Big Brown House – Supporting NSW’s most vulnerable through COVID-19

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Big Brown House Big Brown House is a purpose-based community services organisation with operations across New South Wales.

The team at Big Brown House comprises a group of experienced professionals of varying backgrounds, all with a common goal; to provide therapeutic support services that facilitate positive outcomes for children, young people and families.

The organisation’s mission is “to respond to the needs of the community through high-quality person-centred services that support children, young people and families to reconnect and thrive.”

As it caters for and assists some of the state’s most vulnerable children, the organisation works within a highly regulated environment with significant levels of mandatory training required.

Big Brown House’s position as a small purpose-based organisation, funding is focused on the direct care of children and young people and contributes to the well-being and quality care to ensure the organisation achieves positive outcomes for children and young people in Big Brown House’s care.

Even though Big Brown is a small organisation, it covers a vast geographic region. The organisation started in the Newcastle area but now provides services to the Hunter, Central Coast, Sydney, Mid North Coast and Western areas of NSW. This presents significant challenges when it comes to delivering training. Time, budget and COVID-19 related constraints mean it is not feasible for the team to attend face-to-face training regularly.

Given the sensitivity and compliance requirements of the training needs for Big Brown House, there is no way that generic off-the-shelf training would be suitable for the organisation. The organisation is doing diverse and person-centred work, so customised training is a must.

Taking all these factors into account, Big Brown House knew that to deliver the level and scale of training necessary, it would need to move to an online learning platform to support its face-to-face and on-the-job training activities. The team set about creating a blended learning solution that combined small group training with online learning.

Development / Implementation

The team tasked with developing the learning and development training was relatively small, and budgets were tight. So there needed to be a significant return on the time and money invested into the project.

Perhaps the biggest challenge from an implementation point of view was that some of the organisation’s staff did not have high levels of computer literacy. This meant that any online training component of the blended model would need to be very user friendly.

The learning and development goals were to provide insights and education to the organisation’s direct care teams as these were the staff that had the most contact and impact on the young people the organisation supports.

The team developed a series of in-house training programs that combined online learning with in-person training. With limited in-person time available, Big Brown House knew it needed to optimise the time people spent learning together.

The team went through a process of determining what training was best suited to be delivered online and carefully considered how online training could be used to prepare learners for their in-person training sessions better.

“As an organisation we identified we would need to ensure our training was engaging and accessible to all of our employees. We knew that unless we created something engaging we could potentially lose our chance of engagement.”

The team at Big Brown House worked closely with Tribal Habits to create the online aspect of its learning program. The easy-to-use content creation engine, combined with the support and guidance of the team at Tribal Habits, allowed a relatively small team with no previous experience in creating online learning to build unique online content to support their in-person training efforts.

The project was initially rolled out to the head office to collect feedback and make any necessary adjustments required. This process went seamlessly and provided leaders in the organisation an excellent overview of the learning and development that was about to be rolled out to their direct reports. With some minor alternations made, the positive feedback from this launch, combined with the executive-level buy in the program had earned, gave the team confidence that it was time to roll the initiative out to the broader organisation.

How it’s going

Feedback from participants has been incredibly positive. People have been engaged in the training, which is a massive success for an organisation concerned about some of the users’ computer literacy levels.

Not only have people been impressed and engaged with the training, but they have also reported the benefits of having a knowledge base to refer back to when they are uncertain of something. By selecting Tribal Habits as its technology provider, Big Brown Houses essentially have a complete knowledge base of organisational training that staff can access 24 hours a day.

Discussions with managers have highlighted the incidental benefits of online training. One such benefit is the fact that there is now a single source of training across the organisation. In the past, the sort of training staff received depended somewhat on the training instructor that delivered the course. Different trainers would have different approaches to the same material, which means that staff who had taken the same training may have received different information. Having a single online platform meant that consistency of message was ensured.

This was critical in ensuring consistency of behaviour of the organisation’s staff and improving the results of the children the organisation serves.

Through the online system implementation, the team understood who had completed training with the click of a button. Beyond that, Big Brown House created an automated email notifications system that altered staff when their training was due and escalated overdue training to the management team. These automated emails resulted in a 90% completion rate of training with no personal follow up. For a team with a limited budget and resources, this was a huge win and allowed staff members to concentrate on the more value-adding elements of their roles.


Big Brown House was faced with a significant challenge: Deliver training that met strict standards to a geographically dispersed group of learners.

By creating a blended model that leveraged online training to ensure that any in-person training that occurred would have the maximum impact possible, the small team at Big Brown House could deliver amazing learning outcomes on a limited budget.

“Without transitioning to a blended model, we wouldn’t have been able to meet our regulatory requirements. So we’re very thankful to have made that happen, but what’s truly amazing is the fact that by leveraging online learning, we are providing better learning opportunities, saving time and creating closer relationships with our staff.”


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