12.11.2020Working Together: Ardoch

1/ How does your organisation contribute to the wellbeing of society?

One in three children in Australia’s most disadvantaged communities start school developmentally vulnerable and they continue to fall behind as they progress through school. Ardoch seeks to change this.

We partner with schools and early years services to deliver tailored education support programs that aim to increase engagement in education, build aspirations and enhance learning outcomes for children in communities experiencing disadvantage.

Ardoch has been “shaping a better future for Melbourne” for over 30 years and since 2000 has supported an estimated 190,000 children in communities of residual disadvantage. In 2019, Ardoch partnered with 123 Victorian primary schools, secondary schools and early learning centres, mobilised 1,541 volunteers who gave over 32,500 hours of their time, and supported the education of 18,450 children and young people who participated in more than 30,000 program activities.

More than 90 percent of Ardoch’s revenue comes from the corporate partners, philanthropic foundations and individuals who share our vision. It is only with their support during COVID-19 that Ardoch has been able to adapt and continue helping children and young people experiencing disadvantage realise their potential.


2/ Prior to COVID-19, did your organisation collaborate with a NFP / private organisation to deliver a positive social outcome? How did you collaborate and what did you achieve together?

For more than twenty years Ardoch has partnered and collaborated with corporate and community organisations to improve educational outcomes for children and young people facing disadvantage. The core Ardoch programs through which this occurs are Literacy Buddies® and Numeracy Buddies. These programs match classes of primary school students with workplace volunteers to improve literacy and numeracy, and inspire learning through the art of letter writing and solving mathematical problems using an online blog. The Buddies exchange letters and blogs throughout the school year and visit each other twice, once at the school and once at the workplace.

These evidence-based workplace volunteering programs engage over 1000 employees each year across over 25 corporations nationally – including Committee for Melbourne Members, Arup, Ashurt and Corrs Chambers Westgarth. Through these programs, partners play a critical role in giving vulnerable children a real-life context to practice their writing and composition skills or improve their maths skills by allowing them to verbalise key concepts, along with helping increase engagement and confidence in literacy and numeracy. The programs help build the aspirations of the children by connecting them with positive working role models in a range of professions.

The success of these partnerships is in line with the Committee for Melbourne’s Guiding Principles for NFP & Private Sector Collaboration.

  • Common purpose – our values-aligned partnerships are developed with a shared purpose and commitment to improve educational outcomes for vulnerable students, while providing opportunities for employees of our corporate partners to play a first-hand role in this.
  • Complete understanding – program structure and goals are established at the commencement of the partnership and both parties understand the collaboration required to achieve successful outcomes.
  • Proportional sharing – the programs cannot achieve the desired impact for students without combined resources, co-operation and a supportive culture, so this is established early in the relationship. Partners understand that the financial investment ensures appropriate systems, processes and relationships are in place to provide a positive program experience for students and employee volunteers.
  • Strong governance – detailed MOUs are prepared and co-signed by Ardoch and partners to ensure both parties understand their commitment and the responsibility to ensure successful program delivery.
  • Performance measurement – Tailored reports, using data from annual surveys of employee volunteers, students and teachers are produced for each partner to demonstrate the impact of the partnership for both children and employees.

3/ Have you and your partner organisation increased collaborative efforts in the wake of COVID-19? What measures have you taken? Please describe.

This year, children and young people in Australia experienced significant disruption to their education – especially here in Victoria. However, life for many of the children and young people that Ardoch support has always been difficult and their education disrupted long before now. The community’s shared health crisis has seen these children and young people fall further and further behind. Many children have lost confidence and social skills, experienced negative impacts on their wellbeing and have become disengaged from their education. Ardoch’s programs have never been more important than right now.

Ardoch’s commitment to purpose during the COVID-19 pandemic is stronger than ever. This sentiment is reflected in the work of our corporate partners. Corrs Chambers Westgarth, a decade-long corporate partner with Ardoch, says that despite the COVID disruptions and challenges we have all faced, ‘Ardoch’s programs help keep things in perspective for our people, and remind us that continued engagement and participation in their literacy programs with young people is more important for our greater community than ever’.

Ardoch leaned into those challenges to adapt programs to a virtual environment. Both Literacy Buddies® and Numeracy Buddies transitioned completely to online delivery, with handwritten letters scanned and emailed and face-to-face visits converted to interactive zoom sessions between students and workplace volunteers.

The success of these programs in a virtual environment has required an even greater commitment from our partner organisations to mobilise their employees and keep them engaged during a tumultuous year. Corrs has explained that whether the letters were hand-written and signed, scanned, emailed or posted, their staff have strived to ensure every child’s voice is heard and responded to. Ardoch and our partners have also collaborated to establish additional elements to the program when the students were not able to write letters or complete blogs due to limitations of remote schooling. We have seen amazing letters and blogs and tremendous engagement and connection between the students and volunteers.

4/ Why will Melbourne be a better city if more NFP and private organisations collaborate in the post-pandemic period

While the virus has impacted the education of all children and young people in Victoria, the effects of this impact are likely to be experienced much more acutely by those in communities experiencing disadvantage. Volunteering plays a key role in the recovery of any community following disasters, and in a city and state impacted economically as severely as Melbourne and Victoria, education will also be a cornerstone of this recovery for years to come. Ardoch’s workplace partners, like Corrs Chambers Westgarth, know and support this. We have a shared responsibility to ensure equitable access to education for all children and young people and now there is an increased need for support to ensure that all children in our state can realise their full potential.

For more information on Ardoch’s Literacy Buddies® and Numeracy Buddies programs, please contact:

Amy Coote, National Fundraising & Engagement Manager – amy.coote@ardoch.org.au

Shawn Graetz, Partnerships Executive – shawn.graetz@ardoch.org.au


Kylee Bates, Chief Executive Officer, Ardoch

Richard Leder OAM, Partner, Corrs Chambers Westgarth


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