Good news story – BATForce

Leigh Bartlett CEO of Barwon Adolescent Taskforce (BATForce) has provided this story relating to ‘Advocate and Collaborate’.

Please provide a brief background and some context:

BATForce has been working in the G21 region for over 40 years, with a simple vision: to improve opportunities for young people through advocacy, education, the strengthening of networks for families and the workforce.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the employment services who are part of GROW told us that they were very concerned about their young clients. Back then, we were all unsure what online tools to use, how to help those without digital access, and how to keep job seekers engaged without face to face contact.

What steps did you take to make a change?

We reached out to the GROW and BATForce networks to offer an online forum in March 2020, which we called Community Online Engagement (COE) Chats – and our tagline was ‘no logos, no egos, no minutes, just actions’.

Our aim was to connect and support the frontline workers across the youth and employment sectors, who take on a huge load and responsibility for supporting some of the most vulnerable members of our community – job seekers with barriers to employment, and their families. Collect their concerns, share their strategies for wins and find out what they needed to support them to support the community.

What was different after the change?

We began with twice weekly meetings, and as we began to adapt to the pandemic, this reduced to weekly then fortnightly, now monthly online meetings, with a mailing list of over 120. The COE Chats evolved into much more than just peer support – as issues were raised by the COE Chatters, we worked together to co-design quick, practical and affordable solutions through mini communities of practice.

What was the outcome?

The first issue we worked on together, was how to use online tools, and source digital devices for families without. The next major problem identified by the COE Chatters, was how to access all the available supports and information, especially for young people, people with disability or CALD backgrounds, in their search for jobs. This led to development of Trello boards, now located here These Trellos have now been through two review phases with Young People, parents and workers all providing valuable feedback on how they needed to be improved. Gaps they identified, became new Trello boards and some have now developed into ‘sector support boards’.

Our current challenge is how to best support job seekers become better informed about the impacts of the new vaccination mandates, to prevent this from becoming another barrier to employment. Working together, with our collaborative and problem-solving mindset, the COE Chats continue to offer huge benefit for our communities.

Photo: Screen shot of some of the COE participants; Leigh Bartlett is in the top right box.