Posted on

Journey to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Alison McCarthy

Capitalizing on the new year’s encouragement of new habits and improvement, we are excited to announce a renewed focus to build and improve on Spark’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. This undertaking reflects our organizational and individual staff values. Much like New Year’s Resolutions that last, we know this type of work requires ongoing commitment through successes and challenges, a humble and realistic approach, and support from those around us.

Spark has had an inclusiveness statement since 2014 and has used participatory research and facilitation approaches since its inception. The general sentiments underlying DEI have been a part of this organization since the beginning. We believe it’s time to build on these sentiments to operationalize them – to “walk our talk,” so to speak. The people we work with and for deserve it. Additionally, many of us are drawn to the work we get to do at Spark because of our desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others. To do so effectively, we know we need to work to better understand all the layers that make up people’s rich cultures and world views. It is the first step towards building the authentic relationships we seek to cultivate.

Our DEI plan, which you can see here, includes both internal goals for staff awareness and skill building and external goals around the way we work with stakeholders, partners, and clients. We aim to infuse DEI into our language, behaviors, tools, approaches, products, processes, and policies. Part of the reason for this range of focus areas is the recognition that both an individual and systemic approach are needed for real change.

This affects all of us at Spark, and our DEI team (Daniela, Alison, Kristin, and Adell) will be guiding the implementation of this plan. As a team, we largely reflect Spark in this process: passionate about our values and dedicated to this work, though by no means experts.

We commit to keep you updated on our progress. This will include both the successes we have and the challenges we bump up against. We’ll share lessons learned and highlight partners who are taking on this work.

We sincerely hope we hear from you, too. Have a resource to share? Got some advice or feedback for us? Are you struggling with something in this area where we can either help or brainstorm together? Let us know! We don’t have the perfect formula here, and we don’t expect everything to go smoothly. But we know something is better than nothing, so we’re doing our best and taking some important steps. We hope you’ll join us on this journey!

Posted on

Spark Update: In Systems Change, Individuals Matter

Individuals Matter.
Many of the problems our partners are working to address cannot be solved by organizations working in isolation: our impact is greater when we work together and ensure those most impacted by the change are part of the problem-definition and solution. Spark’s approach to systems change is fundamentally grounded in an inclusive and collaborative process, building the capacity of all to ignite change.

In our October Spark Update, we share examples of enriching systems-level thinking at the individual, stakeholder, and network levels. We also provide a toolkit for ensuring all voices are heard in social change initiatives.

Want to receive more updates like this? You can also subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly updates.

Posted on

November SparkNews: Keeping the Momentum

Spark Policy Institute

Spark logoOur original plan for this month was to write about thankfulness – how thankful we are for you, our partners, who are the best part of what we do. We are grateful and humbled every day that we get to work alongside such inspiring people and organizations, whose efforts and initiatives are making a difference throughout the country. But we also want to touch on the election and its implications. We work with partners who have been advancing policy and community strategies to address important issues at all levels, from individual lives to how communities, cities, regions and the country respond to problems. During times of significant political and social shifts, it can be difficult to maintain the momentum of this work. Yet, the importance of it has not diminished; if anything, it is even more important.

Core to who we are at Spark is our commitment to engage in learning and reflective processes in a way that helps our partners identify what still holds true about how you can act to advance the issues you care about, and when and how you need to adapt. We also want to reaffirm our commitment to addressing inequity, ensuring voices are heard, accepted, and respected, while building capacity, in an effort to drive meaningful systems change for all.

Read the rest of the newsletter. Want to receive more updates like this? You can also subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly updates.

Posted on

Summer Spark News: Making the Commitment

All gender restroom equity

All gender restroom equityOur mission at Spark has long been to develop innovative and research-based solutions to society’s complex problems. After a summer that has seen devastating violence and expressions of xenophobia and hate across the country – as well as outpourings of generosity and stories of strength – we see more than ever the need to address racial and structural inequities head-on in order to create meaningful systems change. A few years ago, Spark developed our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity. Since then, we have worked to actualize this commitment, ensuring it is not just words, but that it is embedded in our actions, deeds, and culture. To this end, we have developed an organizational statement on equity and inclusion, which you can read in full here.

This month’s newsletter focuses on what we are doing to keep equity and inclusion front and center in all we do. One example is our new all-gender restroom, which became official this month, in an effort to create a more welcoming space for all persons. The newsletter includes actionable and accessible tools to help support that work, including toolkits on equity, using data, and complex decision-making, as well as blogs on mapping tools to support place-based work.

Read the rest of the newsletter. Want to receive more updates like this? You can subscribe to our newsletter here.

Posted on

Our Commitment to Addressing Inequity

Spark Policy Institute

Complex problems are just that: complex. They stem from complicated interactions among multiple actors, against the backdrop of history, systems, and institutions. Within these interactions, we cannot overlook the way race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, country of origin, religion, economic status – all the things that make us unique, and the “isms” they engender – are entangled with inequities. Nor can we overlook the need to address these biases in order to drive the meaningful change we are all looking to create.

Our mission at Spark has long been to develop innovative and research-based solutions to society’s complex problems. After a summer of devastating violence and expressions of xenophobia and hate across the country – as well as outpourings of generosity and stories of strength – we are more committed than ever to addressing structural inequities head-on in order to create meaningful systems change.

A few years ago, we developed Spark’s organizational commitment to diversity and inclusion:

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 been working to actualize this commitment, ensuring it is not just words; that it is embedded in our relationships, work, and culture. What does this mean in practice? It means we:

  • Recognize the assets, diverse voices, perspectives, and knowledge communities bring to the table in a way that fosters trust, respect, and acceptance.
  • Approach all of our interactions with integrity.
  • Keep equity front and center.
  • Respect lived experience and social identity.
  • Continue to focus on internal and external capacity-building, providing fair and equitable access to culturally-appropriate tools, learning, and support.

While we cannot dismantle centuries of institutional “isms” overnight or in isolation, we can each take steps toward a more just, equitable world. We can show, through words and deeds, that we are committed to driving meaningful systems change. Complex problems take time, resources, and hard work to solve. We believe with diverse voices, innovation, and continued dedication, they can be solved.

And we won’t stop until they are.