Matte Lopez, right, Casa Sankara

Matté Lopez ’25 (Crystal, Minn.) was awarded a 2023 Live It Fund grant from the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program. She used her funding to spend nine weeks in San Severo, Italy, working with the nonprofit Casa Sankara to support the 400 African migrants who live and receive resources at this organization. In August, Lopez, an international studies major, wrapped up her project and shared this update.

This summer, I served as a consultant for Casa Sankara through my project titled “Ensemble,” a human-centered design consulting project for nonprofits. Ensemble’s mission is to help nonprofits develop more inclusive systems that are informed by the lived experiences of their clients.

In this role, which was heavily influenced by ethnographic fieldwork, I conducted interviews with staff and migrants, observed daily life, and lived on-site to fully immerse myself in this community and comprehensively understand the specific context in which Casa Sankara operates.

My research identified a lack of integration and communication between the staff and migrants at Casa Sankara to be a foundational problem. To address this, my project culminated in an immersive activity where I guided staff in stepping outside of the office and visiting spaces frequented by migrants to introduce themselves and share announcements, a practice seldomly done.

Over the past ten weeks, I improved my French and Italian language skills, gained real-life experience adapting to new cultural contexts, and expanded my knowledge of both Italian and global migration politics.

September 7 2023

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