The Ripple Effect of Women's Leadership
"Each time [one] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, [s]he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. "
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr. Wangari Maathai, grew a community tree-planting initiative into an Africa-wide movement with more than 30 million trees planted, livelihoods for over 900,000 women, and significant carbon reduction.
Imagine 30 emerging “Wangaris” from different regions working together, accessing tools and resources that sharpen their skills and clarify their vision for community transformation, and launching powerful programs that train and empower thousands more people each year, while directly influencing global environmental goals. Now imagine 5 cohorts of 30 “Wangaris”, all bringing powerful transformation to our communities and rippling their knowledge and skills outward. This is the Ripple Academy.
The Ripple Academy identifies the thousands of potential “Wangaris” out there at the community-level stage of their work and supports them to strengthen and expand the impact of their much-needed environmental solutions. For too long, the visions of grassroots women leaders have remained limited in reach or gone unrealized because they couldn’t access needed skills, resources, and mentorship. Ripple Academy Leaders are at a pivotal moment — poised to scale their impact but facing constraints– funding challenges, burnout, or societal pushback. They have established local leadership but need support in scaling to broad-based initiatives that can influence regional, national, or even global efforts. They seek access to skills/tools, exposure to models of success, and support elevating their impact.
For 12 years, WEA has identified and resourced these women leaders, and we are now taking our training model to scale by reaching more women, bridging grassroots efforts across regions, and catalyzing global environmental change.
This work is urgent. Women have the solutions.
As ecological crises intensify, women are the most vulnerable, facing daily threats to their health, security, nutrition, and earnings. Women spend up to 5 hours a day gathering fuel and 73 billion hours a year fetching water for families, enduring sexual assault and violence. Climate disasters and related political instability present women with life or death challenges. What women really need — access to education, technology, training, funding — is hard to come by.
From these frontlines, women are also the best positioned to address the on-the-ground impacts. International agreements recognize the link between women’s access to resources and advancing economic prosperity, and evidence suggests that investing in women is the #1 most effective environmental and social welfare investment — yet less than 7% of global philanthropic dollars invest in women. Furthermore, traditional aid often fails women — by investing in external solutions (wells, food, etc.) with women as the “beneficiaries” rather than the core change agents. Evidence increasingly shows that this approach does not create sustainable change.
Both the Sustainable Development Goals and the watershed book “Drawdown” conclude that empowering women and girls is one of the greatest leverage points for successfully addressing climate change and humanity’s resilience. When women’s knowledge is centered, and they can access needed resources, networks, and visibility, everyone benefits. Local economies prosper, democracy strengthens, health and education improve, and ecosystems vital to our survival regenerate. Peace, prosperity, and planetary health are inextricably linked, and women are the glue that brings these vital components together.
The Ripple Academy answers a call for support from WEA’s network of grassroots leaders poised to link regional solutions and coordinate change on a global scale. Their work is urgent: they are preserving indigenous seeds key to our survival; introducing clean cookstoves that save lives and reduce deforestation; modeling regenerative farming practices that will feed our planet; protecting our dwindling water sources; staving off destructive and toxic energy extraction; and shaping cultures of peace.
The Ripple Academy invests 100% in the long-term leadership of women working at the grassroots to protect communities’ natural resources, livelihoods, and health, because we know that when women thrive, the earth thrives.
The Ripple Academy is a global training program that equips leaders with resources and tools to forge high-impact environmental solutions that scale. Building from the success of WEA’s model — developed over more than a decade of supporting grassroots women leaders at the verge of scaling critical solutions — the Ripple Academy guides multiple cohorts of women leaders through a year-long “blended-learning” training. This will combine regional gatherings and online education to exponentially advance women’s environmental solutions and influence global environmental goals. Technical and entrepreneurship training, a networking platform, leadership skills, and mentorship will empower participants to organize communities, mobilize resources, and launch environmental projects and campaigns.
The Ripple Academy is…
- Designed collaboratively by a global team dedicated to healing societal challenges, centering the leadership of women, and catalyzing environmental protection.
- Focused on action and solutions designed by trusted grassroots leaders who have track records of success and are poised to create broader impacts.
- A participatory curriculum of practical skills for creating far-reaching solutions that integrate environmental protection, peacebuilding, and entrepreneurship.
- A blended learning platform to strengthen alliances among leaders across borders and share replicable solutions.
WEA’s founding partner in the Ripple Academy is United Religions Initiative (URI), the world’s largest interfaith grassroots network working in 104 countries to cultivate peace by bridging religious and cultural differences. URI brings a network of 600+ “Cooperation Circles” who are engaged in social change and expert conflict resolution/peacebuilding strategies.
WEA and URI have nurtured networks of committed grassroots leaders in a combined 100 countries over 28 years. Our organizations come together at a critical time — when efforts to build bridges across nations, learn from each other, and activate people power are needed more than ever. Our partnership enables both organizations to reach deeper and wider, catalyzing a global ripple effect that begins in our communities. The time is now.