What Makes a Nonprofit Collaboration Successful? RESEARCH!

Welcome to our second posting! (If you didn’t read last month’s blog about Houston Philanthropic Society, be sure to check it out when you’re done here.) As stated last time, the purpose of this blog is to highlight a different nonprofit each month and feature something special about them that might spark an idea, or present a potential partnership, for your own organization.  This month we talk about a school that exists solely as the result of a 3-way collaborative effort.

This month’s nonprofit, Archway Academy is a prime example of a well thought-out collaboration that sprang from the same place that most collaborations do: NEED. In this case, a few Houston parents of teens struggling with addiction, had reached a dead-end. The fight to keep their kids sober had taken them all on the same rollercoaster ride – for some, several times. Realizing that, if their kids returned to the same high schools where they had used, their odds of repeating the experience were pretty high (80% relapse within the first 3 months), these parents enlisted the help of local mental health experts and decided to fill the void themselves by creating a high school solely for kids in recovery.

Their vision was a school that, like addiction itself, did not discriminate against race, gender, or bank account. They therefore needed cheap classroom space during the week – a time when, coincidentally, most churches are underutilized and Sunday School classrooms sit vacant. Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church was the perfect fit for many reasons: located in the Med Center, students are able to get there daily by using public transportation; it is centrally located between The Woodlands, Clear Lake, and Katy – just some of the places where the 70 Archway students reside; but most importantly, Palmer Church’s roots in the field of recovery run very deep. The first, national movement toward sobriety programs for youth began there over 40 years ago, with the founding ofPalmer Drug Abuse Program – more widely known today as PDAP. The final, educational component for Archway turned out to be more difficult to fill. An alliance was eventually formed with the charter Southwest Schools, which specializes in traditional classroom teaching methods, conducted in smaller, caring environments.

Now, in their 7th academic year and with graduates attending colleges around the country, Archway’s unique model is being studied by recovery schools nationwide; and Archway is still forming nonprofit collaborations. Most recently, Beyond the Finish Line, a goal-oriented mentoring program, has begun training Archway students to complete a 5K race!

The take-away from Archway’s example is that collaborations can be highly successful – but all parties must have the same core values. Make sure to allow adequate time for extensive research first. The benefits will be worth it. – See you in December.

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Richard Beeman