In the late 2000s the CEOs of Hanover Welfare Services and the Brotherhood of St Laurence decided that a new approach was needed to address the problem of youth homelessness. Frustrated by a service system focused on crisis support, they came up with the idea for a program that would provide stable accommodation while actively supporting young people’s educational aspirations and building their capacity for employment. This idea was the basis for what eventually became the Education First Youth (EFY) Foyers: specialist student accommodation located on selected Victorian TAFE campuses designed to help disadvantaged young people successfully transition into independent - but also connected - adults.
The case follows the challenges that they and their allies in government faced in translating this ambition into policy reality, and the strategies they developed to overcome them. From the perspective of the community sector partner, it provides an insiders’ account of social innovation in practice, and offers insight into the political conditions that enable government to experiment with different ways of working. As an example of collaboration between the public and community sectors it invites consideration of how their complementary skills and attributes can be harnessed to develop creative solutions to complex social problems.