Want to know the secret formula for creating amazing adventures for girls and how you can do it, too? Give girls a starring role in planning your event right from the get go. At Ontario’s recent LEAP camp, that’s exactly what they did – with girl members playing a key role on their planning team every step of the way. It’s just one of the ways Girl Guides is ensuring girls have the chance to flex their leadership muscles – through meaningful leadership roles that help create experiences that are totally girl-driven.
In Guiding, we know first-hand all of the ways girls can contribute to creating amazing experiences for other girls. Bonus – there’s a ton of research to back up the power of youth and adult collaboration and what teens can bring to the table.
We spoke with a girl member and adult volunteer from the LEAP camp planning team to learn how girls and women worked together to create a memorable camp experience.
LEAP looked like a lot of fun – what’s something you were involved in planning that you saw come to life at camp that you’re really proud of?
Mira: Most people probably wouldn’t think it was that exciting, but one of the proudest moments during LEAP was the first meal. Seeing the dining marquee full to the brim with smiling and laughing campers made all the logistics and planning really worth it!
Katelyn: Going into LEAP we wanted to ensure that every possible aspect of camp was girl focused. I think that the aspect of camp that I am most proud of is the programming we had at LEAP. When we first began planning for LEAP the other members of the Youth Forum and I put together a dream/wish list of what we thought would be really amazing program ideas. From there the program team continued to work with us every step of the way to ensure that the programming remained girl driven and it was absolutely amazing to see it all come to life.
The planning committee had both girls and adults on it – how did that make for a better camp experience for girls?
Mira: The Youth Forum members on the Hub definitely helped make LEAP more girl driven and tailored to girls’ interests since a lot of ideas and initiatives at camp came from their peers.
Katelyn: I can say with confidence that LEAP 2019 was a girl-driven and girl-focused camp. Our HUB team was made up of seven adult members and two girl members, and worked closely with the Ontario and Nunavut Youth Forum, thus ensuring that girls were at the center of it all. We strived to ensure that each girl’s camp experience would not only be fun but it would be empowering, challenge girls to step outside of their comfort zone, try something new and would make for an amazing memories to come home with. As girl members we have a unique expertise and offered a new perspective which I believe is what made LEAP so incredibly exceptional for girls.
What do you think are the keys to making youth-adult shared leadership work?
Mira: I think it is crucial to treat the youth on the team the same as the adults: ensure they have equal opportunity to contribute as well as equal accountability. Paired with understanding that they may not have the experience and self-assuredness as the adult members and encouragement when that is the case, this demonstrates that you take the youth seriously and allows for more learning and development for both youth and adults.
Katelyn: Respect is the most important thing to have when working on a team, and can make a youth-adult shared leadership team an amazing experience. Although there are many different aspects that can ensure that a youth-adult team work, my top five:
- Mutual understanding and respect.
- Keeping an open mind.
- Being willing to lend a helping hand and take initiative.
Why do you think it’s important to have girls in leadership roles in Guiding?
Mira: In cases of event planning, having girls on the team does provide guidance on what programming and structure will be best suited to the girls. On a broader scale however, there are so many benefits to having girls in leadership. Perhaps one of the most important, is that it encourages older girls and young women to stay involved in Guiding. They are given opportunities to directly affect the way Guiding is done, build connections with the strong role models they work with, and are exposed firsthand to the sorts of roles they can play as an adult member.
Katelyn: I think that it is exceptionally important for girl members to have leadership roles within Guiding. Involving girl members in not only in the planning of events like LEAP but involving them in more general leadership roles within Guiding helps to ensure that Guiding remains girl-driven, presents girls with new opportunities to grow, can help to act as a girl retention tool and keep Guiding relevant. (Especially since no one knows more about what girls want out of Guiding than the girl members themselves!)
Would you do it again/suggest others do the same?
Mira: I would definitely do it again and certainly recommend that more teams draw on girl perspectives and give opportunities to youth both in Guiding and beyond.
Katelyn: 100%, absolutely, a thousand times over yes! I can honestly say that LEAP was one of the most amazing, incredible, words can not even describe it type of experiences. LEAP challenged me in the best ways imaginable, teaching me to be adaptable, more of a problem solver, and how to react in high pressure situations.
Katelyn was the Youth Forum Lead on Ontario and Nunavut’s Council LEAP 2019. She volunteers with a Guide unit and recently earned her Gold Trailblazer Award.
Mira is Link member and is studying Math and Philosophy at the University of Toronto.
Girls! Want to find out how you can get involved in leadership roles at Girl Guides? Check out www.girlguides.ca/GirlsLead for ways to take your role in Guiding to the next level. Go to the Build Skills section and also check out the Girls Lead hub on the Program platform.
Adult volunteers! Looking to recruit girls for your team or committee? Need some support in making your committee a space to share leadership among girls and adults? Check out this Girl Engagement training on Member Zone and reach out to the Girl Engagement team at firstname.lastname@example.org for support. We can deliver remote session to your teams to help you in your journey toward shared leadership with youth.