Throughout the year we invite our pro-bono supporters and donors to experience our prison coaching programmes for themselves. Earlier this week, our professional life coaches ran a taster workshop of Hero’s Journey™ — our structured life coaching programme for young people aged 15 to 25, that builds their motivation to change, decreases in-prison violence and ultimately reduces reoffending.
Tamsyn Hanrahan, a supporter of Spark Inside, reflects on her coaching experience there.
I’ve been involved with Spark Inside for a few months and knew a little about their coaching approach, so I was delighted to be invited to a taster session of Hero’s Journey™ – their life coaching programme for 15 – 25 year olds in prisons in London and the South-East.
Nina, our coach, took four of us (all with quite different life experiences and relationships to Spark Inside) through some elements of the coaching programme and explained how others worked, so that we could condense what is usually three longer sessions into a few hours.
Reflecting on it shortly after the session there are two things that have stayed with me.
Firstly, this blog post won’t do justice to the energy in the room and the experience of participating in Hero’s Journey™! Nina’s passion and enthusiasm really elevated the discussion and she was able to draw insightful parallels between the experiences of the four attendees and the young people she has coached through the programme.
Listening to some of the challenges that my fellow attendees have faced and weaving these into anecdotes about the young men in prison really brought to life how this approach can help individuals find the answers inside themselves, and have the confidence to make better choices.
Nina explained that she approaches coaching young people in prison as she would coaching anyone in the corporate world and I know I wasn’t alone in coming away with food for thought in terms of my journey. I’m on the threshold of making a change in my career – I’m committed to it but haven’t yet found the new role and this is a critical moment where I need to keep moving forward rather than slipping back into the ‘Ordinary World’. It made me think about the young people in prison who have their own critical moments and their interaction with their coach could be what helps them stop slipping back into their ‘Ordinary World’ of crime, and come up with their own ways to move forward.
Secondly, I think there was a small amount of scepticism from some of us before we started, not through doubting the good ambitions of the charity, but more around exactly how coaching can help. It became very clear very quickly that these doubts had evaporated – you could see that all four of us were totally engaged in the discussion and the revelations that it generated for each of us. For my journey, Nina asked how I would distinguish between allies and enemies as I try to identify the next stage in my career, which has focused my mind on being smarter and more strategic with my networking. Again, my mind went back to the young people in prison who will have their own revelations while on Hero’s Journey™ (which they might not have had without that session or conversation), hopefully leading to positive changes for their futures.
It was particularly helpful at the end of the session to talk with Spark Inside’s Founder and CEO Baillie Aaron and the Service Delivery Manager Simone Ujah about the Spark Inside operation and the ways they measure impact. I had previously thought that the most important metric was for this programme to reduce reoffending. Although that is important and objectively something that is easier to track, we all learned that improving the mental wellbeing of these young men – their sense of agency, control, their understanding that they have choices – is just as, if not more, important as a measure of their re-integration into society, and a side effect of that is a lower rate of reoffending.
I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to deepen my understanding of Hero’s Journey™ programme and the experience has reinforced my belief in what Spark Inside is trying to achieve.
The fact that we all wished we could have had longer together in the session says it all!
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