GoAbroad Interview

Lindy Briginshaw - Director

The if i could... internship programme has been providing graduates with interesting and valuable internships in research, communications, and business development for the past 10 years. The programme is a service of Creative Consulting & Development Works, a research, evaluation, and intern consultancy.

if i could... is an unusual name for an internship program, what is the story behind the name?

We wanted an aspirational name for our intern programme that reflects our goal of making it possible for young graduates to experience a high quality internship that can really advance their career development.  A lot of us say: ‘if I could do this or that, I would…’  Well our answer is: “You can! And we’ll be here to help you.”

What makes South Africa the ideal internship destination?

South Africa is an intriguing blend of the developed and developing worlds, and this makes it a fantastic place to do an internship.  On the one hand, we have a well-developed infrastructure that enables an international intern to live safely and comfortably, to travel and communicate easily, and to enjoy the many high quality attractions that the country offers.  On the other hand, many South Africans live in deep poverty and require the assistance of development organizations to improve their lives.  These development organizations, in turn, need skills and expertise to help them deliver their services.  There are many opportunities here to experience a valuable internship that makes a contribution to improving people’s lives.

Why is 10 to 12 weeks the optimum duration for an internship?

We recommend 10 to 12 weeks as experience has shown us that it gives the intern a reasonable time to undertake a meaningful project for a development organization.  However, we customize our internships to meet the needs of both the intern and the host organization, so we do cater for interns that have less or more time available.

The if i could... internship programme is primarily aimed at international interns seeking placements in South Africa. Do you have internship programs designed for South Africans looking for placements abroad?

We don’t offer such a service at this time, as many of the South African gradutaes that we encounter cannot afford to travel abroad to do an internship.  There is however, a great need for paid internships within South Africa and through our Ukezenbenza project we are exploring ways to facilitate this.

The placements are unpaid. What is the difference between unpaid internships and volunteering?

While the intern is volunteering their time and expertise, we define it as an internship because the placement is specifically designed to enable the graduate to develop their career along their chosen path.  When we recruit a candidate to the if I could… program we specifically look at the working experience that they need and want, and then we find a host organization to match and deliver that opportunity for them.

Both if i could... and Creative Consulting & Development Works, which you also direct, have been operating for nearly a decade. What is the organization's greatest achievement and what has been its biggest challenge?

I would say that our greatest achievement lies in the network of excellent relationships that we have built and continue to nurture within the South African development sector.  We have also enjoyed much success in staying relevant and at the top of our game over the years.  I think that the biggest challenge facing anyone operating in the South African development sector is the scale of the development that is needed here.  The many social, economic and environmental problems that the country faces affect millions of our people on a daily basis.  Solutions are urgent, if we are to stop the course of generation after generation being shackled by poverty and experiencing ongoing poor healthcare, poor educational and work opportunities.

There are dozens of internship placement providers in South Africa. What makes the if i could... internship programme stand out from other programs?

if i could… is the only internship programme that is run by a company that is completely embedded in the South African development sector.  We uniquely leverage our development sector network and experience to ensure that each internship actually does build the intern’s career and meets the specific skills needs of the host organization.  With our insights, networks and technical expertise in development we offer meaningful and tangible opportunities for interns to contribute  and make a difference to South Africa’s many socio-economic challenges through working with specific host organisations that can truly benefit from the interns contribution and service.

Aside from the internship placement what other opportunities do interns have for cultural immersion?

if i could… provides interns with plenty of opportunities for cultural immersion.  We make sure that interns have a comprehensive orientation to Cape Town and we constantly communicate the fascinating things to do and see in Cape Town, in person and through our blog and facebook page.  We make it easy for them to do more and see more by connecting them to a professional tour operator who offers guided tours and excursions to all the cultural and tourist hotspots.  In addition, we arrange our own regular intern outings and offer them weekly isiXhosa classes at our offices so that they can learn the language and socialise with us and each other.  Our intern shared house, situated in Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, offers interns the opportunity to stay in a unique heritage area in the inner City and immerse themselves in the culture of the Cape Malay.  Our interns can also stay in other vibrant areas in the City, such as Observatory, Woodstock and Tamboerskloof. Alternatively we can arrange a homestay with a Cape Town family for a truly unique cultural immersion.