In the UK, there are 23,000 young people aged 15 to 25 in prison, of which 70% will reoffend within 1 year. Spark Inside supports young people involved in the criminal justice system to move away from crime and toward meaningful education, employment and training, through professional life coaching.
Our pilot programme achieved a 12.5% reoffending rate and we will be working with about 200 young people in prison this year.
Spark Inside is a registered charity providing life coaching workshops and one-to-one life coaching to young people in the criminal justice system, as well as coaching training to prison officers. Our customers include prisons, probation providers and central government (our clients cannot afford to pay for our services).
Our aspiration is to put ourselves out of business one day: in an ideal world, there will no longer be any demand for our services because young people will no longer be committing crimes that land them in prison.
As a charity, we welcome competition because collectively we can do more. Organisations doing similar work in the UK include CIAO and Youth At Risk.
We are the only organisation in the world specialising in the delivery of professional life coaching to young people in prison, both to reduce violence in prisons and to support young people’s transition back into the community.
We have a three-pronged approach: we sell our coaching services to customers, including prisons and government. We apply for grant funding from foundations. We also rely on individual and corporate donations, both monetary and in-kind. Our first major funding came from a small family foundation.
I worked on the business plan for Spark Inside while completing my Masters degree in Criminological Research at Cambridge. Before that, I started and ran an organisation teaching entrepreneurship to people in prison in the USA.
For the full story of how I went from Harvard to working in prisons, you can watch my TEDx talk here.
People often ask me whether my motivation to start Spark Inside came from having personal experience with the criminal justice system. It didn’t: I was driven by a frustration at the limited opportunities available to people with criminal records, and the knowledge that I was in a unique position to do something about it. If not me, who? If not now, when?
Deciding to take the risk of starting Spark Inside in the UK (rather than back in the US or Canada, where I’m from). This country welcomes social entrepreneurship and is open to innovation in the criminal justice system.
Moving to London to start Spark Inside with a business plan, less than £10,000 in funding, and no guaranteed source of future income. Thankfully, it all worked out!
In a Brick Lane market stall, you can buy an oreo stuffed chocolate chip biscuit. That’s Spark Inside: coaching helps us discover who we are on the inside, which is often much more than how we appear to others.
Social business ventures that achieve both social impact and profit - like the Clink restaurant, which is located inside of Brixton, Cardiff and High Down prisons. The restaurant provides people serving prison sentences with the opportunity to gain valuable catering skills, while simultaneously providing the public with a delicious meal and an unforgettable experience.
One year from now, we will have provided life coaching to 330 young people in prison and trained 200 prison officers; by 2018, we will have coached 1,100 young people in the criminal justice system and have trained up 600 prison officers, generating over £525 million in savings from reduced reoffending (10 year NPV).
Check out last week's 60 second start-up: The Concierge Circle