Discovery Leadership

Girls Inc. Discovery Leadership® for Girls and Women

The word “leader” conjures for many people an image of a man in middle to later life. Yet throughout history women and girls have also blazed pathways to progress and change. Girls and women have always been leaders, but their leadership has often gone unrecognized. To address this problem and to inspire girls to become leaders, Girls Incorporated, in collaboration with the Minneapolis YWCA, developed Discovery: A Leadership Program. This 13-session program brings 9- to 11-year-old girls and adult women together to discover the power of their capacity for leadership through community action.


Discovery enables girls to join in partnership with women leaders in their communities to develop and practice leadership and advocacy skills and construct community action projects. One of the principal strengths of Discovery is the opportunity it provides girls to make decisions, take responsibility, and initiate projects in collaboration with experienced women. Indeed girls have been involved in the development of the program from its initial stages.


In Discovery, girls and women come together to celebrate their heritage as leaders. They discover their own leadership skills through hands-on activities, role-plays, community exploration, and a weekend retreat. In addition, specially selected posters, books, games, CD-ROMs, and other resources help create an environment of recognition and celebration of female leaders from many cultures, past and present. Together, Discovery partners explore and build upon this legacy to form their own ideas about what leadership means to them.


A key feature of Discovery is that it increases girls’ and women’s awareness of themselves as community resources, trustees of the common good, and leaders in their own right. Together, girls and women identify issues of ongoing concern to the community and formulate responses using persuasive communication and organizing for action. From removing graffiti to getting a stop sign placed at a dangerous corner to enhancing community awareness of the dangers of drugs and violence—Discovery empowers girls as well as their communities and enables them to explore their own ability and responsibility to produce positive long-term social change.


Girls Incorporated affiliates embrace the Discovery principles that help girls and women develop lifelong skills and confidence to bring about change. Through the pilot phase and since then, hundreds of girls have put leadership into practice through the design and implementation of community action projects created in collaboration with women partners. In Minneapolis, Discovery partners planned a personal meeting with the mayor to discuss community safety. In Denver, the program helped reinforce girls’ essential role in the city’s youth development campaign. Consequently, Girls Inc. of Metro Denver was invited to work closely with local schools and the Denver Housing and Urban Development agency to provide the program on an outreach basis to more girls. These action projects provide long-lasting benefits to communities, and to the girls and women who work together to discover their power to make positive change.

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