Stories of Impact: Chris Boyle

The Churchill Fellowship Impact Fund was launched to enhance the outcomes achieved with Churchill Fellowships across all industries and sectors.

Impact Funding, a post Fellowship opportunity, supports selected Churchill Fellows to implement a project of their design to achieve further impact in their field.

Read about our Churchill Fellows’ journeys from Fellowship to implementation in our Stories of Impact:

A little over a decade ago, troubled by the rising incidence of child abuse and neglect, and family violence – he was an experienced social worker at the time – Chris Boyle  

used his Churchill Fellowship to investigate how intensive family support services in other countries were effectively addressing these vital societal challenges. 

Back in his home state of Queensland he reflected on his findings, concluding that despite economic pressures on the child protection sector there was ample opportunity to achieve better outcomes for children and families. Significantly, the greatest changes would not be the most costly if the hearts and minds of ordinary people could be utilised.  

Chris recommended trialling a whole of government response to child protection using a co-located multi-disciplinary team sharing case management of families across child protection, police, health, disabilities, housing and employment agencies. Sparked by his passion for social justice he stressed the importance of giving a voice and opportunities to the most vulnerable – the young people and families in our community. 

He urged intensive training in a range of family-centred approaches for relevant government staff and non-government services, and collaboration between leading international service providers. One was the longstanding Casey Family Programs in the USA which works to improve the well-being of children and families in the places where they live. The group has a special commitment to First Nations communities. 

 Chris is a strong supporter of Multisystemic Therapy (MST-CAN), an in-home early intervention program that works with families to ensure their children are safe from abuse and neglect, and he continues to advocate for its ongoing rollout in Queensland. 

Four years after completing his Fellowship, Chris Boyle commenced what he calls his ‘transformation from a social worker to a social entrepreneur’, taking the major step of launching the not-for-profit StandbyU Foundation whose mission is to use ‘human connections to build a better, safer world for people with stories of vulnerability in our communities’.  

 Support from the Optus Future Maker Program in 2018 helped the charity progress a model of combining the power of technology with personal relationships to more effectively connect vulnerable children with people who can provide appropriate support to them and their families. This mobilisation of family and friends is based on existing social networks; developing a plan to address risks; and providing a wearable device that connects to pre-identified safe networks. 

So was born the concept of the StandbyU Shield, which as Chris explains is ‘an immediate and tangible solution that has children, women and families telling us they can sleep safely at night, having gained agency in their lives and peace of mind for them and their loved ones.’  

The StandbyU Shield is made up of three parts:  

People: We bring together their friends, family and community into a personal Connections Map  

Plan: Together, we create a Shield Action Plan based on the identified story of those at risk. 

Device: Their Shield plan is uploaded into a wearable device and connected to their chosen network. Upon activation, the Shield sends location via SMS and live audio into a conference room of chosen responders who can listen and assess the best plan for safety. If necessary, they can escalate to emergency services.  

‘The aim of this process is to shift away from the current, static safety planning approach (hide, escape and call 000), addressing key issues within the system responses where adverse consequences can be prevented,’ Chris adds. 

In 2022, a decade after he began researching ways of how child protection and family support could be ‘done much better’, Chris was one of the first recipients of the Churchill Trust’s Impact Funding grants, an initiative to enhance the outcomes of previous Churchill Fellowships, again across a wide range of industries and sectors.  

Chris Boyle’s Impact Funding project was focused on further developing the cloud-based StandbyU Shield solution to encompass national and, in time, global support for individuals and families, and reduce the programming time of each shield by up to 90 per cent. The work entailed extensive liaison with high-level ICT developers. 

Given the high departmental case loads of at-risk and abused children, which result in unacceptable delays, such time saving can often make a lifesaving difference. 

Recognised as a world first solution the model is now being used across the child protection and domestic violence sectors to keep hundreds of vulnerable Australians safe. The foundation has received Australian Government support to expand across Queensland and ultimately across the country, as well as internationally in the near future. 

The StandbyU Foundation has received community acclaim and attracted a range of partners and supporters, including Mission Australia, Westfield, Bendigo Bank, Department of Social Services and many more. It is a home-grown success story in one of the most challenging social fields imaginable. 

In an Australia-first partnership with Westfield, StandbyU has established Magnolia Place,  an inclusive, walk-in support service in Helensvale, Gold Coast. The service provides brief intervention, linking and advocacy for individuals who are experiencing multiple and complex issues within a relaxed environment.  

Chris Boyle is pleased to report that the project Impact Funding is both complete and fully operational, with successful ‘shields’ being positioned every day.   

“We now have a fully functional cloud-based solution that can support StandbyU’s national and international expansion,’ Chris says. 

‘The total time now required to fully program a new device and safety plan is 10 minutes, and additional features are also being developed. 

‘This has been a wonderful opportunity to fast track our solution, and I am very grateful to the Churchill Trust for their support.’ 

Chris’s Impact Funding grant enabled: design IT infrastructure to support product delivery and scalability; customer onboarding and device configuration /deployment.

Are you a Churchill Fellow? Do you have recommendations and ideas in your Fellowship report that you’re yet to implement? Do you have a tangible plan for making a difference but need the funding and support to make it happen? We encourage all Fellows that have submitted their Fellowship Report to consider applying for this opportunity.

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