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. 

2022-23 Partnerships

Partnership w Children Partnership with Children Partnership with Children (PWC) has served the five boroughs of NYC for over 100 years, with a goal of ensuring all students have the support they need to succeed and prosper. Engaging around 30,000 students annually, PWC strives to strengthen the emotional, social, and cognitive skills of students. This is our first year in partnership with PWC whose talented Social Workers are running the curriculum in their small groups. partnershipwithchildren.org TYWLS the young women's leadership schools (via SLN) We are honored to partner again with The Young Women’s Leadership Schools across NYC including: TYWLS Astoria, TYWLS Staten Island, and TYWLS Bronx. TYWLS are public schools providing support for young women through a strong social-emotional based curriculum. Students at TYWLS are often first in their families to attend college. Working with these schools through the Student Leadership Network, we have seen extraordinary success with students learning leadership skills through improv in the classroom during their school day! studentleadershipnetwork.org/girls-education YWLA Las Vegas Young Women’s Leadership Academy of Las Vegas (via sln) The Young Women’s Leadership Academy of Las Vegas is a charter school that provides education to girls and gender-neutral youth in grades 6-12. The focus of YWLA of Las Vegas is to support their students in all areas including academically, socially, and emotionally. A sister school to the TYWLS schools that we partner with in NYC, they opened their doors in Fall 2022. We are so excited to be kicking off year one of this incredible partnership as the school launches! ywlalv.org Van Wezel Van Wezel/The Hall Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is a premier performing arts space (owned and operated by the city of Sarasota, FL) engaging with their surrounding community through many programs. Using their talented Teaching Artists, The Hall implements curricula that teach life skills through the arts with a variety of under-resourced schools and after-school programs. In our first year of partnership, we are thrilled to be working with this fabulous team (who are also running the first Spanish-language version of Funny Girls). vanwezel.org AAFSC AAFSCFunnyGirls Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) Returning champions for their fifth year, Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) in downtown Brooklyn & Queens is an integral and intergenerational resource for Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities. Their youth programs encourage the positive development of leadership skills, academic excellence, and community values like equity, justice, and peace. Nuanced in their approach, instructors from AAFSC work with Funny Girls to teach leadership skills with their cultural values in mind! aafscny.org Henry St. Settlement (Abrons Art Center) Henry St. Settlement (Abrons Art Center) Henry Street Settlement
(Abrons Art Center)
Henry Street Settlement located on the Lower 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. Entering our third year of partnership with Henry Street Abrons Art Center, we are excited to bring the Funny Girls curriculum into the skillful hands of the Abrons Teaching Artists and to an organization focused on interdisciplinary arts. abronsartscenter.org
IGE International Girls Ensemble International Girls Ensemble International Girls Ensemble (IGE) works to build a strong and safe community for girls to feel comfortable and confident to grow in themselves through the arts. Running in schools across NYC (and in Thailand and Cambodia), IGE focuses on the creation of sisterhood and trust for their students as they learn key SEL skills. With their talented Teaching Artists, IGE has implemented Funny Girls in NYC at both MS391 and St. Mark The Evangelist over the course of this outstanding partnership started in 2020-2021 school year. intlgirlsensemble.org

Partnership with Children PARTNERSHIP
WITH CHILDREN
Partnership with Children (PWC), has served the five boroughs of NYC for over 100 years, with a goal of ensuring all students have the support they need to succeed and prosper. Engaging around 30,000 students annually, PWC strives to strengthen the emotional, social, and cognitive skills of students. This is our first year in partnership with PWC whose talented Social Workers are running the curriculum in their small groups. partnershipwithchildren.org
The Young Women's Leadership Schools THE YOUNG
WOMEN'S
LEADERSHIP
schools (via SLn)
We are honored to partner again with The Young Women’s Leadership Schools across NYC including: TYWLS Astoria, TYWLS Staten Island, and TYWLS Bronx. TYWLS are public schools providing support for young women through a strong social-emotional based curriculum. Students at TYWLS are often first in their families to attend college. Working with these schools through the Student Leadership Network, we have seen extraordinary success with students learning leadership skills through improv in the classroom during their school day! studentleadershipnetwork.org
Young Women's Leadership Academy of Las Vegas Young Women's
Leadership
Academy of
Las vegas (via sln)
The Young Women’s Leadership Academy of Las Vegas is a charter school that provides education to girls and gender-neutral youth in grades 6-12. The focus of YWLA of Las Vegas is to support their students in all areas including academically, socially, and emotionally. A sister school to the TYWLS schools that we partner with in NYC, they opened their doors in Fall 2022. We are so excited to be kicking off year one of this incredible partnership as the school launches! ywlalv.org
Van Wezel / The Hall Van Wezel/
The Hall
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is a premier performing arts space (owned and operated by the city of Sarasota, FL) engaging with their surrounding community through many programs. Using their talented Teaching Artists, The Hall implements curricula that teach life skills through the arts with a variety of under-resourced schools and after-school programs. In our first year of partnership, we are thrilled to be working with this fabulous team (who are also running the first Spanish-language version of Funny Girls). vanwezel.org
AAFSC AAFSCFunnyGirls AAFSC Returning champions for their fifth year, Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) in downtown Brooklyn and Queens is an integral and intergenerational resource for Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities. Their youth programs encourage the positive development of leadership skills, academic excellence, and community values like equity, justice, and peace. Nuanced in their approach, instructors from AAFSC work with Funny Girls to teach leadership skills with their cultural values in mind. aafscny.org Henry St. Settlement (Abrons Art Center) Henry St. Settlement (Abrons Art Center) Henry Street
Settlement
(Abrons Art Center)
Henry Street Settlement on the Lower 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. Entering our third year of partnership with Henry Street Abrons Art Center, we are excited to have the Funny Girls curriculum in schools and after-school programs in the LES of Manhattan, including PS188 and University Neighborhood Middle School (M332). abronsartscenter.org
IGE International Girls Ensemble International Girls Ensemble International Girls Ensemble (IGE) works to build a strong and safe community for girls to feel comfortable and confident to grow in themselves through the arts. Running in schools across NYC (and in Thailand and Cambodia), IGE focuses on the creation of sisterhood and trust for their students as they learn key SEL skills. With their talented Teaching Artists, IGE has implemented Funny Girls in NYC at both MS391 and St. Mark The Evangelist over the course of this outstanding partnership started in 2020-2021 school year. intlgirlsensemble.org

Buzz for Funny Girls

The iconic Kelly Clarkson celebrated Funny Girls on The Kelly Clarkson Show. (we were featured alongside OG Funny Girl Carol Burnett!) Click here to watch our Executive Director, Jenny Raymond, share the power of voice, confidence, and, of course, improv!
Our Executive Director, Jenny Raymond, talks to Romper about the transformative power of our curriculum: “At the end of the program, the girls put on a showcase for friends and family, and share what they’ve learned. ‘They say things like, ‘I didn’t know I had it in me! I didn’t know I had something to say like this.’ And that’s the underpinning of it all, this idea of having something to say.”
We’re big fans of the smart and insightful work being done over at the International Coalition of Girls’ Schools, so we were delighted when its On Educating Girls podcast invited Executive Director Jenny Raymond on to chat about the relationship between confidence and improv. Click here to listen!
“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

 

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 an elementary/middle school or 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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We work with schools and 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!

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 want to bring Funny Girls to your school or organization, 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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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.

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.

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.

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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Funny Girls is a curriculum for any child in grades 3-8 who feels like being one of the Funny Girls.

This program came out of a desire to boost young girls’ confidence and leadership skills after research shows gender (and racial) bias stands in the way of leadership opportunity. These statistics are worse for children who identify as non-binary or whose gender expression differs from cultural expectations. If they see themselves as a participant in Funny Girls, they’re welcome!

The Funny Girls Family

Who we’ve partnered with over the years.