Investing In Transformation: When Girls Are Supported, Our Communities Benefit

December 15, 2021

When girls are offered the tools, support, and relationships they need to succeed, a positive ripple effect occurs in our communities. The advocacy work that we do at Pace Center for Girls (Pace) does not happen in a vacuum – it is done with the goal of improving the communities that surround us.

Collaboration and research are needed to effectively implement solutions that better the lives of girls. These initiatives are exemplified through Pace’s community collaboratives, such as the Girls’ Coordinating Council (GCC), a committee that works with Pace centers to complement its mission to support girls. The GCC encourages collaboration within the community and its systems of care to align initiatives, endorse best practices for working with girls, and provides opportunities for girls to succeed. Pace currently leads GCCs in four local communities in Florida and Georgia and is moving into a fifth community in South Carolina.

Through our work with the GCCs, we are striving to discern the “why” behind the situations our girls find themselves in and improve the environment for all. The goal is to showcase how to work specifically with girls so that we all – funders, educators, organizations, and the greater community – have a global understanding of what success looks like for girls.

Investing in Transformation
At Pace, we are uniquely positioned to transform lives and communities through our personalized and holistic approach, and sustained engagement from donors plays a key role in this transformation. When donors contribute to this work, they become key stakeholders in the process of bettering systems of care for our girls. Hearing from the girls directly is what gets to the core of the problem and solutions.

We benefit from relationships with funders who are invested in being a part of systemic change, and who understand the importance of our participatory research process to improve the well-being of girls not only at Pace, but within the greater community. Funding, such as a recent grant from 4GirlsFoundation, was awarded in 2020 to support research and evaluation efforts for the GCC in Palm Beach County, Fla.

It’s important for donors to understand the significance of investing in the in-depth, strategic, and inclusive research process, not just what comes out as a result. While each community’s needs are different, the key recommendations stay the same: Understand the full development of each girl, ensure that we are addressing all her needs, use data and results to hold ourselves accountable, and look for ways to conduct participatory research and collaborate to achieve positive change.

Girls play an integral role in the GCC, raising awareness of the specific issues affecting their communities, while developing leadership and problem-solving skills. In Palm Beach County, this takes shape through the Girls Voice Taskforce, a subcommittee of the GCC of Palm Beach. The group meets monthly and holds workshops on different topics, such as leadership development. At Pace Palm Beach, we have been conducting research on systems of care and the relationship strength within behavioral health and the juvenile justice system. The Girls Voice Taskforce will play an integral role as we present our findings and elicit their feedback. This process makes clear that when women and girls are adequately supported, they can contribute to the success of their families and communities.

Our work has positively impacted the lives of more than 40,000 girls and over the past decade has contributed to a more than 60% decrease in the number of girls that are directed to Florida’s juvenile justice system. Our partners have seen the value in our approach to research and implementation, and their support allows us to take experiences and knowledge to the greater community and advocate for solutions. With the support of like-minded individuals and organizations, we can expand into more communities and create better outcomes for girls and women across the country.