Using a collective impact, place-based approach to transform children’s life chances.
Matthew Cox, Director at Logan Together.
Logan City, Queensland, Australia.
After chairing the working party that established the Logan Together initiative during 2014-2015, Matthew Cox was appointed its Director in July 2015.
Prior to this role, Matthew spent a decade at the Australian Red Cross, heading the organisation’s human services and community and economic development program in Queensland.
“There are social challenges in Australia. To some degree we as a society have come to view these as an inevitable part of life. And I’m part of a group of people who don’t accept that.”
The Big Change
Logan Together is a ten year community movement working to improve the health and developmental outcomes of all Logan children aged 0-8 and their families through child development and intergenerational support.
This is being achieved through a cross-sector, collaborative partnership of government agencies, service providers, and community representatives committed to using a place-based Collective Impact framework to establish shared aspirations and goals, prioritise investment decisions and identify “game changing” programmes.
“There are over 100 organisations, big and small, and over 1,000 people currently active in the Logan Together movement to help Logan kids reach their potential.”
The ambition for changes
The big vision for Logan Together is: by 2025 Logan Kids will be as healthy and full of potential as any other group of Queensland kids.The big vision for Finland’s education system is: to provide all citizens with equal opportunities to receive high quality education.
This will be achieved by an extra 5,000 children doing well through their early years. The Logan Together Roadmap identifies what needs to happen by 2025 to achieve this outcome.This is being achieved through ongoing experimentation around how best to provide general knowledge, information and skills that will help individuals act and impact society.
A shift in direction
In 2010, a perfect social storm recognising the need for improving early years was brewing.
When an increased focus on collaboration, a widespread political focus on the area, and amplified community hunger for change collided, Logan Together began to form in 2015.
Logan Together became a collaborative effort involving community service organisations and the government, underpinned by an abundance of research, to make a long-term difference to the lives of young children in Logan.
Making change happen
1: The start point
Drawing on public knowledge, research and data to amplify change
Logan Together was created by a group of NGOs and charitable organisations in response to concerns about persistent disadvantage and developmental vulnerability for many children in Logan, and the launch of Tony Vinson’s report in 2015 which concluded that wellbeing remained a serious issue in areas with high levels of poverty. The team continue to use public knowledge to understand the interests and unique needs of an area, and data for ensuring they focus on the right people in the right places.
“We were a bit aghast at the fairly clear evidence that despite everybody’s best efforts, we haven’t really shifted or alleviated poverty. The hard evidence told us that what we had been doing hadn’t worked for the last 30-40 years despite significant escalation in social spending and great wealth coming into the country.”
2: Taking off
Using data to understand issues in the community
Logan Together has a sophisticated data profile of the Logan community. Over 40 issues such as antenatal care and health checks for toddlers are tracked to get a sense of how these issues are hitting the ground, for what people and where. Using data in this way has been powerful for guiding action and breaking up large parts of the population into a manageable suburb level data.
Establish galvanising outcomes and goals, instead of processes or activities
Logan Together recognise the importance of coalition building. They built their coalition by developing a ‘galvanising goal’ – an uncompromisable goal that unites multiple groups. ‘Every child should have a shot in life’ is the galvanising goal which guides the team at Logan Together and partners through everything they do.
“Develop your goal with one eye to what will build the coalition and build the coalition with one eye to how to deliver your goal. It’s a pretty iterative process.”
3: Keeping going
Invest time and local people to understand the needs of cultural groups
Logan Together recognise the importance of getting to know and build relationships with different cultural groups. Community members are deployed to help lead change and are involved in the co-design of solutions. Training is offered to people in the community to become ‘community engagement specialists’, for example local mums will be trained to speak to other parents about issues to do with child development, kindergarten and school.
“With around 216 different cultural groups in our city, we have to spend time, effort and money on a very active community engagement and community listening programme. We’ve got numerous, hilarious stories about how we’ve done the completely the wrong thing or had huge cross-cultural misunderstandings that have happened over simple things. You need people to go out there with intent.”
Building trusting relationships with your community
Community leadership and community engagement functions are key to getting to the root cause of problems. For example, in Logan kindergarten attendance is low among many parts of the community. Factors such as costs, the enrolment process, valuing the importance of early childhood, cultural values, etc are all influential, but these vary between different demographic groups within the community. Peer environments are also crucial with many parents relating the biggest barrier to attendance was a sense of discomfort or feeling judged by other parents.
“If we hadn’t understood the peer environment issue, we could have taken action on fees, on enrolment processes and the like and got no result because they weren’t the primary issue for some people. Until you have the relationship where people can trust you enough to tell you difficult truths you won’t get anywhere – and sometimes it’s the pretty painful observations that are the most important for co-designing the right response.”
“Some of the things we’re most proud of is how we’ve used collective impact methodologies combined with some of the citizen co-design and co-leadership processes, and we’ve got an excellent result. Collective impact methodologies work by bringing the right people together, understanding the problem and the quantum of the problem together, and making a solution together with local people.”
Taking change wider
Logan Together build coalitions with cross-sector experts and organisations to really understand the origins of a problem, develop a shared set of outcomes and build long-term solutions at a systemic and population level, thus elevating the conversation to those who control the system.Cross-party consensus
“If you want single project funding, say another family support project or another early learning project, you’re in the queue with about a thousand other people. When you start talking about population-level outcomes, about a programme of work that is quite long-term and systemic, suddenly you’re in a queue all by yourself.”The slow and steady progress seen in Finland has in part been possible because of a broad and consistent political consensus over a period of 50 years. The vision for education reform has remained intact across numerous changes of government and is widely seen as a critical condition for the country’s long term educational success.
Strategic positioning to mobilise the need for change
Logan Together build coalitions with cross-sector experts and organisations to really understand the origins of a problem, develop a shared set of outcomes and build long-term solutions at a systemic and population level, thus elevating the conversation to those who control the system.
Logan Together’s particular work is at the intersection of three powerful social policy ideas:
- The power and requirement to focus on place-based work, especially where poverty is geographically concentrated.
- Getting organised to do something in a place (e.g. using collective impact methodologies).
- Looking at change strategies in a human development and a life course context, which inevitably leads you to focus on the early years of life.
“Those three ideas about taking a human development approach in a place and getting organised in a complex system through a collective impact methodology are the most important social policy ideas we’ve got in Western countries. We must now go that extra mile to get all parts of our community doing better.”
The impact of change
In 2016/2017 six priority projects emerged from the community to become the areas for the main focus at Logan Together. These projects have all received endorsement from the Cross Sector Leadership Table and are at varying stages of development. They are:
- Community Maternity and Child Health Hubs.
- The First Three Years (Early Developmental Initiatives).
- Early Years Education Neighbourhood Networks.
- Community Mobilisation.
- Jobs for Families.
- Social Investment and Service Integration Reforms.
Parents Next is a readiness for work programme designed to help parents with young children enter or re-enter the workforce when their youngest child starts school. The programme is delivered by 7 service providers across Logan who are working collaboratively with Logan Together to identify ways they can remove barriers to employment for their clients while also improving efficiency and outcomes.
- Community listening: a total of 1,205 conversations were held with the community as part of a broad-based engagement campaign. The purpose of this listening campaign was to continually test assumptions about community priorities and identify the issues that attracted energy for change in the community.
- Logan Together have created a set of shared resources and toolkits for the community to start conversations on topics from what’s important in pregnancy, to the value of reading, singing and talking to enrolling in ‘Kindy’ and ‘Big School’.