Our remit is to fund initiatives that use sport and arts to inspire people to get involved in their communities, to develop themselves and to support others. At the heart of our purpose is changing perceptions of, and creating more opportunities for, disabled people.
What difference do we want our funding to make? That’s a big question and we had to get the answer right. So to guide us in investing wisely and well, we got together with stakeholders to decide what impact we wanted our £47 million endowment to have over our 10 year life. The resulting Theory of Change is now the foundation for all our grant-making.
The changes we want to help create are increased wellbeing and social cohesion and improved perceptions of disability. To achieve those, we fund work aiming for beneficial outcomes, including increased participation in sport, arts and volunteering, greater inclusion, youth empowerment, reduced loneliness and isolation, and more.
With partners like the Youth Sport Trust we monitor projects within an evaluation framework to learn whether and how those outcomes are achieved. We want to promote and celebrate what works, move away from what doesn’t and ultimately create and share the 10 year story of investment across our different partners and activities.
We fund Inclusive Futures because it hits Spirit's sweet spot. It's a treble whammy which:
- empower young people, by developing their leadership
- brings those of all abiliites and attributes, together to train and work as volunteers; and
- creates the perfect conditions to challenge and change limiting perceptions of disabled people
There’s also a mass of other individual and community benefits in the resource that the IF team has created within across the eight, soon to be nine, UK host organisations.
I hope that they all have the vision to recognise the value of Inclusive Futures, and play their part in sustaining what we feel is a highly successful model, made so by some exceptional young (and older) people.
Spirit’s other partners are certainly seeing – and using – that value:
- UKactive has included evidence and best practices from Inclusive Futures Bath in their 2015 Leadership Insight Report
- The British Paralympic Association involved 14 Inclusive Futures volunteers from Manchester, Birmingham and London in supporting National Paralympic Day events in 2014
- Sporting Memories Network enlisted the help of Inclusive Futures volunters as memory-makers during this year's National Paralympic Day, and in Glasgow Inclusive Futures volunteres are running their inclusive boccia sessions for elderly people
So, plenty of activity, but what is Inclusive Futures achieving? This summer our external evaluation team has been taking a close look at the project and here, hot from the press, are some of their findings. It is having a significant impact in three main areas - inclusivity, changing perceptions and creating a sense of pride and wellbeing for those involved. I was particulary struck by a comment from one of the co-ordinators, who said:
"Getting more people involved in volunteering alongside young disabled people is the biggest positive change. You know, there are a lot of young people out there without disabilities who’ve never come into contact with somebody with disability."
The sense of being part of something bigger is also welcomed by a Northern Ireland staff member:
"Whenever you say this is happening across the UK and you show them photos of the different camps and see the Paralympians involved it makes it more prestigious … volunteers feel part of a whole UK wide thing."
Pride at being part of a national event was at the heart of the 2012 spirit, and the project has brilliantly reinvented and replicated it for over a thousand young volunteers, and for the wider communities they are part of. That pride is infectious - all of us at Spirit are tremendously proud of our association with Inclusive Futures. Our Board has unanimously and enthusiastically offered the programme further support.
Over the next year, we want to see the project do four things:
- Hit the ground running in Leicester
- Transform more people's perceptions of what young people of all abilities are capable of
- Embed Inclusive Future principles and practice as a mainstream resources in the host institutions and beyond
- Reach to more young people and show them a better future that both include and empower
Roll on another year....