YLab Year in Review 2020

We would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and work throughout Australia.
We pay our respects to their elders past, present, and emerging and acknowledge that sovereignty has never been ceded.

YLab logo
Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) logo

Watch the highlights of our 2020 Year In Review Report launch

Report Snapshot



36 projects with 30 partners


66% repeat partners


83% of projects were virtual


Quality of work rating 6.2 out of 7


Our clients likelihood to recommend YLab is 6.5 out of 7 with 7 being highly likely to recommend

Young people


10,792 hours of employment for 70 YLab Associates


1,618 hours on coaching and training (15% of employment time spent uplifting capability of young people)


96% of YLab Associates believe working at YLab has increased their confidence


76% of YLab Associates report they have has access to new personal and professional networks


80% of YLab Associates feel they influenced clients and decision makers


We engaged a further 1,324 young people in paid co-design and decision making opportunities


YLab Associates likelihood to recommend YLab as a place to work is 6.4 out of 7 with 7 being highly likely to recommend

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Executive Summary

What is YLab?

Our theory of change

YLab Associates

YLab Associates are the most valuable part of YLab’s model. Since its establishment in 2016 YLab has recruited, trained, and employed more than 120 associates aged 18 - 30 through 160 client projects over the past 4 years. We currently have a workforce of 70 talented and diverse Associates.

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70 Associates employed and coached, 38 new recruits

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16.0% are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

Illustrated icon depicting the co-design process with circles symbolising people and arrows indicating sharing of lived experience.

20.0% identify as living with a disability

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32% identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community

60.0% identify as Culturally and Linguistically Diverse

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72.0% identify as female

“It's good to see that there are organisations that value the input of young people.”
—YLab associate, 2020

“I had the opportunity to work on a range of projects that allowed me to apply my skills in new ways and explore different outcomes”
—YLab associate, 2020

“YLab helped me to grow my confidence, skills, and find meaningful part time employment within the lived experience space.”
—YLab associate, 2020

The YLab Model

Our business model exists to equip young people with the power, networks and skills to shape systems across the globe and create a network of young people and institutions who are rethinking the systems that shape the world.

Learn more about our services here

YLab Associates are a cohort of over 70 young people aged 18-30 recruited based on their diverse lived experiences and disciplines and trained in consulting, co-design and skills for the future of work.

YLab employs, trains and matches teams of diverse young people to client needs.

Clients hire YLab when faced with a youth engagement challenge, or a challenge that requires youth-led innovation. We match young people with lived experience to the problems your organisation is trying to solve. 

COVID-19 — How we adapted
YLab COVID-19 Co-design Challenges

YLab Studio

We know that part of systems change is the imagining and shaping of what the future could be. Storytelling plays a vital role in tapping into people's collective narratives. YLab Studio works to centre young people in the narratives of their future and equips them with the tools to produce and distribute their work.

2020 Highlights

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Our online following grew by 500% in 2020

Illustrated icon of person with a light bulb for a head, indicating that they've had an idea.

36 young people's stories shared through YLab studio

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10 young people developed communication and storytelling skills in ongoing employment

Most popular content in 2020

Advice with Ope

In this post for World Mental Health Day, Ope shares some of her Aunty Wisdom, the importance of counting small successes in a day, reaching out to friends for help, and holding onto hope.

7 Days of Systems Change Challenge

For one week in May, we asked our community to share what systems they were interested in changing and how they wanted to change them, and they brought the answers!

What is a system: breaking down concepts

Sometimes the work of systems change has an unfortunate byproduct of jargon - we think this shouldn't be a barrier, so we like to break down the big concepts into accessible language.

Thought Leadership pieces published in 2020

Co-design & Consulting snapshot

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In 2020 YLab completed 36 projects with clients, with a total of 30 partners.

Illustration of grid with plot points demonstrating growth.

Our income grew 34% in 2020

Illustrated icon depicting the co-design process with circles symbolising people and arrows indicating sharing of lived experience.

Our average project size grew 47% to $38,466

Illustrated icon of growing flower to represent learning.

66% of projects were with repeat partners (Brimbank City Council has completed the highest number of projects with YLab - 7 since 2016)

83% of projects were delivered virtually in 2020

Working with YLab really opened my eyes to what true co-design is - especially when it comes to young people and what they need. I would never do another project with young people without YLab.

RMIT University

YLab is one of the few organisations investing in youth driven initiatives in Australia and around the world. Our partnership allowed our team to learn how to effectively develop initiatives designed by young people and gave us a thorough understanding of the co-design process. The YLab team is a joy to work with and each member brings so much expertise, empathy and enthusiasm to each conversation.

Miracle Foundation

YLab thoroughly supported our engagement with young people. Their professionalism and strong understanding of the cohort of participants helped make the engagement very meaningful for both the participants and our organisation.

Creative Victoria

In the complicated environment that was 2020, the team from YLab proved themselves to be responsive, understanding, flexible, adaptive and professional. This resulted in a quality outcome that could pave the way for future projects.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

It's always a pleasure to work with YLab. The team have an easygoing but professional approach which helps to build a trusting and successful partnership.

Bayside Glen Eira Kingston Local Learning & Employment Network

Sectors we worked with

Systems we worked in

Location of our projects

Case studies

Project BrIMPACT (Regional Employment Trial)
The Oasis Youth Homelessness Project
Senior Secondary Pathways
Mental Health Access, Front end service design
Wollotuka 2020
Festival of Learning

2020 PARTNERs + projects

Monash Student Leadership Summit

The New Work Standard: Co-design and Research Report

Financial Wellbeing Campaign

Admiring the Problem Workshops

Wollotuka Associate Model 2020

VCAL Future of Work Toolkit

$20boss NDIS videos

Careers in Civil Workshop

Renewable Energy Animation

National Youth Disability Summit

You, Me & Money Platform Co-design

Hospital in the Home Pilot Co-design, Orygen Associate Model 2020

WorkWell Virtual Reality Project

COVID-19 Community Activations

Oasis Youth Homelessness Project

Co-designing The Y Career Agency

Senior Secondary Pathways Research and Insights

Justice Literacy Resources

COVID-19 Roundtable

BrIMPACT (Regional Employment Trial) & Virtual Learning Bootcamp

Western YLab Learning and Employment Model

Learning Creates Australia Model

Cricket Australia Young Leaders Program

GEN44 Professional Development Workshops

Youth Voice in COVID-19 Research and Insights

Young People +
Employment Snapshot


Associates worked 10,792 paid hours in 2020, increase of 14% from 2019


1,618 of these hours were paid coaching and training (15% of all hours worked)


29% of YLab’s income was spent on employing YLab Associates


165 paid opportunities to co-lead projects


A further 1,324 young people were engaged in paid co-design and decision making opportunities


YLab Associates likelihood to recommend YLab as a place to work is 6.4 out of 7 with 7 being highly likely to recommend

Top 10 capabilities YLab Associates developed in 2020
Top 5 experiences for YLab Associates in 2020

The YLab employment Model

At YLab, we’re committed to doing things differently. We see our impact not only in the project work we do with our partners but also in providing meaningful, legitimate employment and skill development opportunities to the young people in our network, our YLab Associates.

YLab has an active community of 70 YLab Associates who have diverse lived and technical expertise. They bring this expertise to our work and undeniably add the greatest value to what we do. They intimately understand the problems we're trying to solve because they’re structural challenges they face in their own lives.

This means they hold unique perspectives on the patterns of the systems YLab works within and the innovative solutions required to improve systems and practices. Our model is to provide meaningful employment - and coaching, and capability development for the YLab Associates. 

Below is an overview of our model and how we understand the financial, time, and personnel investments required to run an employment model that centres young people legitimately.

Future of YLab 2021

Continued national growth in 2021

YLab aims to deliver 25% more projects with young people and new and existing partners across Australia and internationally, with a focus on Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria. Our systems change projects will continue across the employment, learning, health and well-being, policy, and decision-making domains. If you are interested in finding out more or sharing your ideas for a project with young people, contact us here.

In 2020, the Foundation for Young Australians developed its 2021-2023 strategy. YLab is one of four pillars in the new strategic direction focused on young people having the power to beat injustice and transform the future. 

YLab First Nations

With twelve First Nations Associates from nations across the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Tiwi Islands, YLab is seeking partners to help us continue to grow our First Nations practice in 2021.

YLab First Nations exists to ensure an Australia where First Nations young people are heard, valued, and driving our nation’s future. To strengthen our impact, we will bring First Nations ways of working to our operations and how we approach and deliver projects. Our First Nations social innovation model centres First Nations ways of doing, thinking and being.

Associate Immersion Program

We know that some young people love the flexibility of casual work while others would like greater stability and consistency and a clearer progression pathway within YLab. In response, we have developed a new Associate Model to test in 2021. 8 Associates will complete a 12 month part-time immersive learning and project delivery experience, alongside the existing cohort employed on a flexible basis. The program consists of:

  • Technical skills in co-design, facilitation and project management
  • Strengthening social, emotional and cultural intelligence capabilities
  • Coach and be coached, to learn and to facilitate others’ learning
  • Build professional networks and portfolio to support with securing job prospects when offboarded
  • Wellbeing supports including counselling and debriefing

Under 18 YLab Associate cohort

Given the appetite of 12-17 year olds to contribute to social change, YLab has recognised the need and opportunity to extend our cohort of YLab Associates (currently 18-30 years old) to include young people aged 15-17. In 2021, YLab will hire up to 18 new Associates through Learning Creates, a national alliance bringing together diverse stakeholders across the Australian community to create innovative, practical solutions to deeply entrenched and systemic educational challenges.

Ylab 2020 core Team

Angel Towney (she/her)
First Nations Manager

Fraol Aliko (he/him)
Community Manager

Rona Glynn-McDonald (she/her)
First Nations Director

Bianca Orsini (she/her)

Laura Barstow (she/her)
Business and Operations Manager

Sasha Sullivan (she/her)
Learning Manager

Brigid Canny (she/her)
Executive Director

Marta Marchevski (she/her)
Manager and Studio Lead

Will Austin (he/him)
First Nations Manager

Chelsea Lang (she/her)

Michael Lim (he/him)
Senior Manager

YLab would like to thank the broader Foundation for Young Australians team, including the following departments, for their continued support in 2020:

How to partner with us

Do you have a project?
Are you a foundation?
Want to learn more?
Are you a young person?

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How we gathered the data

Evaluative surveys

We designed evaluative surveys centred around markers of progress through our theory of change (KPIs)

Associate + client surveys

We used Typeform to create, distribute and collect survey data (Associate and Client surveys) this is what informed the net promoter scores, satisfaction rates, demographic data and other qualitative data


We analysed qualitative data using Dovetails coding framework.

Improving processes

We noted limitations of previous data collection techniques, improving processes for future

Analysing projects

We examined the 2019 and 2020 project pipeline, to gain insight on income and project size

Tallying impact

We documented and reflected on projects over the year, compiling insights and tallying impact.

The financial results we have are currently unaudited.