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Girl Scouts of Northern California has embarked on an exciting project with the Thrive for Youth Foundation, an organization that focuses on supporting organizations that enable youth to thrive. Since 2000, the Foundation has partnered with nationally renowned researchers in the field of positive youth development to understand the key indicators for thriving, and to determine the roles of family, school, and communities in enabling youth to thrive. In November 2010, the Foundation awarded Girl Scouts of Northern California a three-year grant to support our efforts to integrate their research into our council’s programs. This research will help enhance our already diverse offerings so that we can continue to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.

As Girl Scouts of Northern California moves forward with this project this webpage will provide more information on Thriving and how you can be more involved in the project.

What is Thriving?

  1. A forward, purposeful motion toward achieving one’s full potential.
  2. An orientation toward life marked by balance, meaning, and learning from experience, in which one knows and finds resources that foster one’s talents, interests, and aspirations and through which one contributes to the common good.

    Thrive Theory of Change

    (Developed by Dr. Richard Lerner at Tufts University and the Thrive Foundation for Youth)  

     If adult guides support youth to:

    • Identify and grow their inner passion or sparks;
    • Understand and apply a growth mindset;
    • Reflect on Girl Scout leadership experience outcomes and risk factors;
    • Visualize personal growth that builds upon their sparks, strengths and resources;
    • Develop goal management skills (GPS): goal selection, pursuit of strategies, and shifting gears in the face of blocked goals;

    then youth will be on a road to a hopeful future working towards their full potential.  Along the way, youth:

    • Build positive, sustained relationships with peers and adults, focusing on high quality, high quantity time;
    • Learn life skills that include self-reflection and goal management;
    • Practice these skills and values in home, school, and community activities.  


    (Research provided by Dr. Peter Benson at the Search Institute and the Thrive Foundation for Youth)

    Dr. Peter Benson says, “It takes a spark to ignite the flame, the burning desire to succeed. We must ignite the spark that glows in our children, so it sputters and comes to life.” Sparks are a skill, talent, interest, or way of being. They come from within a person and provide motivation, meaning, and self-directed action that goes deeper than just activities.

    Youth who know their sparks are less likely to engage in violence with others or experience depression. They are more likely to have higher grades and be socially competent and physically healthy. They tend to volunteer more and to have a sense of purpose.

    By age 10, 100 percent of youth understand the concept of sparks, but only 65% of youth at this age have a spark, and of those only 50% have spark champions. Spark champions are adults who support and encourage youth to discover and pursue their sparks.


    (Research provided by Dr. Carol Dweck at Stanford University and the Thrive Foundation for Youth)

    One’s mindset about whether skills, intelligence, ability, and personality are fixed or can be developed has a profound effect on life choices and success. Dr. Carol Dweck has defined two types of mindsets – fixed and growth.

    • Fixed mindset - People with a fixed mindset assume that their abilities and personality are mainly fixed in stone.
    • Growth mindset – People with a growth mindset assume that your abilities and personality are flexible and they grow and change with effort and practice.

    GSLE Outcomes and Thriving Indicators

    (Research provided by Girl Scouts of the United States of America Research Institute, Friends of the Children, Thrive Foundation for Youth and Dr. Linda Wagener at Fuller Theoogical Seminary)

     By participating in Girl Scout activities that focus on discovering, connecting, and taking action girls gain specific knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors, and values. Below are two tables. The first provides a look at how the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE) is reflected in Thrive Indicators. The second provides a list of the 15 GSLE outcomes. Reaching excellence in these outcomes establishes a girl’s path to reaching her full potential and thriving. 

    Thrive Girl Scout Leadership Experience

    Thrive Girl Scout Leadership Experience p. 2

    While girls have many positive influences in their lives, there are also many risk factors that influence their ability to thrive. These risk factors include:

    • Family environment
    • Weapons
    • Devaluing others
    • Valuing things over people
    • “I don’t care attitude”
    • Fearship
    • Drugs
    • Alcohol
    • Destructive language

    Goal Management (GPS) Skills

    (Developed by Dr. Richard Lerner at Tufts University and the Thrive Foundation for Youth)

    Girls participating in Girl Scout activities girls should learn goal management skills (GPS).  GPS stands for:

    • Goal selection (where do I want to go)
    • Pursuit of strategies (what is the best way to get there)
    • Shifting gears (how do I compensate when the road gets rough)

    Goal selection includes:

    • Selecting meaningful, realistic, long-term goals
    • Being selective and “investing energy” in long-term goals
    • Goals should have short-term steps
    • Goals should improve life in multiple ways
    • The best goals benefit self and community

    Pursuit of strategies includes:

    • Developing a plan and sticking to it
    • Practicing current strategies and looking for new ones
    • Using strategies with persistent effort at appropriate times
    • Monitoring progress to see if strategies are working

    Shifting gears includes:

    • Replacing strategies that aren’t working with new ones
    • Adjusting strategies so that they might work in the future
    • Looking for help from people and other resources
    • Moving on to new goals at the right time 

    Thrive Resources

    Step-it-upThrive Resource Center

    This site provides instructions and resources to help youth envision and work towards their full potential. Includes anchor papers and additional information on Sparks, Mindset, and Goal Management Skills (GPS).

    Thrive Foundation for Youth

    This site provides an overview of the Thrive Foundation for youth and their efforts to create thriving youth.


    Sparks: How Parents Can Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers - Peter Benson

    This site provides additional information and resources on supporting youth as they find their spark.


    Mindset: The New Psychology of Success - Carol Dweck

    This site provides additional information and resources on switching to a growth mindset.


    Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard - Chip and Dan Heath

    This site provides additional information and resources on how to make a switch.