In the United States, less than one in four of the country’s elected leaders are women. Running Start, a not-for-profit organization based out of Washington D.C., aims to address the gender gap head-on with nonpartisan training programs for young women.
“Through education and inspiration, we give young women the confidence, connections and capabilities they need to run for public office,” said Serena Saunders, Staff Assistant for Programs & Communication at Running Start. “We want to impress upon young women that they’re not alone in their ambition. There’s a community of brilliant, politically active, engaged young women out there. We connect them with peers, and with mentors and role models who can provide career advice.”
One type of program Running Start offers is specifically for high school girls, and gives them the opportunity to learn directly from political experts. Every summer, 50 students from across the country convene in Washington D.C. for a week of non-stop interactive programming. With the COVID-19 pandemic, staff had to reimagine the nuts and bolts of the training—and with their summer training just a few months away, they had a fast-approaching deadline.
Streamlined content delivery
Using Pathways by PeopleGrove, Running Start transformed their entire summer high school training program into a virtual format. The program duration expanded from one week to six weeks, and Running Start accepted 60% more participants for their 2020 summer session.
Pathways serves as a virtual guide for student participants. Students get to experience all the same core content online—sessions like orientation and media training—as well as the cornerstone of the program: Campaign Simulation. Working in groups, students develop campaign plans, take part in interactive fundraising exercises, and write stump speeches.
“Participants really appreciate that they can see every single step of the campaign simulation at the beginning, so they can plan ahead,” said Serena. “There’s now one place to do everything, with all the steps.”
Engaging trainees before, during and after their program
Serena observed that a transition to the PeopleGrove platform brings additional benefits to their nonprofit, that extend far beyond being able to provide streamlined courses. That includes an easier way to engage program participants long after their training event is finished. “I think it’s much easier to ask for people to join the [Running Start] network now. The simplest ask, following a training event, is dropping a link to the network in the chat and saying, ‘You should join this right now!’ It’s much more instantaneous than it would be otherwise.”
In addition, they’re able to host a central repository for valuable course content, such as videos from past trainings, links to upcoming trainings, press clips, and more. In the past, staff would upload documents and video recordings in Google Drive or Dropbox, but abandoned that system in favor of hosting everything on one single, easily accessible platform. “Having everything in one central hub is a big draw for getting people to sign up to join,” said Serena.
“Getting students on the platform was of paramount importance, because we needed to make it easy for them to connect with program alums,” said Serena. “Having Pathways was a major plus, because we didn’t want to require that our participants be on several different networks to get the most out of this experience. We definitely wanted it all to be integrated.”