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Community Garden

Community Sparkplugs

The Rensselaerville Institute has worked alongside communities for 60 years to achieve outcomes that matter to them. 


Our school and community partnerships start with the idea that local residents in communities have ideas to improve the lives of the children who live there—and the energy to turn their ideas into reality. These folks ignite change—which is why we call them Sparkplugs. They are everywhere. Their ideas matter. We provide the tools and help for these Sparkplugs as they make change happen. Each project has a clearly stated outcome for young people.  


They end with results like walking brigades through tough neighborhoods, carpools in the mornings, mobile food banks, and book clubs. Community Sparkplugs often report their experience leading a project is transformational. They say they will never go back to being passive citizens, and that engagement to solve problems is now in their blood. The data backs this up. Most continue to do more projects.

Aqua Farmers
Atlanta Community Sparkplugs 2018
Broadway Babies
Submit your idea

Who are Community Sparkplugs?

Local residents are a powerful engine for change. The key is the Sparkplug—those local people who volunteer to take the lead in making new things happen. Here are the characteristics of Sparkplug leaders, which predict not only project success, but someone who will re-spark future projects for their community. 


  1. Energy

  2. A bias to act

  3. A results focus

  4. Inclined to teams

  5. Personal responsibility

  6. Belief in the common good


Key partners for a Sparkplug Project are typically 


  1. The Sparkplug may be: 

  • An idea generator

  • An outcomes innovator

  • Project designer

  • Manager

  • Community organizer

  • Change agent


2.    Schools serve as:

  • Hub for young people

  • Remove barrier to success

  • Parent engagement

  • Communicator to school families

  • Convening space provider


​3.    Community Investor: 

  • Provides resource investment

  • Partners with and supports community sparkplugs

  • Provides access to additional expertise and resources

Submit your idea

Do you have an idea that could improve the lives of children in your community? Are you a person who sees a problem affecting children and you are willing to do something about it? Learn more about the Community Sparkplugs and how your idea may be eligible to receive a grant.

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