For three years, Third Link has been supporting Dismantle, a WA-based charity that works to undo youth disadvantage through hands-on, skills-based mentoring and employment pathways.
Working with over 400 young people a year, Dismantle is in the business of providing basic but fundamental support and small opportunities to young people, such as their first job.
We asked Pat Ryan, Dismantle’s CEO, about his organisation’s work.
Third Link: Describe the Dismantle approach and how the organisation came about.
Pat: After many years working with young people in crisis, I was frustrated at the system’s lack of early intervention and preventative support frameworks. By the time these kids walked through my door, the trauma and damage were so deep, the support we could offer felt too little, too late.
Dismantle was created to provide the preventative framework that was, and is, still missing from our national approach to at-risk young people. We built Dismantle on the belief that we could develop better ways to reach young people before they slipped through the cracks rather than trying to put them back together afterwards.
We can't undo a lifetime of systemic disadvantage. The sad reality is these kids face disproportionately high levels of risk and barriers to opportunity. So, our approach is to give them the tools, support networks and self-confidence to equip them better to face challenges. Time and time again, we see how powerful a small leg up can be in restoring hope and aspiration for their future and to go out and grab it with both hands.
Third Link: Self-direction is a key Dismantle differentiator. How do your programs work?
Pat: There's no silver bullet for unravelling disadvantage; every young person has a different story, needs, challenges and aspirations. More than a singular program, Dismantle has built an extended-pathway model of programs and social enterprises that are all centred around the individual and self-empowerment. From the initial outreach programs to rebuilding engagement and eventually into paid employment, our pathway is about incremental growth; providing support, opportunities and experience that give young people a solid foundation to grow from.
A young person’s journey typically starts with our outreach program, BikeRescue, working shoulder to shoulder with our youth professionals for ten weeks to dismantle and rebuild rusty old bikes. Our youth workers, disguised as bike mechanics, use this hands-on approach to break down trust barriers, to help the young person to develop emotional regulation, perseverance, a sense of accomplishment and self-belief, and a raft of other foundational skills.
From here, Dismantle provides paid employment opportunities for around 20% of participants through our two social enterprises ReNew Property Maintenance and BikeDr. We created these programs as vehicles for employment and that crucial first foot in the door to the workforce.
Throughout the young person’s journey with us, we also provide in-house case management, professional development and outbound transition pathways to help them take their next steps out into the workforce. Each young person can be with us for anywhere from three – 18 months, depending on their needs.
Third Link: How has Third Link helped, and what big plans are on the horizon for Dismantle?
Pat: Third Link’s support has been a game-changer for us, allowing us to leverage opportunities to both grow our core business and create new initiatives for young people.
With Third Link’s help, Dismantle is working towards a sustainable, trade-based financial model through our social enterprises. We are proud to have diversified revenue streams, minimal reliance on government and an expanding client base that includes multi-national organisations. Our current sustainability required philanthropy as a catalyst funding source, but we’re now 70% self-funded.
Unlike NSW and Victoria, WA has no social procurement policy, so the achievements of our two social enterprises, BikeDr. and ReNew Property Maintenance, have all been won on the commercial value and quality service we provide to clients, something we're very proud of. The impact of having a sustainable platform for youth employment has been profound. We've seen incredible transformations in our young people, the shift in confidence and mobility to make choices about their future is something we see almost every day – we're finding that around 70% are successful in finding further employment, education or training pathways on exiting ReNew.
We’re also pursuing significant impact investment opportunities to scale ReNew Property Maintenance, to put more crews in the field and expand our capacity to be eligible for Tier 1 State Government contracts. Our objective is to secure employment for 100% of the young people that come through our programs.
We're so grateful for Third Link’s ongoing support and thank the network of people that make the Third Link Thrive program possible.