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From Research to Implementation: The TaskForce Youth Hub Experience

26 February 2019 at 8:09 am
Mike Davis
Mike Davis combines his experience at the TaskForce Community Agency with some sporting wisdom to shine a light on how to effectively implement an ambitious vision.

Mike Davis | 26 February 2019 at 8:09 am


From Research to Implementation: The TaskForce Youth Hub Experience
26 February 2019 at 8:09 am

Mike Davis combines his experience at the TaskForce Community Agency with some sporting wisdom to shine a light on how to effectively implement an ambitious vision.

A vision can be as simple as wanting to provide the best care for disadvantaged youth in the region. However, Edison appropriately warns us that “vision without execution is hallucination”.

Planning is often simple, but implementation is where the hard works begins. So how do you go about implementing an ambitious vision effectively?

My recent experience at TaskForce Community Agency, planning for and implementing a new Youth Hub, taught me a lot about the process of moving from a vision to rapid implementation and the non-linear journey that ensues.

There are a few key repeatable stages to delivering these types of projects effectively.

The journey from research to implementation is much like the planning to execution process that athletes and high performing sports teams go through.

So, I’ll weave in some sporting wisdom about teamwork and preparation as we go, to reinforce these points.

Team selection – roles and responsibilities

Who is shaping and who is executing on the vision?

The board and executive team will often work closely together on a project of this size and scale with roles needing to be clearly defined. The board authorises and coaches the executive team to deliver the project.

With this relationship clear, the next step for us was to assemble a Youth Hub Working Group, comprised of staff at all levels, to meet regularly and work on the planning and task execution for the project. This working group would report up to the CEO and to relevant board sub-committees and they would report to the board in turn, monitoring progress against project-specific KPIs.

Having key project champions at all levels was vital for this project to succeed. Our team leader of youth services was a key driver, coordinator and taskmaster of all things Youth Hub, enabling it to get off the ground.

The key role of the CEO in this process is to communicate between the board and executive team, to harmonise key project messages and to champion the project vision both internally and externally.

“There is an old saying about the strength of the wolf is the pack, and I think there is a lot of truth to that. On a football team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.” – Bill Belichick

Developing approach – best practice

What is the best way to provide the best care for disadvantaged youth in the region?

A scientific and rational approach always starts with the evidence. We chose to partner with experts at Latrobe University and the Burnet Institute to help us understand this question and to identify adaptive solutions for our local context.

This involved a robust literature review and then talking to our youth clients and analysing a mix of survey and focus group responses. We were then able to come up with a “gaps analysis” or view of how the latest research and client/organisational feedback compared.

This helped us to establish that the best model of care for our clients is a “wraparound care” model that is client-centred, flexible and place-based. This aligned with the board and executive vision to capitalise on an aligned opportunity to build a dedicated-space for our youth services provision and staffing.

The wraparound model is about enabling our clients to access key services that are part of their journey to better health and wellbeing. Their first touchpoint will likely be a counselling visit, but due to contact at the hub they may then access education, transition to work, mental health, healthy eating and living, family services and disability services to name a few.

It is about service provision that wraps around the client and minimises any friction and optimises opportunities to access key resources and services of need.

“In the sports arena I would say there is nothing like training and preparation. You have to train your mind as much as your body.” – Venus Williams

Taking action – implementation

Upon launching, there were a number of gaps that were both identified and not identified in feedback sessions. As the youth hub project gained momentum and began to launch, a number of existing TaskForce partners and related services became interested in partnering or providing services out of the youth hub facility.

These included partners interested in helping our youth work on developing better physical health, food preparation, diet and fitness, disability support services, family support services, training and education services, LGBTI specific services and legal services. This is the “build it and they will come” approach, where a leap of faith was involved in forecasting demand for place-based partnerships.

Our experience in working in consortia to provide services and partnering to support groups meant that TaskForce could rely on its intuition that providers and partners would be keen to work within this new model.

We now have 12 service providers operating and co-locating out of the Youth Hub and are welcoming more services that can benefit our youth clients.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan

Refining approach – continuous improvement

Now, four months on from our launch, you could say that we are refining and optimising our game plan. We are tinkering with our data collection, service mix, funding model and expertise to ensure we can best service our local youth. Our plans are being put into practice, gaps filled where possible and services optimised for our youth.

Our current challenges are around routinely collecting and reporting on high quality data, optimising “walk-in” service utilisation and ensuring that our youth in the region are aware of the new youth hub and relevant opportunities.

A wise person once said that the last 10 per cent of any project takes 90 per cent of the time and effort. This is reflective of our experience in rapidly iterating and improving our offering to ensure we produce the best system and outcomes possible for our youth clients.

We have some way to go in optimising this model, but I’m confident we are on our way as long as we keep testing, listening and learning!

“Champions keep playing until they get it right.” – Billie Jean King

Whatever your next strategic project is, ask yourself the following questions before you commence:

  1. Who is on the team and what is their role?
  2. What is the best way to do this? (Evidence, best practice)
  3. What are the likely implementation challenges?
  4. How will you continuously improve things?

The TaskForce Youth Hub was launched in August 2018 and is located at Shop 1, 4-6 Station Street, Moorabbin 3189. It is directly opposite Moorabbin station, learn more here or contact Mike via

About the author: Mike Davis is senior manager of strategy, impact and partnerships at TaskForce Community Agency. TaskForce is a not for profit, supporting youth and adult clients in their recovery from alcohol and drug issues in Melbourne’s South East.

Mike Davis  |  @mikedav84

Mike Davis is a for-purpose executive leader, chief podcaster at Humans of Purpose and a board director at not for profits SIMNA Ltd and L2R Dance.

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