Inclusion WA—Connecting Youth and Community
Date released: January 2013 Updated: Partners: Inclusion WA, Paul Fleay and Jessica Kain Inclusion WA are based in Perth, Western Australia. In this episode we profitle one of their many successful programs—one that connects disadvantaged youth, including young people with disability, to community sport and recreation. Some great tools and resources to help replicate their success.
Inclusion WA— Connecting Youth and Community
It’s with tremendous pleasure to introduce you today to Inclusion WA. Inclusion WA operate from their office in Perth, Western Australia. The ‘WA’ in Inclusion WA stands for ‘Western Australia.’ So, they are dedicated to enriching the lives of all people who may be disadvantaged, disconnected from society or living with a disability. They achieve this by facilitating inclusion in sport, recreation and community life throughout Western Australia. Perfect as a profile for The Inclusion Club. Now, Inclusion WA do a lot. They are a busy bunch. It’s impossible to do justice in this episode to the full breadth of work that Inclusion WA do. So we encourage you to take a look at their website (see below). There are some excellent resources there and you’ll get a good understanding of their work. What we are going to do in this episode is focus on a particular program—Youth Connect. Youth Connect is designed for teenagers living with a disability who would like to be more involved in their community. The idea is to connect young people to the community through sport and recreation. Makes sense! First, we’ll talk to Paul Fleay, the Chief Executive Officer, and Jessica Kain, Program Coordinator for Youth Connect. Then we will highlight some hallmarks of success for Youth Connect. Finally, we’ll give you some more detailed information about the program that you can download and read in your own time. Okay, the interview. We caught up with Paul and Jessica via Skype. It will give you a really good idea of what Youth Connect is all about.
Hallmarks of Success
There’s no doubt about it. Youth Connect is making a significant impact on the lives of young people in Western Australia. But what makes this program a success? Below is our take on some of the hallmarks of success. There are clearly more, but these are the hallmarks that we think make this program what it is.
- Understanding the commitment As discussed in the interview, a program like this is very ‘resource intensive.’ It’s one-on-one. It’s an individualised approach where a Youth Connect Coordinator works with individuals for anything between 3 to 12 months. This takes commitment. Inclusion WA obviously understand this, have planned for it and resourced the project on that basis. This is easier said than done in an era where results are often judged by pure numbers!
- There’s an exit strategy With a program like this, it would be easy to build up a ‘reliance model.’ Inclusion WA clearly understand the importance of this. Their role is very much as a facilitator of inclusion and not the gatekeeper. They work with parents. They work with relevant organisations. They have a ‘setup process’ before they start working with individuals. This makes sure everyone knows what the expectations are and what the outcomes will be. So it’s no surprise to anyone when they begin the process of ‘backing away’ from the program and leaving it to work on its own.
- Flexibility While there is a plan and a philosophy behind Youth Connect, there is still a great deal of flexibility in how it is delivered. It’s not a program that operates with a template or too many pre-defined procedures. No two programs are the same. This is very important and it’s a great credit to Inclusion WA and the Youth Connect program that they incorporate such flexibility into how it is delivered.
- Genuine needs-based approach Youth Connect is a genuine ‘needs-based’ program. It’s based on the likes, goals, interests and strengths of the individuals that take part in the program. It’s not based on the needs of the organisation or the needs of some higher level research. It’s the actual, real life, needs in the ‘here and now.’ ‘Needs-based approach’ is a term that is often used be less often delivered in such a genuine and authentic way.
- Long-term sustainability Although Youth Connect is designed as a short term project it is built on a premise of long term sustainability. The backbone philosophy is one that seeks to make a generational shift in attitudes in the community. Sure, there are many individual success stories. This is great in itself. But collectively, the ‘knock-on’ effect of these activities is profound and long term. In the first year of the program they had 35 young people with disability in the program. It’s not only their lives that are effected though. Collaborating organisations are effected. Parents, friends and colleagues are effected. They are not just effected now—they will be effected in the future, which will open up new opportunities in the future for others who may never hear of Youth Connect. That shouldn’t be forgotten and is a significant hallmark of Youth Connect.
These are some of our hallmarks of Youth Connect. Hallmarks we can learn from. Below you can download more information on Youth Connect kindly provided from Inclusion WA—an overview of the Philosophy of Youth Connect and a more detailed description of the background and outcomes of the program.
Finally, do take a look at the Inclusion WA website and get in touch with them if you need any more information. They will be more than happy to hear from you. Perhaps just drop them a line to give them your support. They are making a significant dent in the world so deserve our support. Thanks to Paul, Jessica and Wendy at Inclusion WA for their cooperation and keep up the great work!
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.