Sparking Change

Sparking Change

Sparking Change is about sparking solutions


Developing inclusive participation and creative ways to measure outcomes for disabled young people and young adults with complex and additional needs

Sparking Change is the result of a three year participation project led and developed by Colin Blandford our Participation Development Coordinator at Action for Kids. The project spent time exploring and developing participation funded by the National Lottery and in partnership with the Rix Centre, a charity specialising in the development of multimedia tools to support young disabled people.

We looked at developing a participation model of simple small steps, using free or cheap products with a focus on sharing outcomes and learning, and the ability to evidence change.

This means we can provide the experience, ideas, training and support to solve a participation issue in a way appropriate to the young people, their needs and an organisation’s situation, as Sparking Change can be tailored to the specific needs and priorities of statutory, health and voluntary organisations. It is easy to adapt to local systems and practices.

It is not based on selling a particular product or piece of software, which our experience shows is not the best solution as it requires ongoing support, often a steep learning curve and is hard to continually develop to meet the varied and complex needs of individuals – and you lose all your work if the service closes down.

For many Sparking Change participants, this is the first time that their opinions have been asked by the organisations set up to help them and for many the ability to have their say is clearly welcomed. Typical reactions from participants include:

“Podcasting is good and fun and it gives us the chance to experience and create our own radio programmes. I liked interviewing my best friend and talking about what we liked to do.”

“I love my own website…. it makes me feel really happy all that hard work I have done!!!!! I feel like I want to take my own camera and record my own video on here, I really have to show my school this. I think my school is so going to copy our ideas now lol.”

“It boosts your imagination and has given me useful computer skills that will help me find employment.”

Maureen Galvin, Executive Director of Services at Action For Kids concludes: “At the end of our three year project, we recognise there has been a sea change at Action For Kids in the way that young people are now able to participate.

“Whilst our young people have always been valued and we have prided ourselves on a family approach, the project has enabled us to embed a practical system to make participation real on a day-to-day basis.”

Independent evaluation of Sparking Change

Paul Cutler is a freelance consultant, trainer and activist working to help individuals, organisations and communities become stronger and more effective so they can make change happen. As a consultant for Participation Works and NCB he was responsible for doing the independent reports on the progress of the Sparking Change project for the Big Lottery Fund. In his final report he included this personal statement.

“I have had the opportunity to work with Action For Kids in an external evaluation capacity since I first met the organisation in 2008. In that time the organisation has made significant strides in its approach to the participation of young people. It has made a sustained effort to explore and develop an understanding of what participation means for a diverse group of young people with physical and learning disabilities and additional needs.

The organisation has been able to learn from the evidence base of effective participation (including the Building a Culture of Participation package and Participation Works tools) whilst combining this with the development of innovative ways of working with young people whose complex needs they understand well.

After three years of testing and trialling this approach – using readily available multimedia technology –  the organisation has evidence of effective forms of participation and examples of how this has had a positive effect on the confidence, choices and self-esteem of young people.

Action For Kids can also demonstrate how they as an organisation have changed and developed as a result of young people getting more involved. They are now in a position to share their learning and promote the participation of young people with disabilities in the local community and in the voluntary sector.”

Find out more about Paul by following him on Twitter @Paulcutler or via his website

To find out more about how Sparking Change can offer you creative participative solutions see our Sparking Change Solutions page

I hope you find the site interesting and helpful, please do check out the sparking change blog at  to keep upto date with development and also leave comments about other ideas or experiences you also have on developing participation with young disabled people.

Kind regards