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Girls For A Change

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Civil Rights, Women, Womens Rights, Youth Development - Citizenship, Youth Development Programs

Mission: Girls For A Change is a national organization that empowers girls to create social change. In 1999, the founders of Girls For A Change started the Silicon Valley Girls Coalition and, with the Cornerstone Initiative, surveyed nearly 4000 diverse, urban, young women. Only 15% felt they were seen to have value in their communities; only 24% felt they were given useful roles. 75% felt they had a vision for their future, but did not have the skills or support to effectively plan for and actualize that vision. This statistic was even more prevalent with girls from low income neighborhoods and girls of color. Girls For A Change was created in 2000 to address these findings. Since then, GFC has served 10,000 girls and continues to empower over 1,000 girls per year around the world. Girls For A Change invites girls to create positive change at a critical moment in their adolescent development when they begin to face real challenges and choices.  As girls approach adolescence they begin to lose much of the self-confidence they demonstrated at a younger age.  Many find that they no longer trust the way they see the world and lower their expectations for their future.  When in a room with boys, adolescent girls will not share ideas, speak up or take leadership the same way they do in a room of only girls. Girls of color and girls from low income communities in particular lack opportunities for leadership in their pre-teen and teen years. Catalyst and the Center for Women in Politics identified four reasons that these young women are not advancing: 1) lack of an invitation to lead, 2) lack of a strong mentor, 3) lack of problem solving and leadership experience, and 4) lack of personal contacts and networks. Girls not realizing their power, potential and voice leads to girls taking sexual risks, relationship risks and engaging in other activities they hope will help them fit in and feel better about themselves. Young women need to have a space where they feel safe building these skills and talking about issues that matter to them. Creating social change helps girls build skills they may not be getting in the classroom and increases girls’ self esteem and ability to work in partnership with other girls. This is especially important as girl bullying and girl violence continue to increase and many girl problems stem from issues over partners and friendships. GFC defines social change as identifying an issue that girls want to change, determining the root cause of that problem, and tackling the root cause through a social change project. Central to GFC’s approach is the idea that young women are most passionate about issues that affect their own lives and the health of their families and communities. Girls have hands-on experience with what angers, scares, disgusts, and saddens them about their schools, neighborhoods and cities. GFC respects that girls have valuable and innovative ideas about how to make positive change. They just need to be asked. After participating in GFC, girls are forever different in their approach to challenges in their own lives after boldly tackling the most persistent social ills of their own neighborhoods. Communities also transform as they shift their perceptions of young women, particularly girls from low income neighborhoods and girls of color, from potential liabilities to the valuable assets they are.  GFC has been recognized by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, The National Women’s High Tech Coalition, The National Women of Color Action Network, The Silicon Valley Business Journal and The Professional Business Women of California. Additionally, and Draper Richards Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship has recognized our work as innovative and effective. GFC has twice been recognized by Fast Company Magazine as a “Social Capitalist Rising Star.” GFC has been featured in Business Week, San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Business Times. GFC’s leadership team have been honored as Silicon Valley’s “40 Under 40”, Harvard Business School’s Non-Profit Executive Strategic Planning scholarship recipients, Stanford Business School’s visiting social entrepreneurs, a San Jose Mercury News’ Woman of Change award winner and most recently, our Founder Whitney Smith was named one of Silicon Valley’s Most Influential Women.

Results: Over 10,000 girls trained in six countries. Over 2,000 women coaches trained.

Target demographics: Girls, 11-17, who reside in low-income neighborhoods

Direct beneficiaries per year: 1,000

Geographic areas served: National and International

Programs: Girls For A Change annually serves over 1,000 girls, ages 11-17 across the globe. GFC girls attend public middle and high schools in low income, ethnically diverse neighborhoods where we target our recruitment. All program elements are free for girls and schools. Girls may enroll any and every year from 6th to 12th grade. Over the course of the school year, girls participate in the following program components: - Girl Action Teams: Girl Action Teams of 10-15 girls led by two trained women volunteer Coaches meet for 12 weeks each fall and spring. Girl Action Teams identify an issue in their community about which they feel passionate and then design and implement a girl-led solution in the form of a social change project. Though this process, girls learn to: identify a problem and determine its root causes, design a strategic plan, timeline, and team values, develop a budget and fundraise, work as a team and develop meaningful relationships with adult women role models, network with professionals, elected leaders, and the media to help them with their project, and implement their solution. - Volunteer Coaches: GFC recruits culturally diverse women from local corporations and organizations who have the ability to model healthy behaviors and create a safe space for girls. These women serve as volunteer coaches for Girl Action Teams. Coaches receive approximately 20 plus hours of group training, one on one support, a GFC coach manual and GFC curriculum. - New Girls Network: GFC recruits over 200 professionals who volunteer as pro-bono consultants lending their particular expertise to Girl Action Team projects. Girls learn to access this database of resources as needed for their projects and also build their own web of contacts and mentors to help them achieve their personal goals as well. - Girl Leadership: Girls For A Change is girl led at every level of the organization. Under the Girls On Board program, five girls serve on the National Board of Directors with full voting power and are mentored by other Board members. - Partnerships & Girl Internships: GFC has developed partnerships with political offices, non-profits and businesses who host GFC girls for summer internships.

Community Stories

1 Story from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


Board Member

Rating: 5

In 2007 I read about Girls For A Change in my local paper. I was intrigued by the concept and framework that empowers young women to think beyond their boundaries and teaches them the skills to meet their dreams. The program helps girls to become participants instead of by-standers.