About the Founder

Jewlya Lynn

Jewlya Lynn is a facilitator, advisor, and researcher who works with leaders dedicated to making a difference in the world by solving complex problems. She began this work 15 years ago managing a project to transform social services, juvenile justice, and education systems in response to the Columbine school shooting.


Building on that experience, she founded Spark Policy Institute and led a team focused on developing innovative, research-based approaches to help communities and policymakers solve complex societal problems that defy easy solutions. After transitioning Spark to new leadership, she’s now working directly with leaders throughout the United States and around the world on issues that affect us all, from climate change and nuclear security to building healthy communities and ecosystems.


Jewlya is an innovator, focused on developing practical tools and processes that help people unpack complexity, explore the many potential futures ahead, ask powerful questions, and find answers. Her learning models, evaluation frameworks, and planning tools have been published by the Foundation Review and the Center for Evaluation Innovation and her developmental evaluation and adaptive planning toolkits have been widely used.


She has served as a facilitator, trusted advisor, and strategy partner to major US and international initiatives, including the National Science Foundation’s EarthCube initiative (building cyber infrastructure for the 21st century), N Square (the cross-roads for nuclear security innovation), ClimateWorks sustainable finance initiative, the Ford Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies global Narrative Initiative, and the BUILD Health Challenge (creating a new norm and model for achieving community health).

Jewlya was also a faculty member for the Presidio Institute’s Cross Sector Fellowship Program, a program the Institute designed in partnership with BlackRock, McKinsey and Company, and the Obama White House Office of Social Innovation. She has a Ph.D. in public affairs from the University of Colorado and started her career at the Colorado and Nebraska legislatures.

Outside of her work at Spark, Jewlya loves exploring the outdoors with her children in all weather – biking, hiking, snowboarding, backpacking, and ice skating on a lake in the mountains. Talk about fun challenges!

Recent Publications

When Collective Impact Has an Impact

A rigorous study co-authored with Sarah Stachowiak  to understand when and how collective impact contributes to systems and population change.

Strategy Design Amid Complexity: Tools for Designing and Implementing Adaptive Funding Strategies

A set of tools to help foundations design adaptive strategies and ideas for balancing accountability for achieving goals with adaptability throughout the course of an initiative, co-authored with Erica Snow and Tanya Beer. 

Assessing and Evaluating Change in Advocacy Fields

An evaluation framework explores emerging ideas and methods for assessing advocacy fields and evaluating advocacy field-building initiatives.

If You Build It, They Will Come: Creating the Space and Support for Real-Time Strategic Learning

An exploration of how to integrate strategic learning into a grant strategy, including supporting learning coaches for 14 of their grantees, co-authored with Phillip Chung, Scott Downes, and Rebecca Kahn.

“Please know that I am ever in awe of your talent and leadership.  I can’t say I have ever met or worked with someone who so skillfully and confidently guides people through a thoughtful process and decision making.  You are really extraordinary at it.”  Shepard Neval, CEO of Jewish Family Service of Colorado
“I have learned so much from Jewlya about being a thoughtful and caring leader who gets the highest quality results." Jason Vahling, Executive Director, Broomfield County Public Health