Since day one, Hardy Girls programming, resources and services have been powered by the latest research in girls’ development and education. As co-creator and Colby College Education Professor, Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown brings her expertise and research on girls’ development to HGHW.
Dr. Brown’s approach to working with girls, honed at the Harvard Graduate School of Education with Carol Gilligan and the Harvard Project on Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development, impacts all aspects of Hardy Girls’ programming, materials, and trainings. As a member of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Adolescent Girls, she and her colleagues reviewed and critiqued the resilience literature for it’s over-emphasis on the individual and lack of attention to children’s relationships and environments. The resulting article, Cultivating Hardiness Zones for Adolescent Girls, has become a guidepost for our relational approach to working with girls and our emphasis on building healthy communities and environments for girls.
Dr. Brown often teamed up with former board member and Research & Evaluation Consultant, Dr. Mary Madden. Together they have developed our program evaluation tools, our training sessions, and our curriculum, From Adversaries to Allies: A Curriculum for Change. Dr. Brown also collaborates with and seeks advice from a range of other highly respected psychologists and researchers, including Dr. Sharon Lamb, Dr. Niobe Way, and HGHW National Advisory Board Members Dr. Deborah Tolman, Dr. Janie Ward, and Dr. Jessica Henderson Daniel.
Although many, if not most, national programs designed to support girls in the past 15 years have focused on self-esteem and other internal, psychological issues, HGHW is one of the few programs that addresses girls’ lives in relational and social contexts. We believe that it is not the girls, but rather the culture in which they live that is in need of repair. The developmental psychology concept of “hardiness” shifts attention from the individual to their environment-families, schools, and community organizations- as the key agents of change in girls’ lives.
Our goal is to connect girls to these environments, while transforming their surroundings into safer havens. By providing parents, teachers, and community members with skills and resources, we first raise awareness about their capacity to serve as agents of change, and then enlist their action.
We see girls not as the sum of any particular pathology (self-cutting, disordered eating, drug use) or struggle (body image, self-esteem, early sexual activity), but as whole beings living within and affected by a variety of social systems. With increased control in their lives, greater challenge from adults, and closer commitment to their communities, girls will and do thrive. We are connecting with the field of positive youth development that envisions individuals as potential change agents within their schools and communities.
Overall, the purpose of our work is to create a more equitable culture that meets the different needs of girls and boys. We do so by engaging and educating our communities and by empowering youth with new opportunities for control, commitment, and challenge in their lives. To that end, we encourage all youth to continue the ultimate struggle to create healthier societies in a world in which we all are valued for who we are and what we contribute.