Tenille and Jam

coffee with a side of impact
— at
Nightingale Studios
Nightingale 1
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Tell us a little bit about yourself:

Tenille: My name is Tenille Gilbert, Co-founder and Managing Director of For Change Co. For Change Co. is the umbrella organisation under which For Change Cafes sit. This includes our beautiful first ever bricks and mortar cafe, here in Brunswick at the bottom of Nightingale 1.

Jam: I’m Brunswick’s Cafe Manager, a role I’ve had for a year and a half but I’ve been here much longer than that. 

People may know this place for its awesome coffee and vegan toasties, but there’s much more to it than that, isn’t there?

Tenille: Absolutely. We're a not-for-profit social enterprise and we exist to create pathways out of homelessness for young people. We do that predominantly through our employment and training program. We recognise the empowerment that employment can have for young people who have experienced or are at risk of homelessness. Here, they can gain really important skills and experiences to help move towards financial independence and exit the cycle of homelessness. 

The Pathways for Change program is a six to eight-month paid, on the job, employment and training program. Young people are referred to us from local housing service organisations. What we're aiming to do, at every step along the way, is break down barriers to employment that our young people face. Importantly the young people get paid for every hour they work and train with us.

Often the young people we work with have no experience in the workplace, a negative experience in the workplace is also unfortunately common. So there's a lot of work we do, anything from how do you plan your train trip to get to work on time to what's appropriate to wear at work and how you check your roster? These things might be a given if you've had role models that have been engaged in employment and if you’ve been around a positive working environment. Unfortunately, that’s something a lot of our young people don't have. 

In Brunswick, young people are working on their coffee skills, their customer service skills and their food preparation skills. Along with that, they're building a lot of confidence and connection to community. I think we really feel that connection here in Brunswick. A lot of our customers know what's going on here and that can help our young people to have a positive experience.  

Jam: I really enjoy the teaching part. It’s the heart of the job. We’ve got a new trainee cohort at the moment. They develop skills really fast. I had four people graduate last month. It’s sad to say goodbye after they’ve been with us for three months. We have a lot of time to bond in that small space, especially on rainy days.

What happens at the end of the program?

Tenille: Towards the end of the program, we'll have conversations with trainees about their goals and their future. A lot of it is based around career, but it's also important to focus on their broader goals because it's the whole person that comes to work. It's not just what they're going to do for the next job. Often a young person who's been in an experience of crisis hasn't had a chance to think about those things. They’ve thought about what they’re going to eat and where they will sleep - not  about what they could possibly do in the future. Every young person deserves the possibility to plan their future - and we want to help create that space.

A lot of that does come back to what's next immediately and that is generally employment or education. We work really closely with young people to understand what they want, what they need to do to get there and to support them in getting ready for that employment opportunity and connecting with partner organisations to make that happen. 

We see about eighty-two percent of our young people transitioning directly into employment or education upon graduation which is a massive outcome. And at six to 12 months we also measure where they're at in terms of employment and housing. Generally that employment is sustained at about 80% and a similar amount transition into independent housing. 

How did For Change Co start?

Tenille: Dan Poole and his brother Liam started Crepes for Change back in 2014. Dan was getting quite frustrated by what he saw around him in terms of young people his age experiencing really tough situations, in particular homelessness and particularly around where he was living in St. Kilda.  He took the one skill that he had, which was making crepes, and started making crepes on the beach and selling them and donating profits to local organisations. I jumped on board as a volunteer and we crowdfunded for our first food truck. The rest is history. 

How did the Brunswick venue come to be?

Tenille:  Nightingale was looking for a social enterprise and reached out to us. And we’ve loved it from the start, it's been this community hub and people have really been attracted to it. How Nightingale has grown and changed, becoming a not-for-profit itself, has meant our partnership and connection has grown stronger. We're just so intrinsically values-aligned that we barely even have to think about it.

How many venues are there? Where are you based?

Tenille:  We have four cafes, a coffee cart and food truck as well as a coworking space in the city. We have 21 permanent staff across the organisation. It’s really grown.  A bit ridiculous when you look back at where we started as a bunch of volunteers. 

Important question: What’s the most popular drink in Brunswick?

Jam: We've got all the tradies in at the moment from Nightingale Wurru wurru biik. They all order large-caps with two sugars. And then you've got all the Nightingale residents who order oat milk. It’s all the rage at the moment.

And the dogs?

Jam: We’re very dog friendly because we’re so outdoorsy.  We make all the dog treats here.  It becomes very profitable because the dogs drag their owners out. Same with baby chinos, especially during school holidays, run down that marshmallow supply. 

What’s in store for 2024? 

Jam: Some more consistent trainee takeover days where the young people run the cafe for the day. We’re working on a new menu, more vegan kimchi which was really popular, more cool drinks for summer. For the street, a new wine bar is opening at The Commons. I think competition is great - brings more people in from Sydney Road. Personally, I’m excited to be moving to a teilhaus in Nightingale Preston next year. 

Tenille: There’s a few things I can’t talk about just yet but a lot of it is about maintaining and growing the number of young people in our programs and making sure we are giving each young person the support they need.

How can people get involved and support your organisation?

Tenille: If anyone reading is an employer, we really welcome conversations about needs for entry level employees. We're keen on making sure that the transition to employment is really smooth for young people and that we've got employers lined up and ready for young people to work with. 

Jam: Just supporting the cafe. Do the thing you love doing every day and make social change at the same time.

Nightingale Studios are 24 fresh commercial spaces in Brunswick becoming available early 2024.

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Nightingale Studios
Nightingale 1
First published in
December 2023