Change Can Happen. Profiles in community leadership: TRRUST Collective Impact

Leadership comes in many forms and often goes unrecognized in our community. That’s why Central City Foundation is celebrating eight examples of extraordinary community leadership. We are highlighting the dedication and determination of those whose support for community-led solutions helped people in our inner city and beyond to improve the conditions of their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this celebration, we have asked each of our profiled leaders to share with us their thoughts on leadership, community, and their relationship with Central City Foundation.

TRRUST Collective Impact – Project Manager: Erica Mark and youth leaders

Central City Foundation is celebrating the extraordinary community leadership of TRRUST Collective Impact (TRRUST CI) because of their efforts to ensure youth aging out of care and the community organizations that support them (76 organizations, 265 members, 884 participant engagements in working groups in 2020) were provided opportunities to engage and advocate for their needs during the pandemic. Through those efforts, TRRUST CI was successful in providing technology to keep youth connected, funding for emergency housing, graduation activities as well as training and employment opportunities. They continue to show leadership in creating space and resources for the community to collaborate in order to break down silos of services and address inequities and inequalities that youth aging out of care are facing.

Q: How does your organization help address the challenging conditions faced by people in the community?

“We use a collective impact model to bring together young people, organizations and allies who want to work together to improve the outcomes for youth transitioning out of government care. Youth with care experience are forced to be resilient and overcome so many barriers in almost all aspects of their lives. We work with young people with lived experience in the government care system to identify systemic barriers and gaps and then problem solve, together with supportive organizations, potential solutions to improve outcomes. TRRUST uses the collective impact model to address silos, increase communication, share resources and provide opportunities to youth with government care experience.” 

Q: How would you describe the lived experiences, systemic inequalities/inequities and other challenges faced by the people you work with? 

“There are really so many – it is hard to know where to start. Youth in care are forced out of their home on their 19th birthday and are expected to be fully independent after abruptly losing their support system. In most cases they have minimal income and bleak housing options due to the Vancouver housing crisis. Because of this abrupt transition, youth with care experience are disproportionately represented in youth homelessness statistics. Lack of continuity in their education coupled with many other factors leads to youth in care having a significantly lower graduation rates. Youth with care experience have poorer social determinants of health including mental health and sexual health. I could go on and on.”

Q: What does community leadership mean to you? 

“Community leadership to me is creating safe opportunities for open discussions with community experts who have lived experience. Community leadership is about listening, empowering, supporting and advocating for the community and your team. It is about collaboration, planning and working together towards a common goal. It is building off the collective groups’ strengths, following through on commitments and effective communication.”  

Q: How did COVID-19 impact people’s ability to connect with one another and what impact did this have?

“COVID-19 has shown us all how important community connections and a sense of belonging is. For youth in care, it is even more important, as in many cases youth in care are moved to different communities and families several times. COVID- 19 forced services to close or change and these changes discouraged connection and flexibility that youth often need. It has highlighted how fragile stability is for our young people. Some youth who were doing ok prior to the pandemic were unfortunately put back in a state of flux, uncertainty and turmoil.” 

Q: In response to COVID-19 health orders, how did your organization pivot or alter your programs or services?

“Prior to COVID-19 all of our activities were in person. We had to shift to a virtual format which in some ways has been positive; however, the lack of in person connection has been really challenging for the young people we work with.

We created our COVID-19 Task Force to identify the challenges that the pandemic was causing for youth in and transitioning out of care. We then mobilized to try to address some of the concerns. Through our weekly newsletter, event calendar and regular virtual meetings, we were able to share protocols we were developing to ensure safety, we shared opportunities, shared techniques for reaching our most vulnerable youth, re-start plans, etc. and our distribution list increased significantly.”

Q:  How would you describe the importance of your organization’s direct experience working with community members in addressing their emergent needs during COVID-19?

“The collective impact approach is what has enabled us to be agile and flexible. Because we have so many people and organizations who are working directly with the youth through the crisis in so many different settings, we were able to get a very clear picture of what the challenges were. We were able to use our collective reach to seek out and distribute resources to the youth from care who needed them the most. We also played a significant role in sharing resources and information due to the structures and relationships we already had in place.”

Q: How would you describe the impact of your programs/initiatives on addressing the issues faced by people in the community during COVID-19?

“Through our TRRUST Opportunity Fund, we were able to support youth to fund some self-care activities such as personal training, photography, arts and crafts, dance classes, yoga, gardening, guitar, skiing, skateboarding, roller-skating, biking, driving lessons, etc. Through our TRRUST Graduation Grants, we were able to help youth have somewhat normal graduation experiences by funding yearbooks, outfits, hair and make-up for virtual graduation ceremonies, etc. We were able to help so many young people with laptops so they could adapt to online learning. And through our TRRUST Emergency Youth Housing fund we were able to keep many young people housed and supported many to get out of homelessness. We have helped more than 120 youth.”  

Q: How would you explain the importance of development programs and solutions being community-led?

“TRRUST is creating youth-led resources and opportunities for youth in and from care in the Lower Mainland that help fill the gaps in services after aging out of the system. TRRUST brings people and organizations to the same table to create change within a system that has historically not been able to meet all the basic living standards consistently for all youth in and from care. TRRUST has meant I have opportunities to make a direct impact and change within the care community that I live in. it gives me a place to have my voice and ideas heard and put into action.” – youth leader

Q: What is it that you value most about being a community-partner of Central City Foundation?

“We really value how present and engaged Central City Foundation is. I feel like they genuinely care, want to learn about the issues and help. There is nothing more you can ask for in a partnership. Support from Central City Foundation has enabled us to react to the needs of our youth in care community and provide tangible solutions. We were able to close the digital divide for many youth while also providing opportunities for them to connect in a time when connection was at an all-time low.”

TRRUST is creating youth-led resources and opportunities for youth in and from care to access supports that help fill the gaps in services after aging out of the system. TRRUST brings people and organizations to the same table to create change within a system that has historically not been able to meet the basic living needs for all youth in and from care” 

Youth leader, TRRUSt Collective Impact