Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What Makes a Take Action Project Sustainable?

For me, one of the toughest parts of the Girl Scout Gold Award…second to coming up with a project idea…is sustainability. The word “sustainability” is something you often hear in connection to Girl Scout Take Action Projects. What exactly does this mean?

In terms of a Girl Scout Take Action Project, SUSTAINABILITY means that the project MEETS THE NEEDS of the people and/or the environment NOW, while having a plan AND the potential to CONTINUE indefinitely IN THE FUTURE. Sustainability allows for a greater, longer impact on the community.

There is a difference between a sustainable project and one that is community service.

  • Collections, drives, donations, visitations (no matter how many times done) are a onetime fix and considered community service.
  • Beautification and renovation projects without an educational component are considered community service.

What adds sustainability to a project is addressing the root cause of an issue and making a plan that addresses the issue and seeks a long-term solution. That plan should continue beyond the Girl Scout's Gold Award involvement. Examples of ways a project can be made sustainable are:
  • Planning for a project to continue on its own or through the efforts of others (known as a grass roots project).  Examples: School clubs, Library partnerships.  You may also want to partner with other community organizations for help with resources, knowledge and a means for project continuation. Remember, your goal should be to partner with a group that will carry on your project long after your involvement. 
  • Educating others whereby the gained knowledge has an impact. The knowledge can continue to be spread by paper, word of mouth, web, etc. The knowledge leads to a continued impact in the environment and/or community by actions of people. This type of sustainable project needs to have a way to measure results and should reach a large number of people.  Example: Pre and Post surveys. Some ways to reach a large audience may be through letters to the editor, feature stories in local media and social media campaigns.
  • Sustainability through Advocacy.  Aim to create a systemic change to current policies, practices or laws.  These changes may result from widespread community education, partnerships with community leaders or elected officials who have the authority to implement change.  Example:  Partnering with school officials to change a policy involving the school practices, curriculum or treatment of students.

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