Copyright 2005
Girl's Best Friend Foundation

Girl's Best Friend Foundation (GBF) closed November 2007. 
GBF’s records are archived with Special Collections of the University
of Illinois, Chicago.  In fall 2008, they will be made public:

Foster Peer Learning

Learning Circles

NEW! A new report illustrates the ways in which Learning Circles are a potent approach to professional and organizational development.

Opportunity! Are you a leader in an organization funded by GBF? Does a Learning Circle sounds like something you’d like to join?  Let us know.  GBF organizes three learning circles a year; participation is by invitation only. There will be one more circle forming before GBF closes.

Nonprofit leaders are hungry for ways to learn with and from others, to focus on real workplace dilemmas, and to make their organizations more sustainable. Executive directors and program leaders who’ve participated praise Learning Circles as exceptionally valuable.

A Learning Circle is a small, focused, professionally facilitated, confidential, peer group that meets for 7 months, to help participants solve work-related organizational, management, and conceptual problems.

The pressing need for resources such as this is underlined in a new national study of nonprofit leadership, Daring to Lead 2006. It found:

  • Executives plan to leave their jobs – but not the nonprofit sector – within 5 years.
  • Boards of directors and funders contribute to executive burnout.
  • Executives believe they make significant financial sacrifices to lead nonprofits.
  • Concerned with organizational sustainability, executives seek new skills and strategies.
  • Bench strength, diversity, and competitive compensation are critical factors in finding future leaders.

Why GBF Helped Found the Chicago Girls' Coalition

The Chicago Girls' Coalition (CGC) fills a significant gap identified by local girls programs: a gender-specific organization that is a hub for the development of expanded resources and strengthened support for girl-serving organizations, girls, and others.

Coalitions provide powerful platforms for collective learning and action.  They help overcome isolation and reinvention of the wheel.

With the Chicago Foundation for Women and a dozen community-based organizations, GBF pitched in to create CGC in 2002. GBF staff have been hands on members of the Steering Committee and Board.

GBF is also a CGC funder, because we know that it is a great resource for girls programs with little capacity to provide continuing training or networking.  GBF and CGC's values are not identical, but they are complimentary.

Today, CGC is a growing membership organization (50+ members), has created a directory of local girls programs, hosts training and discussions, and a listserv that offers innumerable opportunities to girls programs.

GBF and CGC coordinate networking and professional development events, and co-sponsor training. We see GBF's convening and professional development roles diminishing, as CGC grows. We believe CGC will go a long way toward mitigating the impact of GBF's closing at the end of 2007.

Why GBF is helping create the Chicago Freedom School

GBF hosted a 2004 dinner conversation to ask youth group advocates and activists a question: What could be created to ignite youth activism in Chicago?  The most exciting idea was a summer freedom school, with a gender lens, for youth to learn the tools for creating social change.

Since then, a promising feasibility study has been completed, and development of the Chicago Freedom School begun.

A group of youth and adults is investing considerable time and effort to work toward a pilot of the Freedom School in the summer of 2007.  We are indebted to two women who have led all work to date on this project: Mariame Kaba with the Young Women's Action Team and Jobi Peterson of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health.

GBF has shifted from early partner to a funding role. We've underwritten early creative work, and we intend to be among the new Freedom School's supporters. We consider it a significant part of what GBF will leave behind that will engage, embolden, and unite many girls, young women, and youth committed to social justice.

Watch here for periodic updates on the Chicago Freedom School's development.

The Leadership & Innovation Group is a new resource from GBF. The group, comprised mostly of executive directors, meets every other month in 2006.

To see some of what they’re reading, go to:

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