Last week I attended a site visit with one of our funders, a foundation that makes improving health and health systems their priority. It’s not unusual for Girls in the Game to fit in the health priority of a funding source. With so many non-profits doing great work, foundations have had to be clear about their focus and priorities and sometimes it’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle figuring out where we may match up. Sometimes it’s Health. Sometimes it’s Youth Services. Sometimes it’s Social Welfare. And many times it’s something else.
It’s a good problem to have. Girls in the Game’s programs do so much that we usually don’t fit neatly into one category. Sure, we address health needs. But we do much more than that.
But at this particular meeting, the Foundation representative was interested in us from a health perspective, wanting to be sure that we aligned with the Foundation’s mission and goals. As she examined our evaluation results, she remarked that there weren’t always significant improvements in some of the markers.
For example, the amount of hours participants reported that they spent watching tv didn’t decrease from the beginning to the end of the school year. Which isn’t that surprising. We do good work but we aren’t magicians and getting kids to watch less tv is a really hard thing to do.
There are also other factors at work. For some of the girls we work with, it’s not safe for them to play outside and with the exception of Girls in the Game, they don’t have other opportunities for after school programs.
The fact is, it’s hard to make lasting changes. Especially when looking at something in isolation, which is often inevitable when it comes to evaluating a program.
The meeting with the funder went well. We have plenty of other evidence demonstrating the healthy impact of our programs and we had a good discussion about our future evaluation metrics and the impact of our work.
But the conversation stuck with me when we left. Girls in the Game can’t judge our success by just one factor. What makes us unique, what make us Girls in the Game, is that we serve the whole girl. We do more than just teach girls how to eat healthy and exercise. We help them develop confidence. We teach them about healthy relationships and body image. We help them learn teamwork skills and conflict resolution. All of those things matter and combined, they show our girls how great they are, and how great they can be.
After our meeting, the funder was satisfied that Girls in the Game improves the health of the girls we work with. But after thinking about it, I’m satisfied that we do so much more.