In 2000, Allan and Cathy Barsema, along with a few colleagues, started Carpenter’s Place in Rockford, IL, an outreach center for chronically homeless individuals. Soon after opening its doors they realized that these individuals were in need of much more than a building to go to that would allow them to shower, or receive phone calls and mail. They realized it was going to take a comprehensive plan to rebuild the lives of the homeless. They were practicing collective impact before it became an industry standard.
Allan and his colleagues started reaching out across the community, and beyond, for partners who could help people with issues Carpenter’s Place was unable to address. During the process of linking people with the services they needed, Carpenter’s Place discovered a startling reality – the community’s human-services system was not a system at all; but rather a series of isolated and uncoordinated specialists. These organizations were doing great things, but were not moving forward in a coordinated and collaborative way that truly helped people.
It is a monumental task to effectively coordinate all the moving parts in a community collaborative that is working to help multiple individuals address numerous issues, while aligning all the community partners involved. Carpenter’s Place centered their efforts on 15 areas of life, which could be modified for each individual, as appropriate:
As a result of this enormous task, Carpenter’s Place developed MPOWR, a technology-supported collective impact system that bridges the gap between communication and coordinated services. Carpenter’s Place and other agencies are successfully connecting all areas of life through leveraging the technology collaboration of MPOWR. Each agency is held accountable for their assigned portion of each individual’s plan.
For the past nine years, MPOWR has allowed Carpenter’s Place to help an average of more than 280 chronically homeless individuals attain stabilized housing per year. The technology-supported collaboration of MPOWR also enabled the system of support that allowed some of these individuals to become employed, return to school, improve their health, mend family relationships and recover from addiction.
MPOWR was developed based on this collaborative approach and the software tool is now the central nervous system for many other agency networks. The tool was brought into the walls of SupplyCore (Rockford, IL) in 2013, where MPOWR’s endless possibilities were paired with SupplyCore’s resources, business and software expertise and passion for collective impact initiatives.
Today, MPOWR is being brought to communities around the country and helping those who strive to maintain healthy individuals, families and cities. Through collective impact and collaboration, we can truly improve the condition of our nation’s cities and nurture self-sufficient individuals who contribute positively to society.