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It's been a while since I was active as GS Leader, but I will explain how it was. Each of those special patches had a specific set of requirements depending on the age level of the girls. For example, Girl Power (the only one I remember) had some basic self esteem requirements and some recognition of female leaders/trailblazers for Brownies, but got much more into things like Title X and even rape, abuse and sexual issues for Seniors. At that time, each patch had a brochure that you could get from local service center. I haven't been in ours in a few years, so I don't know what they have anymore... besides our council is one of those was merged into a mega council.. so I know things have likely changed.
Depends on what badges you are talking about. Councils or even SU (service units) or I have even seen some troops, develope there own patch programs. These can be related to a service project, museum, etc. Some patch programs such as 'Zink the Zebra' are available to girls through cancer awareness teaching. All these types have specific requirements. Now there are also fun patches and these are just that, fun. We had a 'My guy and me' pizza party, we gave those girls a patch. Had ice cream with the residents of our local nursing home, got a patch. Had a pool party, got a patch. The patches are very cheap, and we have a total of 45 girls in our SU so we give out alot of patches. My daughter's blue vest (2nd year Daisy) is covered on the back. But she loves showing it off!
My daughter seems to earn patches just by showing up. Rededication, selling cookies, camping heck there are even some boy scout ones she has earned by just showing up cub family camp, several scout sunday ones, junior shooting sports team and even one camporee. I do not think the Girl Scout troop has ever awarded my son a patch though even though he has showed up at a couple of their events mostly skate nights as he loves to roller skate,