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February  Spark News: Sparking Equity
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Spark News

Sparking Equity

One of the things that makes our work so important is the opportunity to affect meaningful change in the lives, places, and systems with which we work. However, we can only realize the bold goals we set by focusing on equity, ensuring that the shape of the starting line does not dictate where people finish. A number of our current projects have taken significant steps to ensure an equity focus in their process and, therefore, their outcomes. For example: 

This month, we’re taking a closer look at equity, including our newest toolkit: Tools for Integrating an Equity Lens. The toolkit looks at how organizations tackling complex problems can integrate an equity lens into the various “choice points” in their process in order to increase equity. 

Spark Policy Institute develops innovative, research-based approaches to help clients solve complex societal problems that defy easy solutions.

Tools for Social Innovators

The newest installment of our Tools for Social Innovators series is Tools for Integrating an Equity Lens. The toolkit is not designed to replicate the wealth of high-quality and accessible resources on the hows and whys of equity. Rather, it provides a series of actionable tools and resources for organizations that are looking for ways to more concretely integrate an equity focus into their work and processes.

In the meantime, you might want to also visit our other great toolkits: http://sparkpolicy.com/tools/

Have a resource or case study to share? Head on over to our “contribute” page where you can submit your resource for inclusion in a toolkit!

Share This: How can we improve our #planning processes to increase #equity? http://bit.ly/1VNkgAk

Blog: Redefining Rigor: Describing quality evaluation in complex, adaptive settings


By Dr. Jewlya Lynn

Evaluations of complex systems-change strategies or adaptive, innovative programs cannot use the same yardstick as traditional evaluations to measure quality:  an experimental design is hard to apply when a strategy’s success is not fully defined upfront and depends on being responsive to the environment. In recognition of this need, Jewlya Lynn, Spark Policy Institute’s CEO and Hallie Preskill, Managing Director at FSG have proposed a new definition of rigor that broadens the way we think about quality in evaluation to encompass things that are critical in complex, adaptive environments.  

Our Commitment to Inclusiveness


Roughly a year ago, Spark decided to formalize our commitment to inclusiveness, beginning with developing a statement of this commitment: Spark Policy Institute believes diverse perspectives are key to achieving meaningful change. We are committed to fostering an organizational culture where all people are treated fairly; supporting communities with tailored approaches that lead to a successful future; and ensuring all voices are heard, particularly those most affected by the change.

Since then, we have worked on instituting this commitment, through the creation of an inclusiveness subcommittee that, with the help of the Denver Foundation’s Inclusiveness Guide, is helping to find ways to translate this value into action in our everyday work, for example:
  • Fostering a dialogue with the Spark team about what inclusiveness, diversity and cultural humility means to them;
  • Creating the time and space to take on the work outlined in the Denver Foundation Inclusiveness Guide; and 
  • Setting quarterly goals to meet in the Inclusiveness Guide steps.
Inclusiveness at Spark, as it is in any organization, is an ongoing process. This year, our focus is to “Internally and externally create accessible, safe, and institutionalized space for all diverse voices to speak honestly without fear of dismissive reactions or retribution.” We look forward to creating a dialogue about what inclusiveness means and how we continue to “walk the talk” in our work and the work we do with our partners.

Start a conversation: What does #inclusiveness in the #workplace mean to you? Share your examples with us!

Making a Meaningful Difference

One of our values and priorities at Spark is working closely with our partners, learning every step of the way, and achieving outcomes that make a meaningful difference. We believe in going beyond project by project work and applying the lessons we’ve learned that can help the field and others learn and grow.

By day, Sophie Oppenheimer is an associate researcher at Spark, but by night (and weekends and during vacations) Sophie serves as on the Board of Directors for the Janada L. Batchelor Foundation for Children (JBFC), where she applies her interest in using evaluation as a tool to improve outcomes for youth in East Africa.

During her first visit to Tanzania, Sophie conducted an evaluation of JBFC education programs, listening to staff and youth through brainstorming sessions, observations, interviews, surveys, and informal conversations. From this, Sophie was able to identify a specific area for improvement – sustainable food production – that directly addressed the needs of those served by JBFC. This led to the development of a permaculture program at the JBFC campus.  So what has happened since then? JBFC now produces a majority of their food on campus and has integrated permaculture education into their school curriculum!

Sophie has also co-founded Sustainable Empowerment and Economic Development Services, which focuses on using sustainable food production through permaculture and agroforestry as a means of improving project sustainability for organizations in domestic and international settings.

Learn more at Spark Policy or find us on Twitter: @SparkPolicy.  Have a great day!
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