Designing a drive to make a difference for girls

Update: The Kickstarter is underway for this project. You can learn more about Girls Driving for A Difference and show your support through March 26, 2015. 

The more time I spend practicing design thinking in the, the more inspired I feel to share the methodology with others and take creative leaps in my own educational experience.

Katie Kirsch, right, will be going across the country as part of "Girls Driving for a Difference", an initiative she co-founded with Jenna Leonardo, left.
Katie Kirsch, right, will be going across the country as part of "Girls Driving for a Difference", an initiative she co-founded with Jenna Leonardo, left.

This year, my colleague Jenna Leonardo ('15) and I co-founded Girls Driving for a Difference, a team of Stanford students using design thinking to empower young girls across America to become leaders of social change. This summer, our team will be driving an RV across the country, visiting over 50 diverse communities, and coaching design thinking and leadership workshops specifically geared towards middle school girls. These workshops will be designed to give girls the tools, inspiration, and creative confidence to discover their purpose, enact social change in their communities, and envision their dreams for someday changing the world.

We are close to launching our Kickstarter campaign, but our design process never stops -- it has been a continuous journey of rapidly prototyping our activities, games, and custom-made teaching materials with students, school administrators, professionals, and peers. We've learned that measuring our social impact can be very difficult, especially when some of our most important and honest feedback comes from students' implicit, emotional cues. However, as a team, we are actively seeking ways to ensure that our workshop sparks real moments of self-discovery, learning, and change.

Our larger, visionary goals for this summer can be distilled into a series of "How Might We" statements, such as, "How might we play with the context of a two-hour long workshop experience to motivate a sustainable, life-long journey of self-discovery and purpose-finding for middle-school girls?"

We are also exploring what it means to re-invent the traditional question of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" by instead asking, "What kind of change do you want to create in the world, and how can you begin to achieve that dream today?"

Finally, we aim to flip the key assumption that you can be "just a girl" or "just one person" -- instead of perceiving the word "just" as a constraint, we wish to perceive it through a nuanced lens -- as a motivating challenge for success.

What makes you tick? What do you drive for? What skills are you developing now, and how do they play into your larger journey of achieving success and happiness? The conversations we are starting with young girls are centered around questions we are still asking ourselves today and ones that we shall continue to ask ourselves throughout our entire lives. We can't wait to follow our own dreams while helping middle school girls explore their own.

Katie is a third-year Product Design Engineering student at Stanford.