Why Spark
ABOUT US
Spark Insight Partners
Helping you do good, even better
Our Philosophy

Spark partners with stakeholders throughout the country to develop innovative, research-based solutions to complex societal problems.

We combine community and stakeholder-driven research with practical, hands-on experience and best practices, allowing for solutions that bridge sectors, issues, beliefs, and values. By integrating diverse policy systems, we identify and develop the best solutions for all stakeholders.

Our Roles at Spark

Our culture of participation and innovation creates new energy towards identifying solutions to complex problems. We believe in an organization where everyone contributes to the leadership, learning is a life-long process, and the focus is on meaningful outcomes. Our team-based approach ensures every challenge is met with flexibility, creativity, and the skills and expertise of all our staff. The Spark team includes a mixture of:

  • Researchers who are adept at working in messy, complex settings and bring a wide variety of methodologies to their work including fiscal research, evaluation, network analysis, q-methodology, and focus groups;
  • Facilitators who understand how to inform dialogues with external information and input and can create a safe environment where all stakeholders can fully participate;
  • Project managers whose focus is on working closely with clients and learning together every step of the way, and who are empowered with customized tools to analyze complexity and adapt as needed to achieve a meaningful difference;
  • Product developers who specialize in ensuring final products are rich in information and attractive in presentation but, more importantly, are responsive enough to ensure no product becomes another report that sits on a shelf.
Our Approach As Spark has grown, we have built the skills and expertise needed to tackle complex problems throughout the country in a wide variety of arenas including, but not limited to: human services, health, behavioral health, natural resources, agriculture, housing, juvenile justice, criminal justice, education, early childhood, and diversity/disparities. Our approach recognizes that, regardless of which policy arena a problem emerges from:
  • Policy solutions identified in one arena are likely to cause unintended consequences in others;
  • Part of identifying a policy solution is understanding public and private funding, including limitations and opportunities;
  • Sustainable solutions are only successful when a wide range of stakeholders are involved in identifying both the problem and the solution;
  • Finding the solution is only the beginning: implementing change is a long, deliberate process requiring regular evaluation and feedback, as well as the commitment, resources, and engagement of all stakeholders.
Our Team

The team at Spark has nearly a century of collective experience working with foundation and corporate leaders, communities, and non-profits to produce impact and results.

Kyle Brost, is the CEO of Spark Policy Institute, where he leads an interdisciplinary team that works to create meaningful change through adaptive, strategy design and high-quality research.
Kerry Vachta

Senior Researcher

During her 30 years in community-based, participatory action research and evaluation, Kerry has partnered with organizations and people who are working to understand and create innovative community-driven solutions to systemic inequities in diverse settings. Her qualitative, quantitative and multi-level/multi-method projects and tools are tailored to provide evidence-based guidance for those working to promote social change.
Joby Schaffer

Senior Researcher

Joby leads a wide variety of evaluation work with projects ranging from homelessness to entrepreneurship. He is well-versed in many forms of evaluation to fit your needs whether that be advocacy, systems change, or anything in-between.
Amanda Valenta

Researcher

Amanda supports much of Spark’s systems change and collective impact work, but she has experience in a vast array of project work and focus areas, including education, policy systems, and early childhood development.
Daniela Hernandez

Marketing and Projects Manager

Daniela helps facilitate projects through coordination, handling logistics, organizing, research, and community engagement in a variety of settings.
Daniel Costie

Associate Researcher

Daniel specializes in community empowerment, urban development, and food security. Daniel brings to Spark understanding of social media and social network analysis.
Kara Underwood

Researcher

Kara has expertise in quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research. She has led evaluation projects ranging from STEM interventions, early childhood and high school programming, to educational equity and social justice.
Evan Russell

HR and Operations Associate

Evan provides general assistance to support projects. In addition to project work, he manages organizational processes and operations, marketing outreach, and communications.
Kim Riley

RESEARCHER

Kim has more than 28 years’ experience working in community health education and research focused primarily on health disparity issues in under-served communities.
Kerri Laryea

Director of Learning

Kerri is the Director of Learning at Spark Insight Partners, where she leads product design and delivery of transformational learning. As a learning scientist at heart, she is passionate about helping organizations transform their professional development programs into participatory, experiential learning engagements that get results.
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