The Mosaic Institute has acted as a gateway for me. This summer, my internship experiences allowed me to approach previously unexplored frontiers, both personal and professional. Throughout my academic and professional career, I never felt that any of my positions, titles, or duties brought me so close to my own identity as has this particular one.

My identity was always something that perplexed me, as detailed by my previous blog on “liminal living.” One of the reasons I applied to work for Mosaic was because I saw the internship as an opportunity to explore this personal frontier—I hoped to grow and explore themes that have always been a part of my life in some way. This hope was certainly met. I surprised myself this summer with how intuitively I was able to speak about the subject matter that Mosaic deals with. I applied to Mosaic assuming a lot of its work was new to me, but in reality it has been a part of my life since birth. The organization’s heavy focus on youth and diaspora communities aligned with the very fabric of my identity. However, being able to engage these topics on a professional level for the first time allowed me to stimulate a part of my thinking that had been laying dormant. Much of my experience was thus addressing themes that I have been familiar with for a long time but never explored the right way.

Much of this exploration happened through fulfilling specific responsibilities. The Mosaic Institute is a small organization, and thus all the staff have to move outside their zone of expertise to complete tasks necessary to keep everything running smoothly. I found myself in the same boat as the rest of my colleagues, as I was often tasked with work with which I was completely unfamiliar. More specifically, some of these tasks contained the real weight of responsibility, whether it came to event planning or contributing to a new strategic direction for the organization. All these experiences were tremendous for my personal development, and reinforced the notion of how important it is to give youth and students opportunities to contribute to every step they make in their careers.

Mosaic also presented a new professional frontier, which was the opportunity to be a part of a not-for-profit organization; all my previous jobs had either been in the for-profit, academic, or service sectors. I always imagined many not-for-profit organizations as having commendable but overly idealistic and unachievable goals, given the often cynical nature of domestic and international politics. I admit I went in to the internship with some of these assumptions, even though a large part of me applied to this position to find out if my assumptions were actually true.

For the most part, I was wrong. Mosaic’s organizational culture, and its unique approach to big, complex social justice issues instilled in me a new passion and optimism about our ability to make a real difference on the problems we care about. But my experiences also made me realize that organizations like Mosaic actually have the most realistic perspectives about their work.

I recognized that pursuing a mandate with a social justice or human rights ethos makes one define “success” in an unconventional manner. Mosaic’s work is often about properly framing the issues it deems important, and then working with the appropriate stakeholders respectfully and humbly. The team realized that goals set out in an anti-racism initiative, for example, are difficult to achieve given the variety of actors, and thus “success” is derived from a valuable organizational learning experience or a fruitful correspondence with a potential partner. Success, then, was often measured in terms of process, not results in a classically quantifiable manner.

In sum, the professional frontier Mosaic presented to me showed that any idea or passion must follow the proper steps and include consideration of all the stakeholders involved. “Making a difference” is not a cliché if you take pride in each step you take and approach some of society’s biggest challenges with humility.

Akshay joined the Mosaic Team in May 2016 as an intern from the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.  Prior to the start of his master’s degree, Akshay completed an Honours Bachelor of Arts at the University of Toronto in Political Science, Philosophy and History. Previously, Akshay has worked as a research analyst at NeoSeis Technologies and as a compliance analyst in the G20 Research Group headed by the Munk School of Global Affairs.  Akshay is interested in conflict resolution processes and regional cooperation as it pertains to promoting peace and diplomacy in conflict areas; he is specifically interested in the South Asian region. This summer, Akshay will be working with the Mosaic Team to develop proposals for future research initiatives, as well as policy analyses related to Canada’s diverse communities and their relationships with Canada’s foreign policy and peace promotion strategies abroad.