Sometimes, it is all too easy to get caught up in the how of work that we forget the why. How do we identify the leverage points that will cause a systemic shift? How do we sustain change? These are important questions and they constitute the bulk of what we DO, but they don’t answer the WHY. Why do we engage in systems change work? At the end of the day, often the answer is: because of people. Because we want to make a meaningful difference that improves the lives of people in our communities. They are the heart of systems change, the reason behind it in the first place.

People in a communityAt Spark, we keep this focus by thinking through outcomes – the change we want to see in the world – and keeping these outcomes at the forefront of all of our work. For example, our work with Healthy Schools Collective Impact isn’t just to build a stronger system for school-based health and wellness in Colorado; it’s to better serve students and teachers, and to ultimately improve student outcomes. We have also developed a series of tools that help us keep this focus on people, such as the Tools for Engaging Nontraditional Voices and Tools for Integrating an Equity Lens toolkits, as well as other great resources such as this blog and brief on how advocates can use storytelling as a powerful tool for change. In addition, this newsletter includes a great new resource from Fourth Quadrant Partners on “emergent strategy”, which hinges on the idea of expanding agency – the capacity to act – to a greater number of players in a strategy, reminding us of the value of community in a strategy and the power of incorporating multiple insights to improve our work. This reminder of why we are here also drives us to identify ways outside of work to improve our communities through volunteerism, which is highlighted in a great blog this month by Laura Trent and Alison McCarthy, two project managers at Spark. Read more.