Mobilizing a national health movement

GirlTrek is the largest public health nonprofit for Black women and girls in the U.S. They lead a civil rights-inspired health movement to reverse the threat of preventable, obesity-related diseases that are disproportionately affecting them, bringing together activism and exercise. With their 120,000+ members, they facilitate daily walking campaigns nationwide, mobilizing Black women from all backgrounds to advocate for improved health services in their communities.

After setting an ambitious goal to grow their membership to 1 million women, GirlTrek reached out to Openbox to scale in a way that remained authentic to their values. Openbox conducted research that led to the design and pilot of GirlTrek’s Organizer Playbook and corresponding mobile and desktop sites that could empower any woman to become a GirlTrek organizer.

Left: Taking a GirlTrek walk with our partners in Brooklyn, NY to get to know each other and their work. Right: Journey map documenting the GirlTrek volunteer experience.

How we did it

  • Alignment on what works well for GirlTrek’s current training and recruitment program with GirlTrek leadership and members through collaborative workshops and weekly check-ins. We learned of the social and emotional value the organization provided, as well as the challenges in communicating with new members.
  • Immersion in the GirlTrek experience through extensive research with the GirlTrek community. Openbox participated in two New York-based walks, conducted in-depth interviews with eight leaders and organizers, facilitated a community survey, and audited strategy and training materials to understand the culture and different types of participation happening within the GirlTrek community.
  • Understanding of members’ needs and contexts, to surface the reality of the membership and volunteer experience in relation to GirlTrek leadership’s vision. This provided the context in which tools created would be used, and helped surface gaps that we brought into the prototyping process.
  • Co-creative prototyping of opportunities that were developed through workshops conducted with GirlTrek leadership and members to develop prototypes for an Organizer Playbook and corresponding digital tool that simplifies the recruiting and organizing process while surfacing the values of the movement.
  • Validation of ideas to refine the Playbook and site design. With GirlTrek leadership, Openbox conducted a four-week pilot with organizers in Oakland, St. Louis, and New York, and integrated key learnings in the final development of the tools.
The GirlTrek Organizer Playbook was designed to meet volunteers and members where they’re at by providing information that is easy to access and navigate digitally.


Through our research process, we designed a digital tool and an Organizer Playbook that would empower both members and volunteers to get involved and continue to be active in a way that matches their lifestyles and goals. We designed the tools for different levels of participation, amplifying the message that all levels are welcome and encouraged.

Surfacing burnout for GirlTrek leaders and volunteers

To know what might be improved upon as GirlTrek invited in new members, Openbox began by understanding the perspectives of GirlTrek leadership, staff, long-time volunteers, and newer members.

From this research, it became clear that there was uncertainty around capacity for organizers and members. Organizers, who kept the movement going, were often on the verge of burnout. Even though the most important thing GirlTrek hopes to do is to advocate for the importance of taking care of yourself, we learned from talking with members that self-care can often feel indulgent. We crafted a messaging campaign to challenge these misconceptions, enabling more opportunities for women to participate.

Making volunteership a breeze, not a burden

We learned that there were many members who wanted to step into organizing roles, but felt uncertain about their ability to do so. In order to ensure volunteers were participating at a level that matched their goals, Openbox created a Playbook that collected best practices into one place, making it easy for any new or existing member to get up to speed quickly.

The tool also helped any GirlTrekker better understand the different roles within GirlTrek, and choose the level of involvement that would fit her pace. GirlTrekkers are, by definition, on-the-go, and tools designed needed to match their active lifestyle. The site is accessible on any smartphone, packaging multiple tools into one platform. Members are able to use it when hosting walks in their neighborhoods, setting personal health goals, and recruiting new members.