This year the Social Impact Award falls under the scope of the Collaborate for Impact program, financed by the European Union and implemented by EVPA in partnership with Impact Hub Yerevan in Armenia! This year Armenia had 9 SIA finalists who competed for the prize of EUR 1,500.
All participants also competed for the prestige that comes with the Community Vote. Each of them posted a video pitch that lasted about one and a half minutes, revealing their idea to the world, and those who collected the highest number of votes won! This year, the Girlopolis team won the Community Vote from Armenia and a prize of a 6-month membership to Impact Hub Yerevan.
The Girlopolis team, composed of Founder Ani Petrosyan, and Board Member Lusine Torosyan, wanted to tackle SDG 5 (achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), with their idea. With Girlopolis, they were specifically targeting the spheres of business and IT, hoping to level the playing field for women there. So what is Girlopolis? At a glance it is a hackathon for girls, encouraging their ideas and providing them with additional skills to apply in the business and IT spheres.
Upon a closer look, however, there’s more to it than just that. “We wanted to create a community of girls who support each other,” founder Ani Petrosyan said in a candid interview. “When one person sees how the other one succeeds, it gives them motivation. It motivates me too!”
According to Ani, the biggest hurdle for establishing Girlopolis was the lack of information on how to legally register in Armenia as a social enterprise. “We are all IT professionals,” she said, “and we didn’t know the marketing aspect of things.”
Girlopolis stumbled upon the Social Impact Award and Impact Hub Yerevan completely by chance. When they saw the announcement on Facebook, it sparked an interest, and the further they dug the deeper their interest grew. The moment they realized that the project included mentorship, they realized it was an opportunity that they couldn’t miss.
Participating in the Social Impact Award 2021, however, gave them a chance to learn, not only about marketing but so much more. “When you have a new startup and getting a consultation is often too expensive,” said Satenik Mirzoyan. “The workshops were led by true professionals. Whatever questions we had they were able to give us the answers we needed.”
The Social Impact Award also aided them in expanding their network. In fact, they were able to host their very first offline hackathon in the Impact Hub Yerevan space! “We already hosted 2 hackathons, one online one offline,” Ani said with excitement in her voice, “The second one had 350 applicants, but we went through a rigorous selection process and picked out 30 individuals that we split up into 6 teams.”
The hackathon took place over the course of 3 days. During this time the 6 teams are formed, generally made up of 1 manager, 1 programmer, 1 graphic designer, and 1 marketer. Once formed, the teams have to select their leader and undergo team-building exercises. On the first day, the teams are asked to create a solution to a specific problem.
The 3 days go beyond just giving them a task and letting them work on it. In fact, there are 2 guest speakers who are invited to the hackathon. One is a kind of lecturer who teaches them some kind of subject, for example, “How to Build a Unicorn,” or “Intro to Marketing,” while the other speaker is a motivational/inspirational one. That is to say, someone who is already successful in the sphere and who can inspire the participants to dive deeper into that realm.
Initially, the target audience was university students, but after some research, the Girlopolis team began collecting feedback that many were interested in the field but didn’t know where to begin. That’s when the Girlopolis team realized that they needed to expand their audience to high school students, as they were just about to start their journey on the path towards higher education.
“Then we decided to widen the range even more,” explained Satenik, “because there was a woman who was 32 years old and interested in changing her field. We thought, why not allow for older people to participate as well?” And so, Girlopolis became a space for girls and women aged between 14 and 35 years old!
They have big goals, both short and long-term. “We are going to celebrate our 1 year anniversary soon, and we want to do it in a big way,” revealed Ani. “We want to organize at least 2 more hackathons. In fact, we have goals to make our hackathons to be more consistent in nature.”
They are inspired by the United States, where hackathons are held once a month. They have their sights set on increasing the number of hackathons they organize each year. And already Girlopolis is making a buzz!
“We can now proudly say that among female students the name Girlopolis rings a bell,” said Satenik proudly, “and during this time, we were able to spread awareness about our brand even more.”
So much so that according to Ani, there are many different competitors creeping up. “I think this means that we are on the right path,” she laughed. “They follow us and try to understand what our journey has been, what kind of grants we’ve applied to, how we conduct our hackathons so that they can copy us.”
But Girlopolis is here to stay, and already have plans for their community in the next two years. “We imagine that in two years our community will grow to be one of the largest ones among women in the IT and Business field in all of Armenia.”
In fact, their sights are set on even higher heights, as the whole concept of Girlopolis is that it is a city, and each participant is a citizen. “We want to make it international. Every detail of our brand has been thought out very intentionally,” explained Ani. “For example, our badges don’t say ‘participant’ on it, rather ‘citizen,’ because once they participate in our hackathon they become a citizen and we don’t forget them.”
Each Girlopolis citizen gets an ID card after participating in the hackathon. They then all become a part of the online community. “Down the line, we want to spread out internationally and create a global city of girls and women!”
We are happy to have played our part in supporting these bright and enthusiastic young women on their journey in accomplishing their goals!