Community Improvement, Capacity Building


Lafayette, CO


To foster young, empowered female leaders who create and innovate sustainable development initiatives for their communities.

Ruling Year


Executive Director

Paul Foster Spurzem


Genevieve Macfarlane Smith

Main Address

406 Wilson St

Lafayette, CO 80026 USA


education, leadership, gender





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Community Improvement, Capacity Building N.E.C. (S99)

Education N.E.C. (B99)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

We know young people in the Peruvian Andes areas are highly motivated and hold valuable perspectives to solve critical local community problems. Yet, Andean youth are not seen (and do not see themselves) as leaders or agents of change, and adult leaders and educators continue to fall short of their goals. Currently, low quality education and a lack of opportunity (to act on what they see and believe in) is the greatest challenge limiting the potential of youth in rural Peruvian schools, exacerbated by poor teacher preparation and unclear pathways to implement progressive national curriculum policies (OECD, 2017; PISA, 2018).

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Visionaria for Schools

Where we work

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

The purpose of the Visionaria for Schools program (VfS) is to improve education quality and provide leadership opportunities to young women to realize their potential to direct their own personal development and the sustainable development of their community . The program works primarily through Visionaria’s local staff members who train and support teachers in remote secondary schools in the state of Cusco, Peru, throughout the school-year to build their own skills and motivation to achieve the new standards proposed by the national ministry. VfS teachers facilitate the 1-year Visionaria curriculum in the regular “civic and personal development” class period, during which students form teams around the problems they are most motivated to solve, supported by our team’s diverse knowledge of existing public and private development initiatives. For young women, in particular, VfS holds a mirror to their inherent​​ ​leadership potential and provides practical opportunities ​to prove this potential to themselves and those around them before graduating. We work through existing teaching talent and infrastructure because we believe our teacher- and student-centered approach will enable them to meet and trust the new curriculum policy goals.

Visionaria lessons were first developed from 2013-2016 for an extra-curricular Summer program with and for young women from indigenous communities entering university in Cusco. The 5-week program (adapted and facilitated by local educators) included agency-based empowerment, leadership, gender and design-thinking activities. The 2-part program included workshops, followed by community projects, which resulted in greater self-esteem and self-confidence for 70 girls, whose self-led projects benefited over 2,100 people in 16 different communities. In 2016 - when Rotary funding expired - Visionaria alumni urged us to bring the program to more girls -- AND boys -- ideally before graduating secondary-school. The girls told us, without engaging boys in these critical topics, gender equality efforts would stumble. Realizing that sustainable solutions come from within – ourselves, our communities, and the positive visions we share for the future – VfS draws from world-class leadership training and design methodologies in a three-part learning experience: EMPOWER (Build self-confidence, esteem, and positive self-identity); EXPLORE (Identify your priorities and explore the issues and people involved); ENGAGE (Create projects and seize opportunities to solidify your confidence and experience). Demand from education ministries in growing. In 2019, the UGELs of Anta and Calca are partnering with the VfS program and providing professional development credit for participating teachers.

Visionaria Network was founded by several international development professionals working in Peru who saw their well-designed projects stall, such as promoting clean cookstoves. Why? Families, and especially women, did not adopt their recommendations because those recommendations didn’t come from community priorities. “Visionaria grew out of the realization that women and girls who are supposed to benefit from international development projects are too often left out of their design,” says Paul Spurzem, one of the organization’s founders. These development professionals realized that girls and women are critical to the success of community improvement projects. That’s when they started a summer leadership program for Peruvian girls, to design and implement service-learning projects in their communities. Their approach helped identify community priorities and position girls as leaders with valuable insight – overcoming girls’ own self-doubts in the process. The girls soon advocated for their male peers to join in, particularly for projects that address gender inequality. As demand for Visionaria’s leadership programs grew, these veteran development practitioners realized two things. First, to scale up their program, Visionaria needed a cost-effective way to train more local facilitators. Second, teachers would be a prime target to implement the model, because of new national curriculum standards that required secondary schools to provide similar leadership and learning opportunities to students. Visionaria soon partnered with the local education ministry, to design a teacher training curriculum that would expand the organization’s girls’ empowerment and service-learning program into Peru’s secondary schools and include boys. Visionaria for Schools is led by Paola Saldivias, advised by local Visionaria alumni, and implemented by the Visionaria team (of Peruvian educators and development experts) in Cusco, Peru.

The program has successfully empowered educators in isolated and under-resourced Andean public schools since 2018, who have achieved modern teaching goals (including personalization of lessons to meet student needs, improvement of teacher-student relationships, and promoting equitable gender norms). Simultaneously, we observed improvements in students’ critical personal and employable skills (including self-advocacy, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills). Between 2018 and 2019, VfS benefited over 1,800 students (~53% girls, ~47% boys) from 40 public secondary-schools in partnership with two provincial education ministries (Anta & Calca). Our project is unique for its integration of best-practices in gender-sensitive pedagogy, leadership training, and participatory community development. We leverage existing education infrastructure and public resources by designing our material for approval and use by any teacher in Peru in the “Personal and Civic Development” class period.

Demand from education ministries in growing. In 2019, the provincial ministries of education in Anta and Calca have partnered with Visionaria Network to train and pilot the Visionaria for Schools program, and provide professional development credit for participating teachers. District government officials have also requested more information and guidance for how to involve young people from Visionaria partner schools in their district to develop their 2020 project budget priorities and community education efforts - an opportunity we are eager to explore. -- Visionaria for Schools (VfS) draws its strength from several win-win collaborations: First, for teachers and education authorities, VfS fills a critical training gap in the required “Personal and Civic Development” (DPCC) course. This course aims to “strengthen students’ sense of self, cultural identity, and generate meaningful civic participation”. Based on the highest student priorities and problems that want to see solved, Visionaria Network staff connect student-teams to existing initiatives and local leaders working to solve similar problems.

External Reviews



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Board Leadership Practices

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?