About Upstream Australia
Upstream Australia is a ‘change agency’ designed to support place-based collective impact system reform for how vulnerable young people and their families are supported, and a ‘collective impact backbone support platform’ to support the development and operations of the ‘Community of Schools and Services’ (COSS) collectives implementing the COSS Model and local system reform. Upstream Australia also undertakes research and development (R&D) on social and educational outcomes and disadvantage, with particular focus on youth homelessness and early school leaving, and housing and homelessness system reform.
Vision & Mission
We are dedicated to improving the social and educational outcomes for young people, including the prevention and early intervention of youth homelessness, improving the educational and employment outcomes and transitions for young people, whilst also advocating for better housing options, including social and affordable housing and post-homelessness rapid rehousing, for young people.
The vision of Upstream Australia is for widespread systemic reform to the current crisis-oriented system which is not working for vulnerable young people and their families. Our vision is to reform and reorganise the current system of crisis-orientated services and schools and other educational programs around a place-based collective impact perspective to significantly improve the social and educational outcomes for disadvantaged and vulnerable young people.
The mission of Upstream Australia, as a ‘change agency’ and ‘collective impact backbone platform’, is to support the system reform agenda to achieve better social and educational outcomes for young people. To do this, we work with a variety of communities, COSS collectives, service organisations, education providers, non-government agencies, philanthropy, and diverse governments and government departments. As a ‘change agency’ we operate to support place-based collective impact system reform for how vulnerable young people and their families are supported. As a ‘collective impact backbone support plaftorm’ we support the development and operations of the ‘Community of Schools and Services’ (COSS) collectives implementing the COSS Model and local system reform. We also undertake research and development (R&D) on social and educational outcomes and disadvantage, with particular focus on youth homelessness and early school leaving, and housing and homelessness system reform.
When research on youth homelessness and early intervention being undertaken by Associate Professor David MacKenzie and colleagues connected with a youth homelessness agency in Geelong led by Mike Kelly, the co-development of The Geelong Project as a real-world initiative to reorganise the local service system by building a close collaboration between Geelong schools and the agencies providing early intervention youth and family services.
A shared critique of the status quo led to a successful bid to the Innovative Action Program supplemented by research funds from the Commonwealth Government. In 2013, when the Victorian Minister at that time decided to not continue funding The Geelong Project with a second stage of IAP funding, what should have happened is that everybody would fall back into what they were doing before the IAP funding. However, that did not happen. The agencies, the university and the schools decided to go forward and between 2013-2016, without government funding the Geelong ‘community of schools and agencies’ found the means to achieve a 40 percent reduction in adolescent homelessness in Geelong and a 20 percent reduction in early school leaving from the three school that continued to participate in the work.
This was an extraordinary exemplary demonstration of placed-based collective impact. In 2018, the Victorian Government invested $2.8m over two years to expand the work of the Geelong Project in Geelong, from three to seven schools.
Other Australians jurisdictions are beginning to implement COSS Model pilot sites. System change throughout Australia will realistically take more than a decade.
In 2018, the Victorian Government invested $2.8m over two years to expand the work of the Geelong Project in Geelong, from three to seven schools.
What Upstream Australia Does
Upstream Australia has several core purposes
Upstream Australia undertakes a program of research and development on early intervention, and social and educational disadvantage with a particular focus on youth homelessness, early school leaving, youth housing, system reform, and collective impact.
Upstream Australia is the national collective impact platform providing the systemic backbone support for the COSS community collectives.
Upstream Australia is an ex-officio partner in COSS sites providing data management, data matching, and outcomes measurement under strict ethical and legal standards with established practices for data handling and storing identifiable data on behalf of the community collectives of agencies and schools.
Upstream Australia provides advocacy and support for system change – supporting the expressed interests from communities in the possibilities for change for disadvantaged young people, and through high-level advocacy for system change in funded policies, programs, and practices.
Upstream Australia facilitated the Upstream Community of Practice Network.