Inclusion, Creativity: Shrek and Mixed Bags


Episode 46: Creativity, Inclusion: Shrek and Mixed Bags

Released: May 2013; Updated October 2016

Creativity is key to inclusion. To include people with disability in sport and recreation activities often means we need to adapt and modify what we do. This is nearly always a creative process. In this episode we look at the relationship between creativity and inclusion and consider some practical examples of creativity in action from our friends at New Jersey All People Equal.

Partners: Matt Schinelli (New Jersey All People Equal)

In previous episodes, such as the Bankshot and Baskin episodes, we have seen some great examples of adapted and inclusive activities that have been model examples of creativity. Creativity and inclusion often go hand-in-hand, particularly when programs such as these are built from the ground up. With Bankshot and Baskin there was a framework—based on basketball—but the end product was quite different and unique. And highly inclusive.

So this has led us to exploring a bit more the relationship between inclusion and creativity.

According to Wikipedia:

“Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby something new is created which has some kind of subjective value”

Wikipedia (

Clearly, activities such as Bankshot and Baskin are new and have a value. A core value is more people being active. Which is good. There are other values from these types of activities too, but essentially they create new opportunities for people with disability to be active.

But where does this creativity come from? What are the characteristics of people who are creative?

Well, creativity is generally perceived to be associated with intelligence and cognition. The study of creativity is a bit of a minefield! It involves aspects of psychology, cognitive science, education, philosophy, technology, sociology, even business studies and economics. We don’t really have the time (or the ability!) to explore all these here—which no doubt you are grateful for—but it’s worth trying to distinguish a few key hallmarks of creativity as it relates to inclusion.

It’s worth doing this because most activities and sports were not especially built to be inclusive of people with disability. They don’t handle diversity well. So, we need to adapt and modify activities or build them from the ground up so that they are inclusive. This is nearly always a creative process. The Inclusion Club is full of highly creative people. People who think ‘outside the box’ and use their creativity to make wonderful things.

One such person is Matthew Schinelli. Matt is the founding Director of New Jersey All People Equal in the US. Matt has been exercising his creativity and expertise on inclusion for over 20 years. He is the ideal person to talk to about this. So we did.

It would be fair to say that Matt and his team probably under-estimate how creative they are in what they do. As most good inclusive educators are. There are a few things that Matt and his colleagues have in common that gives us a little understanding of the relationship between creativity and inclusion. Let’s have a look.


Imagination is different to creativity. Imagination is the ‘ability ti form new images and sensations that are not perceived through sight, hearing or other senses’ (Wikipedia). A basic training for imagination is listening to narrative—or ‘storytelling.’ Think about how Matt applied Shrek to basketball participation. First, he was able to recognise the basic outcome he was after—to get the ball through the hoop. Then he was able to recognise the challenges that some young people have to understand the requirements to get the ball through the hoop including such things as ‘staying on task’, moving in different ways and playing as a team.Then he introduces Shrek! Brilliant and creative! And using the narrative of Shrek. Using this visioning and imagination in this way and applying it to an activity outcome works well in these circumstances. If you haven’t watched the video above yet, please do so as Matt explains very clearly how this works.


Situational Understanding

As mentioned in the first point, there needs to be an understanding of the situation to apply creativity in. Otherwise, there’s a danger that the creative thought becomes just that—a ‘thought’—with no application. Situational understanding includes context. ‘Context’ refers to both the environment in which the activity is taking place and the personal circumstances of the individual.Creativity often requires clarity of thinking. If the environment you are in is new and challenging for you then it is easy to be distracted and suppress your creative instincts simply because you are too busy trying to understand and cope in the environment you find yourself.

To be creative it is also important to have an innate understanding of the personal circumstances of the individual you are working with. This is where experience and training kicks in. Generally, the more experienced you are and the more training you have had, the greater the capacity you’ll have to be creative. You are more able to see through and filter the important and the unimportant. For example, if you understand that people with autism or related conditions generally have difficulty understanding abstract concepts and meaning, then you’ll be in a position to develop a practical outcome to an activity that has meaning, and reward, for that individual. You can create something that has meaning to the individual rather than relying on general outcomes that are prescribed by others or set down as rules and regulations.

But, if you don’t have much experience or training please do not think that you cannot be creative—you can—as David Kelley will show you…

Fear of Failure and Discovering Your Self Efficacy

The thing about being creative is that you will fail. Experimentation is fundamental to creativity and by definition, being creative means trying new things. Hence, there are no guarantees that what you be successful. Failure is part of the creative process. It is also the main reason why some people back away from creativity and opt out of the creative experimentation through fear of failure.David Kelley is founder of the legendary design firm IDEO. In May 2012 he presented at TED in Scotland. His presentation—How to build your creative confidence—talks about this fear of failure. He also talks about self efficacy—how people can realise the outcomes they want to using a creative process. There is plenty of rich material in this presentation that has a great deal of relevance for inclusion. Please watch…

Brilliant eh!!

Please think about how you can opt in and unleash your creativity for the benefit of inclusion. And don’t be afraid to fail!

Finally, we urge you to check out the great New Jersey All People Equal website and don’t hesitate to get in touch with Matt and tap into his vast experience and creativity.


And thanks to Matt Schinelli for his inspiration and cooperation on this episode.

Are you creative in your work? Do you have examples of creativity you can share with us? Please leave your comments below if you do.

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About the author: Peter Downs

About the author: Peter Downs

Founding Director - The Inclusion Club

Peter is Founding Director of The Inclusion Club and Manager of Play by the Rules – a national initiative to promote safe, fair and inclusive sport. Peter has worked for over 25 years in the field of inclusive sport, disability sport and physical activity including 17 years managing the Australian Sports Commission’s Disability Sport Unit.  In 2013 Peter was fortunate enough to receive a Churchill Fellowship to study models of best practice in inclusive sport and physical activity.