A New Focus with Some New Friendships

After my first week at the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), I was eager to start my work and excited that it was so strongly related to my Sociology major. With my initial task of researching existing literature on ‘social cohesion indicators,’ I assumed there were studies done by individual social scientists in the past, but was worried about how many studies I would actually find and how extensive they would be in application.

I sorely underestimated the amount of existing studies.

Trying to navigate in a vast sea of information from various graphs, tables, definitions, and applications of social cohesion, this general overview on social cohesion was going to be anything but simple. From funding from cities, countries, and even inter-governmental institutions like the United Nations, social cohesion has been a hot topic for public policy even outside the U.S. Finishing all this material, while interconnecting it with an environmental justice framework, in time to be presented for discussion at the meeting with the Oakland Climate Action Coalition (OCAC), was certainly a headache.

Thankfully, a draft was completed before the meeting, and although there was much more work to be done, some OCAC members showed interest in its potential use. After Brian and ‘Miss’ Margaret read through the draft, they agreed that a full report would be useful and might even get published. If the Kresge Foundation liked the report, an Oakland-specific social cohesion assessment could be funded, using Oakland modified social cohesion indicators and surveys used in past studies.

My initial assignment evolved into something a sociology grad student dreams of: having their personal research funded and implemented to create social change. However, it did mean spending a significant amount of time in the office ensuring the report was clear and professional. When I heard that the other two Matsui Local Government Fellows were going to be at the 2015 Matsui Sacramento reception (held every year for Cal-in-Sacramento fellows, their supervisors, Sacramento-area Cal alumni, and special guests), I saw it as an opportune time to rest my brain, network with some important people, and make a fun trip up to Sacramento with other fellows.

Meeting the other Matsui Local Government Fellows,Gladys and Korbi, and all of the Cal-in-Sacramento Fellows, was definitely a worthwhile experience. I made some new friendships, experienced our state’s Capitol building for the first time, and even met up with some old friends. After coming back, I knew I really had to find some new inner focus to finish this report. Sitting at my quiet desk, I noticed a couple new members at the WOEIP office. A handful of high school students! The office was holding a summer leadership workshop, adding some extra energy, and maybe some new focus, to my desk job.

Zachary Raden is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in sociology. He is interning at the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project as a Matsui Local Government Fellow.