Category Archives: Networks

SparkSF Fellow Profile: Linn Hellerstrom

 Linn Hellerstrom is an undergraduate Political SparkSF Fellow profile Linn HellerstromScience student with a passion for women’s rights and representation in policy. She co-created a sexual and reproductive rights advocacy group on campus, as well as, a network for young women interesting in politics.

In addition to her studies, Linn is a Spark Fellow. When not working or studying, Linn loves leaving the city for epic hikes, eating her way through food-bloggers favorite restaurants, and writing. 

Linn’s Spark Story:

When moving to San Francisco, I searched for organizations supporting women’s rights. It didn’t take long to find Spark. I instantly felt like it was the perfect fit. Six months in, being a Spark Fellow has been simply amazing. Meeting the fantastic network of passionate members, getting insight into the work Spark is doing for thousands of women globally, and feeling the power of change that collective passion can create.

Who is your favorite grantee?
Roots of Health. Based in the Philippines, this amazing organization provides clinical services and sexual education to young people in one of the poorest provinces of the country.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Arriving at the airport on the way to start a fun trip. The feeling of happiness and excitement of not knowing what adventures lie ahead of you.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?
Being able to learn a new language in a week. I love languages but lack the patience to learn them.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Outgoingness. I love making new connections and going after amazing opportunities that lay before me.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
The President of the European Council. Or if that doesn’t work out– a lazy cat.

What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?
Making other people laugh and feel comfortable.

What is your favorite journey?
Without doubt, my solo around- the- world trip a couple of years ago. Traveling independently for seven months allowed me to discover so many extraordinary places and meet amazing, inspiring people, some of whom I’m still in contact with today.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Strong women, dedicated to real change-making power.

5 Reasons To Be Grateful

5 reasons for being grateful

Authored By Spark Member: Larkin Callaghan

With the onslaught of Christmas carols, blowout sales on every corner, and impending sense of personal debt, all the telltale signs are here – the holidays have arrived. So, how do you stay sane during times of consumer craziness? One of the best ways to counter the ‘buy buy buy’ mentality is to focus on how grateful we are for what we already have. And with Thanksgiving coming up in just over a week, this is the perfect time for us to reflect on some of those things we can be grateful for:

1) Community – I know, I know. This is pretty par for the course around the Thanksgiving-gratitude-roundtable. But a strong community is what started Spark and communities dedicated to their development and growth are what Spark supports – creating one global community of folks constantly on the lookout for one another. We can be grateful that we live in a space that allows us to facilitate the work we love and are dedicated to.

2) Freedom to move beyond boundaries – the holidays are often when we regroup with our families and friends – which usually means getting on planes, getting in cars, and climbing onto trains. Sometimes prohibitive cost prevents this – but usually infrastructure, political and social instability and unrest, or in the currently devastating case of the Philippines, natural disasters, are not preventing this – as is the case for many of the organizations that we at Spark support.

3) Innovation – Living in San Francisco, it’s easy to take advantage of the remarkable developments being made in technology – and they certainly aren’t perfect (oh, the Facebook mistakes we’ve all made…). But the incredible gains that have been made in the global development space due to innovation in the last decade especially can’t be understated – everything from being able to support a microloan to the exact person or organization that speaks to you the most, to sharing news and updates via social media, to being able to facilitate healthcare in resource-poor settings thanks to mobile tech, to creating political movements via Twitter – to being able to become a member of democratic organizations like Spark with a few clicks of a keyboard! – it’s pretty amazing what’s happened and we’re pretty grateful for it.

4) Social movements work – Spark members know this already, but last year, when a collected effort was made to encourage folks around the country to participate in Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Black Friday, dedicated to giving back to non-profit and charitable organizations), over 50 million people pushed the agenda of charitable giving – resulting in millions of dollars of donations to non-profit organizations. So we’re thankful you’re involved.

5) Science backs up the importance of gratitudestudies have shown that being thankful and expressing it leads to a happier and healthier you – being thankful for how gratitude improves our well-being is a little meta, but we like it!

This year, Giving Tuesday is December 3, 2013 – and it’s a great way to give back after the onslaught of Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchasing craziness! A day dedicated to recognizing and celebrating non-profit and charitable organizations, Giving Tuesday allows you to show your thanks to Spark and other groups that work to serve vulnerable populations all over the globe – those who may not have the same resources we’re so lucky to have. Make a contribution of your own, or gift one for someone else – a Spark membership makes a great holiday present!

SparkSF Member Profile: Toni Alejandria

Toni Alejandria works as the website coordinator for the California Institute of Integral Studies and consults in design, marketing, and event planning for start-ups. She majored in Dance and Global and International Studies at UC Davis. In her free time, you can find Toni doing dance performances and fundraising for causes. She is a campaign manager for HackCancer and a Champion mentor for Groundwork Opportunities. She talks to us about how she got involved with Spark, flying planes, and Bear Grylls.SparkSF Member: Toni Alejandira

Toni’s Spark Story:
One of my friends introduced me to Spark and was convinced I would fall in love with the organization. After attending my first Spark mixer, she was right. It’s amazing connecting with so many people who have a passion for empowering women and supporting women’s initiatives around the world. I’m always impressed with the Spark members I meet and love being involved with their fundraising and event efforts.

Who is your favorite grantee?
Uganda Women’s Water Initiative, an organization that provides clean water training to women in rural communities of Uganda.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Traveling around the world photographing people and collecting art.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?
Flying planes. (It’s on my bucket list.)

What is your most marked characteristic?
Making friends wherever I go. It’s no secret, I love meeting people!

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
The female equivalent of Bear Grylls.

What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?
Ability to hold a conversation with a complete stranger.

What is your favorite journey?
Giving up everything to do an apprenticeship with a famous dance company in Israel. I never made it out there due to an injury, but during physical therapy, I learned so much about perseverance, dedication, and faith. It was the hardest year I’ve ever experienced, but I came out stronger is so many ways. That experience alone changed the course of my life and set me on the journey to where I am today.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Sheryl Sandberg, Lisa Bevere, Scott Harrison, and Bartlomiej Jan Skorupa.

#TweetsFromHillary, A Pussy Riot, and Mobile Mobilizing

#TweetsfromHillary, A Pussy Riot, and Mobile Mobilizing. This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.



TECH: With Nod To Texts From Hillary Guys, Clinton Joins Twitter

The madam of memes strikes back. Hillary Clinton joined Twitter hours ago and already has over 170,000 followers. Let’s see if she has anything special to say  about 2016.

Read The Full Story 


MEDIA: Pussy Riot Generates Outrage in Russia, Acclaim in the West

Perspective is a funny thing. The all-female Russian punk band, Pussy Riot, won worldwide notoriety for staging a pro-feminist, anti-Putin performance at an Orthodox cathedral in Moscow. This 40 second long act got two of the performers two years in a Russian labor camp. Out West, their performance got them a standing ovation. This month check out a documentary chronicling their historic trial on HBO.

Read The Full Story 


TECH: Mobilizing A Generation Women With The World At Their Fingertips

Women take talk and text plans seriously. It’s long been thought that men rule technology, but studies show women in Western countries use technology more than men and seem to be the masters of mobile technology. Women are increasingly influential as early adopters worldwide.

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U.S. NEWS: Equal Pay Act’s 50th Anniversary Brings Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand And Marie Claire EIC Anne Fulenwider To The Table

A very, merry un-anniversary to you. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, a 1963 law which aimed to eliminate the wage gap between male and female workers. That’s great, but it didn’t work. Women still earn .77 cents to every $1 men earn. While Congress grapples with the Paycheck Fairness Act, Senators Gillibrand and Fulenwider believe women should advocate for themselves. 70% of women don’t negotiate salary and it’s time that they do.

Read The Full Story

Network Juice

By SHANNON FARLEY, Spark Executive Director

There is a lot of chatter about how to measure and evaluate the impact of networks. The Monitor Institute and The Knight Foundation recently released a new report on the topic. Even, shirtless dancing guy has inspired discussions.

 As a network, these conversations are particularly relevant to Spark. There is network impact we can measure and evaluate–mostly around our grantmaking and member engagement. But there is all of the other stuff that happens when working in a network-centric model like Spark. Good stuff. Serendipitous bursts that broaden our social returns. These bursts are juicy. They are filled with the elements that ignite social change. It is not clear how we can measure it. At least, it is not clear to us yet. To get clear, we must first talk about it.

So here is what happened today:

Elena Peifer is a member who serves on our Grants and Advocacy Committee. She also writes our Spark News Digest, a collection of a week’s worth of thought-provoking articles on women, philanthropy, human rights, and international development. Elena is headed to law school this week and so she signed off as our Digestress. Notes from digest followers poured in after Elena’s final post. Folks wrote that Elena’s articles made them think and question and WANT to open their inbox in morning.  These are all good things.

And then, we got this note:

Please know that I forwarded these articles to the Social Science teachers who, in turn, gave them to the students as part of the curriculum. So YOU made an impact in the lives of hundreds of teenagers every week. You will be missed, Elena.

Now, that’s juicy. That’s the power of a network.

Friends, Coffee and Networks that Raise us UP

Spark Co-Founder Fiona Hsu

It was December 2009 and Spark co-founder Fiona Hsu’s evenings were filled with holiday parties, dinner with girlfriends and the occasional late night at work.  Fiona’s dear friend Dan Nguyen-Tran who loves her both for her frenetic pace and the passion that she has for women’s rights convinced Fiona to drop whatever she had planned and to come meet his friend, a professor at University of San Francisco, Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg. Continue reading