About Us

Spark Policy Institute

Helping you do good, even better

Our Philosophy

Spark Policy Institute 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 leadership 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.

Kim Riley

Researcher

Kim has more than 28 years’ experience working in community health education and research focused primarily on health disparity issues in underserved communities.
Kara Underwood

Researcher

Christopher Diaz

Senior Researcher

Christopher Diaz is a Senior Researcher at Spark Policy Institute. For the past twelve years, he has evaluated programs and provided technical assistance for two state legislatures, a university research institute, and various state and local agencies and nonprofits.
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.
Daniela Hernandez, MSS

Project Coordinator

Daniela Hernandez helps facilitate projects through coordination, handling logistics, organizing, research, and community engagement in a variety of setting.
Kristin Lacy

Researcher

Kristin provides research and evaluation services focused on food systems development, health equity and community engagement in domestic and international settings.
Joby Schaffer, PhD

Senior Researcher

Joby has expertise in quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research. He has led research projects with methods ranging from computer lab experiments, to public opinion surveys.
Kerry Vachta

Senior Researcher

Dr. Vachta has a Ph.D. in Forestry from Michigan State University with emphases in community/social forestry and urban/community and environmental sociology and an M.A. in Ecological Psychology.
Alexander Dane

position

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