Like most organizations, we were deeply impacted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our programs operate predominantly in schools, and in 2021, we ended the year having served under 3,000 girls, when in a “normal” year we would have served just under 10,000. However, we are not interested in returning to business as usual, and are using this retraction in organizational size as an opportunity to focus on equity as we build back.
Rather than maintain the traditional program population split of 50% girls living in low-income situations and 50% girls living in middle- to high-income households, our 2022-2027 Strategic Plan is focused on increasing our service to girls living in under-resourced communities by 5%-10% each year for the next 5 years.
This plan is about more than just the number of girls served. It will also ensure equitable program quality and build our programs with girls living in under-resourced communities at the center.
Historically, Girls on the Run-Chicago has taken a one-size-fits-all approach to programming. If you were a team on Chicago’s South Side or a school in Winnetka, you received the same program and resources, and as you might imagine, those teams have very different needs. Our commitment moving forward is to build our program and processes with girls from under-resourced communities at the center because we know that if our program is fully accessible to an under-resourced community, it will also be accessible to a community with more resources, while the reverse is not true.
What Does This Look Like In Practice?
2022 was the first year of this strategic plan and it will wrap at the end of 2027.
In the first year (2022), we have:
- Hired 3 new staff members to reduce the number of schools each staff member serves, allowing us to provide higher quality support.
- Reinstituted paper girl registration forms to make the registration process more accessible.
- Waived program fees for schools that serve school populations where at least 50% of students received free or reduced school lunch.
- Strategically recruited staff and board members to be reflective of the communities we serve.
- Began building more intentional relationships with community leaders in key communities to identify where we can complement existing supports.
In 2023, we will focus on:
- Gathering input from coaches and sites on what barriers exist to recruiting and retaining coaches who match the lived experience of girls.
- Gathering input from coaches and families on barriers that prevent girls from registering for the program.
- Piloting providing coach stipends to a limited group of schools.
- Piloting providing shoes and sports bras to girls at a limited group of schools.
- Continuing to expand community partnerships to offer better-supported community-centric 5K options.
- Building a community task force to help inform our decision-making.
- Quarterly training for staff on equitable and inclusive program management practices, community building, and volunteer management.
- Auditing our vendors to move our organizational purchasing power to BIPOC- and women-led organizations.
How Can You Get Involved?
We know that this work cannot be done in isolation and we also know that we don’t have all of the answers. We want community voices and perspectives at the table.
- Do you have ideas about how we can make our program more accessible and inclusive to girls? We would love to hear them! Fill out this form.
- Are you a BIPOC adult in the Chicagoland area with availability to volunteer on weekdays between 3PM and 5PM and are interested in coaching a team of girls through our program? We would welcome the opportunity to have you join our coach community! You can fill out our coach application here.
- Are you interested in joining our Governing Board or Associate Board? Reach out to our Director of Development and Communications Mollie Anderson at manderson@gotrchicago.
- Do none of the above apply to you, but you are interested in supporting equity-based youth development for girls in the Chicagoland community? This work is only possible by pairing philanthropic support with volunteer time, so we encourage you to make an outright or monthly donation here.
- Stay up-to-date on all things GOTRC by following us on social media and subscribing to our newsletter!