Because Leadership Is No Joke

Using improv to strengthen girls’ leadership skills, our Funny Girls program bolsters and boosts girls’ power and potential to maximize their moxie!

The Harnisch Foundation has been investing in women’s leadership since 1998. Each woman’s path is different, however we couldn’t help but notice how many of them said they wish they’d had a chance to develop their leadership skills earlier in life. We decided to address that gap, and our research showed us the best time to start teaching adult women the basic skills of leadership is while they’re still girls. So we developed a girls’ leadership curriculum, with an added twist for modern times: improv.

We first sparked to improv as a teaching methodology in 2013. After conversations with many girl leadership experts and improv instructors, corroborated by research from Harvard, we knew the time was ripe for a formal leadership-taught-through-improv curriculum aimed to help tween girls develop as leaders. 

2020-21 Partnerships

Henry St. Settlement (Abrons Art Center) Henry St. Settlement (Abrons Art Center) Henry Street Settlement
(Abrons Art Center)
Henry Street Settlement in the Lowest East Side of Manhattan is a leader in child and family services. Since its founding in 1893, Henry Street has expanded to 18 locations and created large scale core programs including Abrons Art Center, the home for interdisciplinary arts including performance presentations, exhibitions, education programs, and residencies. abronsartscenter.org
IGE International Girls Ensemble International Girls Ensemble International Girls Ensemble works to build a strong and safe community for girls to feel comfortable and confident to grow in themselves through the arts. IGE focuses not only on community building, but on the creation of sisterhood and trust for their students as they learn key SEL skills. intlgirlsensemble.org NYC Great! NYC Great! NYC Great! is a NYC DOE Leadership Program that helps young girls develop leadership and communication skills, as well as support their post-high school paths to college and beyond. NYC Great! works with each of their students to help them understand their greatness within them and strive to achieve all that they are capable of. www.schools.nyc.gov/learning/programs/nyc-great NYC-GREAT! LEAP NYC LEAP NYC LEAP NYC provides educational arts programs to promote access and equality for NYC students underserved in the arts. They have since expanded their reach to help over 15,000 children across all five boroughs of NYC. They strive to teach students their ‘4 C’s’: Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, and Critical thinking skills. leapnyc.org Arab-American Family Support Center AAFSCFunnyGirls Arab-American Family
Support Center
AAFSC empowers new immigrants in downtown Brooklyn & Queens with the tools they need to successfully acclimate to the world around them and become active participants in their communities. Their youth programs encourage the positive development of leadership skills, academic excellence, and community values like equity, justice and peace. aafscny.org

2020-21 Partnerships

Henry St. Settlement (Abrons Art Center) Henry St. Settlement (Abrons Art Center) Henry Street
Settlement
(Abrons Art Center)
Henry Street Settlement in the Lowest East Side of Manhattan is a leader in child and family services. Since its founding in 1893, Henry Street has expanded to 18 locations and created large scale core programs including Abrons Art Center, the home for interdisciplinary arts including performance presentations, exhibitions, education programs, and residencies. abronsartscenter.org
IGE International Girls Ensemble International Girls Ensemble International Girls Ensemble works to build a strong and safe community for girls to feel comfortable and confident to grow in themselves through the arts. IGE focuses not only on community building, but on the creation of sisterhood and trust for their students as they learn key SEL skills. intlgirlsensemble.org NYC Great! NYC-GREAT! NYC Great! NYC Great! is a NYC DOE Leadership Program that helps young girls develop leadership and communication skills, as well as support their post-high school paths to college and beyond. NYC Great! works with each of their students to help them understand their greatness within them and strive to achieve all that they are capable of. www.schools.nyc.gov/
learning/programs/nyc-great
LEAP NYC LEAP NYC LEAP NYC provides educational arts programs to promote access and equality for NYC students underserved in the arts. They have since expanded their reach to help over 15,000 children across all five boroughs of NYC. They strive to teach students their ‘4 C’s’: Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, and Critical thinking skills. leapnyc.org Arab American Family Support Center AAFSCFunnyGirls Arab-American
Family Support
Center
AAFSC empowers new immigrants in downtown Brooklyn & Queens with the tools they need to successfully acclimate to the world around them and become active participants in their communities. Their youth programs encourage the positive development of leadership skills, academic excellence, and community values like equity, justice and peace. aafscny.org

Buzz for Funny Girls

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“At TEDWomen2018, FunnyGirls… were selected to lead a (sold-out!) workshop for TEDsters willing to drop their inhibitions and throw themselves into the scary fun of doing weird things with strangers.” – TED Women
Our article for New Moon Girls’ young readers highlights the five core leadership skills of the Funny Girls curriculum. We also include a short game for readers to play with friends and family that lets their inner leader shine. We love helping girls to acknowledge and nurture their own natural leadership abilities!
Our Executive Director, Jenny Raymond, made a visit to SF for the first ever Udemy Women’s Summit to lead an inspiring Funny Girls improv and leadership activity for all participants!
“Programs fostering self-esteem and leadership skills in girls are not uncommon. What is unusual is the use of improv as the tool to achieve these ends.” – Tim Lehnert, Philanthropy Women
Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls created this spunky short video about Funny Girls– it’s gotten over 160K views so far!
“They’re loud, playful and funny. But what’s happening here is really serious.” – Rehema Ellis, NBC Nightly News
“‘Programs like Funny Girls can teach girls how to empower themselves, to make their voices heard, take on leadership roles and stand up for themselves instead of shying away from opportunities,’ Lisalee Ibanez of Global Kids said.” – Forbes
“By the end [of one of the exercises], the girls are beginning to understand how to pivot when something isn’t working to find a creative new strategy that just might. That’s an important skill for an improv comedian, but it’s also critical for CEOs, politicians, and just about every leadership position there is.” – Shay Maunz, Glamour

FAQ

1. How can I become a Funny Girls partner?

We work with organizations that advance social justice values and share an interest in developing girls’ leadership. We are not accepting proposals at this time. If you know a girl-serving social justice organization that we should partner with in the future, we’d love to hear! Email us at [email protected]. Also, be the first to receive news and updates by signing up for our Funny Girls newsletter:

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2. How can I get my Funny Girl involved?

We work with social justice organizations to implement the Funny Girls curriculum – check out our current and past partners on the right. Funny Girls is also proud to offer two week Summer Sessions, and online workshops throughout the school year taught by our in-house staff. Be the first to receive the news and updates by signing up for our Funny Girls newsletter, and by following us on Instagram and Twitter!

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3. How can I become a Funny Girls instructor?

We currently train instructors from within our partner organizations. As we continue to grow, we will be looking to train more instructors outside of our partner organizations in the Funny Girls curriculum. If you love improv and girls’ leadership, and are interested to learn more about this opportunity, send us a note of inquiry at [email protected]. Also, make sure you receive news and updates by signing up for our Funny Girls newsletter.

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4. Why did you choose improv to teach leadership skills?

In improv there is no right or wrong, every contribution is valued (Yes, AND…), and collaboration is key. With perfection and failure held at bay, a safe space is created, allowing the girls to tap into their inherent abilities as leaders and “try on” leadership skills.

5. I love the comedy angle! Tell me more.

Funny Girls isn’t actually teaching girls to be funny or grooming the next stand-up comedian star. We are boosting girls’ leadership skills using improv as the methodology, and yes, a little humor. Also, when learning is made fun with a bit of humor, students are more engaged and have a higher retention of learning concepts.

6. Why did you choose girls in grades 3-8?

We chose to focus on girls grades 3-8 because this is a pivotal time in their social and emotional development. It’s also a critical time in a girl’s life to boost self-esteem and influence self-perception — an identity that she may carry with her into her later adolescence and adulthood. Funny Girls is reaching girls at a key moment with the hopes of bolstering their belief in themselves as leaders.

7. How do I stay up to date on Funny Girls news?

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter to learn more about our partners, interact with our community, and hear directly from participants on how Funny Girls has influenced them.

Sign up for our Funny Girls newsletter to get the latest news and updates from us directly in your inbox!

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The Funny Girls Family

Who we’ve partnered with over the years.