Social enterprise Find Your Spark helps at-risk young people through coaching psychology programmes that aim to raise their wellbeing and aspirations and enable them to realise their passions and potential
The Good Business column catches up with people who are leading social change. It is created in collaboration with Impact Hub Islington, a co-working and business incubation space in London for socially-minded entrepreneurs.
Positive News: Michelle, tell us about Find Your Spark in a nutshell.
Michelle: Find Your Spark delivers one-to-one and group coaching programmes based on positive psychology to young people at risk of becoming NEET – i.e. not in education, employment, or training – and professionals who work with them. Our programmes aim to raise the wellbeing and aspirations of young people, so that they may realise their passions and fulfil their potential.
What are the outcomes of your programmes and how do they differ from more traditional approaches to youth empowerment?
The main outcomes are increased positive emotions, improved relationships and identification and recognition of purpose and meaning to their lives. The latter is key: finding a purpose in life, even a small purpose that gets these young people out of bed in the morning, can be life-changing. The entire perspective of their lives shifts as they become more accepting of their circumstances, more open to opportunities and more positive about their future.
The main difference between our programmes and traditional approaches to youth empowerment is a focus on the individual rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Positive coaching psychology offers a strength-based and solution-focused approach that empowers young people to find the confidence and courage to change their lives for the better.
What was the ‘spark’ that motivated you?
I lost a close member of my family when I was only a teenager. The event completely turned my world upside down: I became depressed and had some very negative experiences. I did not receive much support at the time. Then, one day I realised I could carry on feeling miserable for my entire life or I could change and do something positive. And I did. I left a job where I was not flourishing and set up Find Your Spark to provide young people with the kind of support I had lacked. This is my purpose and my way of contributing to making a difference.
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What is the main challenge you faced?
The main challenge was quitting my job without having anything else sorted out right away. My finances dropped drastically, it was tough for the first couple of years. Now, I am happy with where things are and I can say it has all been worth the struggle.
What are some of the successes you achieved?
I remember how getting my first contract felt like a real success. Another great incentive was receiving some funding last year, when I was still doing my masters and money was tight with so little spare time. I feel this is right for me and I know things will fall into place.
What are the next steps for you and Find Your Spark?
I have just taken on two staff members and we have recently started to diversify and focus more on career coaching and work experience to help young people figure out what they want to do. Also, I would like to start working with younger kids, as I feel this kind of preventative work is more effective the earlier it happens. In the long-term, I would like to work with parents too, but I feel I might first need to become a parent myself.
What piece of advice can you offer young people aspiring to realise their dreams?
Having a dream can sometimes feel overwhelming. But our fear of what might be is worse than what actually is. Something that really helps me is to break things down into small chunks and create small steps to take every day, so that in a year’s time you will be much further away compared to today.
Photo title: Michelle Pitchard with students from the Prince's Trust
Photo credit: © Find Your Spark