The Upstream Project Canada: Lessons from demonstration sites and implications for scaling

Rachel Laforest, Queen’s University

About Rachel

Jacqueline Sohn, The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness/York University
Co-Investigator

About Jacqueline

Fundings
CA$107,468.00 over 2 years

Major partners
Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and A Way Home Canada

Abstract
This research aims to understand how an innovative approach to addressing youth homelessness and school disengagement can be sustainably scaled. The Upstream Project Canada (TUPC) is a research-informed prevention initiative located in schools and communities, based on an Australian model that has demonstrated significant reductions in youth homelessness (MacKenzie, 2018). This social innovation identifies youth at-risk – through a student needs assessment and school processes – who are then triaged into individualized, coordinated care. Rather than traditional approaches to evaluation, which measure program outcomes, developmental evaluations will be conducted to identify gaps, challenges and promising practices on an ongoing basis in three demonstration sites: Kelowna, British Columbia, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Brandon, Manitoba. This approach facilitates continuous learning for ongoing adaptation, in order to establish a framework for scaling this innovation in diverse, complex and changing environments. Through periodic data collection, developmental evaluations can identify critical conceptual shifts in implementing social innovation. As a pioneering initiative that relies on multi-level, collective work, these shifts are key to understanding what conditions facilitate and impede the social innovation process at different levels of implementation. This understanding will, in turn, inform systems change towards more equitable opportunities and outcomes for youth at risk of homelessness.