Sparking Change is a social enterprise based in Victoria and works across Australia, and around the Asia Pacific region.
We work with communities to strengthen collaboration between groups, organisations, communities and people, highlighting the importance of their lived experiences and community-led collective action. Community engagement is not simply about sharing information, or listening to opinions via a survey or focus group, it is about working in partnership with communities to engage them in joint decision making alongside the organisations that serve them. Inevitably this leads to empowerment which is not something that can be given to a community but something that can emerge when conditions are conducive. Sparking Change uses our StoryWork toolbox to support communities and the organisations that support them.
Sparking Change is based on three assumptions
1. We live in a time that requires that we fundamentally shift the current political, economic and cultural systems that create disadvantage and oppression within humanity and the destruction of our planet.
2. Social change happens when everyday citizens come together to organise with a shared purpose as part of a broad based movement.
3. In order to change the systems we have to change the narratives.
“Lana Woolf is a superb educator and facilitator. She nurtures people’s storytelling abilities with great sensitivity, helping to bring out stories of honesty and strength from beginning to expert storytellers. She is an exceptional talent worthy of any keen learner’s time.”Dr Katherine Phelps
Using story to
Broadly speaking, we can think about the functions of storytelling as being to Learn, Organise, Educate, and Advocate and thereby effect change in public attitudes, behaviour, culture, and policy. These four functions often overlap, and most of the work we do uses story in more than one way. StoryWork may play a central or a supporting role in the way we support the organisations and communities we work with.
Story as a learning tool helps communities assess needs and strengths and evaluate a program throughout its life.
Story as an organising tool strengthens and builds (participatory) leadership in organisations and communities and serves as a means of exchanging strategies for social change
Story as an education tool engages people and communities in conversations and public discussions.
Story as an advocacy tool engages people to participate in community building, fundraising and advocacy.
Our Direct Education Approach
At the heart of Sparking Change is a shared practice of group learning, which has evolved from over 25 years of work with activists, organisers, and change-makers.
Just as direct action directly confronts systems of injustice, our approach challenges traditional education, confronting the beliefs, conflicts, and oppression that keep leaders and groups from being their most powerful – that’s why we call it Direct Education.
Direct education is about liberation and empowerment. Unlike traditional education, which gives all the expertise to textbooks and teachers, Direct Education invites the wisdom of people’s own experience. The practice comes out of popular education traditions – like those popularized by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire – and adds to it. We’ve learned lessons from dozens of teaching modalities and approaches, making the most useful elements accessible in our workshops.
The approach is group-centered. Our facilitators build upon group dynamics in the workshop space and people’s own experience to introduce new content and help the group access their own wisdom. This deepens learning in the workshops and also cultivates resources for people to access long after the workshop is over.
Here are some elements of our Direct Education approach
In our approach, facilitators are skilled at adapting the agenda in the middle of a workshop to follow the needs of a group and better meet learning goals. This way, they’re open to what issues, challenges, and growth edges are present. Emergent design isn’t about letting the group do whatever it wants – it’s the ability to identify teachable and transformative moments where new content can be most effectively learned.
Workshop as laboratory
We ground much of our design in a four-step model of experiential education: experience, reflect, generalize, apply. Without incorporating application in the workshop, new information or actions are difficult to internalize, and there is little difference back home. One way we design for this challenge is to create the workshop as a lab in which participants try new behaviors in the training room, practice new skills, and plan for applying lessons at home.
Different learning styles
Traditional education stresses reading, writing, and lectures as the major modes of learning. We recognize people learn in all sorts of different ways: visual, auditory, through the body (kinesthetic), through heart connection, and more. We design for a diversity of learning styles.
Learning as risk taking
Sparks workshop facilitators operate on the principle that deep learning is change, and change requires risk; the facilitator’s job is to not only invite risk, but make the workshop space suitable for risk-taking. We call this as the group having courageous conversations to build brave spaces (as opposed to safer spaces) This has agenda design and facilitation implications (such as intentional “container-building”), but also means the facilitators themselves must take risks, including the risk of transparency to the participants.