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The Ripple Academy: when women thrive, the Earth thrives.

A global training program that equips women leaders with resources and tools to forge high-impact environmental solutions that scale.

Photo of Melinda Kramer
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

As ecological crises intensify, women are the most vulnerable, facing daily threats to their health, security, nutrition, and earnings. Women spend up to 5 hours a day gathering fuel and 73 billion hours a year fetching water for families, enduring sexual assault and violence. Climate disasters and related political instability present women with life or death challenges. And what women really need-- access to education, technology, training, funding-- is hard to come by. From these frontlines, women are also the best positioned to address the on-the-ground impacts. International agreements recognize the link between women’s access to resources and advancing economic prosperity, yet less than 7% of global philanthropic dollars invest in women. WEA spent 12 years supporting grassroots women leaders at the verge of scaling critical solutions. We offer regional trainings equipping them with skills, tools, and resources to grow income-generating environmental projects. Regardless of the region, projects illustrate the same phenomenon: women multiply their capacity and then capacitate others, creating cascading benefits across society. Last year, 30 Nigerian women took a year-long WEA clean cookstove training. Now 13,000 people use clean energy, save money, and are healthier and safer. In response to growing demand for our trainings, we asked - what could this model look like scaled? Answer: 10 regional cohorts of 30 women, reaching ~130,000 people with environmental solutions each year. Ripple Academy (RA) scales the success of WEA’s model by guiding multiple cohorts of women leaders through the year-long WEA training with a combination of regional gatherings and online education (blended learning) to exponentially advance women’s environmental solutions and influence global environmental goals. Through the Ripple Academy, women learn professional development, leadership, and entrepreneurship skills from global faculty, regional experts, and peers.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Nobel Peace Laureate, Wangari Maathai grew a community tree-planting initiative into an Africa-wide movement with >30M trees planted, jobs for 900,000 women, and significant carbon reduction. RA identifies the thousands of potential “Wangari’s” out there at the community-level stage of their work and supports them to strengthen and expand the impact of their much-needed environmental solutions. For too long, the visions of grassroots women leaders have remained limited in reach or gone unrealized because they couldn’t access needed skills, resources, and mentorship. RA participants are at a pivotal moment -- poised to scale their impact but facing constraints-- funding challenges, burnout, or societal pushback. They have established local leadership but need support in scaling to broad-based initiatives that can influence regional, national, or even global efforts. They seek access to skills/tools, exposure to models of success, and support elevating their impact.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Traditional aid often fails women — by investing in external solutions (wells, food etc.) with women as the "beneficiaries" rather than the core change agents. Evidence increasingly shows that this approach does not create sustainable change. RA invests 100% in the long-term leadership of women working at the grassroots to protect communities' natural resources, livelihoods, and health, because we know that when women thrive, the earth thrives. RA works at the unique intersection of women’s empowerment, environmental protection and economic development. This is the only platform that focuses on developing, bridging and elevating women’s environmental solutions, while also supporting women's livelihoods. Income generation is critical to sustaining environmental solutions. And through our Impact Dashboard, the RA implements and aggregates a unique combination of global and community-designed impact that connects women’s grassroots solutions to larger global trends.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

WEA ( equips grassroots women to develop and scale environmental solutions that regenerate our Earth's natural resources while strengthening economies and social cohesion. Watch 2 videos that exemplify our training model in action as well as our animation video that imagines what the world would look like 50 years into the future with WEA's vision fully realized.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

The RA answers a call for support from WEA's network of grassroots leaders poised to link regional solutions and coordinate change on a global scale. Their work is urgent: they are preserving indigenous seeds key to our survival; introducing clean cookstoves that save lives and reduce deforestation; modeling regenerative farming practices that will feed our planet; protecting our dwindling water sources; staving off destructive and toxic energy extraction; and shaping cultures of peace.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Both the Sustainable Development Goals and the watershed book "Drawdown" conclude that empowering women and girls is one of the greatest leverage points for successfully addressing climate change and humanity’s resilience. Evidence suggests that investing in women is the #1 most effective environmental and social welfare investment, yet less than 7% of global philanthropic dollars focuses on women’s empowerment. When women’s knowledge is centered, and they can access needed resources, networks, and visibility-- everyone benefits. Local economies prosper, democracy strengthens, health and education improve, and ecosystems vital to our survival regenerate. Peace, prosperity, and planetary health are inextricably linked, and women are the glue that brings these vital components together.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

WEA’s founding partner in the RA is United Religions Initiative (URI), the world’s largest interfaith grassroots network working in 104 countries to cultivate peace by bridging religious and cultural differences. URI brings a network of 600+ "Cooperation Circles” who are engaged in social change and expert conflict resolution/peacebuilding strategies. Our design committee comprised of a global team of grassroots and organizational development leaders is building off of best practices from our combined 35 years of training programming. Over the last year, we carried out user surveys and listening sessions to build a light-framed and flexible curriculum framework. We are now prototyping the RA through a series of "Learning Labs" in India, Kenya, Jordan, and Chile. These outcomes will inform the curriculum, online platform, and selection process for a yearlong RA cohort launch in 2019.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

RA serves grassroots women leaders around the world who are poised to deliver critical environmental solutions to their community, but are stifled by lack of access to skills, resources, and mentorship. As women on the frontlines of environmental crises, they have the solutions, community trust, and regional wisdom needed to reverse life-threatening challenges on our planet. Living in the regions where they work, they are positioned to scale their impact in perpetuity beyond the RA investment.

Geographic Focus

This is a global project with regional cohorts, benefiting from the exchange of diverse innovations.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

36 months Year 1: Launch first year-long, 30 leader cohort for blended learning program (in-person regional gatherings and online training and exchange.) Launch RA Impact Dashboard to measure environmental and social change. Year 2: Build in institutional partners (Peace Corps, UN Women etc.) to launch 3 cohorts of 30 leaders, integrate alumni into RA as ambassadors, educators and advisors. Year 3: Scale to 5 cohorts of 30 leaders.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • Yes

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)

1. We're piloting the RA in 4 locations in 2018 to generate direct input from users, refine the curriculum content, and strengthen the design of blended learning delivery for greatest impact. We are implementing these pilot Learning Labs over next 6 months in India, Jordon, Kenya and Chile. Each Lab includes 3 days of in-person training followed by remote group video calls, mentorship, small group discussions, and exercises through our online platform. The Labs are laying the groundwork for the year-long program, while delivering valuable content to participants and building our trainer and partner community in the process. 2. We’re designing the RA Impact Dashboard, a data visualization tool based on a unique set of metrics that mix global and community-designed, qualitative and quantitative measures of success. Global indicators include Sustainable Development Goals, Project Drawdown metrics (like Gigatons Reduced of CO2), and the W+ Standard (measuring improvements in women’s social capital, like income, economic mobility, # businesses started, # women trained by participants etc.) Community-designed metrics will encourage communities to define their own metrics of success, (like # of meals per day) and include qualitative stories of change. 3) We’ve built a sustainability model to make the RA self-funded in 5 years. Our World Weaver Club membership will offer inspiring program content on a tiered basis. $10/month up to full sponsorship of RA participants will activate different levels of experiences for members. Each month we will spotlight a RA leader and their region. Depending on their investment level, members will meet leaders through webinars, and they will receive content from the featured region (recipes, music, art, books). Full sponsorship means members can travel to RA gatherings. Custom sponsorships for mission-aligned companies will create employee or customer opportunities that directly support the RA.


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Photo of Natalie White null

This is a beautiful example of how bridging two disparate areas of concern (women's empowerment & conservation) amplifies success in both categories. Really inspiring work!

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