Embracing Change for a New Decade: A Conversation with SWSG Community Members
As Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) enters its second decade with a fresh look, members of the SWSG community share their insight into the rebranding process. SWSG President Haviva Kohl, Boston Program Intern and Tufts University mentor Nora Fleming, and Pittsburgh professional mentor Abby Bolton reflect on what SWSG’s new look means for the organization, and why 2014 was the right time to embrace change.
Can you take yourself back to when you were first introduced to Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG)? What was your first impression, and how does that compare to what you see now?
Haviva Kohl: The first things that came to mind were empowerment, forward movement, and leading by example. It was strong women leading the girls into strong, mature women of the future. It felt like a mentorship organization, one that revolved around strength. What I learned after getting more involved with the organization was that it was also about community building, which you don’t necessarily realize from the name. Once I was able to see SWSG in action, it became about building strong communities.
Nora Fleming: I was introduced to SWSG just last year as a new mentor, and even since then it has grown in many ways. My first impression was that it really integrated its mission into every aspect of functioning. SWSG empowers girls and women through implementation of programming, but also in their daily interactions. To SWSG staff, empowerment is not just part of the job description; it is clear that they truly live by what the program hopes to achieve. As a mentor, I hope to empower pre-adolescent girls, but I am also encouraged to be empowered by taking responsibility in my chapter, my site, and all aspects of my life.
Abby Bolton: When I attended the Strong Awards, I was moved and inspired by learning about the mission and feeling the camaraderie among those in attendance. My Strong Awards experience culminated with doing the SWSG cheer for the first time. I got so caught up in the energy and collective spirit of it that it brought tears to my eyes. I hadn’t felt something quite like that since I graduated from Smith College in 2004.
Think about SWSG like one of our girls—leaving childhood and entering adolescence. How does the rebranding process represent that time of growing up?
Haviva Kohl: I think that’s a really great way to frame it. We were an organization that had reached ten years as an organization. So just like a little girl, as you get older, you change, and so does how you represent yourself including how you communicate and the choice of words you use.. We had to find a look that was a little bit more mature for the times, that was forward thinking and more inclusive. At the organization’s beginning, we were very much targeted at girls and college women. But as we’ve grown, we’ve incorporated professional women in our model. We need all the support from our community, including from men, in order to move the agenda for women and girls forward.
Nora Fleming: The former logo represents where the organization started and what keeps it going: the girls. The girls are at the heart of SWSG, yet the organization has expanded to be inclusive of a larger population. The strength of its mission hasn’t changed. However, I think the modernization of the brand reflects SWSG’s confidence that they can truly make a difference in the communities they serve, as they have been doing so effectively for the last 10 years.
Abby Bolton: Adolescence is all about growing up, discovering different parts of who you are, exploring new territory, and moving onward and upward on the path we choose. Its vibrant and diversified color pallet remind me of the variety of options, talents, and passions available to woman as they grow into their adult selves. Its upward orientation and encapsulating circle mean two things to me. When we find a way to acknowledge and integrate all of ourselves – including the lighter and darker sides of our personalities, we unleash growth to new heights. And, by coming together with and supporting others, we don’t just move forward, we move upward, too. And that collective momentum is unstoppable.
What does the new branding represent? What do the new logo and colors symbolize?
Haviva Kohl: Our original logo is an individual holding up a globe, showing power. What we wanted to do in this new iteration was to include a community feeling, to make it more inclusive. So it’s not just pink; there’s purple, green, orange, and yellow. They’re very sophisticated and gender-inclusive colors. The arrows pointing upward show upward mobility for women and girls. If you notice in the arrows, there’s a “W” in there that represents women, women on the move, women moving upwards. What I like about each part of the arrow is that they actually encompass the three different communities that we serve: girls, college mentors, and professional women. The upward trajectory calls for growth, ambition, and drive in a universal way. The two arrows mean that the girls are following the strong women, and we’re going up.
Why was now the time? Why this year to change the brand of the organization?
Haviva Kohl: Ten years is a really critical year for most organizations. You have to make decisions on whether you’re focusing regionally, or nationally. What does your growth model look like? What type of conversations are happening around the country and in your local communities that would impact the work you’re doing? Ten years felt like the right time for us. One, to celebrate our achievements—we’ve been around for a long time, we’ve served 9,000+ girls since we launched; we have 3,000+ college alumni who have done this work for us. Ten years also marked the first time we’ve had two of our girls who are now in college mentoring with SWSG in communities like the ones from which they came. So we realized that we had come so far, and we needed our story to tell that progression. We are an organization focused on eliminating the ambition gap for girls in low-income communities. What that means is that our girls are not less ambitious. Most of our girls don’t even know the world of opportunities that exist around them. We wanted to say, “We are ambitious young women, we are moving up.” Change is good for every time, for every new decade. Like girls grow up, organizations have to grow up as well. Life is constantly evolving and like people, organizations need to adapt to the changes.
Nora Fleming: After a solid ten years, it’s clear that the organization has the capacity to respond to change in a productive and effective way, always putting the success of the program and the experience of the girls and women first. To me, the rebranding is a symbol of how much SWSG has gone through to be the strong program it is today, and how it is willing to adapt to meet the needs of the communities it serves.
Abby Bolton: It was a perfect time to rebrand because for several years now SWSG has grown its impact in terms of girls served, and diversified the ways in which interested women can engage with and support it. In Pittsburgh, we have a new Executive Director, who provides a fresh, energized perspective and the opportunity to more efficiently mobilize resources to maximize the amazing work that the organization has always done and will continue to do. At this rate, I’m eager to see what new heights we can achieve in the coming years, and am proud to play a small role in supporting that legacy – and as a mentor to college women, nurturing our community’s future leaders.
Post Composed by Sarah Kacevich and Kelly Loose