Visionaria Team Story

What started as an initiative to enable girls to develop problem-solving and leadership skills through team-based community projects, has grown to encompass a ‘Visionaria’ mindset and movement for girls to identify and realize their visions for the future.

Visionaria Network began with the realization that women and girls who are supposed to benefit from international community development projects are too often left out of the design and implementation of those projects.

Genevieve Smith, returning from a community cooking and energy research project in Peru, teamed up with Marika Meertens (previously with Engineers Without Borders) and other volunteers to apply for funding from the Rotary Foundation to try something new.

In 2012, we led 25 girls to develop their visions for themselves and their communities. In 5 weeks during Summer, the 15- to 23-year-old girls from marginalized backgrounds implemented their own cookstoves, water filters, and educational projects, changing the lives over 300 community members, friends, and neighbors.

From 2013-2016, we identified opportunities to improve the program by speaking with local educators and surveying participants and stakeholders. When several girls chose to focus their projects on bringing the Visionaria empowerment and leadership activities to their younger peers in local schools, we realized the magnitude of the problem, and the opportunity for so many more girls to become change-agents. The summer programs eventually reached over 55 girls who have in turn impacted over 1,600 community members.

We are scaling our programs by supporting select schools and educators to deliver the Visionaria course content in schools in Peru and other regions across the Americas.

Ultimately we aim to foster a ‘Visionaria’ mindset in young women through experiential learning opportunities that enable them to become social innovators in their own lives in communities.

~Team Visionaria


Team


Genevieve Smith

Co-Founder / President

Genevieve is a specialist in gender and women’s empowerment, with an emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship. She leads program strategy at Visionaria Network based on her initial creation of the Visionaria program model and experience working throughout Latin America, Asia and Africa in both private and social sectors.


Paul Spurzem

Co-Founder / Exec. Director / Visionario

Paul is an international business professional turned social entrepreneur dedicated to enabling women and girls to envision and dictate their futures. He leads the Visionaria Team in partner engagement, program development, and participatory design efforts in English and Spanish.


Paola Saldivias

Master Facilitator / Andean Regional Manager

Paola is a communications and community development specialist with an emphasis on household energy technology and entrepreneurship. She has experience managing business and research projects in Bolivia, Peru, Guatemala, and Ecuador. Paola leads Visionaria training programs and regional network development in Peru, based in Cusco.


Kali Basman

Director of Partnerships

Kali develops strategic educational and sustainable development partnerships.


Marika Meertens

Resident Engineer / Administrator

Marika oversees special projects and assists with organizational administration.


Advisors


Dennis Frohlich

Legal Counsel, Director

Abigale Stangl

Research Consultant
PhD Candidate, Design Researcher

Lucie Sommer

Research Consultant
Research Affiliate Children, Youth, and Environments Center

Erica Baptiste

Art Director & Designer
Artist, Photographer, Designer, Educator

Chris Carruth

Research & Media Advisor
Technologist and Artist Independent

Melinda Marquis

Scientist
Renewable Energy Program Manager, NOAA Earth Systems Research

Dennis Frohlich

Legal Counsel


Chris Carruth

Research & Media Advisor
Technologist and Artist Independent


Melinda Marquis

Scientist
Renewable Energy Program Manager, NOAA Earth Systems Research


Clint Talbott

Editorial Advisor
Director of Communications & External Relations at the University of Colorado, Boulder


Natalia Azarova

Translator & Interpreter
Electrical Engineer, Advisor for Adoption of Renewable Energy

Abigale Stangl

Research Consultant
PhD Candidate, Design Researcher


Lucie Sommer

Research Consultant
Research Affiliate Children, Youth, and Environments Center


Erica Baptiste

Art Director & Designer
Artist, Photographer, Designer, Educator


Robyn Hazlitt

Community Advisor
Philanthropic Services, The Community Foundation


Saskia Westhof

Research & Global Education Consultant
Business Ecosystem & Forum Specialist, Shuraako


Cindy Cordova

Educator & Empowerment Specialist
Assistant Director, Boston University

Robyn Hazlitt

Community Advisor
Philanthropic Services, The Community Foundation

Clint Talbott

Editorial Advisor
Director of Communications & External Relations at the University of Colorado, Boulder

Saskia Westhof

Research & Global Education Consultant
Business Ecosystem & Forum Specialist, Shuraako

Cindy Cordova

Educator & Empowerment Specialist
Assistant Director, Boston University

Natalia Azarova

Translator & Interpreter
Electrical Engineer, Advisor for Adoption of Renewable Energy