No one has a clearer understanding of how the climate crisis is affecting a community than the people who call that community home, and solutions to climate challenges also tend to be more successful when developed on the ground. As those often first to witness the effects of climate stressors on their environments and families, women and girls are developing some of the most effective solutions to these challenges. Their local efforts range from improving food security to restoring habitats, preserving cultural heritage to protecting mental health, and so much more. And while their innovative approaches span technologies, initiatives, and programs, their tactics are consistently based on valuing and understanding their communities.
Recognizing the positive impact women and girls continue to have on solving climate-related community challenges, the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) launched the Innovation Station initiative in July 2021 to amplify their efforts. By providing a platform to share their work with a global audience, the Innovation Station expands women’s and girls’ impacts by helping them build relationships with new communities, both domestically and internationally. These communities may face similar challenges, which introduces opportunities for Innovation Station participants to share their best practices or even develop on-the-ground collaborations in different parts of the world. Over the past year, Innovation Station has built a new type of global community, one that values the lived experiences and implements the creativity of women and girls.
The Innovation Station includes a series of virtual events, each highlighting “challenges” that are inspired by a U.S. region and shared by communities across the globe. In a single event, at least seven women or girls speak about their efforts to tackle these challenges, emphasizing their impact and what makes their solutions translatable. In the months that follow, these powerful discussions are archived as episodes of S/GWI’s Innovation Station podcast, ensuring that the speakers’ ideas and perspectives can be shared for years to come.
We have already seen the value of the ever-expanding Innovation Station community. Since the initiative’s inception, participating innovators have deployed their sustainability tools in East Asia, spoken at U.S. Mission events in Europe and South America, contributed to research projects in Louisiana, participated in a U.S. Government-led side event at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and more. Each quarter, they are invited to continue sharing progress by submitting these and other updates to the Innovation Station’s newsletter, which is distributed to a growing list of individuals from around the world who have engaged with the initiative since its launch.
As of July 2022, more than 55 women and girls are part of the Innovation Station network (with 20 more slated to join by the end of the year). The initiative has engaged audiences in 93 countries and 42 U.S. states and has helped participants develop over 225 new community relationships, including 50 connections built through U.S. Embassies. The next virtual event in the Innovation Station series, “The Innovation Station: Golden State,” will be held on Thursday, August 11, and will feature a new cohort of women tackling challenges and creating opportunities in California and elsewhere related to the intersection of climate change and wildfires, park management, and the entertainment industry.
As the Innovation Station celebrates its first anniversary, we are excited to see the role and reach of this initiative expand in its second year. For instance, in collaboration with the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and various U.S. cities, the Innovation Station is launching the “ROAD TRIP” series, a new set of virtual events facilitating conversations between woman innovators, local governments, and other community leaders. The first installment of the new series, “The Innovation Station ROAD TRIP: Chicago,” will discuss investment in women-owned businesses and women-led climate innovation. In addition, S/GWI’s Innovation Station podcast will begin releasing bonus episodes featuring interviews with woman and girl innovators across the globe.
Through these and other efforts, the Innovation Station will continue to amplify and develop networks for women and girls tackling climate-related challenges in their communities. After all, these challenges are not confined by borders, so we don’t think women and girls’ innovative ideas should be confined either.
About the Author: Aubrey R. Paris, Ph.D., is a contracted Gender, Climate & Innovation Policy Advisor in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI), where she leads the Innovation Station initiative. Dr. Paris received her Ph.D. in Chemistry and Materials Science from Princeton University and B.S. in Chemistry and Biology from Ursinus College.