Creating from a blank canvas: Youth Education Collaboration

30 Nov 2023

What happens when you put $100,000 on the table and invite five youth education non-profits to design a new collaboration of their own choosing?

In the case of The Wyatt Trust’s Youth Education Collaboration, the unbridled creativity, shared learning and deep partnerships that sprang from the project made good things happen.

By removing the usual parameters and conditions that typically come with philanthropic funding, the five non-profits were free to create from a blank canvas, using their experience and imagination.

“The idea for the project came after a discussion about youth education more broadly,” explains Angela Meegan, Grants Manager at The Wyatt Trust.

“We’d been considering collaboration and impact and were working on the assumption that having organisations do something together could be more impactful than having programs running separately. This is what we were looking to test through this pilot collaborative grant program.”

The five organisations, Youth Opportunities Australia, Operation Flinders, Bikes SA, Nature Foundation and one other that decided to step out of the project early on, had pre-existing relationships with Wyatt but not necessarily with each other.

“Each of the organisations were different sizes, had different capacities and resources and different ways of doing things,” Angela says.

“Wyatt wasn’t prescriptive in what we were asking them to do other than to see if they could be more impactful together. We invited them to think about it and tell us how it might work.”

The project’s ultimate aim was to build confidence, resilience and agency in young Aboriginal people that would help keep them engaged in education.

After some initial apprehension, the organisations agreed they’d work together rather than separately, and the sense of excitement about what the project might look like grew.

The four collaborating organisations came back to Wyatt with a two-part proposal for a 12-month project to support, empower and better serve young people, particularly those from First Nations communities.

Each organisation used a strengths-based approach to design and deliver different aspects of the project.

Part 1 focused on building capacity among the participating organisations, and included information exchange, joint workshops and visiting each other’s programs all of which provided valuable context and learning.

Part 2 engaged young people from two schools in the programs that were developed using the shared knowledge resulting from Part 1.

Bikes SA ran mountain biking skill development and road safety sessions that culminated in a group ride in the Adelaide Park Lands.

Nature Foundation hosted a Kids on Country camp specifically designed for Kaurna Plains High School students to inspire future careers in conservation and land management, while also strengthening cultural learning and overall wellbeing.

Youth Opportunities ran two workshops that addressed educational and employment prospects by building greater understanding of communication impact, personal strengths, and overall wellbeing.

The Operation Flinders program focused on overcoming challenges and working harmoniously as a team. The program offered a transformative experience for students from the Warriapendi school, expanding their horizons and nurturing their imaginations.

Cultural learnings further strengthened the participants’ connection to the Country and students developed a heightened appreciation for the cultural significance of the northern Flinders Ranges and its importance to the Traditional Owners.

Jonathon Robran, Business Development Manager at Operation Flinders says the program was such a success that the Warriapendi school has nominated to participate again in 2024.

The collaborative approach between the partner organisations is also something that Operation Flinders will seek to repeat.

“The learning each partnering organisation received from the project has been most valuable,” Jonathon explains.

“It has been a lesson in practice that will now be applied across every partnership with Indigenous young people, plus any program that is tailored to suit the learning style that requires shorter sessions with more activity-based learning.

“It has built a new skill among the organisations to apply this culturally sensitive and safe approach to all the groups of diverse young people that we work with.”

It’s a result that is also extremely heartening for The Wyatt Trust.

“We’re delighted with the results,” Angela says. “The partnering organisations have developed new relationships, new networks and connections as well as developing new ‘markets’.

“The organisations were so capable and driven to achieve great outcomes. They appreciated having that flexibility and probably one of the reasons the project was so successful is that we didn’t put too many parameters around it – it was intentionally a high-trust environment.”

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