Empowering young people through collaboration with Somers Town Sparks

Somers Town Sparks brings together local people and facilitates idea development with young people who are homeless or at risk, to create community initiatives.

The event is centred around an evening of talks, design thinking and collaboration to support young people. Initiatives are put forward by young people from New Horizon Youth Centre. The audience has the opportunity to develop these ideas before voting on the idea that then receives the crowd funding.

Sasha’s Sandwiches idea was the latest favourite – a brand new venture launched through Somers Town Sparks. Sasha has experienced homelessness herself and she came to Sparks through New Horizon. System Changers will be her first catered event and she’s super excited.

Somers Town Sparks is a fantastic event that helps empower young people through collaboration. Don’t just take our word for it, though, we have invited one of our participants, Alice Duranti, to share her views on the event.


Last week I casually found a flyer of Somers Town Sparks in my newsletter: an event, organised by Snook and Origin Housing, meant to bring together locals with young people at risk to support their ideas and create community initiatives.

I’m currently researching the role of communication designers in community-led projects for social innovation. I instantly got curious about the nature of the event and its purpose, as I’m looking for collaborations and networks to work with, it just seemed perfect for me.

I didn’t know exactly what to expect

So I just popped by the Basil Jellicoe Hall on the day of the event. I found a diverse group of people sitting at the tables: a lot of young people from the New Horizon Youth Centre, some employees from social/non-profit organisations, a few other locals and a good number of designers from different fields (me included).

After a quick briefing from the organisers, the young people started pitching their ideas to everyone. Then, each participant joined one of the groups based on the expertise they could bring to a specific project. Discussions, skill-sharing and suggested tools helped shape each idea in a more concrete way, opening possibilities for future collaborations. Finally, thanks to the knowledge acquired from this brainstorming, the young people pitched their ideas again to everyone. The most voted for idea won a small amount of money to kick-start the project.

Somers Town Sparks is a relevant experiment from a social innovation point of view: it gives the possibility to present, discuss and put into practice ideas from young people who are homeless or at risk, and it’s an important way to empower them and find a way to positively react to their risky conditions. The monetary prize helped to bring some challenge and motivation to the workshop. All participants were involved and helpful in contributing to the ideas, in a co-participated and collaborative mood: receiving relevant tools and knowledge from different expertise legitimised the young people’s ideas and helped them to shape their projects in a practical and insightful way.

Visuals help convey ideas

Being part of the event gave me the opportunity to reflect on the relevance of visual communication in conveying ideas. The groups that pitched their ideas using visual references, such as sketches, to-do lists or conceptual maps, demonstrated to be more effective in communicating their purpose to the participants, therefore being more likely to be voted for.

Furthermore, I noticed that each presented idea required a communication design intervention in order to be realised, be it a smartphone app for young homeless looking for a shelter, a video promoting a music studio for kids at risk or a brand identity for a pop-up sandwich shop.

I’m excited to take part in the realisation of these projects and to see how they will develop in the future.

Written by Alice Duranti