Girl Scouts of Northern California

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Girl Scouts of Northern California: Girl Scouts Growing Strong

San JoseSan Jose
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Girl Scouts gives girls a platform to discover new skills, values, and knowledge; connect with others, locally and globally; and take action to make the world a better place. Our Growing Strong program helps girls develop a growth mindset, leadership skills, and social and emotional competence.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if two tried-and-true, evidence-based Girl Scout programs were adapted and packaged in an accessible, cost-effective way so that all Girl Scouts could benefit from an inspiring program featuring healthy living, positive relationships, growth mindset,
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Girl’s lives are saturated with stressors, negative influences, and outside pressures at younger ages than ever before. Girls face particularly unique challenges relating to self-esteem, relationships with peers and adults, positive decision making, and finding their place in the world. Girls engage in relational aggression more often, both on campus and on social media, and such behaviors often fly under the radar but can cause lasting damage.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Girl Scouts delivers social-emotional learning in the context of youth leadership development, with a framework grounded in research from the Girl Scout Research Institute and Thrive Foundation for Youth. In two existing programs, girls learn vital skills: goal setting and management, stress and anger reduction, assessing risks, positive communication, finding what inspires them, and navigating relationships. While effective, these programs have a limited reach. Our solution scales these two programs by adapting them to an accessible, portable ‘program-in-a-box’ model. A well-tested model, the cost-effective ‘program-in-a-box’ enables us to expand program reach, bringing the benefits of social-emotional learning to thousands more girls.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Larissa, struggling in foster care, participated in Got Choices, which guides and empowers at-risk girls to make positive changes through informed decision making, healthy relationships, service opportunities, and leadership. “Got Choices helped me make goals and keep them,” Larissa says. “I'm satisfied with myself and the person I've become… it helped make me a better person." In 2013, Larissa presented at the United Nation's 57th Session of Commission on the Status of Women in a session called “Girls Ending the Cycle: Combating Inter-Generational Violence Through Leadership and Empowerment.” “This was such an honor for me – we had to work hard and step outside our comfort zones but it was so amazing to have my voice heard,” Larissa says.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Girl Scouts Growing Strong programs impact multiple dimensions of girls’ social-emotional development. Our programs go beyond surface symptoms of risky, negative behaviors to challenge girls to think critically through their choices, develop greater self-awareness and empathy, build new life skills, knowledge and social competencies, adopt a growth mindset, and consider how their choices and actions affect themselves and others. Quantitative and qualitative evaluation metrics show measurable increases in: ability to make positive life choices; understanding and recognition of healthy relationships; feelings of self-understanding and self-worth; ability to set and manage positive future goals; ability to identify problems facing their communities. We anticipate that adapting and scaling the programs to reach many more girls will replicate this kind of impact across a broader audience.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Currently, our Growing Strong programs are limited in scope, reaching about 1200 girls annually. Our solution takes the “best of” these programs, adapts them to benefit girls from all backgrounds, and packages them in a highly scalable “program-in-a-box” format. “Program-in-a-box” delivery is accessible and cost-effective: materials and learning activity plans are contained in portable bins, adult training is available in-person and online, and materials are available in Spanish and English. Troops can check curriculum out, making it available to up to 50,000 girls in Northern California.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

A robust mix of new and continuing support has helped us expand Growing Strong programs every year. We will continue soliciting a wide range of corporations and foundations to sustain this high activity level while deepening our investment. Programs offered by Girl Scouts of Northern California enjoy diverse revenue streams, including individual giving, foundation and corporate support, cookie and fall product sales, and program fees.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

GSNorCal’s Growing Strong promotes healthy youth development by engaging girls in activities informed by the research-based practices and principles of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience and evidence-based curricula from the Thrive Foundation for Youth. Girl Scouts inspires leadership skills through three processes: learn by doing, cooperative learning, and girl-led. Other organizations addressing the same problem are not necessarily gender-specific, do not serve the same age range and population as GSNorCal, and offer a different curriculum focus.

Founding Story

Girl Scouts has been offering innovative and inspiring experiences for girls for 102 years. We bring decades of success in managing programs, events, activity series, and camps for thousands of girls. As a century-old organization, our original “Aha!” moment was in 1912, when Juliette Gordon Low recognized a need for a girl-serving organization to meet the unique developmental needs of girls. More recently, GSNorCal staff members Kerry Barcellos and Whitney Evans, while working with highly targeted populations, recognized the need for a much broader availability of high-quality gender-specific social-emotional learning programs, so that our general membership can benefit from the programs that have been so successful with at-risk girls.


Under the leadership of GSNorCal CEO Marina Park and our committed 25 member board of directors, the day to day aspects of this project will be led by two highly-qualified full-time Program Directors, Kerry Barcellos and Whitney Evans, both of whom have years of experience designing and delivering innovative programs for girls. As the project scales, they will be supported by additional staff members and our established network of volunteers.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name
How long has your organization been operating?

Organization Country

United States, CA, San Jose

Country where this project is creating social impact

United States, CA, San Jose

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Friends and family, Individuals, Foundations, NGOs, Regional government.

Supplemental Information
On which of the following California counties does your project focus its impact? (check all that apply):

San Mateo, Santa Clara.

How does your idea help cultivate empathy skills to strengthen communities and equip young people to become leaders of change?

GSNorCal’s Growing Strong – based on the three leadership keys “discover, connect, and take action” - empowers girls with a sense of self, connectedness to community, and empathy to help them reach their full potential and grow as young changemakers and leaders. Backed by research from the Thrive Foundation for Youth, the program helps girls identify and grow their inner passion, understand and apply a growth mindset, learn goal management, build sustained positive relationships, and practice their skills in home, school, and community. A program to help girls develop as strong, confident individuals with deep relationships in a connected community positions them to confront community issues as the next generation of leaders.


GSNorCal can provide assistance on creating gender-specific programming.

Tell us about your partnerships

GSNorCal maintains relationships with dozens of schools, districts, city and county governments, and other youth-service providers who share a common vision of healthy youth development. Major partners include the Thrive Foundation for Youth (collaborative curriculum development and training) and Girl Scouts of the USA (research focused on girls and young women; collaborative curriculum development; cross-council exchange of practices and ideas).


GSNorCal brings a dedicated network of volunteers, an experienced staff, and expertise in developing and scaling successful programs. Our challenge is to adapt our 100 year-old volunteer-led program delivery model to achieve our mission in light of rapid changes in demographics, family economics, and technology. The ease and accessibility of a “program-in-a-box” delivery model helps us address the challenge of reaching girls in every community, even where there is less familiarity with Girl Scouting and fewer family resources to support large commitments of volunteer time.

Does your project use any of the following approaches to cultivate community members as empathetic and collaborative leaders?

encouraging philanthropy, creating a safe space, developing emotional competency, building leadership skills, collective problem-solving, identifying shared values and differences, instilling courage, enabling action.

Target Age Group(s)

6-12, 13-17.