On October 24th, 2014, Jenna and Katie spent the day in San Francisco coaching design and maker workshops for elementary school students. While driving back to Stanford campus later that night, they could not have felt more physically exhausted but intellectually awake and inspired. It was on this drive home, ironically enough, where they began to craft a dream together for this summer that involved a much longer drive of its own.

What is Girls Driving for a Difference?

GDD Logo Designs_LogoGirls Driving for a Difference is a team of Stanford students using design thinking to empower middle-school girls across the United States to become leaders of social change, both within their local communities and beyond.

This Summer of 2015, the team will be driving in an RV across America, visiting all-women’s communities (specifically leadership and summer camps for middle school girls), and coaching design thinking and leadership workshops. 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 own dreams for someday changing the world.

What inspired you to do this?

Girls Driving for a Difference was founded just a few months ago, in October of 2014, by Jenna Leonardo (Class of 2015, studying Science, Technology, and Society) and Katie Kirsch (Class of 2016, studying Product Design Engineering).

They first met through Design for America at Stanford. The more opportunities Katie and Jenna found together for collaboration and conversation, the clearer their shared passions in design, young women’s empowerment, and education became.

What about the problem inspires us:

Jenna: “Design thinking- especially for social change- has been the most empowering skill and community I’ve been fortunate enough to find in college. I want to bring that same magic to girls at a really crucial time in their lives – a time when confidence, identity, and the future are such big questions, and suddenly the reality of being female carries a lot of pressure and uncertainty.

Katie: “When I was a kid, I felt like I was constantly being asked the same question: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Looking back, that question had the ‘right’ answer already embedded into it. People expected me to hear the predetermined job and career that I wanted to pursue later in life. Now, I wonder what would happen if instead of asking kids what they wanted to be when they grew up, we asked them, ‘What change do you want to create in the world  when you grow up, and what are a few steps you can take now to achieve that dream?’”

What will your summer look like?

The summer roadtrip will kick off on June 19, when Girls Driving for a Difference will begin a 10-week journey across the country. The team of four designers and one filmmaker will visit ~50 girls’ communities, from summer camps to libraries to scouting troops and schools. In each location, they’ll tailor their design thinking and purpose-learning workshop to a new group of young women, and tap into the existing social relationships to foster a supportive culture beyond the brief visit.

Katie and Jenna expect the summer to be full of surprises, energy, and stories as they navigate challenges, sleep in a motorhome, and get to know the amazing people who become a part of their journey.


How can the DFA community support you?

One of the easiest ways for the DFA community to support the GDD team would be to spread the word about their mission and cause, such as by sharing their Facebook page, website, and later on, their Kickstarter! Anyone interested in learning more about the project should also feel free to contact Jenna and Katie at jennaleo@stanford.edu and kkirsch@stanford.edu at any time 🙂

To learn more or get involved check out their Facebook & website.