Capacity Building

A challenge faced by many of the most vulnerable members of society is shifting the unfair – and stubborn – perception that they are somehow of less value than others. While any human being can find themselves in a vulnerable situation, unconscious biases often lead society to vilify individuals in this position, assigning them labels like refugee, asylum seeker, unemployed, gender diverse, single mother or person with a disability, rather than acknowledging the nuanced and valuable human being within.

Our focus on capacity building, advocacy and thought leadership is based on developing and using evidence to engage with policymakers and program designers to more effectively promote the needs and strengths of people experiencing a period of vulnerability.

Our interim goal is to directly help other relevant service providers to understand the barriers faced by individuals and families experiencing vulnerability. We also seek to familiarise governments with the voices, experiences and stories of the people with whom we work and to help policymakers understand their world.

Our long-term goal is to help services better respond to the needs of vulnerable people and the individuals who SSI supports. We develop initiatives and networks to enable trust and collaboration. We partner with all levels of government, with multiple agencies and educational institutions, community organisations, service providers and advocacy groups. 

Below are examples of programs that contribute to capacity building, advocacy and thought leadership. Each of the programs below may also contribute to one or more of our other delivery outcomes.

NSW Settlement Partnership

The NSW Settlement Partnership (NSP) is a consortium of 21 community organisations, led by Settlement Services International, delivering settlement services in agreed areas of NSW under the Department of Home Affairs’ Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS) program. SETS aims to equip and empower humanitarian entrants, other eligible permanent migrants and their communities to address their settlement needs, in order to improve social participation, economic well-being, independence, personal well-being and community connectedness.

In FY2020, the partnership continued to achieve high levels of client engagement, with 12,626 individual clients supported. The last quarter of the financial year was dominated by responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19 and successfully pivoting to online methods of service delivery to ensure we can continue to provide services to clients and communities. The NSP instituted weekly meetings to help share information and provide a coordinated response. Partners pivoted to providing services through online methods, strengthening their engagement in social media and proactively reaching out to community. See page 48 for a full list of NSP member organisations.

Diversity training

SSI has extraordinary expertise in the area of working with diverse individuals and works to share this with other organisations through diversity training. Funded by the Department of Social Services, our CultureReady project provides training to help disability service providers work more effectively with people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. The project will run until June 2021, delivering 160 free online workshops. Meanwhile, SSI’s Diversity Training, a fee-for-service model, delivered 100 face-to-face workshops in 2020, ahead of the COVID-19 disruption.

Our Voice

SSI’s Our Voice program aimed to build the capacity of mainstream disability services to respond to the access needs of people living with disability from CALD backgrounds. Some 15 people with lived experience of disability were recruited, trained and supported to become established as self-employed Lived Experience Educators (LEEs). Some 62 LEE-led Learning Activities were delivered face to face to 37 participating organisations located in 36 NSW postcode areas received training.

Women’s Strategic Plan

SSI developed its own three-year Women’s Strategic Plan to enhance outcomes for women and engagement of women in all of SSI’s programs, but also across staff and stakeholders relationships. A key focus of the plan is advocacy for CALD women, locally, nationally and internationally. The plan follows SSI’s Outcomes Framework with economic empowerment, leadership, learning and growth, wellbeing and safety as key priority areas for women.

International efforts

In FY2020, SSI contributed to thought leadership through its participation in a number of global humanitarian events. In December 2019, we were involved in the first Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. SSI collaborated in a presentation highlighting best practice in the area of Building Welcoming and Inclusive Societies and submitted two pledges showcasing ongoing commitment to advancing the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees. The International team is led by SSI’s Victorian state office and engages with the UNHCR, Geneva and NGOs globally on the operation, impact and advocacy needs of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people.

Social Enterprise Initiatives

SSI and Access’s social enterprise initiatives help rewrite the narrative around vulnerable people by demonstrating that such individuals can be productive members of society and the workforce. The various social enterprise programs managed across NSW and Queensland have also established and strengthened our relationships across government, the corporate world and the community services sector. For example:

  • Access Enterprise Scheme (AES) in Queensland operates a corporate services and cleaning business. Clients include Lendlease, Catholic Education Queensland and Villa World Homes.

  • Harmony on Carmody Cafe in Logan, Queensland, provides local community and businesses with a quality dining and catering service while delivering work experience and hospitality training pathways for local refugees, migrants and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

  • SSI’s The Experience Centre (TEC), based in Sydney’s CBD, is a simulated office space supported by the AMP Foundation that allows participants to build practical experience and career skills.

  • SSI’s Diversity Training program partners with the TEC to combine corporate volunteering and training in collaboration with some of Sydney’s leading corporates.

  • SSI’s Humble Creatives is a handmade scented candle enterprise providing hands-on work experience in a commercial production and retail environment. The business regularly holds candle-making workshops with Atlassian.

  • SSI’s The Staple Bag is a low cost grocer based in Campsie and Camperdown providing staple products as well as work experience and training (see p. 34).

Community Leader Forums

Access holds regular Community Leader Forums designed to bring together the leaders of the many communities that live and work around its operational areas. Attendees are able to speak freely about their concerns around various issues in a safe environment. In FY2020, 135 external stakeholders were engaged across Brisbane, Logan and Gold Coast through a number of face-to-face and online forums.

SSI also conducts Community Leader Forums (see p. 14) as part of SSI’s self-funded practice of listening to the community and using insights to improve service design.



In FY2020, we were able to track our progress to achieve these goals in a range of areas. We do not yet have measurable data for outcomes in this area.

Below are some of our key measured outputs.

  • 3,642 recently arrived refugees supported;

  • 9 policy submissions made to government;

  • 4 research reports to help service providers understand common barriers to participation in society;

  • 194 individuals and families supported with food relief and care packages;

  • 66 engagements with federal and state stakeholders.