As we approach the end of the year, our CEO and Founder, Baillie Aaron, takes a look back on 2017, and sets out our powerful vision for 2018.
This past year, Spark Inside made it through the critical fifth year of our existence. And all the awkward growing pains of a start-up transitioning into an ‘adult’ charity have been worth it: because this year, we confirmed the power and effectiveness of bringing coaching into prisons.
It is a privilege and an inspiration to support our clients to unlock and realise their potential. This year, through our Hero’s Journey™ programme, a young person in prison discovered that his love for cooking extended beyond making drugs, to cooking food, and after his release set up his own pop-up restaurant. During Systems Coaching, a newly recruited prison officer received an apology and a handshake from prisoners who had previously teased him.
I’m filled with pride by our clients’ transformations – big and small – and by the positive impact that Spark Inside, as a young organisation, has had on the lives of people who live and work in prison. This year alone, our life and systems coaches have worked with almost 300 people across 6 prisons. Our latest interim independent evaluation of Hero’s Journey™ shows that our coaching programme leads to improvements in five key outcomes for young people, including their mental wellbeing, empathy and emotional intelligence. Our systems coaching evaluation also showed incredible results, including an 81% increase in prisoners’ positive behaviour.
Getting this far hasn’t been easy. Alongside record levels of violence, self-harm and suicide in prisons, we’ve had to navigate significant operational red-tape and an ever-changing policy landscape behind the scenes. But we’re committed to our value of stickability and grit: our coaches have run sessions when necessary in segregation cells and dentists’ offices; our staff have traveled for hours to track down hard-to-reach prison officers in person, and; prison governors have given out their personal contact details to make sure our programmes run smoothly.
It may go without saying, but we couldn’t have made it this far without our amazing team of dedicated and courageous coaches, staff and Trustees who, along with our passionate prison staff champions, go above and beyond to ensure our participants can access our coaching programmes. So to you and to all our pro-bono supporters, donors, volunteers and subscribers: thank you for joining us on our journey.
And this journey will be getting even more exciting in 2018. Over the last five years, we have seen that incremental shifts in our prison system are not enough; rather, a full step change is needed. This conviction is encapsulated by our new, bold vision: of a world without crime and without prisons. So with your support, we will continue to work toward that vision next year. We’ll be focusing on achieving proof of concept for our two existing coaching programmes while continuing to innovate, finding new ways to use coaching to support people in prison. We’ll be exploring a social licensing model, so that we can scale our impact efficiently and ensure more people can benefit. We will also be more proactively raising awareness of our approach as best practice for rehabilitation.
With all this to come – I can’t wait to see what learning, growth and impact 2018 will bring!
From all of us at Spark Inside, happy holidays and we wish you a prosperous and fulfilling New Year.