Phil Conway

Ashoka Fellow
United Kingdom
Fellow Since 2011


This profile was prepared when Phil Conway was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
The Cool2Care model is based on the concept of a “personal assistant”; a youthful and energetic role model who is a friend to a disabled child and part of the fabric of family life. Rather than employing an unskilled older woman who watches over the disabled child while the parents get a break, a young personal assistant aged 18 to 28-years gives the child access to fun experiences and youth culture. They bring enthusiasm and an open-minded approach to the care of the disabled. In contrast to the standardized and medicalized notion of care promoted by most agencies, the principle behind Cool2Care is that the process should be made more personal for families; they should be directly involved in choosing and shaping the support they want, based on their particular needs.

Founded in 2008, Cool2Care uses corporate recruitment strategies to attract young people through youth magazines and the Internet, a stark contrast to the gray box repeated weekly in job pages for low skilled workers. Personal assistants are carefully matched to the needs of families by Cool2Care staff members who know the families personally. The arrangement gives families an easy avenue to find the kind of carer they want, rather than navigate the impersonal agency system or find their own support. Meanwhile, the young personal assistant gains an opportunity to work in a career which was previously considered unattractive, while also playing a role in the wider inclusion of disabled children in society.

Having scaled to 30 locations in the U.K. in only three years, Phil has identified a model which is both highly attractive to families and financially sustainable. Rather than rely on the traditional centralized agency model, Cool2Care is an introduction service, focused on careful matching of client to carer. Once the match is made, the family builds a contract directly with the carer, rather than Cool2Care, and pays the carer directly. Local authorities can also contract with Cool2Care to serve their particular area. The income provided from local authority contracts and introduction fees ensure an ongoing revenue stream which is then reinvested into Cool2Care.

Phil is now working to change the provision of care for disabled children internationally. He is setting up a Cool2Care charitable foundation that will aim to promote understanding and share best practices across the world. He began by sending a group of students to map the disability field globally, developing an overview of best practices and the needs of the sector. Now that the connections have been made, Phil intends to create a self-supporting global network of likeminded practitioners who are creating a better system of care for disabled children and their families.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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