Ten Years In, It’s All About the People

By Denise Raquel Dunning, Founder + Executive Director

Rise Up Leader Alejandra (center) with the Rise Up Girl Network from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala at a youth meeting organized by United Nations, UNICEF, and América Solidaria

2019 marks ten years for Rise Up — ten years of ensuring that girls and women can finish school, stay healthy, overcome violence, access economic opportunity, and achieve their potential. Ten years of global impact.

As I look back, it’s hard to believe where we started, and how far we’ve come. Back in 2009, our small but scrappy team had a big vision — we believed that we could help build a better world by identifying and supporting local leaders, investing in their solutions, and amplifying their voices.

Our commitment to that original vision has remained constant as we have built Rise Up’s global network of leaders, developed our award-winning model for sustainable impact, and expanded our work to 15 countries around the world.

Ten years in, we’re still all about the people. That big vision is becoming reality, and we have had the great privilege of helping to drive meaningful and sustainable change by following through on three core principles:

1. Find and support the right people — creating change is about identifying leaders who already have a vision for improving the lives of women and girls in their communities and countries. With training, tools, and support from Rise Up, these visionary leaders create game-changing solutions for girls and women and take their impact to the next level.

2. Invest in their solutions — training is only the first step. To achieve large-scale impact, we must invest in Rise Up leaders’ own vision for change, enable them to expand their capacity as leaders, fund their advocacy strategies, and give them the tools, resources, and networks they need to accomplish their goals.

3. Amplify their voices — as girls, women, and allies speak their truth, they weave a new narrative about what is possible. Creating spaces for Rise Up leaders to share their stories turns up the volume — spreading good ideas, boosting the influence of these change makers, and eventually shifting laws and behaviors. Rise Up lifts up girls and women as the powerful leaders they are, amplifying their voices and impacts on national and global platforms.

Rise Up’s success over the past ten years stems from our original belief that sustainable change only comes from investing in local leaders who know their own communities, challenges, and opportunities. Rise Up has always been and always will be about identifying and supporting visionary leaders to create a more just and equitable world with and for girls and women.

And as we look ahead to 2019 and beyond, I’m thrilled to share that our global network will now also include more powerful local leaders here in the U.S. We’re currently recruiting our first California cohort — inspiring local leaders who are working to improve the lives of girls and women right here in California’s Bay Area and Central Valley.

As we see the tremendous challenges facing girls and women in the U.S., I can’t think of a better way to honor our ten years of impact than bringing our work home to California.