Ceremonies, Traditions, & Awards, Girls

7 Essentials of a Gold Award Project

Are you starting to consider ideas for your Gold Award project? Do you need a little guidance on what we really mean when the Gold Award Guidelines state that you are on your honor to uphold the Standards of Excellence? Let’s break down some of the essential components of a Gold Award (or any Take Action Project) to consider as you start to plan your project.

1. There is a connection to a national or global issue.

As you are using your values and skills to choose which issue in your community to address, start by considering large issues that you hear about. To name a few: low literacy rates, homelessness, depression among adolescents, childhood obesity, or environmental concerns like poor air quality. Need some more? Check out our Highest Awards: Examples of Community Needs For Your Take Action Project post.

Does that large issue have effects in your local community? Are other communities around you doing anything to make an impact on the issue? As you learn about the different issues that your communities faces, you should be asking questions like, “if this is an issue in my community, is it also an issue in other communities? Why or why not?”

An example would be if you noticed that many of your friends struggled with depression or negative thoughts. You would first try and find out if this was something that just you and your friends experienced, or if this was an issue on a larger scale. You could do this by talking with local experts (like your guidance counselor, a local youth worker, or a mental health professional), but should also widen your investigative research with a Google Search about depression in youth.

Or maybe you were at a parks program where there are bees flying around. You go to swat one and the naturalist stops you, mentioning how important bees are to our food supply and how the population is already dwindling. Intrigued, you ask the naturalist more questions about the benefits of bees, and when you get home you do some research into what a world without bees would really be like. Then you investigate how others are making positive impacts on the pollinator population.

Like the examples above, you will usually find that something that is an issue in one community is also impacting other communities when you investigate. Making this connection allows you to really consider what factors are contributing to this issue locally, nationally, and even globally. Researching also gives you the opportunity to learn what other communities have done to impact this issue (which is helpful when making your project plan!).

2. There is a clear description of how the project impacts the root cause of the issue.

After you’ve chosen your broad issue for your project, you need to narrow your focus to clearly show how your project plan will make an impact on the root cause of the issue you identified. What do we mean by root cause? It’s where you look at the effect and trace it back to a specific cause with some research to verify your claim.

So in our examples above, you might look at the effect (depression among area youth or declining pollinator populations) and research the causes (there’s usually more than one), then build your project plan around what your research tells you is an effective way to impact that issue. For both of examples, there will be multiple factors that impact the issue and multiple ways you could make an impact. You will need to be clear in your project description about what you plan to do and how that will make a difference. A best practice is to ask someone who is not familiar with your project to read your proposal and see if they can tell you:

  • What is the project plan?
  • How will the project plan impact the issue?
  • What results are you aiming for?

If someone who is unfamiliar with the project reviews your proposal and cannot answer those questions, the members of the Gold Award Committee are also unlikely to be able to answer them, so be clear and detailed in your description!

3. The project team goes beyond current circle of family, friends, and acquaintances.

The Gold Award is a leadership award, and an important part of leadership is learning to value the skills and strengths of others as you build a team who will support your project and join you in taking action. And while your family, friends, and fellow Girl Scouts can be an awesome support as members of your project team, we expect that you stretch outside your comfort zone! How? By going beyond those you already know and widening your network to seek out people with special skills, talents, or a heart for helping others to make your project a true community project. We frequently say that a service project is done for the community while a Gold Award project is done with the community. So find ways to involve the community!

What do we mean by that? First, start with a project adviser who is knowledgeable about the issue you want to address. They’ll help you make sure the project truly impacts the issue identified and can also be a great resource for what has been tried in the past or what other community groups are also addressing this issue in unique ways.

Once you have your adviser, you can start building a team. Consider what community groups might want to be involved. Are there groups or clubs at your school that you can reach out to for help? Is there a community festival or town hall meeting where you could share your project plan and ask for support (ways to volunteer, materials needed, etc.). Will the local news organization or faith communities allow you to share information about your project and the ways to get involved in the paper or bulletins? There are many ways to make an impact, but networking in the community to put together a skilled and diverse team is a great way to show your leadership skills in action!

4. The project plan includes education of the community.

Whether your project will focus on developing resources for teens to cope with depression or creating a community pollinator garden program, educating the community on the importance of your issue is a key feature of the Gold Award. When you choose to invest much of your time into addressing an issue that is important to you, we want to see you share all that knowledge you gain and the relevance of the topic with your community. For example, if you do choose to build your project about mental health among adolescents, you could share brochures you create with your local library or with the school board for your district. If you choose to create a community pollinator garden program, you can host ‘how-to’ educational days at local elementary schools to teach young students about how they can try this at home.

Think about “education” as another form of sustainability—new information and awareness can make a long-lasting impression on community members. Consider different strategies that you can use to spread the word about your project—from hosting a booth at a community event, to sharing your project at the school assembly, no effort is too small!

5. A means of measuring the impact or the effectiveness of the project has been identified.

When you set out to create your project plan, be sure to consider how you will measure the impact you hope to make.

Some questions to factor into your planning could be:

  • How many people are you trying to impact or serve? Were you successful with your target audience? Why or why not?
  • Can you implement pre- & post-surveys or evaluations to measure your impact and collect feedback? How can you use the feedback to grow your plan?
  • Will specific community behaviors change because of your project plan? (i.e. huge increase in bee activity at local parks because of a pollinator planting program)

6. A sustainable impact on the issue is made.

Sustainability is the largest feature that elevates a Take Action Project from a community service project. A Take Action Project moves beyond community service by offering a long-term solution rather than a short-term fix. It understands and addresses the roots of a problem, and the solution comes from our hearts and our heads.

Three Ways to Create Sustainable Change

  • Make your solution permanent
  • Educate and inspire others to be a part of the change
  • Change a rule, regulation, or law

Here are a few examples of community service projects and Take Action Projects so you can see the difference:

Examples of Community Service Projects Examples of Take-Actions Projects
You spend three hours cleaning-up litter at the park. After noticing litter in the park, you get in touch with the park board to brainstorm long-term solutions. Building a team, you develop and implement a park pride program that engages the community in creating clean, safe, public spaces.
You host a book drive and donate them to a local shelter. After volunteering time at the local shelter, you observe that many of the children are illiterate. In partnership with the shelter, you design a literacy program for the children at the shelter, and coordinates with the local high school Spanish club to recruit tutors.
You plants flowers at the local nursing home to brighten up their yard. You partner with the local nursing home to start a public, community garden at the center. The volunteer program at the nursing home takes over the maintenance of the garden, and incorporates educational garden care into their extracurricular activities with the residents.

7. You can articulate how you are showing leadership throughout the project.

When describing your project plan, consider how you will be growing your leadership skills as you Take Action. Leadership can mean a lot of different things, and we want to see how you highlight some of these characteristics through your project plan.

Not sure what to highlight? Consider the below characteristics of a leader that are shared in our Gold Award workshop.

A leader is someone who:

  • Directs their plan and engages others
  • Facilitates
  • Explores
  • Researches (leaning on professional experts)
  • Networks
  • Solves problems without passively waiting for directions
  • Implements plans and ideas
  • Provides the guidance needed to carry out a project

Now that you’ve read our 7 essential components of a Gold Award Project you’re ready to Take Action and start planning your own project. It’s time to go for Gold!

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