What is Maine Girls Innovate?

Maine Girls Innovate is a leadership program that empowers middle school girls to be innovative leaders in their schools and local communities. The Maine Girls Innovate program is comprised of four after-school workshops and a day-long field guide program culminating in a social change challenge — a student-led initiative addressing a social issue in their middle school.

Maine Girls Innovate is a five-session leadership program.


Session 1 – Find your Drive: 2-hour after-school workshop

Maine Girls Innovate will build off the successful Girls Driving for a Difference (GDD) program, a 2-hour design thinking and leadership workshop called “Find Your Drive”. Designed by students at Stanford University, drawing inspiration from the Stanford d.school’s design thinking methodology, this workshop inspires “girl power” in creative new ways. This workshop has been proven to be successful, impacting 1500 girls to date nationwide. The Portland Global Shapers will use this workshop as the kick off for Maine Girls Innovate.

Forty middle school girls will work to identify their unique strengths, discover their leadership style, and reframe problems in the world as opportunities, boosting their confidence and motivation to become a leader and innovate for a better future.

Session 2 – Design Thinking Field Guide Bootcamp: Full Day

After the girls complete “Find Your Drive”, Maine Girls Innovate will host a day-long Field Guide where the students will dive into the design-thinking process and begin to apply it to an issue in their school/community.

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success, ” explains Tim Brown, president and CEO of IDEO.

At the beginning of the Field Guide, the girls will be inspired to embrace the design-thinking mindsets: human centered, radical collaboration, bias to action, mindful of process, and the culture of prototype. Facilitators will lay the foundation of the the design thinking process: 1.) clearly define what the real problem is and what does the designer really want to solve for; 2.) empathize with the users and other stakeholders who are involved in the problem through interviews, background research, and reaching out to experts in the field; 3.) ideate and brainstorm lots and lots of ideas 4.) choose one idea to prototype based on three criteria: desirability, feasibility and viability and; 5.) test the prototype by putting it in the hands of the user. “The design thinking process is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps” (IDEO).

Session 3 – Building a Prototype: 2-hour after-school workshop

During the next after-school workshop session the girls will begin prototyping. The girls will create low-resolution prototypes that are quick and cheap to make, but will elicit useful feedback. We will set up prototype testing stations and the four groups will rotate and provide feedback to each other. Prototyping and testing will go in tandem and by the end of this session each group will have a “product” that they will want to test on a wider market, their peers at school. During the prototyping phase, the girls will also begin to budget their seed money ($250 per team).

Session 4 – Testing a Prototype: 2 hour after-school workshop

This workshop session will involve the girls’ peers/school in the testing session at a pizza party. The girls will launch their solution/product to market during this time to selected users. The girls will receive feedback and will work out the kinks during the final after-school session with help from the facilitators.

Session 5 – Presenting Prototypes, Learning, NExt steps + Celebration

The final workshop session will be an unveiling and celebration of the final product/solution created. Depending on what was developed this may occur during or after-school. We will bring back the experts in the field, stakeholders, and also include the girls’ families during this celebration.