Becoming a young servant leader
Born in Colombia, Maryland, to two federal employees, Blandford adopted a unique perspective on life: “When you see bad things, don’t look away; be better and do something.”
She put that philosophy to the test as a University of Pittsburgh PULSE Fellow, through which talented young servant leaders partner with Pittsburgh nonprofits for a year of service and leadership. Blandford later worked at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, where she gained an appreciation for community-led change and also spent two years with the Global Summit of Women, a forum for women to learn from one another and share business expertise, gaining insight into gender impact initiatives.
After spending a few years in the workforce, Blandford recognized that, in order to achieve her aspiration to focus on disadvantaged women and to drive impact at scale, she needed more quantitative experience.
“There are a lot of people that want to do a lot of good, and I wanted to be in an environment where I could look at policy through a critical, gender-sensitive lens,” said Blandford.
During her time at the McCourt School, Blandford sought internships at organizations where she could directly contribute to policymaking and policy evaluation, including the Brookings Institute and the Center for International Private Enterprise. At both organizations, Blandford challenged herself and her colleagues to keep people from disadvantaged groups, often left out of the conversation and denied their dignity, at the forefront of their decision-making.
Lessons learned from international policymakers
During the summer and fall of 2022, Blandford completed an internship with the Equity and Innovation team at Results for Development, a global nonprofit strategy consulting organization, where she was exposed to impact investing and how to drive impact that satisfies investors while making a difference on the ground.
“It was exciting to be in a room with people who wanted to change processes and the bureaucracy behind how decisions get made,” said Blandford.
“An important component of international development policy is the return on investment,” she said. “I have found that social change, particularly for women, is hard to quantify and observe.”
Blandford also learned the importance of bringing diverse stakeholders into the conversation and factoring in the opinions of those most impacted by policy change.
“I believe the inclusion of women in the policymaking process is critical and an area on which the international development community must focus its future efforts,” she said.
“The field of international development is at an inflection point, and I am a strong believer that we should include women at the decision-making table and trust them to make the best decisions for themselves.”