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Spark’s New Year’s Resolutions to Support Sustainable Change

Spark Policy InstituteDon’t you just love thinking up New Year’s resolutions? I know I do – they’re so full of the rich promise of that makes Change, capital C, so alluring. A fresh start – an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and say, “On the other side of this line, things will be different!” No matter how difficult to solve, no matter how complex the problem, making and owning a resolution is, literally, to renew your resolve to solve that complex problem. That in itself is an important step towards meaningful and sustainable change. And that’s why we at Spark are making a few resolutions for 2013 – to remind ourselves why we’re here with you on the front lines of the battle to create change in our communities.


Six Resolutions for Making a Meaningful Difference

So here are Spark’s Resolutions for 2013 . . .

Spark Policy Institute

  1. We will embrace meaningful change even when it’s hard for us.
    • We try to do this every day, but it isn’t easy! So we enforce upon ourselves regular pauses for reflection. We ask ourselves “Is this strategy moving us towards the change we desire?” “Is that change meaningful?” “What can we do to make sure we’re on the right track?”


  1. We will use data to guide our decisions, along with intuition and experience.Spark Policy Institute
    • For example, we’re planning some changes to our monthly webinar series in 2013, based on your feedback. More expert advice, more real-world examples to illustrate our points, and more interactivity. You spoke, and we listened.


  1.  We will engage all stakeholders, including those most affected by policies and services. Critique helps us do good, even better!
    • So please keep that feedback coming – informed change is better than arbitrary change! Comment on our blogs, attend and critique our monthly webinars, email us to tell us what you think of the resources in our Igniting Change website, and most of all, tell us how we’re doing in our projects with you – morning, noon, and night.
  1. We will keep learning, even when it means giving up our old ways of doing things.Spark Policy Institute
    • We’re all about learning, so we engage in regular quality assurance check-ins on our projects. And we’re always refining our quality assurance methods so that we can help create high-quality, customized solutions to our clients’ problems.
  1. We will work on the things we love, because passion gets results.
    • Our clients get the best outcomes when we have passion for the topic. We’re always focused on outcomes, but in 2013 we’re making sure to bring the passions of our team to bear on every project.
  1. We will be healthy! Research says dark chocolate is good for you, so we’re going for it!Spark Policy Institute


Spark Policy Institute

Got any New Year’s Resolutions of your own? We’d love to hear about them! And best wishes for a sparkling new year from all of us at Spark!

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We’re all in this together: Why partnership makes advocacy work better

We recently wrapped up an evaluation of a national advocacy campaign, where advocacy organizations were funded in states throughout the country to push forward a common agenda. The evaluation findings highlighted how different advocacy organizations bring different capacities to the table. While technical assistance can expand that capacity, it can’t change the reality that no organization can be the expert in everything!

In other words – most organizations are not experts at policy analysis, coalition building, lobbying, media engagement, grassroots organizing, AND grasstops organizing. Usually, our organizations only have expertise in a few of these areas.

Yet, how many funders can raise their hands when you ask,

“When is the last time you released an RFP that asked grantees to have three, four, or even five distinct types of advocacy skills?”

And, how many advocacy organizations can raise their hands when you ask,

“When is the last time you responded to a RFP that asked you to be good at more things than your organization normally takes on?”


Alright, so what should we do differently?

Some funders are already tackling this issue through funding a field of advocates. In other words, they are funding multiple advocacy organizations within the same advocacy environment (such as a state) to work collectively on a common advocacy campaign or even just on a broad advocacy goal. If you’re a funder, the question becomes – what capacity do you need in that field? And, is it enough to fund a field, or do you also need to require them to come together and work in active coordination? These are important questions for funders to tackle together, along with their advocacy partners.

If you’re an advocacy organization, the opportunity is the same. We all partner with other advocacy organizations regularly, but do we partner to seek funding? What would look different if the organization down the street that does an amazing job at grassroots organizing had a grant funding the same policy priorities as our grant that pays for policy analysis and coalition building? Starting the conversation with funders as a team, with two or more organizations collectively providing a diverse set of advocacy skills, not only has potential to make your advocacy efforts more appealing to funders, it may also make them more successful!


What capacities really matter ~ do we need everything?

Advocacy organizations don’t have to start from scratch to answer this question. National leaders in advocacy evaluation have done the legwork to find out what really matters – what does effective media capacity look like, and what about grassroots capacity? Check out:


[info_box style=”note” icon=”none”]Alliance for Justice’s Advocacy Evaluation website. They identified the most important advocacy capacities and turned them into an assessment tool. Also, you can use their evaluation design tool to think about how you might evaluate the impact of your work.[/info_box]


[info_box style=”note” icon=”none”]The Aspen Institute’s Advocacy Progress Planner. This tool is helpful in planning your advocacy campaign, identifying advocacy capacity benchmarks you want to meet, and evaluating the work.[/info_box]


Regardless of whether you use a formal tool or go through an internal process of assessing your advocacy strengths and gaps, by the end of your process, you should have a clear sense of what is missing from your capacity. What’s next? Finding the right partners! But that’s a whole different blog… (stay tuned!)