Everyday Visionary :: Blair Brettschneider

The Collaborative No. 11

Today we are featuring Everyday Visionary Blair Brettschneider, who is the Founder and Executive Director for GirlForward.  GirlForward is a community of support dedicated to creating and enhancing opportunities for girls who have been displaced by conflict and persecution.

This non-profit organization supports the girls in three ways: one-on-one mentoring, after school tutoring and a six week immersion experience, Camp GirlForward. The girls face some overwhelming challenges with poverty, language, isolation and literacy, but biggest challenge by far is the language barrier. Many children take on the responsibility of being the translator for their families. So they not only have the pressure to learn the language to continue their schooling, but they serve as the communication link to the outside world for their families.

 Blair is happy to educate those who are confused about who refugees are or why they are here. The word refugee comes with a great deal of misunderstanding these days. Refugees come from areas of conflict all over the world and they did not choose to uproot their lives and journey to another country, culture and language. Their needs are simple when they get here...safety, food, shelter. GirlForward helps the girls to realize something beyond survival and helps to connect them to their potential for themselves and their communities.

Girl Forward says, “We are in the midst of the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen. Over 60 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes.  In conflict, girls are especially vulnerable to violence, isolation, and being kept out of school. Girls who receive resettlement in the United States face huge challenges: poverty, language barrier, limited or disrupted education, isolation, and trauma. But when girls succeed, everyone benefits. That's where we come in.”

GirlForward is in Chicago, IL and Austin, TX with plans to grow into more cities.  There are plenty of opportunities for those who would like contribute and be of service, empowering young women.

You can follow Blair Brettschneider on social media and find out more about GirlForward by clicking these links:

 Facebook :: Twitter :: Instagram :: Vimeo

The Questionnaire

  1. Where do you currently work?


  1. What is your current role?

Executive Director

  1. How would you describe to a child what you do for a living?

I help girls who are new to the U.S. feel more comfortable in their new home.

  1. What do you hope you have a reputation for as a professional?


  1. What is an accomplishment from your career that meant the world to you?

Launching the second GirlForward location in Austin, TX

  1. What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve had to learn the hard way in your career?

Managing people is the hardest part.

  1. What are some of your go-to sources of inspiration and staying on top of emerging trends that impact your field or industry?

The nonprofit "field" isn't known for being super trendy so instead, I try to follow different businesses and media, particularly those targeting teen girls.

  1. What is something you need in your work environment in order to thrive in your role?

Access to coffee

  1. What you envision for your customers/clients/stakeholders/ patients/citizens/students, etc.?

A world free of barriers to them achieving their goals.

  1. What is one of the biggest challenges you are facing or trying to solve right now?

How to best run an organization with two locations!

  1. When and where do you tend to get your ideas?

It depends! I get ideas from other organizations, magazines, companies, etc. Sometimes I get ideas from coworkers or friends.

  1. What are three of your favorite books?
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
  1. What’s one of your favorite non-profits?

Other than GirlForward? 826CHI!

  1. If you could collaborate with any group or individual in the world, who would be your top three picks?
  • Jessica Williams (w/ Phoebe Robinson)
  • Phoebe Robinson (w/ Jessica Williams)
  • the organization Girl Effect
  1. What would you want to collaborate on with the people/groups you just mentioned?

Podcast with Phoebe and Jessica. And with Girl Effect, maybe a media project with our girls!

  1. If you were invited to give a TED Talk (or have given one), what would you speak about?

Early on in starting GirlForward, I was chosen for CNN Heroes. I would talk about the pressure and problems of that "hero" label.

  1. How do you unwind at the end of a stressful day?

I'd love to say "I go running!" and that is the case sometimes...but also I drink wine and play The Sims.

  1. What do you think your 80-year-old self would tell you right now?

Enjoy your dirty, shared apartment with the shower that surprise-scalds you. It won't last forever.

  1. What do you think your 10-year-old self would be most impressed with about your life right now?

I'm living in a big city and also wearing adult overalls currently.

  1. What does your creative process entail when you're doing what you do best?

It always involves a notebook and lots of jotting down of random notes.

  1. If there were more hours in the days, what would you do with them?

Make sure I walk my dog for a solid hour every morning AND make breakfast AND blow dry my hair. I normally can only get 1-2 of those things done in a morning.

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