Theory of Change


The National Learning Community on Youth Homelessness is a pan-Canadian community of practice consisting of leading youth serving organizations across the country who work collaboratively on key issues, share emerging and promising practices and develop strategies and tools to strengthen our sector and work towards preventing, reducing and ending youth homelessness in Canada.

The core work of the Learning Community is to generate, mobilize and act on knowledge that will provide a greater understanding of the causes and solutions of youth homelessness. The learnings of the Learning Community members are constantly informed and tested by the members’ ongoing contact with youth experiencing homeless. The Learning Community recognizes that learnings, insights and innovation don’t just come from “the top”, but from all levels in the organizations, as well as from the youth, themselves.



The Learning Community is working to achieve a reduction in the length of time that youth experience homelessness, due to prevention programs and improved practices and policies (this includes working across sectors to reduce number of youth being exited into homelessness and designing and implementing prevention programs).

The primary focus of the Learning Community is to increase the capacity of our sector to improve how we manage youth homelessness at the organization and local community levels. This is done by the following three areas of work:

  1. Active community of practice
  2. Youth Voice
  3. Informing the national policy agenda




The Learning Community operates as a community of practice, which is “a group of people who share a concern, a set of problems or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis.” A community of practice recognizes that knowledge generation is both an individual and a collective activity.


These short-term outcomes are the preconditions for the Learning Community:

Informed by a strategic vision

The work of the Learning Community is informed by a strategic vision of where the broader issue of youth homelessness needs to move in Canada, and the critical role that the Learning Community can play in helping to achieve that vision.

Members selected intentionally

For the Learning Community to maintain its culture of innovation and leadership in the sector, the selection of the members is crucial. Full and Associate Members are invited to join the Learning Community based on their work and commitment to ending youth homelessness. Full Members select a representative, who not only understands the sector and the issues involved, but who has the capacity to be actively engaged in the work of the Learning Community. Associate Members are recruited for their expertise to support the strategic vision of the Learning Community.

Members understand and embrace their role

For the community of practice to succeed, members must develop strong and respectful relationships with each other that allow them to feel comfortable to engage in open conversations that explore both their successes and failures. In addition, a community of practice taps into the drive and passion of its members, and the members share the responsibility for its success. Members act as a conduit between their local work and the work of the Learning Community. As such, they are responsible for sharing their learnings and the work of the Learning Community with their organizations and local networks. This is part of the essential role of disseminating learnings and building capacity throughout the sector.

Feeling of “safe enough” space, based on shared values and a culture of continuous learning

The creation of a supportive learning environment is about more than just sharing information; it requires the creation of a space where members feel safe to talk about their challenges and negative experiences as well as their successes. The Learning Community strives to create an environment where members can experience a culture of continuous learning. They can challenge, learn from and support each other to develop and implement new and innovative practices and approaches that have the potential to advance the entire sector.


The preceding outcomes position the Learning Community to be able to do the following:

Effective knowledge development & mobilization

The Learning Community generates knowledge based on the work of its members. Using an open-source mindset and design thinking the Learning Community document emerging and promising practices for dissemination.

Greater sector capacity to address youth homelessness

By improving practice and adapting prevention programs, the youth homelessness sector will have greater success at preventing, reducing and ending youth homelessness in Canada.


Youth must be active partners in the work of the Learning Community, as they bring essential insight and perspective to the issue. Youth with lived experience of homelessness contribute the knowledge and insight of their own situations and in particular what interventions actually work for them.


Youth engagement promising practices

The Learning Community works to document and promote promising youth engagement practices, by:
Increasing the capacity of sector organizations to effectively engage the youth with whom they work by understanding and promoting the type of engagement youth would regard as meaningful
Supporting meaningful youth engagement in the planning and policy development processes that are happening at various levels – municipal, provincial and federal


National Youth Table

The Learning Community is dedicated to convening a national youth table that is led by youth with lived experience. This includes offering supports for young people to actively engage (including training and financial compensation). The National Youth Table will inform local practice and national systemic change recommendations.

Youth are meaningfully engaged in decision making about youth homelessness

In addition to informing the work of the Learning Community, the Learning Community contributes to the broader goal of youth being meaningfully engaged in decision making about youth homelessness, often expressed as “Nothing about us without us.” The Learning Community makes youth consultations a priority in its work and strongly encourages other stakeholders to as well, especially policy makers when they are engaging the public in consultative processes.


Governments at all levels have an essential role in create the environments that can prevent, reduce and ultimately end youth homelessness. It is essential that the policies they develop and the programs they fund are well-informed by the actual experience of front-line work in youth homelessness;.


Engaged with A Way Home Canada

The Learning Community through its representatives on the A Way Home Board of Directors and Advisory Board informs the work of A Way Home from a practice perspective.


Informing the national work and policy development

Learning Community members involved in the work of A Way Home are responsible for informing the coalition from a service delivery perspective to ensure it is aware of of what is happening at the service delivery level.

Policy dialogue can be most productive when it can occur early enough to help in the formation of policy, and when it can be open, frank, and free of posturing. The Learning Community would like to establish a mechanism where this type of dialogue can occur on a regular basis so there is a strong relationship between policy makers and the front line organizations. The Learning Community will work closely with A Way Home Canada to support and inform its policy change agenda.