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Partner of the Month: Erin Stevanus

Posted by Sagarika Ravishankar

erin stevanus

Erin Stevanus has been hitting the ground running with the Growing Master Trainers program since we made our 3-year $75,000 investment in them in May of 2017. As a member of SVP’s investment team, Erin facilitates community council workshops—conversations with community-based thought leaders and collaborators to identify barriers within our system that are keeping people in our priority populations from becoming Master Trainers. While she’s new to the Partnership, she’s relentless and committed to applying her incredible systems-change thinking and gumption to her role on the Growing Master Trainers investment team. In addition, she facilitated a breakout session in the “Preschool for All” Symposium” and led an amazing discussion about defining what we mean when we say “Quality Preschool.” Our Community Impact Manager, Sarah Cohen-Doherty said, “Erin doesn’t just have the knowledge and skillset to affect systems-level change, but she has the enthusiasm and energy which are critical to being a true and effective changemaker. She is a shining example of our Values and Behaviors, and we’re lucky to have her.”

In addition to her inspiring and dedicated work with us, Erin has a passion for using design thinking for social impact. Her background and expertise in change management, learning design, and process improvement inform a unique approach to organizational design that is at the intersection of business design, human-centered design, and social innovation. She works alongside leaders and teams to survey existing and future landscapes, map new pathways, and explore disruptive models and mindsets.


What drove you to join SVP?

In February 2016, I attended an event entitled “The Unstoppable Calling to Do Good” where the Founding President of SVP International, Paul Shoemaker, was speaking about his latest book, “Can’t Not Do: The Compelling Social Drive that Changes Our World.” He moderated a panel of local changemakers, and I was compelled by their stories of the “good you cannot not do.” That evening launched my journey into the world of social impact design. It took me a few more months to connect with the local SVP Portland chapter and I officially join as a Partner in early 2017, but it was clear from the beginning that SVP was a very special community of social change makers and social change advocates and I am so happy to be a part of it now!

What has been most rewarding for you thus far?  

The greatest pleasure I have as a facilitator is to hold a space for not knowing. Too often our systems and processes privilege coming up with quick answers, rather than working through hard things to get to a better question. It’s been very rewarding to see the dedication of the community council members to the process of systems change at the level of master trainer certification — it has been difficult at times but the process has helped the group become more aligned and has also proven the funder’s and project’s commitment to true systems change.

Have you had any “aha” moments?

The strongest “aha” moment in this process has been when our community council members began asking for help to facilitate finding out answers. They were not content with being asked questions and having their voices be representative, but instead, they felt compelled to get firsthand information about some of the issues facing those in the current system.

This inclination towards empathy is what makes this project very unique.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In addition to the strategic design consulting work I do for SVP, I have a wide portfolio of passion projects that aim to increase agency and effect of individuals, organizations, and communities. Some of the projects I am most excited about in 2018 include:

  • launching a social enterprise aimed at increasing the safety net of immigrant-owned businesses through incentive-based passports. El Pasaporte for the Mercado will be released in Spring 2018 to support Latino-owned businesses at the Portland Mercado
  • increasing organizational capacity in the area of community-centered design. I am working with a partner in New York City to provide services and tools to organizations interested in an equity-based design process that keeps the needs of people and their communities at the center
  • coaching through the Spark Expedition, a personal discovery and professional development program grounded in design thinking (see below for more information including special discount for SVP Portland partners for the January 2018 expedition)
  • facilitating wayfinding workshops that build and exercise creative confidence
  • and other projects in the areas of impact investment and philanthropy

Outside of this work, I spend time writing, making music (I’m working on writing my first musical!), and performing. I also stay grounded through pilates and working out, enjoying the spoils of the Pacific Northwest, and spending time with friends and family. To hear more about my projects, visit my website to sign-up for my newsletter or reach out to me directly.


Spark Expedition

life is an adventure. it’s time to choose yours

Spark Expedition is a nine-week personal and professional discovery program designed for the life-long adventurer drawn towards purpose-driven, impact-oriented work. Using best practices from design thinking, Spark Expedition’s online experience encourages and facilitates exploration and play. Through introspective prompts and activities, Expedition Challenges, and feedback from a certified Expedition Guide, you get the chance to explore your current terrain and forge your own path. Whether you’re ready to explore new territory or don’t quite know where to start, Spark Expedition is a journey you won’t want to miss.

Learn more about joining the next expedition, starting in January 2018, here: http://www.sparkexpedition.com/


Current SVP Portland Partners can use code SVPPDX17 until Dec 31 to receive an additional discount of 15% off all expedition packages.

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