There is much fragmentation in the fields of social systems change. Sometimes our work just isn't adding up to have the kind of field-changing impact we need and want it to. Whether in education, cross-sector approaches, or with organizations and movements who consider themselves “allies” – we are often siloed or not deeply collaborating; sometimes there is lack of clarity about shared vision, we are working at cross-purposes, or there is miscommunication, limited resources and time for alignment work, uncertainty about how "aligned" we are, lack of trust, and competition for funding, visibility and other resources. This fragmentation is reducing our ability to be an influential force, to help co-create the future of the social systems and institutions that serve all communities well.

My work in this area seeks to help reduce this tug-of-war so that we can become a more coherent movement, a body of linked, integrated, dynamic, mutually supportive, critical friends and allies who strive and work together for our collective well-being, as well as our individual thriving. 

I work with, support and help to create networks and alliances seeking a greater, joint impact to improve the social fabric. This work often takes the form of:

  • Co-designing, facilitating and participating in convenings and gatherings to help create bridges, linkages and aligned strategy across various fields
  • Visioning and strategy development, including creating architecture for movement networks and alliances
  • “Translation” across sectors, ideologies and stakeholder groups so that groups can better understand each other’s worldviews, uses of terms, frameworks, challenges and solutions
  • Field-building strategies, helping groups assess opportunities and obstacles in a field nationally or regionally, using structural, political, cultural, technical and social lenses

I also offer more traditional organizational development support such as coaching, leadership development, strategic planning, etc. for individual organizations seeking to be an effective member of a network / alliance, or to advance more strategic, catalytic, equity-centered approaches.


"Sheryl Petty's work combines the most essential consultant elements: deep understanding of the core issues; a well-honed analysis of change levers and mechanisms; a tremendous skill helping organizations and groups find their way to productive action-taking. As a planner and facilitator, Sheryl has few peers." 

—Robert Sherman, Consultant; Former Director, Initiative for Social and Emotional Learning, NoVo Foundation; Founder & Former Director, Effective Citizenry Program, Surdna Foundation


Sample Work:

  • NPQ (Non-Profit Quarterly) article series: "Five Elements of a Thriving Justice Ecosystem." Article #1 in the series: "Pursuing Deep Equity." Co-Authored with Amy B. Dean. April 2017.

  • The Initiative for Contemplation, Equity & Action (ICEA) Journal, Editor, July 2017:  Born out of a keen sense of separation between the social justice and contemplative practice fields, ICEA is led by a team from 8 national organizations and focuses on creating intentional field-building structures for multi-identitied communities (across sectors, geographies, grassroots and grasstops), to support the thoughtful integration of these two streams of essential work. Our work includes creating bridge-building forums and network development; pathways for training and tools; and publications to promote vision, voice and visibility.

  • Transforming Education Systems Alliance (TESA) - A movement building architecture focused on reducing fragmentation in the education field and promoting a cohesive approach across a number of sectors including: practice (at school-site and district / systemic levels); policy; capacity building; research; community organizing; educator preparation and development (pre-service and in-service); messaging, framing and communications; standards and curriculum; assessment; mindfulness, socio-emotional competencies and contemplative education

  • Baltimore’s Promise (a city-wide, collective impact effort) – co-facilitation with Management Assistance Group (MAG)

  • Texthelp, Global Panel on Literacy facilitated gathering of multinational organizations to vision and begin planning aligned efforts to deepen access and literacy across countries
  • New Models Working Group (a consortium of regional and national funders including Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Sandler Foundation, Nellie Mae Foundation, National Public Education Support Fund, Stuart Foundation, Southern Education Foundation) – co-facilitation with Movement Strategy Center, of joint strategy development for transforming public education in the U.S.
  • The Alliance for Smart Schools, Systems & Communities (TASSSC) - Led the design and facilitation team of the alliance and its landmark 2013 field-building gathering at the Ford Foundation with education practitioners, funders, community organizers, capacity builders, policy advocates and higher education. Led by partners including the Annenberg Institute for School Reform (at Brown University), the Alliance for Quality Education, the Southern Education Foundation, Education Law Center, the NAACP, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the National Latino Education Research and Policy Project (NLERAP). Work of attendees of this gathering includes:  New Models Working Group funder network, Partners for Each and Every Child (policy focus), Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (community organizing), and the Education Justice Network (policy, organizing and research).
  • The Equity-Centered Capacity Building Network (ECCBN) – Formed to unite the efforts and share resources and strategies among equity- and excellence-centered capacity builders and to increase the visibility and impact of capacity-building approaches that promote deep and sustainable school and systems change. Network members currently consist of regional and national organizations with:  a focus on transforming whole school systems (in addition to individual schools); equity, excellence and cultural responsiveness deeply embedded into their work; local credibility as well as national reach and influence; a strong desire to work collaboratively; and a track record of success with school systems locally, regionally and nationally. Future membership will include both individual and institutional capacity builders who are local, as well as other regional and national providers who meet these criteria. 

ECCBN members list: