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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Spark

“I raise my voice not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.”

― Malala Yousafzai


Dear partners and friends,

Spark Policy Institute was founded with a core belief that diverse perspectives are key to achieving meaningful change. Each of our conference rooms are named after leaders who made a difference because they spoke up and spoke out: Malala Yousafzai, Rodolpho “Corky” Gonzales, Hattie McDaniel, Maya Angelou, Dolores Huerta, and Sojourner Truth.

Our role as a bridge between nonprofits, communities, and funders brings with it a great responsibility to ensure all voices are heard in strategy design, implementation, research, evaluation, and interpretation. With the mark of the new year, we are committed to assessing how we are doing and where we need to improve. One of the ways we are doing that, is by renewing our focus on the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Our team is taking on the hard work to make this vision reality – we have assembled not just a committee, but a working group, whose key charges are to develop goals for improving our work and our internal culture to more truly and demonstrably respect diversity, value equity, and foster inclusion.

We are committed to sharing our journey with specifics about the steps we are taking to reach our goals. You can read an introduction to our reinforced effort in our latest blog post Journey to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which includes a link to our DEI Commitment, and our 2018 DEI Plan. We will continue to update our website and newsletter with all of our efforts.

I am sincerely humbled by the skill and perseverance of my colleagues who continually seek to improve our work and challenge our assumptions. Together in this process we are capable of remarkable change.

As always, we at Spark welcome your questions, suggestions, or reactions. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me, or any of our staff as we move forward with this critical work.

Sincerely,
Kyle Brost
CEO
Spark Policy Institute

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Integrating Lenses for a Systems Approach

Systems thinking is often considered a broad view of all the pieces required to make meaningful change happen. It’s essential to making real change – but when we equate the system with the change, we overlook the individual players. These individual players are crucial to making change happen, and can get lost in the complexity. In a reversal of roles, we lose the trees for the forest.

A systems lens is most effective when it results in recognizing and leveraging individual contributors. In fact, if you neglect to see and recognize individuals, you aren’t really using a systems lens. True systems thinking shifts between and integrates a 50,000-foot view with a 5,000-foot view, a five-foot view, and every degree in-between. No view alone is any more complete than the other.

Take for example, Ella Baker. When people learn about the civil rights era, they are often directed to the 50,000-foot view: large, systems changes and movements that occurred. This would be the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which for the first time prohibited discrimination in employment and public accommodation on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

At the 5,000-foot view, the focus is often on Martin Luther King, Jr. and his contribution to the larger movement. The same year that congress enacted the Civil Rights Act, Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded The Nobel Peace Prize. He became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, and it can be easy to equate the movement and outcomes with King himself or the Act his efforts contributed to passing.

However, when we get down to the five-foot view, we see the crucial importance of Ella Baker. In a time without the internet and texting, Baker organized rallies, created and printed brochures, and generated interest from communities in advance of organized events. Without her efforts and many like hers, the movement that Martin Luther King, Jr. championed would not have advanced as it did.

Ella Baker is an example of someone who enabled change to happen, by being present on the ground. She is an inspiration for any individual working toward a larger, meaningful change – proof that each one of us does make a difference, and that we each add incredible value to the bigger picture.

People like Ella Baker help us as individuals see that regardless of how visible our role in change might be, it matters. They also remind us that we must shift between and integrate a variety of lenses for a systems approach. This ability to explore, engage, and integrate views is crucial for positive impacts.

There are some great tools available to us to explore, engage with, and integrate various systems views. To explore and access some of these, see our Tools for Social Innovators.


You’re Invited: In-Person Lunch & Learn

On Thursday November 2 at 11:30am MST, Kyle Brost, CEO of Spark Policy Institute will host a Lunch & Learn about “Integrating Lenses for a Systems Approach” at Spark’s offices. Registration is limited to the first 20 people and a light lunch will be provided.

RSVP to the in-person event, or attend our live webinar hosted by GoToMeeting.

Webinar Option

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/233138165

You can also dial in using your phone.

United States: +1 (571) 317-3122

Access Code: 233-138-165

First GoToMeeting? Let’s do a quick system check: https://link.gotomeeting.com/system-check

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Making real change that impacts real lives

By Kyle Brost, CEO, Spark Policy Institute

When I was a young boy my father moved to a remote island in Alaska. I spent some middle school years and every summer after on this remote island. At one point I was fortunate enough to get a job with Ounalashka Corporation, the Alaska Native Village corporation for Unalaska, Alaska.

While working for Ounalashka Corporation, I was able to help reclaim and restore land and site work performed during World War II. The island served as a base and support center.

This experience gave me an early view of the complexity involved in public policy and specifically where public policy and corporations meet. Alaska Native corporations were a result of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) passed in 1971. The ANCSA led to the creation of regional and village corporations to manage 45 million acres owed to natives.

These corporations have done very well financially. In fact, in 2010 eight of the top 10 corporations in Alaska were owned by Alaska Natives. While there have been many wonderful outcomes, the impact has not been as broad or deep as many hoped. The reason likely relates to something I’ve told countless clients; which is that our systems (or organizations or even our lives) are perfectly designed to get the results that we’re getting. If we want broad and deep impacts, we must evaluate the very systems creating those impacts.

This is the core reason that I chose to join Spark Policy Institute. Each member of Spark’s team is keenly aware of the need to evaluate entire systems and phenomenally skilled at doing so. Already, I have watched the team push themselves, each other, and clients to think beyond themselves and to engage the broader systems involved, and our clients have thanked them for it.

For me personally, I promise to carry the Spark tradition of thinking strategically and systemically forward. I will apply my expertise in strategy and organizational design, along with my passion for impacting real and meaningful change, to bridge the gap between the public and private sectors. I will push all of us to consider and engage the broad systems that defy labels of public or private, to define our strategies in ways that can drive efforts, and to effectively evaluate those efforts in order to learn and adapt appropriately.

In this way, collectively and collaboratively, we can make real change that impacts real lives.