April Allen, PhD, MPA, is a forward-thinking and forward-looking changemaker with a passion for using data to transform systems that serve children, youth, and families. She is the Founder and CEO of Spark Learning for Organizations LLC, dedicated to supporting human services organizations with community-engaged research, performance measurement, and organizational learning that builds data competence. Her professional life includes senior roles in research, government, and nonprofit settings, unified by a dedication to working across systems to meet family needs. A substantial portion of her research agenda has focused on the experiences of children involved with the child welfare system, informed by her own experiences as a child in care.
Dr. Allen’s proudest accomplishments include convening and building the capacity of communities to translate data into action. She launched Amplify Action Research, an initiative that trains and empowers people with lived experience to be the authors and leaders of the research, evaluation, and performance measurement that will drive critical system change in child welfare and related human services systems.
In addition to her national consulting practice, Dr. Allen is a Visiting Research Scholar at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management and a Founding Partner of Breakthrough Convenings, a boutique firm that provides virtual and blended facilitation services to high-impact organizations seeking to connect their people, move their work forward, and deepen their impact.
Dr. Allen's research and policy expertise has been recognized with national awards, including the Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Award from the Joint Commission and the National Quality Forum (as a member of the I-PASS Study Group) and a Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-Being from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. She holds a PhD in Social Policy from Brandeis University and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Queen’s University.
Christina Squires (she/her), PhD, serves as the Research Director for Spark Learning. Christina joins Spark with over a decade of cross-sector experience in higher education, nonprofit, and social enterprise spaces, where she’s worked alongside organizational and community leaders to leverage social science for social good. Christina’s work prioritizes individual and community empowerment and systems transformation. She is trained in both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and utilizes an equity-based approach to research to promote social change. Her work emphasizes the creation of both research and evidence-based systems, programs, practices, policies and advocacy efforts that center the lived experiences of those they represent.
Christina has served in several professional roles including professor, consultant, and research associate. In these roles, Christina has acted as a facilitator, subject-matter expert, and advocate. As a mixed-methods applied researcher, Christina has extensive experience in research methodology, study design and implementation, and data analysis and dissemination across academic and community contexts. She has conducted program evaluation, community and organizational readiness assessments, data-driven strategic planning and execution, grant administration/evaluation, and content-specific/thematic research. Across her work, Christina aims to support individuals, organizations, and communities to utilize their lived expertise to impact change.
Her most fulfilling professional experience to date has been the mentorship of others in the research process.