MAD initiatives: Not so mad after all

Students rethinking internships to make a difference

Two ambitious Danish students, Johan Thomassen and William Pontoppidan, have created a radically different approach to internships that is challenging the traditional role of interns.  

MAD-I (make a difference initiatives) combine business and charity work to create what Thomassen describes as a “meaningful” internship.

Thomassen has previously been an intern at a hedge fund in London. “The experience was interesting and educational, but  of course I wasn’t given any real responsibility,” he told The Copenhagen Post. “Understandably, it is too dangerous to give an intern real responsibility, but on the other hand it is through responsibility that you learn the most.”

Responsibility is a key feature that makes MAD- I internships unique, and ensures that the interns can see the difference they are making to the cause.In a standard internship period of one month, MAD- I interns have the responsibility of helping to write a business plan, creating an international awareness campaign and fundraising money for the implementation of the business plan- 10,000 dollars for their first project.

The interns are equal in role to the founders, and all “work together towards a common goal”, according to Thomassen. Currently, there are 4 Danish students from Copenhagen Business School working alongside the founders on the project.

Working with charity
“Every one of us has had corporate internships, but it is rare to get the business angle on charity,” Thomassen explains.

For their first project, MAD-I have been working with Nepalese charity Maiti Nepal, who work to stop the trafficking of Nepalese women and girls. The charity has been running for 21 years, and MAD interns have been working on a fundraising strategy to make them sustainable after they ran into trouble with future funds.

“We chose Maiti Nepal because we wanted to help publicise the great work they were doing,” Thomassen says of the charity, which has saved more than 25,000 girls from prostitution and works to rehabilitate women previously trafficked.

The director of Maiti Nepal came to Denmark in August to ensure agreement on the business plan, and interns are hoping to travel to Nepal in the spring to truly see their work in action.

Looking to the future
“We’ve been very successful so far, it’s been great fun,” Thomassen told the post.

It is too early for MAD-I to decide which charity will be the focus of the next project, but Thomassen is optimistic, mentioning the possibility of the initiative expanding into London.

The interns themselves are also looking towards bright futures, as MAD has caught the eye of many well-known firms. In particular, Deloitte and Egon Zehnder have passed on their expertise to MAD-I.

“The idea is that the internships become educational, as different firms support with their expertise – having a more practical approach than university,” William Pontoppidan told The Post. The involvement of Egon Zehnder, a recruiting firm, will likely prove invaluable for interns in the future, and Deloitte provides firms for legal and financial advisory.    

Most importantly, Maiti Nepal are able to continue their work and more resources have been generated for their future fights against trafficking. 

Fact Box: MAD-I

  • Founded in 2014 by Johan Thomassen and William Pontoppidan
  • Working with firms such as Deloitte and Egon Zehnder
  • 10,000 Dollars raised for charity so far
  • 4 interns per project

Fact Box: Maiti Nepal

  • Nepalese charity working to stop trafficking
  • Has saved over 25,000 women and girls so far
  • Founded in 1993
  • Each year, between 8,000 and 12,000 girls are trafficked out of Nepal

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