Lessons Learned from The Grove: A Developmental Evaluation Capturing the Growth of a Grassroots Initiative in Wellington County & Guelph

Homewood Research Institute

In 2018, service providers in Wellington County and Guelph, Ontario came together as the Integrated Youth Services Network, now The Grove, to address the need for a more effective health and social service system for youth, specifically rural and transitional-aged youth. The early evolution of The Grove was captured in a developmental evaluation conducted by the Homewood Research Institute (HRI). With an Evaluation Subcommittee that included representation from youth and families, HRI co-designed evaluation planning tools and used the Health Equity Impact Assessment Tool to identify potential health impacts. Evaluation activities also included a demographic survey and in-depth interviews with service providers, youth, and family members to understand how The Grove works, facilitators and barriers to implementation, and the early experiences of youth and families accessing programs and services. The resulting lessons learned from The Grove will be valuable to anyone looking to start a youth hub in their community.


Stephanie Lu
Stephanie obtained her Master of Science and PhD from the University of Waterloo’s School of Public Health Sciences. Since graduating in 2017, she has led and managed many collaborative population and public health research and evaluation projects using participatory approaches. At HRI, Stephanie’s role includes planning and executing a variety of research and evaluation projects related to mental health and addiction. She works directly with key stakeholders, including advisory groups, service providers, clinicians, and people with lived and living experience. In addition to Stephanie’s passion for evaluation, she is a photographer (stephanieklu.com) and enjoys running and baking.

Thepikaa Varatharajan
In addition to being a Research Assistant at HRI, Thepikaa is a PhD Candidate in the School of Public Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo. Thepikaa’s research interests include youth health, substance use, mental health, and program evaluation.

Cyndy Moffat Forsyth
Cyndy Moffat Forsyth is the inaugural Executive Director for The Grove Hubs (formerly called the Integrated Youth Services Network). She is responsible for bringing the vision to fruition by working collaboratively with the communities of Wellington County and Guelph. Prior to this role, Cyndy was the Homewood Research Institute’s first chief development officer. She also served for almost a decade with the Huntington Society of Canada as VP of Development and Marketing. Cyndy has always been an active volunteer in her community and has served in leadership roles with organizations such as the YMCA-YWCA of Guelph and the Asset Development Committee for the Guelph Community Foundation.

Key takeaways

  • A neutral backbone organization was key for the implementation of The Grove, so as not to compete with other charities and stakeholders in the community
  • The Grove highlighted priority areas for the large geographic area it serves with its various community partners, including
    • Rural youth
    • Transition-aged youth
    • Need for technology to (1) provide virtual care and (2) to share information across a common (patient) data platform

Key Learning Objectives (defined by presenters)

  1. Participants will learn how the early use of evaluation planning tools during an intervention can help ensure that decision-making is evidence-based and that youth and families are engaged in the process (with concrete examples)
  2. Participants will receive advice/lessons learned on how to start a youth hub in their community that was gathered from service providers, youth, and family members
  3. Participants can use the final report from our developmental evaluation of The Grove as a reference for their own organization. The final report includes templates such as interview guides for every stakeholder group, a completed Health Equity Impact Assessment Tool, demographic survey, logic model, and more

Key Themes

  1. Research & Evaluation

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