Helping girls change their community (and the world)
In the lead up to International Women’s Day 2021, we’re looking back to celebrate some of the projects that have had the biggest impact on the lives of girls and women worldwide. This article reflects on the beginning of our partnership with The Girls Leadership Network, a program aimed at empowering young women to achieve their goals.
It’s an idea that is often considered in relation to developing nations but applies just as forcefully in Australia.
“When women are educated, their countries become stronger and more prosperous,” Michelle Obama has famously said..
And when they are encouraged to become confident and capable changemakers the whole world benefits.
That’s the purpose and the mission of Canberra’s Girls Leadership Network. And it’s a mission that is having serious impact.
As a global design network ThinkPlace works to ‘move the needle’ on the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Goal number four is Quality Education: "pursuing inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all."
With that in mind we are delighted to announce we are partnering with the Girls Leadership Network in 2019 in a major commitment made through the ThinkPlace Foundation.
About the network
The Girls Leadership Network is a non-profit, Canberra-based initiative that empowers girls in year 11 and 12 of secondary school to believe, achieve and reach their potential.
The network was founded in 2016 by Ritu Clementi and her daughter, Asha, who was in year 12 at that time. Ritu had previously created and run similar programs with the Red Cross in the United States in North Carolina and Georgia.
It centres upon monthly workshops where participants are exposed to cutting-edge thinking around leadership, using tools such as design thinking and behavioural economics to explore themes such as learning about yourself, defining your priorities and what your version of success looks like.
The workshops also aim to build confidence and resilience, helping girls to identify opportunities, be bold about seizing them and to “fail forward”, picking themselves up after perceived setbacks while learning from the experience.
About the program
ThinkPlace will host the events at our purpose-built workshop and innovation space in Canberra and ThinkPlace designers will create the syllabus and run sessions for the network.
They will introduce students accepted into the program to principles of design thinking, behavioural economics, leadership and resilience. Girls who have completed the course in previous years will join as co-facilitators and ThinkPlace staff will also serve as mentors for the participants, as they explore what direction their future lives might take.
In 2018, girls from 13 Canberra schools participated and organisers are hoping for an even greater diversity of applicants in 2019.
“This is about girls being empowered to go out into their community and make positive change,” says Sian Rinaldi from the Network’s leadership team.
“It’s bringing together a powerful group of people who have the ability to change the world but may not know it yet.
“Through these sessions they not only learn hugely-valuable skills they become part of a network of like-minded peers. They get access to a toolkit that can help them change their community and the world.
As they grow in confidence they gain the ability to seek out opportunities and seize them. Seeing that capability grow is just so cool and so inspiring.”
Course content supplied on a pro bono basis will draw from ThinkPlace’s Young Changemaker program, which is currently used for the ACT Government’s successful It’s Your Move campaign.
“Young people who have become proficient in design thinking will have the skills and mental models to make an impact at a community level, setting them up with powerful mindsets and approaches that will assist them in their future careers,” says ThinkPlace’s Katherine Reaper.
“But this project also has a multiplier effect as it creates capacity and interest for the next generation of changemakers. We can’t wait to see what they will do with these tools.”
Girls take over
Previous participants in the program have pursued a diverse range of future careers and pathways, including military service, sporting success and starting up a film production company.
“We learnt to lead, excel and most importantly connect with girls who will ultimately become the women we want around us in our futures”, said Rachel a participant in 2017.
“You meet likeminded young women who all have the same passion as you, to make a difference,” said another participant: Courtney.
In 2018, Asha and two of the network’s young leaders conceived, created and launched a spinoff program: “Girls Run The World”. This program involved 22 young women “taking over” 11 embassies for the day; meeting with ambassadors, making decisions and learning about international diplomacy in an immersive way.
In 2017, some of the of the program participants also ltook part in a ‘girls takeover’ of Federal Parliament, Rinaldi says.
“They shadowed ministers and senior advisers, gave input into real decisions and as near as possible got to participate in the workings of government, parliament and policy.”
One girl joined the network because she was interested in STEM studies but found her classes were all filled with male students.
“Through the network she identified a grants program for a major STEM conference in London, developed the confidence to apply and was ultimately successful in winning funding,” Rinaldi says.
The network aims for a diverse range of participants and the program assembled by ThinkPlace is free for all who successfully register.
“We find that having a mix of backgrounds makes our group so much stronger and more supportive,” Rinaldi says.