We believe in the power of girls imagining new worlds and leading differently, together and individually.
Lideres do Futuro (LDF) seeks to support girls to create new pathways for leadership by centering their voices, lived experiences, and knowledges and by leveraging the diversity of girlhoods across the world. Our online platform is specifically designed for girls from age 10+ to learn, connect and share stories about themselves, their communities, and issues that they care about.
Stories about girls and girlhood are very often written by and for adults. But in different parts of the world, girls go to school, work, support their families, play, protest, dream about the future, live their present lives. Some may live up to mainstream ideals of girlhood, while others may construct new possibilities day by day. In all their multifaceted experiences, girls can be active agents of change.
How does it look like for girls to tell their stories and lead the present-future that they envision?
Based on current academic research about gender, educational innovation and leadership development, LDF supports girls’ storytelling and peer-sharing to express their multifaceted and agentic girlhood(s) and imagine new pathways for inspiring collaborative and girl-centered leadership. Through curricula, community-building, and multimedia resources, LDF works to strengthen girls’ leadership and advocacy skills and partners with adult allies and organizations to effectively support girls’ ideas and solutions for creating positive change.
What is girl-centered leadership?
We understand that leadership is a practice that can be learned rather than a fixed set of traits. But the expectations and skills we often associate with leadership are based on a long history of how adult men lead. A girl-centered leadership development supports the specific needs of girls and gender-expansive youth in the intersection of gender, age, race, class, abilities, and citizenship identities. Rather than teaching specific skills, we offer guided prompts, resources and opportunities of community-building among girls to learn and reframe what leadership looks like together. We use a unique learning framework that combines the Social Change Model (SCM) of Leadership Development (Astin et.al., 1996) with current research for gender-responsive leadership (learn more about the research behind this approach here).
Because leadership does not happen in a genderless vacuum (Yoder, 2001), women, girls and minority groups need gender-responsive leadership development programs that specifically address the way and context in which they enact leadership. Although it is not a panacea for gender equity, gendered leadership development programs can help to pave the way for women and girls, individually and as a group, to overcome gender bias and structural challenges towards the top and to build more equitable societies.
Social change model
This model approaches leadership as a purposeful, collaborative, values-based process that results in positive social change. The journey into leadership includes seven values in three different dimensions (see image) and is facilitated by action (practicing leadership and engaging with others) and by reflection (thinking about your experiences and making meaning). This cycle of action and reflection is also the heart of experiential learning (Dewey, 1923; Kolb, 1981).
Learning community for girls
Girls learning together, girls thriving together. Researchers of the Learning Sciences have been investigating for the past decades the learning environments that are more favorable for learners to develop creative knowledge, a kind of knowledge to approach new challenges, to think beyond the given information, and to find creative solutions to problems (Sawyer, 2019). Social interaction and collaboration play an important role in promoting this deep learning, especially when learners work together on finding solutions for complex real-world problems, share their ideas, search and exchange information, negotiate among possibilities, argue with each other, reflect on the process, and construct shared knowledge (Krajcik & Shin, 2014).
Líderes do Futuro is based on principles of collaborative learning and Knowledge Building pedagogy (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2014). We believe in learning environments that support a community of learners, where everyone is involved in a collective effort that can advance their community shared knowledge, and in that way, also support the individual learning process. In other words, we believe in providing the conditions so that girls can create knowledge and innovative solutions as relevant as “grown-up” policymakers, researchers and activists.
Storytelling by and for girls
Girls can cultivate leadership competencies by learning about themselves and their passions, directing their learning towards their interests, and developing initiative. By taking part in various digital storytelling activities, they will make decisions based on a willingness or desire to act, and use both creative and analytical thinking skills. The self-reflection and creative journey allow them to not just demonstrate leadership skills, but to have confidence in themselves and their potential and, ultimately, write new possibilities for how leadership can be enacted and built based on their individual and group needs.
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“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize.
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie