Introducing our new intern — meet Sofia!

“I have enjoyed reading the old blog posts to understand the evolution of OpenUp, the importance of re-invention and the cool projects the organization has done.”

Hola! I am Colombian-Austrian and currently live in the United States, where I am pursuing a Masters degree in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, with a focus on three -very different- topics: peacebuilding, digital government and women in politics. I studied undergrad at Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, where I majored in Economics and minored in Design, Political Science and Journalism.

Sofia showing off her perfectly peeled avocado.

I believe in multidisciplinarity, creativity, curiosity, risks and relationships to solve great challenges. I have working experience in consulting for nonprofit and public organizations and in design and implementation of projects to foster reconciliation in Colombia. Peacebuilding and reconciliation are the topics closest to my heart. I also worked as a programmatic advisor in the presidential campaign of the lead negotiator in the Colombian peace talks (If you are wondering, we lost badly). In the future, I want to work in government in Colombia.

Once upon a time I was a triathlete and ran a half Ironman. I still love to run and cycle, as it keeps me sane. I also like hiking, yoga, photography and reading. I am eager to explore and see many colors and try as many flavors of the rainbow nation. I have a dog called Flora, I don’t drink coffee (bad Colombian), but I love to dance (good Colombian).

Sofia on her first hike in Cecila Forest.

How has your first week been?

Lekker! My first week was colder than I expected but Cape Town is as amazing as I thought it would be. I already got addicted to Rooibos.

Besides the weather, it has been great to work with a diverse, passionate, creative and generous team. Calyn and Lailah have been very kind and patient: we have been working on refining the internal and external research projects I will be working on.

It has been very interesting to see how agile and scrum work in practice. It is also great to see the challenge and opportunity of having a team with people who come from the tech world and people who come from government and NGOs to work together and speak each other’s language.

I was also able to attend an amazing workshop at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR). You will soon see a post about this.

What else do you have planned for your internship?

I will be working on research on the Municipalities project, specifically on mapping processes, sharing the success story and capturing the lessons learned so far. I also want to think how research can be incorporated into the next iterations of the project.

The other research projects will turn around understanding the relationship between agile and organizational culture, and capturing and sharing lessons that OpenUp has learned with different users.

I would also love to see the projects in action, so if anyone wants to/can take me on a field trip I will be as happy as a child on a school trip to the candy factory!

What attracted you to an internship at OpenUp?

I came to OpenUp because I share the belief in informing, empowering and activating citizens, strengthening governance and boosting democracy. I wanted to see first-hand what I learned in my classes.

I also saw it as a great opportunity to spend some time in a city I had always wanted to visit (I know, the summer is much better and all that, but it is what it is).

Finally, although very distant, South Africa and Colombia have a lot in common (e.g. both have been through processes of peace and reconciliation, both are very diverse in many aspects, South Africa is the 25th biggest country and Colombia the 26th, both are tremendously unequal, and so on).

What are you excited about learning at OU?

I am very excited about learning more about Civic Tech and Gov Tech and how we can inform, empower and activate citizens. I am also eager to keep learning about the methodologies and tools used in the tech world, and understand how they can be used (or not) to solve different problems.

I am excited about learning more about South Africa’s past and present, too!

What have you learned about OpenUp so far?

I find the inform-empower-activate framework very powerful! I have learned a lot about agile and scrum and the importance of blogging. I have enjoyed reading the old blog posts to understand the evolution of OpenUp, the importance of re-invention and the cool projects the organization has done.

I also learned that Zeeshaan Maudarbocus sometimes has WTF days, that JD is the scrum master and that Calyn Pillay is the breakfast master :)

Sofia (left) and Calyn (right) at the IJR.

If you would like to intern at OpenUp, you can contact here. Sofia Salas Ungar will be sharing more about her experiences on our blog. Keep an eye out for them!

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