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

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.