Matthew Rafferty | Anchorage
Project Director, Alaska Wild Salmon Fund and Alaska Engagement Partnership

“Systems change recognizes that the major issues that confront us – such as Alaska’s salmon/people systems – are highly complex and interdependent.  Salmon systems are fully bound by a multitude of physical and biological factors, which determine successful propagation of the species, including where water flows, temperature, food availability, and more. To make matters infinitely more complex, they are also bound by the laws of man, including our regulations for permitting resource extraction projects, our impact on water quality, subsistence and commercial fishing activities, personal use, and more.  What excited me most about being in this cohort is the opportunity to navigate these complexities and find solutions that benefit Alaska's salmon/people systems.”


As a professional advocate for social change in Alaska, much of Matt Rafferty’s work for the past dozen years has been dedicated to systems change. 

Rafferty emerged from business school on the east coast as a politically conservative accountant before moving to Yellowstone, discovering the wilderness and making a 180 degree turn in life, leading to his current work. “Through this experience,” he reflects, “I recognized the importance of pushing my boundaries, meeting people of different perspectives, and questioning my own viewpoints.”

In Rafferty’s work as an advocate, he is motivated by a strong belief that engaging, motivating, and mobilizing people can be a powerful force for change. But he also recognizes that all sides often do that in discord with other stakeholders. “As any one interest pushes for change in any part of the system, without coordination of other stakeholders and physical and biological factors, it can create piecemeal and haphazard change that results in unintended consequences. In essence, the myriad human factors neglect the underlying complexity of the system.”

The Alaska Salmon Fellows Program presents Rafferty with “an unparalleled opportunity to challenge my views on an issue that I work on daily.”  Through his participation, he hopes to find connections with people with different opinions and experiences.  “I want to be pushed and challenged so that I can experience the world through the eyes of others and understand their fears, challenges, desires, ideas, and expectations. I also want to find where we have common ground. I seek to get outside my comfort zone, as I know from experience that this is the best place for growth to occur.”