- Women & Gender
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The Ambassadors Conference began in 2016 in response to a need for further training and support for GLOW (Girls Leading our World) camp participants to take the skills and knowledge they had learned at GLOW camp back to their communities. Ambassadors came about after reviewing feedback from previous GLOW campers. GLOW recognized that while many past camp participants had the desire and motivation to make further, lasting change in their communities, they lacked the knowledge and support to do so. The participants of Ambassadors conference are previous attendees of the GLOW summer camp who have shown a strong motivation and dedication to implement projects within their communities to help address local and national problems. They are brought together to expand on the knowledge they gained at camp and to learn the professional skills needed to not only successfully implement projects in their communities, but also to go on to become successful leaders in the educational and professional fields. Ambassadors Conference offers professional skills trainings, in addition to connecting Ambassadors participants with previous Ambassadors participants and other local leaders, and small grant opportunities. The conference also includes a resource fair, opportunities for connections with local university representatives, and a trip to a local university. The conference not only helps girls become Ambassadors between their communities and the larger outside world by helping them assess their communities’ needs and make and implement plans for big and lasting change, but it also helps prepare the girls to succeed in their future education and careers.
The community is the driving force behind the conference in two key ways. Not only is the GLOW NGO board involved in every step of planning the conference, from writing the grant to planning the programming and running the conference, but host country nationals and members of the community are the driving force behind running the conference itself. GLOW recruits Georgian counselors and guest speakers to run the sessions, and Peace Corps volunteers' only real involvement is to keep things running on time and to be there in case of an emergency. The conference will consist of 3 Georgian counselors, one member of the GLOW NGO board and 2 Peace Corps Volunteers as leaders. Though 5 Peace Corps Volunteers are listed as collaborators, only 2 will attend and help lead the conference. The other 3 are involved in the planning of the conference, but will not need to actually attend. Additionally, the participants come to us with ideas about the projects they want to implement and create, and are responsible for actually doing the projects they are interested in. GLOW offers support, but takes more of a backup role to the host country nationals' roles of planning, organizing and implementing their projects.
The GLOW Ambassadors Conference keeps camp alumni engaged in GLOW programs after camp, doing projects in their communities and spreading the word about the organization. Many Ambassadors alumni go on to become junior counselors, and then counselors and interns later. This helps develop their skills, as they learn more about how to manage projects, teach others, and as interns to manage and run programs for a small NGO. It also provides the NGO with a group of talented and experienced girls dedicated to GLOW to pull from when we need help with other projects. Every year, past Ambassadors come back to the conference to pass on their knowledge and experiences to the new group. GLOW’s vision is for girls to become informed and empowered leaders in their communities, realizing equal opportunities to succeed and to work together with all people in Georgia to solve nationwide problems, and the Ambassadors Conference directly addresses all aspects of that vision. The grant writing and professional skills they learn at the conference, as well as the networks they create and connections they make will allow the girls to access better opportunities. Ambassadors Conference is an important step for taking summer camp attendees and turning them into a body of civically minded and active community members and volunteers. Long-term involvement in GLOW projects also looks impressive on resumes and applications, and has helped former GLOW participants gain entry to prestigious colleges, programs, and internships. In time, GLOW hopes that former GLOW Ambassadors and interns will join GLOW as NGO staff members, using their experience and passion to ensure the longevity of the project.
In 2014, GLOW Georgia was established as an NGO to become a more sustainable and locally led initiative. In fall 2017, GLOW restructured its positions and functional areas to ensure increased capacity and sustainability of the NGO. With the establishment of an Organizational Capacity and Sustainability team, GLOW is now monitoring its operations on a regular basis with monitoring and evaluation initiatives and annual organizational capacity assessments. Through this restructure, GLOW Georgia has added more Georgian interns to continue to build the capacity of host country nationals and the outreach of programming within the Georgian community. While our goal to become sustainable is one of GLOW's top priorities, lack of funding has caused GLOW to require an LGL for the past 3 years to fund this conference. As this directly goes against our desire to become as sustainable as possible, GLOW's finance committee has taken direct action this year to become as sustainable as possible. The committee is creating a data base of previous non-Peace Corps donors to reach out to in the future. We will continue to build this database to raise money outside of grants. We are also creating a data base of previous grants we have applied to and if we were accepted or rejected by the grants, and if so for what reasons. GLOW recognizes that independent finances are one of the best ways to build true sustainability and that is why there is a very strong push this year to build that sustainability. This push has already paid off, as we have successfully applied for a grant that will fund Ambassadors 2020. This will give us an additional year to find external funding for Ambassadors 2021, and hopefully pull away from Peace Corps grants completely.