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Children and Youth Area Partnerships - Complex Issues, Serious Website.

“The Best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”  - Mahatma Gandhi

Paul M 1 May 2017

As most parents would attest, providing a safe, supportive, loving, and engaging environment for their kids is challenging, rewarding, complex, not to mention sometimes humorous and sometimes frustrating.  I personally find it a difficult mandate even with ample assistance and support from extended family and friends and plentiful available services.  Having just mentioned the challenges - they are very real -  my kids are now well into their primary school years and seemingly comfortably setting out on life’s wonderful journey.

Many other kids and young people are less fortunate often lacking in basic support structures and guidance. These are vulnerable children. They need help. They need support. Those trying to help need information. Those helping need coordination and collaboration. Communication needs to be high value and continuous. Experiences need to be shared; in particular, success stories build momentum and hope.

The Children and Youth Area Partnership Website

A critical Victorian whole of government, statewide, initiative lead by Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) and the Vulnerable Children Reform Unit (VCRU), with contributions from the Department of Education & Training (DET) is Children and Youth Area Partnerships (Area Partnerships). The mantra of the initiative, developed in response to recommendations from the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry (PVVC Inquiry), is: working in partnership to improve the safety and learning outcomes of children, young people and their families in their local community.

May 2014 saw the establishment of 8 Area Partnerships covering about half of Victoria with the vision to add more areas. Each area has representation from commonwealth, state and local government, community service, health, education, justice and the broader community. The goal being to work to achieve sustainable change - prevent children, young people and families falling through the cracks, and provide support needed to allow vulnerable children to achieve their potential.

The Children and Youth Area Partnership Website is a major pillar in delivering this change. DHHS/VCRU and Salsa Digital worked together to design a website to engender improved outcomes for children via effective:

  • Information Sharing
  • Data and Support Tools
  • Value add and continuous communications
  • Shared Experienced Stories
  • Coordination/consistency accross Area Partnership geographies

In consultation with DHHS/VCRU Salsa Digital’s goal was to embellish the following themes in the design:

  • Trust
  • Integrity
  • Informative
  • Supported
  • Collaboration

Departure from the Norm...

The website’s aspiration, somewhat controversially, is a departure from the more formal web presence typical of government led communications. It attempts to be personable and approachable, and somewhat edgy in its use of large imagery, rich media, promotion of human stories, mobile centric design and responsiveness - while attempting to not lose focus on the website’s core objectives of information sharing, data and supporting tools.

Information Sharing

Site Objective: “More effective information share facilitates sustained change in supporting vulnerable children”

Salsa Digital’s technical team designed a website that allows the various Area Partnerships to share information and improve collaboration. Each Area Partnership is under the direction of an nominated Area Principal. The website allows content to be managed within the pages of a particular Area Partnership portion of the site and/or such content to be promoted to a statewide area of the site. As such, content such as events, stories, news, documents and other resources may be promoted to be accessible across all Area Partnerships as required.

Data and Support Tools

Site Objective: “Effective search tools and ability to present localised and aggregated data drives efficiency in supporting vulnerable children and helps rationalise and justify actions and investment.”

The website has the ability to upload and classify valuable documents and resources. The classification scheme was designed to appeal and be understood by the various segments of site visitor. Filters presently exist for (per screenshot below):

  • Theme - aspect of children and youth management that may be relevant;
  • People - segment of children and youth management that may be relevant;
  • Frameworks - reference model that may be relevant.

Searching for resources within a particular Area Partnership are able to utilize these criteria.  Additionally, assets are able to be tagged by applicable Area Partnership allowing searches across combinations of Area Partnerships further strengthening information sharing.

Value Add and Continuous Communication

Site Objective: “A culture of continuous communication and community is theme in the first incarnation of the CYAP website. This is a platform that may be readily extended into the future with the addition of features such as forums and blogs. The building of supporting structures directly assisting vulnerable children."

The website has the ability for site visitors to subscribe to a localised, per Area Partnership, update channel.  This facility allows users to be notified of site content updates via an email notification rather than need to visit the site.

The website is designed to be readily updated with new information such as events, and news while also promote key collateral such as human stories (and video and other rich media) that are often less time critical, however equally powerful in terms of message.

Shared Experience Stories

Site Objective: “An ability to share experience, and showcase the most compelling stories to the widest possible audience, has a powerful sustaining effect in supporting vulnerable children.”

As mentioned above, a prime focus of the website it to showcase human stories and shared experience.  In particular, success stories that build the type of momentum that drives sustained change. The stories embellished in the site may be restricted to just the local Area Partnership or else offered as candidates to show on the home-page of the site and within the statewide stories section.  A moderation process at the statewide level (VCRU) has the ultimate adjudication as to the stories relevant enough to be added to the catalogue of shared statewide content and occupy the prime position on the site’s homepage.

Coordination/consistency across Area Partnership Geographies

Site Objective: “Consistency of content and easy of site content management allows the site to more effectively support vulnerable children.”

The website is designed to have a consistent page structure (IA in design speak) across Area Partnerships. In effect, each AP acts like its own site within an umbrella containing all the sites however the skeleton of each site is the same. Finding information in an unfamiliar Area Partnership is easy for the site visitor. Adding another Area Partnership is easy for DHHS/VCRU. Maintaining content is easy for the site/content administrators. The best of breed of ideas in terms of site structure and navigation is able to be rolled out across all Area Partnerships.

The Wrap

A key question Area Partnerships are attempting to tackle is:

“What will it take to keep our children and young people safe from harm and to have every opportunity to succeed in life?”

While the CYAP is not a panacea for this query, the website is a foundation for sustained change. Many children will be more effectively supported through the efforts of DHHS/VCRU and Salsa Digital in conceptualising, designing, and building the new CYAP website.

As we speak :) the CYAP team are really really busy harvesting, curating, producing and publishing content before flicking the switch for go live… We can’t wait to announce the URL once its goes live. 

Stay tune…

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