Lynn Johnson is an entrepreneur, speaker, girl advocate, and Co-Founder/CEO of Spotlight: Girls – a certified B Corp that consults organizations on how to activates girls & women to take center stage. Using theater and the arts to promote empowerment, Lynn ran the Go Girls! Summer camp for 12 years. Now in the midst of scaling her work and her impact, she is now offering the Go Girls! curriculum to organizations around the country, as well as consulting organizations on how to implement similar programming for adults in order to foster a culture shift towards inclusivity, compassion, and care. Read on to learn more about Lynn, and how she’s wielding what she calls the ‘sacred feminine paradigm’ to transform our economy and our world:
First things first: tell us about your work.
I co-founded Spotlight Girls with my wife with the mission to educate, inspire and activate girls and women to take center stage. We believe that when women, girls and gender non-conforming people are able to center our voice and our leadership, it will ripple out to all other areas that need fixing.
Currently, we are in a transition period: for the past 12 years, the bulk of our business revolved around our summer camp. Go Girls! is an experience for elementary and middle school girls where they are learning social, emotional leadership skills through the theater and the arts.
In 2016, I started a fundraising process to scale. We decided we would create a licensing program that allows girl advocates, women entrepreneurs, and organizations to be able to use our Go Girl! program and replicate it. I’m excited to share that we recently sold our first license in the East Bay.
Today, we are transitioning into a consultancy firm to help other organizations implement our programming. We are consulting on projects focused on gender and racial justice (such as Girls Scouts) who want to implement organizational culture change in order to better support girls of color. After all, we can’t talk about gender justice without racial justice.
What problems are you seeking to solve?
When it comes down to it, we’re on a mission to solve all the problems. The fact is, the economy we’re currently living in is one based on extraction and domination. Our sacred feminist paradigm encourages us to work towards regeneration, community, and care. For those of us who are connected to this, we can lead the Earth towards the transition and transformation we need if we’re able to take up more space in leadership roles. So we are preparing women and girls as much as possible.
Why is theater an innovator in the social impact space?
The act of making and performing theater is an amazing empowerment tool.
In the Go Girls! Program, girls determine who they want to be in the play, and then we create stories around it. They choose who they want to be, how they can express it, and then they share it with a loving audience.
By doing this exercise, participants turn “I don’t know what I want to say” into purposeful, powerful scripts. Girls are practicing saying things like “No, I don’t like that”, and “I am powerful”. They are practicing affirmations out loud again and again, and that kind of language practice is transformative.
The method also works for adults!
One of the theater forms we’re starting to use in our consulting work is called ‘Playback Theater’. Playback theater is a community, improvisational form of theater. People from the audience tell stories from their real lives, and it is magical because people feel very seen. They may not be on stage, but they are seeing their stories play out in front of other people, and it’s validating. It’s the most impactful form of empathy practice. It shifts and bonds people together.
One of my other projects is the Oakland Freedom Theater, which uses theater methods to help participants talk about gender and racial justice.
When we do theatrical activities with adults, it becomes a practice of embodiment. We’re used to sitting down and having meetings, writing emails, being in formal settings, so this gives us a chance to be playful and embody things that we’re feeling, which in turn, connects us more to each other.
What kind of outcomes do you deliver in your practice?
We want to give organizations an opportunity to experience a different way of being together- a space that helps people focus on creativity, community, and care. We want to provide space to move people towards a sacred feminine paradigm. We’re interested in working with any organization that is trying to figure out how to transform their internal organizational culture into a new paradigm of collaboration and shared leadership.
More specifically, we’re doing three basic things:
- Building educational programs that support young people
- Facilitating an internal culture to shift work around building inclusivity in an organization. As we’re moving from masculine paradigm (extraction, domination, control) to a feminine one (creativity, community, and care), we address how we can do that, how do we make that happen, and how do we hold ourselves accountable.
- We use art and play to do the above.
What inspires you about being a part of SVC?
I had the great honor being gifted a membership two years ago as a recognized innovation entrepreneur, and that was a really wonderful opportunity for me to attend the conference. I had been familiar with the organization, and had always found it to be something highly aspirational because of the level of businesses that are involved. I loved the conference so much- compared to others, it felt like there was more intimacy, heart, and action-oriented spirit. I feel like that’s how I associate SVC: a family-oriented network. I often feel like I’m being taken care of in a way that is unique in the space.