Compass Advocacy Network (CAN)

Compass Advocacy Network Ltd aims to enhance lives and create change for people with learning disabilities by challenging stereotypes and creating opportunities to share best practice, collaborations and partnerships. The organisation is known for innovative practice offering holistic support opportunities to service users and members.

Mentor: Mid & East Antrim Agewell Partnership

The Elevate funded project entitled ‘The Magic of CAN’ provided a series of 10 workshops involving the creative arts to improve health literacy for people with learning disabilities. The project focused on building resilience following the pandemic and encouraged participation in the use of creative ways to improve mental health and emotional wellbeing. As co-design was key to the project, the workshops were determined by the participants and included art, music, set design, drama, crafts, lighting and more.

CAN involved other community groups in the area and used a co-ordinated approach to address health inequalities which exist in the area. In particular, they addressed passive participation of the learning disabilities community within community event settings and the improvement of mental health along with a feeling of community belonging. The long-term aim was that those with a learning disability would be considered when designing such events. This project highlighted what can be achieved by being fully inclusive of everyone in society.


The Network benefited greatly from the mentoring accessed through the Elevate programme utilising and learning from Sarah’s expertise in specific areas from the planning of the project right through to the evaluation. This project was co-designed and co-produced with assistance from the mentor on planning and organising focus groups to formulate project ideas and consider the small things which can make a big difference to the overall success of the project.

CAN received mentoring for the actual project delivery as they were moving into running a larger scale community event and required advice and guidance on elements such as event management and Covid safety. They also benefitted from one-to-one support offered by Sarah from MEAAP with regard to networking and engagement with the local community as well as help with the marketing and promotion of both the workshops and the end event.

The organisation built a partnership with Billy at Brookville Enterprises, another mentee within the Elevate Programme. His group has allotments where volunteers come along and learn to grow their own fruit and vegetables. This connection made a huge difference to CAN as they had just purchased a farm in Ballymoney where they would have their own allotments.

Overall, the project had a significant impact on the beneficiaries, many of whom would have been physically inactive when it came to exercise. The project has shown that dance and singing can be used as exercise and, as a result, some of the participants requested that CAN organised dance classes in order to support their health and wellbeing. As well as addressing health issues and health inequalities in this way, the project has also made a difference as it has demonstrated what is possible when beneficiaries are included in creating their own programmes and solutions.

“This programme has been vital to our organisation in the formulation of new partnerships and connections as well as providing us with the opportunity to explore the creative arts and process. The individual mentoring helped us immensely and we really enjoyed all our group sessions.”

Linda McKendry Director of Services