Uncovering the value of youth peer support

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November 2017

By Consultant, Melanie Darvodelsky, and Director, Andrew Hawkins

ARTD has been working closely with Youth Insearch to better articulate the theories of change that underpin their activities and conduct rigorous outcome measurement. Youth Insearch runs an early intervention program of counselling, support, mentoring and empowerment for at risk young people aged 14-20 delivered through weekend workshops, support groups, peer support, leadership and individual care.

Youth Insearch was confident, based on their long history and anecdotal evidence, that their program was building young people’s capacity for leadership and empowering them to deal with their own challenges. What they needed was to gather independent evidence to explain how this happens and to measure outcomes.

Our first step was to watch the Youth Insearch program in action at a weekend workshop in Toukely, NSW and speak with staff, volunteers and participants about how they think the program works. We used staff with counselling experience and brought in a clinical psychologist.

Since then, we’ve run two workshops with staff and volunteers from all three states where Youth Insearch operates to generate and refine a logic model, a theory of change and an outcomes framework for the program. In the workshops we translated the concept of a program logic into real-world terms. Staff and volunteers had the chance to talk through how their activities support young people to feel a sense of belonging and to recognise and capitalise on their strengths and how this, in turn, supports longer-term outcomes, such as improved mental health, housing or employment. There were lots of laughs and some friendly competition as groups shared their competing theories of change.

It’s great to work with an NGO that is so engaged in the evaluation process, and so passionate about better outcomes for Australian young people.