Over the last months we’ve discussed Collective Impact at length here on the Hub. A Way Home as a coalition and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (a founding coalition member) support communities to have the tools they need to develop and implement targeted strategies to prevent and end youth homelessness. We encourage communities to take a Collective Impact approach in this work, which requires working across the systems that drive young people into homelessness, but that can also be part of the solutions. Just a quick refresher – there are five conditions of Collective Impact: Common Agenda, Shared Measurement, Mutually Reinforcing Activities, Continuous Communication and Backbone Organization(s)/Functions. So where do communities get stuck? One of the main challenges is understanding the roles of various forms of data and how to get to shared measurement.
For a long time in Canada, there was little consensus about the role and use of research and data in responding to homelessness. In some quarters there was even deep resistance and hostility to the notion, commonly expressed by the statement: “We don’t need research – we know what the problems and the solutions are.” In recent years, the situation has improved significantly, as those in policy and practice now generally see the value of research and data and researchers have become much more adept at engaging communities in this work.
All of this raises the question of what the role of quality research and data should be in the development and implementation of homelessness policies, programs and services? What sort of collaborations are necessary to ensure quality and utility, and ultimately to contribute to more effective programs and services?
To support this process, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) is working in collaboration with A Way Home Canada (AWHC) and the National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness (NLCYH) to design and implement a vision for a national youth homelessness “Data Dashboard” that will be a resource to support people in communities and all levels of government in their work to prevent and end youth homelessness. The goal of this work is to generate new and useful knowledge that impacts on policy and practice, standard tools and resources to support communities, programs and services in their efforts to get to a place of shared measurement. The values that guide our work include:
- We address the problem of youth homelessness from a human rights perspective
- All tools and resources must be consistent with a “positive youth development” orientation (focusing not just on risk and vulnerability but also assets)
- Young people with lived experience must be meaningfully engaged in the development of these resources
- Service providers and government staff have valuable knowledge to contribute to the development of these resources
- Data resources must embrace diversity, especially the needs and experiences of Indigenous youth and LGBTQ2S youth
- Shared measurement is both effective and central to a Collective Impact approach for community/systems planning
- All tools and resources developed are free and open access to help ensure accessibility and wide adoption across the system
On a practical level, our work to support policy making, community planning and program delivery requires us to deepen our understanding of the needs that exist within the youth homelessness sector and government, and to make the case for the benefits of consistent and shared measurement and data collection. To get there, we need to review the strengths and weaknesses of existing tools and resources both within Canada and internationally. We also need to understand the barriers and opportunities for a more coordinated, consistent and shared approach to measurement, program outcomes and data collection, to make the case for why this is important and ensure this vision is communicated clearly.
The Youth Homelessness Data Dashboard consists of four pillars, which work in an integrated way. Read More