What Keeps Social Entrepreneurs Up at Night


Have you ever thought about what keeps you up at night? Is there some fundamental problem you’re dying to solve? A question about the world that hasn’t been answered? Or is there something that you wish you could fix?

For many entrepreneurs, the thing that keeps them up at night is usually what led them to entrepreneurship in the first place. And for Adrienne Schmoeker, Senior Project Manager of Open Innovation at the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, it’s what led her down the path of becoming an intrapreneur, or a person who creates change from within an existing corporation.


Now, Adrienne leads innovation efforts at the office of the CTO of New York City and mentors young entrepreneurs at the Zahn Innovation Center. But when she first graduated from college as an Economics and Social Policy major, she wasn’t quite sure where she’d end up. One of her professors once asked her, “What keeps you up at night?” Since then, Adrienne has always asked herself how she can affect the world’s problems through business, startups, or government policy. Last month, she spoke to the students in our Fall Internship Program and heard about some of the ways they’re creating impact within the non-profit and social enterprise realm.

As part of our program sponsored by BNY Mellon, we place fifteen students at social enterprises and non-profits throughout New York City during the Fall and Spring semesters. This marks the third year of this program–a program that has given students the chance to gain real-world career experience while also making lasting social impact. Some students have even secured fulltime positions after their internships.


This semester, interns found jobs for newly emigrated people at the EDC, they helped inspire and train former convicts to become entrepreneurs at Defy Ventures, and they developed special programs for social entrepreneurs at Kiva and Echoing Green. For most of the students in the program, they got much more out of their internship than skills to put on their resume. “I was constantly empowered to take initiative. Through coffees with different coworkers on an almost daily basis, I’ve been able to build both my network as well as gained close personal friends,” said Bryce Halley, intern at the EDC.


Another student, Olga Anipchenko-Ulaj, got a new outlook on life: “Through my internship at Defy, I realized that there is so much hope, so much love, and so much belief and appreciation in those individuals whom we as a society have historically stigmatized.”

At the Zahn Center, we can’t stress enough how valuable internship experiences like this are, and we’re especially thankful for our sponsors at BNY Mellon for making it possible.