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The Ripple Academy: A partnership of Women's Earth Alliance and United Religions Initiative

Global training program equipping grassroots women with resources to forge high-impact solutions in peace and environmental protection.

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Explain your project idea in two sentences.

Ripple Academy is a year-long training and mentorship intensive. RA accelerates grassroots women’s leadership to create scalable solutions to global challenges in environmental protection and peace.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

WEA equips women to protect our Earth. URI cultivates peace through a global interfaith network.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

WEA and URI launched Ripple Academy in March 2017. A new joint partnership, Ripple Academy leverages over 28 years of collective organizational best practices, combining WEA’s global grassroots training and leadership model with URI’s Cooperation Circles (CCs) and peace and justice bridge-building.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

While governments drag their feet and environmental destruction and conflict deepens, grassroots women are severely impacted. Despite being highly effective at activating and spreading enduring solutions, women are often isolated from networks of support and critical resources they need to lead.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Year 1: Launch first cohort of 30 leaders from MENA/Great Lakes Africa with parallel U.S. cohort. Run curriculum with regional convenings and accompanying educational platform. Year 2: Scale to 50 leaders. Broaden geographical scope and coordinate sub-regional groups and global convening. Refine program with Year 1 feedback. Integrate alumni into mentorship. Year 3+: Annual cohorts of 75+ leaders. Conduct impact evaluation and integrate ongoing learning. Expand institutional partners.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

WEA brings a global network of grassroots leaders and a model of training and environmental solution-building refined over 11 years. URI brings conflict resolution and peacebuilding toolkits and a network of 600 "CC"s in 101 countries. Both organizations devote staff, funds, and stakeholders.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Program/Product/Service Design

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Iterate or improve on my product/service

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

Ripple Academy will measure impact of graduates’ grassroots projects using quantitative and qualitative: 1) indicators for improved economic prosperity, environmental protection, human health, women’s empowerment, and cooperation and peace across religions, races, and creeds, collected locally and aggregated globally; and 2) local indicators defined by leaders and communities themselves, like increased income, decreased violence, trees planted, and women trained.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

Through the user experience mapping and beneficiary feedback process, we identified potential bottlenecks in our plan to reach leaders most ideally suited to participate. We also strengthened our leader nomination and selection process by mapping the experience of each user type. Finally, we further identified the need to integrate a U.S. component that connects peers across borders.

(Optional) What are some of your still unanswered questions or concerns about this idea?

An outstanding question remains in how best to select Ripple Academy components such that the product is focused, while also serving a diverse audience of grassroots women leaders across different sectors and geographical areas. We aim to answer this question by mapping responses from user surveys that define the skills, tools, and community resources most needed by women leaders and aggregating responses across sectors and geographical areas.

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

Through the human-centered design approach, we drilled down to the individual user-level of the Ripple Academy and engaged a number of prospective stakeholders--including potential cohort participants from the Middle East, Africa, and U.S., academics, technology providers, funders, and institutional partners. During this inquiry and design process, we embraced "not knowing" and listened for the most urgent needs, the common patterns, and the new perspectives we hadn’t considered. During the user experience mapping process, we involved a lot of great thinkers! We were able to identify the core Ripple Academy offerings, refine our vision of success, and further explore our geographical focus and targeting criteria, all in collaboration with potential users. Through the expert feedback process, we realized that we hadn’t yet articulated in the proposal the central role that human-centered design has played and will continue to play in our trainings and program development. In the comments, we provided more explanation of our thinking about how we plan to incorporate this approach throughout the Ripple Academy.

summary 

Together, Women's Earth Alliance (WEA) and United Religions Initiative (URI) developed the concept of the Ripple Academy, a global training initiative that activates women’s grassroots leadership to heal deep societal challenges, build bridges of cooperation, and create scalable solutions for peace, prosperity, and environmental protection.

Ripple Academy participants will be trusted leaders identified through the URI and WEA networks who engage in a year-long training “deep-dive” with a cadre of peers from different regions and sectors. They will be equipped with a holistic set of practical skills in entrepreneurship, leadership, peacebuilding/conflict resolution, environmental solutions, and project development/management/scaling. Leaders will design their own community-driven action plans and receive seed funds to launch sustainable and high-impact environmental and peacebuilding initiatives. Their innovations will be customized to meet the urgent needs of their regions and informed by the context of global benchmarks, theories of change, and best practices so as to maximize their ripple effect.

It is internationally recognized that women’s empowerment is an essential precursor to economic growth, environmental protection, and peace, however this has not translated into investment of resources
-- be they financial, human, information, or physical. Deep structural inequities rob 51% of the global population of their full potential to profoundly shape our communities, our values, and our future on this planet. The Ripple Academy meets emerging grassroots women leaders where broken systems fall short -- centering their unique first-hand knowledge, catalyzing their ideas, bridging their efforts, and energizing their movements for inclusive, thriving communities.
 

PROSPERITY, PLANET. WEA equips women with the skills and tools they need to protect our earth and strengthen communities from the inside out. With local leadership guiding each project, WEA designs capacity-building trainings for women in environmentally threatened regions to access skills and tools in appropriate technology, entrepreneurship, and advocacy. Participants gain seed funding, mentorship, and a global alliance. With these resources in hand, leaders launch their own income-generating projects and train others to do the same. Today WEA graduates are winning political positions, building grassroots movements, expanding economic opportunities, protecting the environment, and introducing innovative solutions that transform their communities.

WEA brings a global network of grassroots leaders, 11 years of field-tested trainings, and best practices in scalable environmental programming. Since 2006, WEA has worked in 18 countries – training, funding, and catalyzing 5,000 women to advance clean water, clean energy, regenerative farming, women's land rights, and more. WEA graduates have equipped 750,000 more people with life-giving environmental solutions that directly improve living conditions, peace, health, local economies, and the environment.

PEACE. In 2016, WEA teamed up with URI, a global grassroots interfaith network that cultivates peace and justice by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and the world. Founded in 1993 by former Bishop of California, Rev. William Swing, URI has implemented local and global initiatives that build the capacity of more than 850 member groups in 101 countries, called Cooperation Circles, to engage in conflict resolution and reconciliation, environmental sustainability, education, women’s and youth programs, and advocacy for human rights.

In 2004, URI created The Interfaith Peacebuilding Guide, which brought together proven conflict transformation skills and methods with social change approaches to build strong communities and implement positive action for peace, justice, and healing. In 2008, URI developed the Moral Imagination Project, training leaders around the world in an “action/reflection” model of peacebuilding. URI's Traveling Peace Academy also trained peacebuilders to put skills into action around the world with remarkable impact in places including: Rwanda, Philippines, Northern Uganda, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka.


The Ripple Academy: peace, prosperity, planet

WEA and URI’s new global partnership, the Ripple Academy, combines each organization’s expertise in peacebuilding, women-led economic development, and environmental protection into a unified strategy. The Ripple Academy weaves WEA’s training, leadership, and ripple effect model with URI’s peace, justice, and conflict resolution work — ultimately leveraging over 28 years of collective organizational best practices and integrating our complimentary and global  grassroots networks of leaders in over 100 countries combined. Our program directly addresses the programmatic, leadership, network, and funding constraints that grassroots leaders face in making the transition from ideation to scalable projects with far-reaching impacts.  


How will it work?

Selection: The Ripple Academy’s rigorous selection process will identify grassroots women leaders within URI and WEA’s combined global networks. These leaders will have years of experience building community trust, knowledge, and credibility and track records of effective grassroots organizing and community-based solution generation. They will be masterful interfaith/intercultural bridge-builders, but seeking more skills and technical training in order to translate their communities' priorities into high-impact projects with strategies for sustainability, scalability, and ongoing improvement.

In its first year, the Ripple Academy pilot program will convene leaders in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the Great Lakes region of Sub-Saharan Africa. These regions represent areas where natural resource shortages cause significant religious and cultural tensions. They are also regions where WEA and URI have strong networks of diverse stakeholders and  women leaders who are actively engaging their communities around the shared values peace, prosperity, and a safe and healthy planet. Simultaneously, the Ripple Academy will develop and run a U.S.-based parallel leadership and skill-building training course that will also help fund the tuition of their overseas cohorts and offer meaningful cross-cultural collaboration and learning.

Year-long Training: Over the course of one year, cohorts of leaders from different regions will participate in a coordinated training curriculum that will include in-person intensives, peer engagement, community-based exercises and “homework,” and remote learning via a virtual educational platform. Within regions and sector interests, participants will work in peer groups to build skills in entrepreneurship, leadership, peacebuilding/conflict resolution, environmental solutions, storytelling, design thinking, project design and management, and monitoring and evaluation. They will develop action plans for launching high-impact environmental and peacebuilding initiatives with strategies for sustainability, scalability, learning, and iteration. Each action plan will be customized for its region yet strengthened by a global network and experience repository.

Projects launched by Ripple Academy leaders could range from women’s clean cookstove microenterprises in Kenya to community seed banks in Egypt, from sanitation media campaigns in India to water rights education in Jordon, Israel, and Palestine. Across regions, Ripple Academy participants will share strategies, build each other up, gain additional mentorship and visibility, and grow a powerbase for their work. An essential component of participants’ action plans will be that they create a ripple effect, meaning the projects have a strategy to “fund-forward” new knowledge and skills to others, multiplying their impact exponentially.

Here is an example of WEA's training model:

(The Ripple Academy is a scaled-up version of the above model that coordinates training for women across different regions.)

Initiative Launch: Once leaders graduate from the Ripple Academy, they will have the skills and tools to launch  their initiatives, implementing their own local, regional, and even national solutions for peace, prosperity, and the planet. Ripple Academy graduates will be awarded startup seed grants to launch their initiatives based on customized action plans they develop (with peer support) through their Ripple Academy year. Leaders will integrate income-generation strategies into their environmental and peacebuilding initiatives to support themselves and scale their work in the long-term. Ripple Academy learning materials will be available through the online platform, which graduates will access and contribute to on a continual basis.

Participants will be partnered with other leaders within their cohort, including members of the U.S. Ripple Academy, based on their sectors of focus, e.g. water and sanitation, regenerative agriculture, land/resource rights, clean energy, religious tensions, and refugee and host community conflict. The Ripple Academy will provide guidance to peer groups to carry out post-training peer support with each other following graduation. Peer groups will hold each other accountable for their individual project benchmarks, troubleshoot challenges as they arise in real time, share new opportunities, encourage and inspire each other, and even visit each other’s projects if and when possible. In addition to the peer support mechanism, the Ripple Academy will appoint each graduate a staff point person to support with more technical challenges that might arise during the first year of implementation, such as developing and managing budgets, forming legal partnerships, and implementing rigorous monitoring and evaluation systems.
 
Sustainability. The unique contribution of WEA and URI to the Ripple Academy is the weaving of our global grassroots networks that offer dynamic follow-up and accompaniment mechanisms to local leaders around the world. Leaders have ongoing access to: global assemblies; peace and conflict transformation trainings; revolving mentorship; communication with leaders and stakeholders across cultures and sectors; funding opportunities; international visibility; network-building; and global communities of mission-driven women who build each other’s capacity to achieve shared goals of peace, prosperity, and environmental protection. These benefits ensure that Ripple Academy graduates will have long-term support, both from WEA and URI, as well as from the extensive peer network that the Ripple Academy strategically builds among leaders, present and graduated.
 

what's the rollout plan?

Ripple Academy Design Phase and Pilot Year: In the Design Phase, URI and WEA will engage a global team to build the curriculum, faculty, and learning platform. The design team will be comprised of WEA and URI staff, advisors, and past and current participants who will prototype the training components in real-time, inform the overall design process, and shape the end product. The Pilot Phase will roll out the first year of training, beginning with an in-person gathering for first cohort. Throughout this pilot year, we will closely monitor, evaluate, and iterate the model and utilize these learnings to strengthen the program going forward. Each year, the Ripple Academy will grow the size of its cohorts, building to 75 or more leaders by the third year.
 
Human-centered design: WEA and URI both incorporate design thinking principles throughout our programming. WEA launched its work in 2006 with a collaborative design process whereby 30 women from 26 countries co-created the blueprint for the WEA model. From the beginning, a core belief at WEA is that solutions cannot be imposed. Communities have important knowledge and ideas that, when collaboratively supported with learning and resources, create solutions that work and change that persists.  

We will begin the Design Phase with a light-framed and flexible concept, given the rapid pace at which cultures, socio-political climates, environmental conditions, and economic systems change. Our diverse committee of leaders will develop a framework for the curriculum and prototype it in real-time. 

The curriculum itself will move participants through a human-centered design process, whereby participants will listen to community members, draw forth their vision, and design their initiatives around these discoveries as well as their own foundational knowledge. Throughout the Ripple Academy trainings, leaders will engage in community asset mapping, role-playing exercises, and joint brainstorming sessions. Trainees will workshop each other’s projects, allowing for rapid idea generation and iteration. Over the course of the year, participants will prototype their ideas, survey their communities, and return to their training cohort to further reflect, iterate, and eventually scale their solutions. 


Why this? why now? 

More than ever before, our future hinges on creative and nimble grassroots movements that protect our Earth and keep lives safe and strong. Women are at the heart of these movements. In the face of global warming, unstable governments, severe resource shortages, and destruction of vital ecosystems, women are simultaneously the most acutely impacted as well as the best positioned to understand and enact effective solutions. From these frontlines, women stand as key bridge-builders, protecting, nurturing and upholding our communities and our earth. As recognized by governments, research institutions, and thought leaders around the world, women’s empowerment creates the tipping point for peace, prosperity, and environmental protection.

Women and Peace: Women have a positive and significant impact on peace. Research reveals that encouraging women’s (especially local women’s) participation in peacebuilding efforts increases the probability of violence ending within a year by 24%. The UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said: “In the review of the 15 years of implementing [UN peace resolution 1325], one of the conclusions that was reached was that peace is safer, with more longevity, when women are involved in deciding the peace agreement, in accompanying it, and in participating in institutions of leadership.

 
Women and Prosperity:  Gender gaps around the world remain pervasive and persistent, even though the human rights case for gender equality is incontrovertible. Global studies prove that empowering women and promoting sustainable economic growth are mutually reinforcing. The 2017 World Economic Forum cited the need for transformational change on women’s economic empowerment as a central goal, which is also the overarching vision of the UN’s 2030 Agenda. Greater gender equality means a country is associated with better education and health, more intact environmental resources, higher per capita income, and faster and more inclusive economic growth. A recent report from a UN Secretary-General established panel identifies proven actions that global initiatives can take to close these gaps. This diagram illustrates key strategies, many of which are included in the Ripple Academy design:

 


Women and Planet: In the new book Drawdown, WEA International Advisor, and climate expert, Paul Hawken concludes that empowering women is the most impactful way to address global warming and achieve drawdown. "Due to existing inequalities, women and girls are disproportionately vulnerable to its impacts, from disease to natural disaster. At the same time, women and girls are pivotal to addressing global warming successfully — and to humanity’s overall resilience... suppression and marginalization along gender lines actually hurt everyone, while equity is good for all. These solutions show that enhancing the rights and well-being of women and girls could improve the future of life on this planet."


the ripple academy: women for peace, prosperity and planet

A global academy grounded in a diverse international community and grassroots women’s leadership holds the power to create a new blueprint for a peaceful and thriving world. This is a critical moment to act boldly — when efforts to build bridges of mutuality across nations, design solutions together, and activate people-power are paramount.

The name of the Ripple Academy was inspired by the words Robert F. Kennedy spoke in South Africa at the height of the apartheid):

"Each time a [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Explain your idea

Women community leaders focused on acute environmental and social injustices often struggle to access the support they need — both tangible (related to building technical and entrepreneurial capacity) and intangible (related to generations of internalized trauma, political and social divides, and deep religious and cultural differences that stymie peace and progress). Through our networks in over 100 countries combined, our global team will select grassroots women leaders with track records of successful community organizing and who have spent years building trust, credibility, and effectiveness in creating and disseminating ideas through their community networks. Over the course of one year, cohorts of leaders from different regions will engage in a coordinated training curriculum that will include both in-person intensives and ongoing learning via a virtual educational platform. Across regions, participants will work in peer groups to build skills in entrepreneurship, leadership, peacebuilding/conflict resolution, environmental solutions, storytelling, and project development. They will gain practical skills as well as start-up seed funds to launch sustainable and high-impact environmental and peacebuilding initiatives customized for their regions and strengthened by a global network. Projects launched by Ripple Academy leaders could range from women’s clean cookstove microenterprises in Kenya to community seed banks in Egypt, from sanitation media campaigns in India to water rights education in Jordon, Israel, and Palestine. Across regions, Ripple Academy participants will share strategies, build each other up, gain additional mentorship and visibility, and grow a powerbase for their work. An essential component of participants’ action plans will be that they create a ripple effect, meaning the projects have a strategy to “fund-forward” new knowledge and skills to others, multiplying their impact exponentially.

Who Benefits?

The Ripple Academy will benefit grassroots women leaders who have a track record of success as peace-builders and organizers engaged in effective social change but who have traditionally struggled to access equitable training, resources and opportunities. Our global team will select participants from within our combined networks to design and launch high-impact, scalable projects. Over a year, participants will learn from global faculty, local experts, and fellow peers to strengthen their skills in leadership, peacebuilding, project development, entrepreneurship and advocacy. At the completion of the year, they will launch sustainable social enterprises that will benefit the larger society as well as global community members benefiting from their innovations, solutions and best practices.

How is your idea unique?

Research underscores that connecting and resourcing women leaders generates cascading benefits in peace, prosperity, and planetary health. Yet more often than not, traditional aid strategies fail women — by investing in external solutions with women as the "beneficiaries" rather than the core change agents. The Ripple Academy meets emerging grassroots women leaders where other systems fall short -- investing in women's solutions to the problems that most acutely impact them and that they are best positioned to solve.. It is rare to find an integrated platform that provides demand-driven training for local women leaders to build technical, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills they can directly apply to their own community solutions. Ripple Academy does this, while catalyzing women’s ideas, bridging their efforts, and resourcing their movements for inclusive, thriving communities.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Tell us more about you

WEA and URI are both based in the San Francisco Bay Area with coordinating teams around the world. For the Ripple Academy, we will tap into the wealth of knowledge from our global colleagues, who represent more than 800 member groups and organizations, called Cooperation Circles. Both organizations will devote key staff members, volunteers, and stakeholders in the design of our curriculum, pilot programming, and full roll out. By integrating WEA’s training and leadership model with URI’s Cooperation Circles and peace and conflict resolution work, we aim to leverage the best of each organization’s offerings. We will draw from both of our organizations’ networks, curricula, best practices, learnings and engaged support base.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

12 comments

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Team

Hi Melinda and Team!

We’re excited to share with you feedback and questions from the BridgeBuilder team and an external set of experts. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

• One expert shared: “Some of the aspects I am most excited about for this idea are: connecting women empowerment with peace and environmental healing. The other exciting component is the convergence of women's networks (thru WEA) and interreligious networks (thru URI). I wonder, like with any other capacity building initiative, how the program plans to establish clear follow-up and accompaniment mechanisms to ensure that trained women will commit and will be supported in applying their training to achieve the twin goals of peace and environmental healing? I would love to learn more details about the design of the training curriculum, given the dual focus of the initiative. Very excited to learn more!”

When thinking about desirability, feasibility and viability here’s what experts shared:
• One expert shared, “The idea is desirable and also feasible given the experience and network of WEA and URI. Some questions I have are around sustainability are: How will the training be continued after the project? How will mentoring and coaching be sustained even without financial support or how do you plan to ensure financial support? How will WEA/URI coordinate efforts a multiple levels - country level to regional level, with the growth of the cohorts? Who will continue the training and mentoring process, how to manage in a coherent manner the individual projects that will be initiated by the graduates?

Human-centered design starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their real needs. How does this idea consider user needs?
• Yes! How will you bake user-feedback into your organization as you grow?

Additional comments and questions:
• What would be the role of other stakeholders in this initiative (youth, male leaders, government) - are there policy implications/gaps to ensure sustainability of the local projects?

Thank you so much for sharing the important work you are doing!

In case you missed it, check out this Storytelling Toolkit for inspiration for crafting strong and compelling stories: http://ideo.to/DXld5g Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - June 16 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Have questions? Email us at bridgebuilder@ideo.com.

Looking forward to reading more!

Photo of Melinda Kramer
Team

I wonder, like with any other capacity building initiative, how the program plans to establish clear follow-up and accompaniment mechanisms to ensure that trained women will commit and will be supported in applying their training to achieve the twin goals of peace and environmental healing.

The Ripple Academy, while a one-year training and capacity-building program, extends far beyond the year-long cohort through ongoing engagement in the Ripple Academy global network, educational workshops and events, mentorship, and access to funding opportunities. Furthermore, the unique contribution of WEA and URI to the Ripple Academy is the weaving of our global grassroots networks that offers dynamic and evolving follow-up and accompaniment mechanisms to local leaders around the world. Leaders have ongoing access to: global assemblies; peace and conflict transformation trainings; revolving mentorship; communication with leaders and stakeholders across cultures and sectors; funding opportunities; international visibility; network-building; and global communities of mission-driven women who build each other’s capacity to achieve shared goals of peace, prosperity, and environmental healing.

I would love to learn more details about the design of the training curriculum, given the dual focus of the initiative.

At both WEA and URI, we incorporate design thinking principles throughout our programming. WEA launched its work in 2006 with a collaborative design process whereby 30 women from 26 countries co-created the blueprint for the WEA model. From the beginning, a core belief at WEA is that solutions cannot be imposed. Communities have important knowledge and ideas that, when collaboratively supported with learning and resources, create solutions that work and change that persists.

Our design committee will be comprised of a global team of grassroots and organizational development leaders, who will draw best practices from our combined 35 years of training programming. We will begin from a light-framed and flexible framework, given the rapid pace at which cultures, socio-political climates, environmental conditions, and economic systems are ever-changing. Our diverse committee of leaders will develop a framework for the curriculum and prototype it in real-time. During the Design Phase, we will develop a set of metrics with which to measure short- and long-term results, and local and global impact..

The curriculum itself will move participants through a human-centered design process, whereby participants will listen to community members, draw forth their vision, and design their initiatives around these discoveries as well as their own foundational knowledge. Throughout the Ripple Academy trainings, leaders will engage in community asset mapping, role-playing exercises, and joint brainstorming sessions. Trainees will workshop each other’s projects, allowing for rapid idea generation and iteration. Over the course of the year, participants will prototype their ideas, survey their communities, and return to their training cohort to further reflect, iterate, and eventually scale their solutions.

Photo of Melinda Kramer
Team

When thinking about desirability, feasibility and viability here’s what experts shared: One expert shared, “The idea is desirable and also feasible given the experience and network of WEA and URI. Some questions I have are around sustainability are:
How will the training be continued after the project?

As with the current WEA training model, once leaders graduate from the Ripple Academy, they will have the skills and tools to design, fund, and implement their own training and development projects specifically targeting their own local, regional, and even national solutions for peace, prosperity, and the planet. Ripple Academy graduates will be awarded startup seed grants to launch their initiatives based on customized action plans they develop (with peer support) through their Ripple Academy year. Leaders will integrate income-generation strategies into their environmental and peacebuilding initiatives to support themselves and scale their work in the long-term. Ripple Academy learning materials will be available through the online platform, which graduates will access and contribute to on a continual basis.

How will mentoring and coaching be sustained even without financial support or how do you plan to ensure financial support?

The Ripple Academy is conceived not as a discrete one-year relationship defined by a project cycle. Rather, through the Ripple Academy, WEA and URI are weaving our global grassroots networks and their existing infrastructure to facilitate mentorship, accompaniment, and horizontal learning among leaders. URI has annual global assemblies and regional training programs that are hosted and designed by regional organizing groups. WEA has a mentorship structure that links leaders across regions for learning exchanges and peer support. Our Ripple Academy online platform will provide collaborative resources and opportunities to share and engage. Participants will access grant opportunities, continuing education, international visibility, and network-building, as well as opportunities to become alumni trainers and ambassadors themselves.

How will WEA/URI coordinate efforts at multiple levels - country level to regional level, with the growth of the cohorts?

WEA and URI both have global networks through which we are currently coordinating training and development efforts at regional and country levels. Thus, the Ripple Academy represents a coalescing of our existing coordination efforts. See above comment for more details.

Who will continue the training and mentoring process, how to manage in a coherent manner the individual projects that will be initiated by the graduates?

Participants will be partnered with other leaders within their cohort, including members of the U.S. Ripple Academy, based on their sectors of focus, e.g. water and sanitation, regenerative agriculture, land/resource rights, clean energy, religious tensions, refugee and host community conflict etc. The Ripple Academy will provide guidance to peer groups to carry out post-training peer support with each other following graduation. Peer groups will hold each other accountable for their individual project benchmarks, troubleshoot challenges as they arise in real time, share new opportunities, encourage and inspire each other, and even visit each other’s projects if and when possible. In addition to the peer support mechanism, the Ripple Academy will appoint each graduate a staff point person to support with more technical challenges that might arise during the first year of implementation, such as developing and managing budgets, forming legal partnership, and implementing rigorous monitoring and evaluation systems.

Photo of Melinda Kramer
Team

Human-centered design starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their real needs. How does this idea consider user needs?
Yes! How will you bake user-feedback into your organization as you grow?

We developed our training models by iterating curricula alongside our grassroots colleagues, regional trainers, and global advisors, who are steeped in first-hand knowledge of the regions, issues, and opportunities. The Ripple Academy will apply this same participatory approach. Our Design Committee will incorporate former and current participants who will prototype the curriculum in real-time and hold listening sessions with their organizations and communities. We will combine these insights with the years of participatory design input that we’ve used to build and iterate our existing training methodology. Going forward, we will continue to hold ourselves accountable to user feedback by appointing graduates every year to the Design Committee, as well as the Advisory Board. These leaders will guide continual refinement of the Ripple Academy based on the real-time needs of women leaders. We will also implement pre-enrollment, present, and post-graduation surveys to collect and incorporate user feedback as we continue to iterate the Ripple Academy model. This will help us to select the topics that will have the most impact, the training formats for optimal in person and remote learning, the most appropriate online technology aids, refined selection criteria for participants, and generally improve with every year.

What would be the role of other stakeholders in this initiative (youth, male leaders, government) - are there policy implications/gaps to ensure sustainability of the local projects?

Both WEA and URI integrate local and global leaders and strategic stakeholders into the fabric of our existing programming. URI has an active youth contingency, as well as a Global Council comprised of diverse stakeholders. WEA has an International Advisory Board and an integrated network of grassroots leaders globally with diverse sectors, geographies, and cultures. Our Ripple Academy team leadership will represent grassroots, government, business, and faith sectors in regions around the world. We will leverage this diverse insight, positioning, and influence as the Ripple Academy grows. Because the design thinking we are using in our individual organizations will play an important role in the training of the leaders themselves, we will also support Ripple Academy cohorts to conduct stakeholder analyses and then incorporate these stakeholders in their initiative designs and action plans.

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