Spark Inside runs coaching programmes in prisons that encourage rehabilitation and aim to reduce reoffending. Through coaching, we help make transformational changes in prisons, and unlock the potential of people in prisons to ultimately lead fulfilling lives. We have worked with over 600 participants in 10 prisons across London and the South East. Our vision is of a world without crime and without prisons.
Our award-winning intervention, Hero’s Journey, is a structured life coaching programme of group workshops, followed by individual one-to-one coaching sessions for young people aged 15 to 25 in prison. Hero’s Journey uses life coaching to build young people’s motivation to change, decrease in-prison violence and reduce reoffending. The programme invites young people to explore their personal journey of transformation, and how to navigate a crime-free future whilst building vital life skills. On finishing the course, young people leaving prison have developed a skillset to move beyond crime towards more productive and fulfilling futures.
In 2016, we commissioned The Social Investment Consultancy, specialists in social impact assessment, to evaluate the impact of Hero’s Journey. This interim evaluation report focuses on seven key outcome areas: wellbeing; decisionmaking and problem-solving skills; empathy and emotional intelligence; resilience and confidence; improvement in social experience; self-conception and future outlook. The final evaluation report, containing analysis of six months’ post-release reoffending data and rates of education, employment and training uptake amongst participants, will be published in mid-2018.
These interim findings are based on the delivery of 24 Hero’s Journey coaching workshops delivered in three Category B men’s prisons in London, HMPs Wormwood Scrubs, Wandsworth and Pentonville, and YOIs Cookham Wood and Feltham, followed by 227 one-to-one coaching sessions that took place from March 2016 to June 2017.
To assess the impact of Hero’s Journey on the lives of young people in prison, our impact was measured through paired sample t-tests of 84 pre- and 42 post-intervention questionnaires completed by programme participants, alongside a qualitative analysis of 17 interviews with a random sample of participants and 3 interviews with life coaches who facilitate Hero’s Journey. The questionnaires utilised validated scales, including the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (SWEMWBS) and the Journey to Employment Framework.
The results from the interim report are statistically significant across five outcome areas, suggesting that Hero’s Journey has a strong, positive and holistic impact on young people in prison. Specifically, the report indicates that when young people in prison participated in the Hero’s Journey programme, they experienced positive changes in the following areas:
The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale derives from a model of mental wellbeing that is more than the absence of mental illness, and involves feeling good and functioning well. Participants experienced a 2.2 point increase (on a 5 point scale) in their average wellbeing scores, an increase which is considered meaningful for SWEMWBS.
“I am really happy. I am getting older, more mature, thinking more about life, not taking life for granted.”
2. Improved social experience
Participants reported gaining more prosocial and trusting relationships after participating in the Hero’s Journey programme. The mean score of participants feeling supported by others, including family and friends, and receiving and asking for support increased by 52%.
“I need to learn to support myself. The difference is that this is all my ideas coming from inside. Spark doesn’t tell me to do anything, but they have given me the tools to change my life.”
3. Decision-making and problem-solving skills
After completing the programme, the number of participants replying that they did not know what to do or where to go when they needed help, or how to work out problems on their own, decreased by up to 70%. On average, participants displayed a 6% increase in decision-making and problem-solving capacity.
“I can think before my actions now. And I can consider the consequences.”
4. Empathy and emotional intelligence
Overall, the average score for empathy and emotional intelligence increased by 9%. After completing Hero’s Journey, every respondent indicated they would try to understand what other people go through.
“It made me realise I was going through a hard time and helped keep me focused.”
5. Resilience and confidence
Young people who completed Hero’s Journey reported an average 8% increase in resilience and confidence, including an increased capacity to overcome setbacks: 72% believed they could overcome whatever challenges they may face in the future.
“It made me think about what I want to do when I get out.”
In general, participants who completed the life coaching programme had more positive attitudes towards the future; improved self-image; and a greater sense of personal autonomy.
What participants say
“Spark Inside don’t judge you and don’t force you to do anything. It’s a choice and an opportunity, not imposed. They make it accessible, and it was never judgmental. The journey makes it clear that we all have choices.”
“I liked the way the coaches talk to you and show you how even if you’ve been in prison you can still change your life, and what steps to take. I want to get out of here and try to make something out of my life.”
“I have discovered a lot about myself. I didn’t think I had the capacity to be taught. My whole perspective has changed. My whole mind has changed, my whole life has changed. I have realised there is no ‘can’t’. I have reset my mind.”
Spark Inside’s founder and Chief Executive, Baillie Aaron, commented:
“These positive, statistically significant results confirm the impact of the Hero’s Journey coaching programme in facilitating transformational change for young people in prison. At a time when violence, self-harm and suicides in our prisons are at record highs and rising, the indication that a coaching approach encourages desistance from crime for young people is even more encouraging. We look forward to the results of the final evaluation, which will include an analysis of participants’ violence and reoffending rates as well as education and training uptake, and want to thank The Social Investment Consultancy for their thorough assessment of the impact of Hero’s Journey.”
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NB. The mean increases in the five outcome areas are statistically significant at a 95% confidence level in sample paired t-tests pre- and post-intervention.