Tuesday, Oct. 12

Intersection of Identities: Using Who You Are to Advance the Work of Equity

11:45 a.m.-1 p.m. CT

In order for someone to advance the work of equity, they must first understand their own identity, and the role they can and should play in supporting more diverse and inclusive interactions. 

Identity is defined as, “the distinguishing character or personality of an individual.” Your own identity informs how you view the world. Have you embraced others? Are their identities different, or do they intersect with your own? Are you reading interactive cues? What are your own conscious and subconscious interactions with others? 

This presentation will explore how embracing identities, your own and others, will inform your perspective, challenge your biases, and encourage you to commit to making space for other people’s voices at work, and in your community, for all of us to live more equitably.


  • Charles Montorio-Archer, president and CEO, One Hope United (@MontorioArcher)

How Internal Power Sharing Can Transform Organizational Culture and Advance Change

1:15-2:30 p.m. CT

This panel presentation will feature three organizations that are leveraging the knowledge, experiences, and expertise of all individuals within their organization to successfully transform organizational culture and advance organizational change.

The Children's Guild Alliance, a 68-year-old organization with a diverse portfolio of services, recently appointed Jenny Livelli as its new president and CEO. Recognizing that multiple service lines can lead to issues in culture, communication, collaboration, and brand alignment, Livelli is committed to moving toward coherence through cultural renovation (inspired by Cultural Renovation by Kevin Oakes), a process that leverages the assets of human capital, aligns staff to a shared mission, builds commitment, and prepares for a dynamic future. Across all levels of the organization, from the board room to the front line, trust is developed through reciprocal communication structures, as the organization embarks on what to keep, renovate, and discard. Participants will understand how structures, systems, and communication can leverage employee assets.

With social injustices evermore illuminated this past year, Villa of Hope recognizes how critical it is for organizations to take a stand on social justice. In 2019, under the leadership of Christina Gullo, president and CEO, the organization began its journey of education and understanding of structural, institutional, and systemic racism, which resulted in the addition of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) as an organization-wide strategic initiative. Participants will learn how Villa leveraged a wide array of stakeholders, from the board to staff, to advance this work from infancy to implementation, as well as practical tools and materials to support the DEIB journey.

The uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to challenge nonprofit organizations, including Children & Families First. However, the pandemic and the compounding dynamics and societal complexities, including racial reckoning, social injustice, political stress, and other social divides, have given rise to incredible opportunities for nonprofit communities to invite and enhance adaptable leadership, transformational creativity, and systemic resilience. Children & Families First of Delaware effectively uses lessons from brain science, trauma-informed care, and equity-diversity-inclusion to guide organizational transformational processes. Participants will learn practical strategies on how to best support and engage leaders at all levels of the organization to prioritize service delivery, ensure a quality workforce, and maintain funder commitment all the while staying true to agency mission.


  • Rehana Absar, director of practice excellence, Alliance-COA


  • Tam DeFer, chief leadership and engagement officer, Children & Families First (@CFFDelaware)
  • Elizabeth Garcia, chief people officer, The Children’s Guild (@childrensguild)
  • Christina Gullo, president and CEO, Villa of Hope (@VillaofHopeRoch)
  • Jenny Livelli, president and CEO, The Children's Guild Alliance (@childrensguild)
  • Julius Mullen, chief clinical officer, Children & Families First (@CFFDelaware)
  • Wynndy Turner, chief human resources and diversity officer, Villa of Hope (@VillaofHopeRoch)

The Start of Something Big: Get to Know Our New Organization

2:45-4 p.m. CT

During the opening session of SPARK 2021, we will launch the new organization formed by the merging of Alliance-COA, and it’s just the beginning. Join us for an informational session to learn more about our new organization, receive updates on the status of our merger, and get additional details about our range of services and offerings. Our president and CEO, Jody Levison-Johnson, will be joined by leaders representing our core areas of expertise who will provide answers to the top questions we have received. Participants will also have the opportunity to ask questions during a live Q&A.


  • Jody Levison-Johnson, president and CEO, Alliance-COA
  • Rehana Absar, director of practice excellence, Alliance-COA
  • Tobi Harrington Murch, senior director of accreditation operations, Alliance-COA
  • Michelle Hinton, director of practice excellence, Alliance-COA
  • Undraye Howard, senior director of equity, diversity, and inclusion and leadership, Alliance-COA
  • Ilana Levinson, senior director of government relations, Alliance-COA

Wednesday, Oct. 13

What We’ve Learned about Effective Partnership for Addressing Pervasive Racial Disparities 

11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. CT

The pervasive racial disparities in our country related to economic mobility are too significant for any one organization, institution, or system to address alone. It takes formalized partnerships and all these different entities working together in an intentional way to realize improved outcomes at scale. Over the last decade of what has become the collective impact movement, leaders in this field have learned a great deal about what to do and what NOT to do to get real results. In this session, three leaders in this field will share some of their insights on leading “impact networks” at the national level, as well as general keys to success for place-based partnerships and specific intermediaries/backbones that can support them. 


  • Jeff Edmondson, executive director of community mobilization, Ballmer Group (@jeffedmondsonBG)


  • Jennifer Blatz, president and CEO, StriveTogether (@JenBlatz)
  • Beth Sandor, principal and co-director of Built for Zero, Community Solutions
  • Anthony Smith, executive director, Cities United (@CitiesUnited)

A 2Gen Race-Equity Lens for Achieving Social and Economic Mobility

Wednesday, Oct. 13; 1-2:15 p.m. CT

Expanding social and economic mobility (SEM) for our nation’s families and communities requires all of us to prioritize racial equity, give voice and power to those who have been and are historically marginalized and disconnected, and support whole families—children and the adults in their lives—in their journeys to social and economic mobility. This approach, achieving SEM through a 2GEN race-equity lens, is critical if we are going to provoke and move a nation stuck on propagating inequitable systems to become a nation where everyone can recognize and achieve prosperity.

Join Dr. Raquel Hatter, managing director of the Human Services Program at The Kresge Foundation, as she engages dynamic and strategic organizational leaders from Ascend at the Aspen Institute and National Community Action Partnership and the families they serve. These organizational leaders will share viable pathways, approaches, and strategies such as guaranteed income and community-based supports delivered by community organizations. In addition, individuals with lived experiences will share their respective stories in achieving SEM through these various approaches and strategies.


  • Raquel Hatter, managing Director of Human Services, The Kresge Foundation


  • Tiffney Marley, senior vice president for practice transformation, National Community Action Partnership
  • James White, program manager, Ascend at the Aspen Institute
  • Evette Minor, community engager
  • Randall Baylor, project lead for community engagement, Early Childhood Innovation Network

Policy Solutions at the Intersection of Child Welfare, Poverty, and Racism

2:30-3:45 p.m. CT

This facilitated conversation will focus on the intersection of the child welfare system, poverty, and racism and identify potential policy solutions for reducing overall child welfare system involvement and racial disparities. Bringing together three perspectives (research, policy, and practice), we will explore how current research from Chapin Hall can help inform policy and practice solutions. 

Chapin Hall recently released the new brief, Addressing Economic Hardship Key to Preventing Child Welfare System Involvement, which reviews historical policy context and provides an overview of policy, programmatic, analytic, and engagement strategies for leveraging economic supports to promote child and family well-being and prevent maltreatment. The report includes a set of recommendations including economic and concrete supports. Building on these recommendations, speakers will explore these recommendations and other perspectives aimed at grappling with some of the most significant root cause issues impacting the child welfare system, including systemic racism and poverty.


  • Ilana Levinson, senior director of government relations, Alliance-COA (@Ilana_levinson)
  • Amy Templeman, director of Within Our Reach and director of practice excellence, Alliance-COA (@templedame)


  • Julia Jean-Francois, co-executive director, Center for Family Life in Sunset Park
  • Jerry Milner, director of Family Integrity and Justice Works, Public Knowledge
  • Bryan Samuels, executive director of Chapin Hall, University of Chicago

Thursday, Oct. 14

Jointly Addressing ACEs and Racism: Moving from Theory to Action

10-11:15 a.m. CT

We know that reducing disparities and advancing equity are critical for reducing toxic stress and creating safe and nurturing environments in which children and adults can thrive. Yet, we have historically fallen short when it comes to using an equity, diversity, and inclusion lens when creating and implementing initiatives related to resilience and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). 

We cannot wait any longer to jointly address racism and ACEs, intertwined influences that have a profound impact on our communities. This panel discussion will highlight the urgent need to integrate racial equity approaches and efforts with ACEs science, and it will explore strategies for addressing the barriers that stand in the way of advancing equitable practices within our ACEs work.


  • Karen Johnson, director of Change in Mind, Alliance-COA


  • Ingrid Cockhren, director of Cooperative of Communities, PACEs Connection
  • Kanwarpal Dhaliwal, co-founder and associate director, RYSE Center
  • Brandon Jones , executive director, Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health

Elevating Youth Voice in Creating Change: Strategies You Can Use

Thursday, Oct. 14; 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. CT

Young people with lived experience have important expertise and insights that can improve services, increase community supports, and contribute to systems change that will create a better future for all youth. This session will explore best practices to promote authentic and meaningful youth engagement in your organization, and it will introduce youth voice assessment tools that your organization can use to help identify strategies for increasing youth voice in agency-level practices and decision making. 

Presenters will also share lessons learned from the Youth MOVE Change Initiative focused on building pathways for peer support, particularly for youth of color and LGBTQ+ youth. Participants will learn about and explore concrete strategies for engaging youth with lived experience.


  • Dr. Gary Blau, executive director of The Hackett Center for Mental Health, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (@MeadowsInst)


  • Johanna Bergan, executive director, Youth MOVE National (@youthmove)
  • Louie Gasper, Youth MOVE Change Initiative Fellow

Understanding Power Dynamics: The History of Disparities in America

Thursday, Oct. 14; 1-2:15 p.m. CT

This session will examine the historical context of practices and systems that have led to disparities and health inequities in our society. The presenter will discuss ways to address social determinants of health and improve health outcomes by partnering with community and key stakeholders.


  • Rueben C. Warren, executive director of the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care, Tuskegee University