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About the Founder

Jewlya Lynn

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Jewlya Lynn is a facilitator, advisor, and researcher focused on helping leaders around the world tackle wicked problems – the social and cultural problems that have been intractable due to their complex and interconnected nature. She began this work over 20 years ago managing a project to transform the 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 human rights and building healthy 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 emergent strategy stories and tools, learning models, evaluation frameworks, foresight tools, and other planning tools have been published by the Foundation Review and the Center for Evaluation Innovation and her developmental evaluation and emergent planning toolkits have been widely used.


Jewlya has served as a facilitator, researcher, and strategy partner to major US and international initiatives, including the National Science Foundation’s EarthCube initiative (building cyber infrastructure in the hard sciences for the 21st century), N Square (the cross-roads for nuclear security innovation), Horizon 2045 (an audacious project to end the nuclear weapons century), Humanity United and the Freedom Fund’s joint effort to end slavery in the seafood industry, ClimateWorks sustainable finance initiative, the Ford Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies’ global Narrative Initiative (dedicated to building fairer, more inclusive societies), and Imaginable Future’s work to transform education systems in Kenya and Brazil, among many others.

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, 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

Exploring Systems Change: An Accessible, Action-Oriented Framework

Drawing on decades of systems change practice, this newly documented framework from PolicySolve is designed to bridge complexity thinking with more traditional systems thinking models, making systems thinking more accessible and more actionable.

Lost Causal: Debunking Myths About Causal Analysis in Philanthropy

This article debunks the myths that keep philanthropy from exploring and questioning how change is really happening. Co-authored with Julia Coffman (Center for Evaluation Innovation) and Sarah Stachowiak (ORS Impact).

Strategy Resilience: Getting Wise About Philanthropic Strategy in a Post-Pandemic World

This article seeks to offer a new way of thinking about strategy resilience that centers people and organizations instead of the power of financial resources. At the core of this theory is the assumption that given today’s complexities, philanthropy must use its power differently — releasing control over organizations and their change strategies while using its unique position, reach, and voice to work in solidarity with community leaders.

Illuminating the Future through an Equity Lens

This 45 minute video included in MacMaster University's innovation series will introduce you to the decolonized foresight tools that can strengthen emergent strategies.

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. 

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.

“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
“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
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