Social Impact Internships: Eileen Sadati (’27)

My name is Eileen Sadati, a first-year economics and finance student working for Four Corners
Main Street this IAP. Main Streets is an organization dedicated to stimulating community
revitalization and economic development in downtown communities. I worked as a market
analyst and researcher, investigating ways to spur investment in small businesses in the Four
Corners district and outlining pathways to connect business owners, community stakeholders,
and local officials to financing opportunities. The main focus of my time at Four Corners was to
create a playbook that laid out how entrepreneurs in the Dorchester community could attract
investments into their businesses and how to utilize these funds to revitalize their neighborhood
commercial district.

While many parts of this internship were focused on the technical aspects of business development and growth, it also critically examined the relationship between race and wealth. The community that Four Corners Main Street serves is inhabited by mainly Black and Latino residents, many of which are immigrants and many of which are low income. The community faced significant barriers to higher education, financial institutions, and job growth. In the first
two weeks of the internship, I was tasked with researching some of the systemic challenges faced by members of the community and how these obstacles impacted the economic conditions of the
area. We found that the Four Corners district lacked access to banks and financial institutions willing to support local businesses, making it difficult for entrepreneurs to secure funding. Financial issues were often tied back to discriminatory lending practices and prejudices faced by marginalized entrepreneurs.

After identifying the systemic difficulties faced by the Four Corners district, I began analyzing
case studies and previous research projects that highlighted ways to counteract economic
underdevelopment in communities of color. Many of these projects centered around connecting
businesses with financial resources such as CFDIs, microloans, and grants. After looking at data
from previous cities and businesses that implemented successful revitalization efforts, we
identified strategies that we could apply to our district.

Many of these demonstrated strategies align with the “Strategies of Social Change” outlined by
the PKG center. For example, we looked at how we could integrate community organizing into
our financing plans. We looked at creating a coalition of local entrepreneurs that could unify to
advocate for funding on behalf of the district. We also looked at the initiatives that prompted
both community and economic development such as connecting business owners with local
venture capital firms, speaking with the city councilors regarding budgeting decisions, and
engaging a community board of local stakeholders.

As we began to plan our next steps, we wanted to ensure that the voices of residents were being
centered in these conversations of economic development. We worked on conducting interviews
and collecting data from entrepreneurs about their experiences starting their businesses in the Four Corners district. From this research, we began formulating specific strategies that each
business owner could use to develop their company. These one on one conversations and
personal relationships felt deeply impactful to both the success of our project and also the
livelihood of the community.

This work was incredibly thought provoking. Until this point, I’ve spent the majority of my time
at MIT looking at the theoretical aspects of business and economics. While these highly
technical topics are fascinating to consider and are undoubtedly critical to developmental
initiatives, there is still a dissonance between how I thought economic growth happened and the
actual needs of businesses in the community. This internship taught me how to balance the
economic theories I’ve been presented in my classes and the experiences I’ve learned about from
the community we’re trying to support. I see that true community growth can only happen at the
intersection of these two ideas and I’m eager to apply this lens to the rest of my academic career.

Tags: Social Impact Internships, Social Impact Internships IAP 2024

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