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Reach for a brighter future
This Case Study examines the charity Youth Off The Streets, its development and operations. It discusses the importance of running a charity like any other business and looks at the development of one of its most ambitious projects: the building of the Macquarie Fields Youth Centre.
As a result of reading this Case Study, students should be able to:
- Understand the importance of entrepreneurship in business
- Discuss the importance of clear and measurable goals and objectives in business planning
- Explain the benefits of identifying and engaging stakeholders
2011 is the 20th anniversary of Youth Off The Streets, the charity founded by Father Chris Riley to assist homeless and disadvantaged young people.
Fr Chris Riley is an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is about coming up with creative ideas (often involving risk-taking) and then finding the resources and opportunities to put these ideas into action.
The Macquarie Fields Centre for Youth, opening in 2011 in Sydney’s southwest, is YOTS’s latest innovative project designed to meet community needs.
Youth Off The Streets has been working with disadvantaged and marginalised young people for 20 years.
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Fr Riley was inspired to dedicate his life to working with homeless young people by the character Father Flanagan in the movie Boys Town. This dedicated team, under Fr Riley’s leadership, work to nprovide opportunities for young people to turn their lives around and overcome personal traumas such as disadvantage, neglect, physical and emotional abuse.
Youth Off The Streets now assists young people by providing:
- Crisis accommodation
- Education through 4 accredited high schools
- Medium – long term accommodation and care
- Early intervention and outreach through community engagement in 12 metropolitan and remote communities
- Drug and alcohol counselling and rehabilitation
- Parenting Programs
- Integration Support
- StreetWalk Program
- Food Van
- National Scholarship Program.
Providing an innovative solution to a societal problem
Father Chris Riley is an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is about coming up with creative ideas (often involving risk-taking) and then finding the resources and opportunities to put these ideas into action. We generally associate entrepreneurship with business ideas, or creating personal wealth, but the characteristics of the entrepreneurial spirit – passion, perseverance, problem-solving and a never-give-up attitude are just as important in charities and not-for-profit organisations. Fr Chris saw a real need for more support for homeless young people in the inner city.
His tenacity and commitment saw Youth off the Streets grow from a single food van delivering meals to young homeless people on the streets of Kings Cross into a major youth charity employing over 200 staff members.
An effective charity should be run in the same way as an effective business – to ensure that as much of the organisation’s funds as possible go towards the charity’s primary goal of helping people. YOTS operates in the same way as any other business, with a clear mission statement, vision, strategic aims and goals. These help focus the charity’s efforts and help personnel make the best possible decisions about how funding is used.
YOTS is helping disconnected young people to discover greatness within, by engaging, supporting and providing opportunities to encourage and facilitate positive life choices.
YOTS’ vision is that we are well planned and balanced to meet the needs of all our stakeholders and in doing so we are focused on outcomes, community and sustainability.
In 2008, YOTS released the PRIDE values, developed by young people helped by the organisation, in conjunction with YOTS employees and the Board of Directors. These are YOTS’ guiding principles and reflect both the values that are most important for all those involved with YOTS to commit to and the overall aim of the organisation – to instill pride and self worth in disadvantaged young people.
Translating goals into reality – developing the Macquarie Fields Centre for Youth
YOTS Outreach programs provide a safe and friendly environment for at-risk and disadvantaged young people on familiar territory. They are designed to help young people develop self-esteem, pride in their communities, and find ways to rebuild and strengthen the overall community. In Macquarie Fields, YOTS operates weekly BBQ-and-Basketball activities on the basketball courts of the local high school, providing a safe place in the evening for local young people and their families, and, for some, the most substantial meal they have all week.
The program, delivered by Youth Workers has the following benefits, engaging with young people, learning about their needs and supporting them in developing educational or employment plans. YOTS also recruits Trainee Youth Workers to participate and take ownership of the programs.
- Long-term intervention strategy
- Designed to increase school attendance and employment
- Aims to decrease local youth crime
- Incorporates positive recreational activities, e.g. basketball, barbeques, dance etc.
- Builds trust with at-risk and disadvantaged young people through regular contact.
Eden College is an alternative learning program that focuses on providing flexible education to students who are in danger of dropping out of mainstream education. The curriculum is flexible and concentrates on identifying students’ individual needs and talents.
Trainee Youth Worker Program
Trainee youth workers come from the Macquarie Fields area. The program allows participants to study at TAFE and work within YOTS whilst contribute within their own communities.
Developing clear objectives
A clear set of goals ensures that everyone involved in a project understands the aims and objectives of the development and helps explain the purpose to external stakeholders. A project’s success will be determined by how closely set goals are met.
The goals of the Macquarie Fields Youth Centre were:
a) To build a multi-purpose Youth Centre in the suburb of Macquarie Fields
b) To establish a safe space for young people and families in their own suburb.
c) To contribute to long-term solutions and interventions for a complex range of issues.
d) To use a model that will build self-esteem and capacity, rather than creating dependence.
e) To train adult members of the community who volunteer to help with the program, in order to build bonds between adults and young people, and facilitate role modelling.
f) To develop programs that will gradually impact on levels of school exclusion, youth crime and employment by providing diversionary activities, alternative education and aspiration.
g) To provide clients with strategies to feel safer in their own homes and community.
h) To equip young people with skills to increase their employment capacity.
i) To increase self-esteem and respect for others.
j) To contribute to breaking inter-generational cycles of violence and disadvantage.
Engaging with the community
The YOTS programs in Macquarie Fields were developed in response to community request and took into account the specific needs of the area.
YOTS consults regularly with local residents, through:
- Informal liaison (staff and volunteers talking to community members at Outreach evenings)
- Formal liaison (meetings with local agencies such as the police, council, other local charities and relevant government departments).
This consultation allows YOTS to develop programs and services in line with the changing needs of the community.
For the development of the Youth Centre, YOTS identified a range of stakeholders. These were:
a) Resident young people of Macquarie Fields, aged 8-25
b) The wider Macquarie Fields residential and business community
c) Organisations servicing the community, either located in the area or through Outreach
e) Campbelltown City Council
f) Primary and High Schools
g) NSW Department of Housing
h) Funding bodies, including all levels of Government, philanthropic and individual donors.
YOTS incorporated a range of ways for stakeholders to contribute to the development and operation of the Centre. One of the most important components was the establishment of partnerships with other local organisations to assist in providing the Centre’s services and make sure
that there was no overlap in services.
YOTS also developed a survey for young people in the area to find out nwhat facilities and services they wanted in a youth centre. The answers
were incorporated into the architectural plans. Ongoing feedback is provided by the Trainee Youth Workers, who talk to the young people in the area every day. YOTS uses an informal consultation process – focusing on talking to young people who actually use the Centre, rather
than continual surveys and meetings.
To reach those most in need of the Centre’s services, YOTS developed a marketing plan during the consultation period using a range of formal and informal channels in the community. Posters, flyers, newspaper advertisements and media articles were all used to promote the Centre, showing what was available and encouraging young people to come and see what the Centre had to offer. To maximise effective use of funding, advertising campaigns were used mostly for campaigns where the target group could be effectively identified, targeted and measured to ensure the best possible return-on-investment.
Informal promotional tools were an important part of the campaign. Other groups who work with young people were encouraged to refer them to the Centre and partner organisations were given YOTS materials to give to their clients. YOTS also built networks within the community and news of the Centre spread through word of mouth. Websites such as Facebook were also used to spread the word of the Centre’s services. Social media can be a powerful and low cost tool in engaging young people in a medium they use regularly.
As with any business activity, it is crucial that YOTS continually measures performance of their programs – to see what works, check whether they are providing the services needed, and to allow them to make improvements. Good feedback also helps keep staff focused and morale high. YOTS has to provide feedback and data to major funding bodies (e.g. government, corporate supporters etc.) to show them how their contributions are being used. To allow this to be completed effectively, YOTS continues to strengthen partnerships with universities and external consultants and uses best practice and continual improvement methods of data collection, analysis and reporting.
Each of the YOTS programs, including the Macquarie Youth Centre, has internal reporting and evaluation processes. Program managers write weekly reports and deliver a monthly report to the Director of Services, to show how the programs are meeting their goals, objectives and budgets.
The Program Manager also meets with other appropriate governmental and charitable organisations and gets feedback from community groups about the success of programs in the area.
The Outreach programs are evaluated on an ongoing basis using a variety of quantitative and qualitative research, including:
a) The number of young people who use the service
b) The number of repeat visits
c) Age, gender, ethnicity, first language spoken at home
d) Employment, study or training status
e) School attainment
f) The number of volunteers in attendance
g) Compare changes in knowledge and attitudes in relation to a wide range of issues including youth crime and safety, youth health and well-being,
h) Pre and post attendance surveys, including satisfaction surveys, measures of well-being, measures of knowledge and attitudes
i) Community focus groups
j) Feedback from social workers, youth workers and other community service agents and stakeholders.