta community at the forefront. The Atlanta community can be really easy to get wrong because it’s more like a salad bowl with a lot of unique subcultures and ethnographic differences. It trusts that the fellows are the experts--that they understand and the needs of their “users” (forgive me for using a tech term) the best. We just have to help them need-find and solution for these needs in the most sustainable way possible.

I’ve also learned a lot about how experimentation and technology can be introduced to the civic impact space. I used to think the only way to make civic impact was this rote process of donations and distribution. However, that’s not the case!

Being an informed and LOCAL voter is the new millennial pink. Seriously. It’s cool. Everyone should make it part of their seasonal routine.

Who did you work with during your internship (directly)?

I worked mostly with Andrea Cervone, who also leads a Hannah-Montana-esque double life as a city councilwoman for Clarkston. I also worked a lot with Kyle and Melonie, who guided Tim and me through our research process for an open data policy in Atlanta.

What is the source of inspiration for the work you do?

Does it have a creative element? Is it innovative/an idea or project that no one’s ever worked on before? Does it improve people’s lives? (And as a bonus, do they play good music in the office?)

How did you get to where you are today?

I have ridden on the shoulders of giants, from my parents to my friends at Georgia Tech to my professors. I’m also just a ‘yes’ person. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to get out of my comfort zone as much as possible and say yes to as many different kinds of opportunities as possible. That’s also why I have so many interests, and I’m happiest when I get to combine those interests and interdisciplinary skills in a place like the Center for Civic Innovation.

I’m also a dot-connector. I’m good at identifying the potential links between different people and scenes. This skill has served me well, especially with project management.

What brought you to the center?

I’d been following the Center for Civic Innovation on Twitter for a few years. In addition to the really cool events that CCI organized, Rohit, the founder, seemed like such an interesting person: here was a 1st-gen Indian-American–like me–who defied the stereotype and didn’t become a doctor–like me–and founded an organization with an amazing group of people. I used to be a science major, so I liked that the Center for Civic Innovation was a sort of civic “lab” for the city. Eventually, I saw the tweet that internship applications were out, so I bit the bullet and applied!

What has been your experience interning at the center? Name some highlights of your time here, favorite experiences, favorite things about being at the center.

One of my favorite things about the center is how COOL everyone is. Just one conversation with anyone on the team--or even any of the fellows, for that matter-- leaves me fascinated. It’s amazing how many famous people in Atlanta hip-hop Bem knows, or the variety of side-projects that Dayle has, or the amount of urban studies facts Alex knows.

What advice do you have for future CCI interns?

  • Ask lots of questions. Everyone who works or co-works at CCI has the most fascinating life. You’ll learn a lot about the multifaceted world of civic innovation just by “hanging out” and talking to people.

  • Pay attention to the challenges as well as the positives CCI goes through. When you’re “on the inside” in any organization, you learn about the unique issues that you have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Knowing how to problem-solve across different areas is a good skill to have!

  • If there’s a project or initiative you’re interested in that’s outside of your “on-paper” role, ask if you can participate! Chances are you’ll be able to work on it in your spare time.

  • Be proud to rep CCI around the city! Invite your friends to CCI’s facebook events. I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t enjoyed going to them.

Team CCIcci interns