4-H as the Fabric of Change

4-H as the Fabric of Change: 4-H Textile and Fashion Clubs in Broward County

Fort Lauderdale, United StatesFort Lauderdale, United States
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Start 4-H Textile and Fashion Clubs in every public school in Broward County. Grow and process fiber, make and print local fabric, and design and produce local South Florida fashion.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we let our youth design and make their own clothing by giving them the tools and support to do so.
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Our local culture and economy is suffering because of the globalization of the textile industry. We have a service economy that does not provide an adequate employment base for our current and future population. We need to develop local capability in order to express our local style and create a robust garment and textile industry in South Florida.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Address economic development through youth empowerment. Start textile and fashion 4-H Clubs in every public school in Broward County, giving access to over 300,000 youth. Create gardens and experiment with fibers (cotton, hemp, coir, flax) and natural plant dyes. Allow youth to create and decorate their own fabrics and fashions, demonstrate their research and exhibit their results, using the 100-year-old 4-H framework, curriculum and rubrics. 4-H is fully developed nationally but only modestly implemented in Broward County. This 4-H project extends the USDA and University of Florida capability directly into the lives of our youth and their families, encouraging enterprise and green environmental practices.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

By giving local youth a deeper understanding of how fiber is produced and transformed into articles of clothing, and the tools and know-how to do it for themselves, they take ownership and greater control of a major part of their identity. Now they can create their own style, while at the same time, conserving natural resources, reducing pollution, and reducing the exploitation of labor in other locations. It gives our children options for their future. This project allows them the concrete means to engineer, construct and problem solve, preparing them for future challenges as adults.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We have gathered resources (50 sewing machines, notions, donated fabrics, patterns, etc), and started several clubs with about 100 members in total. We have been growing cotton as a demonstration location and are also investigating other fibers and plant dyes that can grow successfully in South Florida. Every child that joins a 4-H club is more likely to be engaged in the community, complete their high school diploma, and enroll in college. Every child that learns to sew develops a sense of accomplishment, attention to detail, and problem solving skills that will benefit them in adult entrepreneurship skills. Tremendous investment has been made nationally and regionally to develop the curriculum and project rubrics, what is needed now is on the ground support for local implementation, mostly by volunteer adults.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

If we adopt 4-H clubs in every public school, within 5-10 years, we will have thousands of young people and 4-H alumni that understand, appreciate and execute fiber, textile, and fashion design and production. We will have a new economic engine in South Florida. The children love this and want to do it. What is missing today is an appreciation of the value of this industry and access to its tools and materials. With a shining example in Broward County, other counties and school districts could change their policies to adopt 4-H clubs in every school and after school program.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

4-H curriculum development and infrastructure is funded by the Smith Lever Act through the USDA and University of Florida with administrative support from Broward County. Local implementation of this project exists today largely through volunteer support and donated materials, and it is expected to continue using this approach. The positive economic impact occurs as the 4-Hers begin to contribute as entrepreneurs and workforce members.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

While there are many people engaged in the maker movement in South Florida, we are not aware of anyone else addressing youth empowerment in this industry using a systematic and proven approach on a large scale.

Founding Story

My Aha! moment was when I was a guardian ad litem to a young 14-year-old girl in foster care who was failing at school and depressed. I was not able to convince her through my words that she could have a bright future if she studied hard. There are hundreds if not thousands of young people like her that lack hopeful future expectations because in truth, opportunities to excel are very limited. Our children need structure and support to address their own needs and prepare for their future. 4-H was instituted 100 years ago for this purpose; specifically the textile and fashion project is extremely popular and effective for developing concrete skills, good character, and career pathways.


We have a small cadre of 4-H paid staff, a 4-H association board, and numerous 4-H adult volunteers and parents supporting each club. As the project grows, we will recruit additional 4-H adult volunteers from the schools, parents, and communities involved.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Raw Materials, Manufacturing.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Advocate/Organizer, Designer, Farmer or Farmer Association Representative, Non-profit Staff.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Children, Consumers, Corporations, Designers, Farmer or Farmer Associations, Policymakers, Women, Youth.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Conscious Consumerism, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Gender Equality, Recycling or Circular Economy.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Advocacy, Capacity Building, Training.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Hidden from View: Conditions in Forests, Farms, and Factories are Only Visible to a Select Few, Sustainability is Not Yet in the DNA: Fast Fashion’s Current Model Disincentivizes Value-Driven Economies.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Unite More than Voice: Tap into Community Capital and Collective Resources, Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?


If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

Community development, Economic development, Poverty alleviation, Youth development, Youth leadership.

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?

By focusing on the fiber and fashion projects withing 4-H.

Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

Yes, by encouraging others to become part of the 4-H movement.

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

We receive donated fabric samples and scraps from local decorators and factories, reducing landfill waste and our input costs.