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One of the key differences that sets a Gold Award Take Action project apart from a Girl Scout service project is the sustainability of the project.  As the biggest Take Action project a girl can take on as a Girl Scout, Gold Award projects must to go further than collecting, making, or donating items.  Community service projects are finished when the initial project effort ends, but Take Action projects are sustainable.

Gold Award Take Action Projects are about making an impact. Girls can see the impact they create on the issues they care about by setting measurable goals and evaluating their progress toward those goals.

Sustainability

Every Gold Award project includes a plan for sustainability beyond the “Gold Award project” phase. Sustainability can look different depending on the project topic and approach:

  • For a Gold Award project that involves leading a team, think about who will take it over when the girl steps down from that leadership role. How will they be trained? Should they be involved now?
  • For a Gold Award project that creates a new program such as a homework study club at an underserved school or science enrichment summer program at the library, think about how those programs will continue to run year after year. Is there a school club or other community organization willing to step in and lead? Do they have the funding or other resources in place to support this program?
  • For a Gold Award project that builds a team of volunteers to create specialized care packages for medically fragile newborns, think about who will lead this team and recruit new volunteers in the future. What about supplies that need to be replenished periodically?
  • For a Gold Award project that builds something such as a community garden, animal habitat, or recycling and compost system, think about long term maintenance. Who will take on the care and upkeep tasks such as repairs to the irrigation system, replacing worn planter bed framing, and replacing broken markers and signs?

Proactively thinking about and planning for sustainability is more than creating a “How I Did It” binder in the hopes that someone comes along in the future. Creating a go-to reference binder is a good starting point, and a meaningful element of a sustainability plan. However, the binder alone is not a sustainability plan. To get to sustainability, the girl must be actively considering who will be using that binder of accumulated insights, knowledge, and plans gained over the course of implementing her project:

  • Is your Girl Scout working with an existing after school club, or establishing a new one as part of her project? She can look to those club members—especially members one or two years behind her in school—as potential future leaders. As vital team members, she can delegate key tasks to them, giving them an opportunity to learn alongside her so they are ready to step in and lead next year.
  • Many girls choose to partner with a community group, faith community, or other non-profit. Part of developing the plan for the sustainability of her project involves asking this group if they are willing to continue sponsoring the project as part of their ongoing program offerings. They may have a volunteer or staff member willing champion and lead this project in the future.
  • Another avenue for sustainability is partnering with your organization’s sister organizations. For example, if a girl is working with the YMCA in Sunnyvale, the YMCA in Redwood City may be interested in hearing about this project and adopting it themselves.
TopicProject IdeaHow to Make it Sustainable
Food InsecurityWeekend Meals program for low income studentsEstablish a network of 2–3 local cafes willing to donate unsold pre-packaged salads, soups, sandwiches at the end of each day
Music or Art EnrichmentMusic Education program in an underserved elementary schoolCreate a sponsorship with a local symphony group to offer free or reduced cost “family night” concerts
Environmental ConservationInstalling trash cans on public hiking trails known to be covered in litterCreate a program with the park ranger at the visitor center for visitors to learn about the impact of litter on the environment and animals

Pro Tip: Goals are to help define and give focus to a project. Girl Scouts should not worry if they set a goal and do not reach it.  They will have the opportunity to reflect on possible reasons a goal was not met as part of their final report. A girl whose project does not meet all its goal(s) can still earn her Gold Award and be rightfully proud of her accomplishment.

Measurability

Although every project is different here are a few examples of “Just OK” goals and better, more meaningful goals to help your girls think about their particular projects and how to ensure her project includes an element of measurability.

TopicProject IdeaA “Just OK” GoalA Better Goal
Food InsecurityWeekend Meals program for low income studentsProvide weekend meals to food-insecure students Provide one hot and one cold meal per weekend for 35 families (~ 4 people per family) for four months. (1024 meals)
Music or Art EnrichmentMusic Education program in an underserved elementary schoolPresent a music enrichment class for an elementary school.Create a nine-week curriculum for 3rd and 4th graders at Pleasant Valley Elementary.

One popular and helpful method for developing a goal statement is the SMART format. SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

  • Specific:  Being specific helps focus the effort required to achieve the goal. Whether a project is local or global in scope, having a specific goal ensures the work put into the project targets the issue and root cause. Here’s an example of a specific goal: “Provide a nine-week music education program to approximately 100 3rd and 4th graders at Pleasant Neighborhood Elementary School.”
  • Measurable:  Creating a measurable goal is about more than just a goal for the project. It helps inform other aspects of project planning such as the space required and the budget. If a project includes an event with an expected attendance of fifty people, the budget, volunteer staff, and event space needs will be very different than the same event with an expected attendance of 200 people.
  • Achievable:  For a goal to be meaningful it must be achievable. While we all dream of ending hunger worldwide that may be more than is achievable for a single Gold Award. Instead a girl might set a goal of providing a certain number of meals for a certain number of low income students during the summer when school lunch programs are not operating.
  • Realistic:  STEM and STEM outreach to students is a popular topic. Often the importance and impact of early STEM education is framed in terms of future career opportunities. While true, it is not realistic for a girl to use future career choices as a measure of the impact of her Gold Award — for example, centering a STEM exploration summer camp week for ten to twelve-year-olds around their future career choices, which are at least a decade in the future. A more realistic, measurable goal would be to track the number of summer camp participants who go on to choose an tech-elective in the following school year, or express interest in exploring a technical elective class in the first or second year of high school.
  • Time-bound:  Depending on the type of project, it can be helpful to set time-bound goals. For example, for a project that includes outreach to local area elementary schools a time-bound goal might be: “I will meet with the principal or key staff at X schools by the end of March.” For project that require a large work crew, a time-bound goal might be: “I will recruit X volunteers by June 1.” By setting time-bound goals, girls create markers that tell them if their project is on track, ahead of plan, or falling behind so they can react appropriately.

Using measurable goals as part of a Gold Award project includes relying on qualitative and quantitative tools to evaluate results:

  • Qualitative Measures: measure people’s feelings, beliefs, or observations. Surveys can be excellent qualitative tools. Girls can ask questions such as: “After participating in this program, how likely are you to explore other STEM topics?” Respondents can then reply using a numeric scale where 1 = not very likely and 5 = very likely. The distribution of responses provides a measure of the impact of the project.
  • Quantitative Measures: measure concrete, countable things such as the number of trees planted, the number of students who attended a workshop, the number of blood/bone marrow donors registered.
Project IdeasQualitative MeasuresQuantitative Measures
Trash Cans Along a Hiking TrailVisitor Center comments about the trail condition, absence of litter, and their enjoyment of the trailCompare the number of hours the park ranger spends picking up litter now, compared to the time spent before the trash cans were installed
STEM / Coding WorkshopA survey that asks participants to rank statements such as:
• “I feel more confident about coding”
• “I learned a lot at this workshop”
Number of students who sign up for a second workshop, or take a tech-elective at school

Educate and Inspire Others

Your Girl Scout has reached the last piece of the journey toward creating her Gold Award project plan.  

Each project, depending on topic and scope, will need its own approach for telling others about the project. In a modern, tech-centric world it is natural to think of social media channels first. While social media is useful, this step it is about more than just social media. Social media shares information among a circle of connected friends and family. Part of the challenge for the Gold Award is telling others outside of a girl’s friends and family about her Gold Award, and what she accomplished through her specific project. She can share her results and findings by:

  • Submitting an article to the local newspaper
  • Writing an announcement or article for her school or community newsletter
  • Looking for opportunities to post in a bulletin or newsletter for her faith community

Girls can look for communication outlets through the organization she worked with as well

  • If this organization publishes a newsletter or periodic email to its volunteers and supporters, they could highlight her project in one of these publications or post it to their website.
  • If her project is tied to a major organizational goal, they might even consider a press release!

For projects completed with an organization that has groups or facilities in other states, girls can look into sharing her project with those sister sites for them to implement. Did she work with her local city government? If so it may be possible to share her project with neighboring cities, the County Board of Supervisors, or a sister-city in another state or country.

Girl Scouts can also create a website to share what they have done and post resources they’ve developed so that others might use them.

Pro Tip: Remember that all website content must be reviewed and approved by the Council before it is posted. If a girl wants to use the Girl Scout logo and/or the Gold Award icon it must also be approved by the council!

Girls who want to incorporate a website as one element of their efforts to share their Gold Award project will need to consider:

  • Who will update the content periodically so it remains fresh and relevant
  • Who will be responsible for the domain name and on-going registration fees
  • What steps are necessary to drive traffic to the new website

This is an excellent opportunity to work with her partner organization and possibly leverage their existing website by adding pages she’s created about her project to their overall website. In this way she taps into an existing audience and benefits from the organization’s name recognition in search engine results. Similarly, if a school club will be taking over her project for the following year, there may be an option to link to the club’s webpage that is part of the school’s website.

Remember GS Guidelines: Limit the amount of personal information posted to any website or social media site…first name only! For any pictures posted, girls must have permission to use the photos for publication. For photos taken of event participants she must have a signed photo release in order to those the images.

Girls should be encouraged to use their Gold Award project to inspire future Gold Award Girl Scouts by presenting at local service unit or troop meetings. In addition to talking about the goals and outcomes of her project, she can talk about what she wishes she knew before she started, or what she would she do differently if she were starting her project over again.

What to do next:


Michele Harms—Michele is a long-time member of the South Bay Gold Award Committee. She is a lifetime Girl Scout, now in her 41st consecutive year. As an adult volunteer, Michele has always worked in Older Girl programs. During college, Michele was a mentor for a Cadette troop in San Luis Obispo. She estimates that she has reviewed over 1,500 Gold Award proposals – navigating 3-4 cycles of changes to the program requirements. Michele earned her Gold and Silver Awards with Girl Scouts of Orange County. Outside of Girl Scouts, Michele is a devoted aunt, avid traveler, and Quality Assurance Engineer.

Allison Wright—Allison is a South Bay Gold Award Committee member. She is in her 28th year as a Girl Scout (13 years as a girl, 15 years as an adult). Allison grew up as a Girl Scout in the San Diego council. While at Iowa State University she was a Junior and Cadette Troop Leader in GS of Greater Iowa; a special interest troop leader, and the chair for the council-wide Gold Award committee for GS of Kansas Heartland. Allison is passionate about Girl Scouts; she has continued to volunteer with the program since earning her Gold Award in 2002. Outside of Girl Scouts, Allison is an Aerospace Engineer working in Nondestructive Inspection of Composite Aircraft.