Our Place – Driving Policy Innovation

Philanthropy has the potential to provide long-term capital that can drive innovation in government policy.

In 2010, philanthropist Julius Colman entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Victorian Government to trial a new place-based approach at Doveton College in Melbourne. Opening the school to the community, they brought together on the one school site all the resources children and families need to thrive including high-quality early learning, effective schooling and wrap around health services with adult education, training and employment support. Later named ‘Our Place’ by the families who felt belonging in the school, children and parents are now experiencing the benefits of improved wellbeing, education and employment.

In 2017, the Colman Foundation and Victorian Government entered into a partnership agreement in order to implement the Our Place approach in nine additional school sites across Victoria for ten years at each site, reaching thousands of students and families. Dusseldorp Forum is one of a number of foundations who along with the Colman Foundation have formed a Philanthropic Alliance, each committing to provide long-term funding to support the implementation at these sites.

The report Exploring the Our Place partnership outlines this unique cross-sector collaboration including education, early learning, health, social services and adult education and employment systems and lays the foundation for what could be the next transformative step in this process. One that leads to real systems change.

“The goal of Our Place has always been to “scale up”– to affect larger-scale systems change through eventual shifts in policies, regulations, resource flows and practices.

The deeper hope is that Our Place leads to deeper changes in how public services are joined up within communities, how children and families are put at the centre of service delivery, and how bureaucracy and sector-based structures can be changed to make integrated education the new normal, not the exception.

It is still early days but there are signs that seeds of systems change are sprouting. For example, a recent government announcement to invest in the co-location of early learning and schooling across Victoria was partly attributed to the Our Place approach. Of course, the risk is that colocation occurs without the joining up of services or a truly integrated experience for families. But it is a start.

The Our Place team would love to see these shifts embedded in policy and operating guidelines. They want to see it sustained and spread beyond Our Place to the whole Victorian education system; that this and other “system ripples” are something that will be actively pursued going forward.

They see the future as one where cross-sector collaboration means all parties are working together outside their silos towards defined and measurable goals with a shared focus on one thing – the needs of children and families.”

Extract P.21 What it Means to Walk Alongside: Exploring the Our Place Partnership