A strong identity: GSAFE

Developing leadership in the LGBT community
A strong identity: GSAFE

A strong identity: GSAFEA strong identity: GSAFEA strong identity: GSAFEAmber Sowards describes GSAFE’s work as fearlessly compassionate.

The group that started as an all-volunteer organization in 1991 has grown into a nonprofit that strives to develop leadership skills among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students it serves. It does so with care and empathy but also without fear, says Sowards, communications and development manager for GSAFE, short for Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools. GSAFE was formed to create school environments where LGBT students can thrive. One of its many initiatives is a Foundations of Leadership course, which allows students to explore their own identities and pairs them with adult mentors. “We try to pull in youth that have been pushed out, help them be a part of and celebrated in this community,” says Ali Muldrow, a racial justice youth organizer. GSAFE provides guidance for teachers about safety of LGBT youth as well. “These systems we are combating have been ingrained in our society; it’s going to take work to shift,” Muldrow says.

What is social innovation?

According to Stanford University’s Social Innovation Review, social innovation is a “novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable or just than existing solutions” and benefits primarily society as a whole rather than private individuals.

It includes these elements:

Increasing employment, productivity and economic growth

Justice, fairness, environmental preservation, improved health, arts and culture and better education

A social innovation:

Can be a product, production process or technology (much like innovation in general), but it can also be a principle, an idea, a piece of legislation, a social movement, an intervention or some combination of them.

Recognizes the fundamental role of cross-sector dynamics: exchanging ideas and values, shifting roles and relationships and blending public, philanthropic and private resources. Innovation blossoms where the sectors converge.

Can’t be understood, let alone solved, without involving the nonprofit, public and private sectors.

The M List
Madison Magazine‘s M List is a who’s who of organizations and individuals who are having an impact on our local culture and economy. In its third year, the M List recognizes those making strides in the area of social innovation. Last year’s list of innovators were in the food industry. The original M List, in 2013, honored the technology sector. The 2014 M List honored “Foodtastic” entrepreneurs and innovators.

Click here to return to the 2015 M List.