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Paul Evensen

Donors and co-locating agencies create projects in pursuit of more than one of six benefits. Typical combinations include the desire to both enhance access and to strengthen partnering agencies. The hope: to strengthen agencies that have a shared mission. The goal: simultaneously promoting sustainability and innovation. These are only the most common combinations. When done well, all real estate and location decisions are made with the intention of building community. However, the attempt to aid neighborhood development alone without careful consideration of the "mission benefit" of colocation first can have a profoundly negative consequence for non-profit organizations. At the inducement of neighborhood leaders, non-profits can feel compelled to move to locations that do not enhance their ability to deliver on mission. To borrow a phrase from the movie Field of Dreams - if we build a new community services center they will indeed come. Unfortunately, they may come for the wrong reasons and the project is likely to be unsustainable.


Through collaboration and the development of formal and informal partnerships within the greater community, Heartwood House serves the residents of Ottawa who are marginalized, living in poverty, and/or in need of educational, mental health, emotional, physical, economic, employment, training or recreational support – Heartwood House provides an affordable, accessible workplace for small non-profit and charitable organizations to enable them to maximize their services through a mutually supportive hospitable and empowering environment for their clients and participants.

Our Member groups provide a wide range of services, information, networking and skill development opportunities to low income adults and families, new immigrants, people with differing abilities, people improving literacy or spoken English skills, people needing health and mental health supports, and people developing new employment, personal, or artistic skills.

What is one interesting fact about your space?

We strive to achieve positive community outcomes and earn revenues to support sustainability.
Heartwood House and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ottawa enjoy a highly successful partnership in the ownership of the property at 400-412 McArthur Avenue. Heartwood owns 87.5% and the Unitarians 12.5% of the building.

Heartwood House is also home to two other successful partnerships: the OC Transpo Lost & Found and the Everybody Wins! Electronics Recycling Program. Income generated is used to help support the work of the Heartwood community.

What are your favorite resources that you would recommend to others?

Our greatest resource is our Member groups. We are constantly looking for opportunities to share knowledge and expertise between one another so that we can learn from experience while being invested in sharing ideas.

We have learned that it takes intentional effort to build trust and community and that it takes time. By investing the time and energy there seems to be greater levels of engagement to share these resources and expertise. We are better together!

Center Name: Heartwood House

Location: Ontario, Canada

Center Website:

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“Open for you, and you and you…” is the tagline for one of our Canadian members, Community Door in Brampton, Ontario. It is a fitting message for so many of our centers (and centres!) across North America. A place where you can find healing for what ails you. A place that takes you in as you are and diligently works to keep you as safe as possible. This last statement was the theme that emerged from our first Live Ask-NCN Zoom call for members that was focused on Risk Management. I actually expected the conversation to steer more towards the somewhat dull, but necessary details of what it takes to manage a space, filling vacancies, collecting timely rent and more. Instead, improving safety was the top concern for most spaces. People wanted to know how best to communicate imminent dangers, how to report incidents, and how to keep communication lines open with tenants and community.  One member is witnessing the opioid epidemic first hand in their very welcoming and open community space. While their bathrooms provide an opportunity for someone off the street to clean up, other times it is a collection site for needles from their illicit substance usage.  All participants stressed the need, and struggle, for their space to be both open and safe. Here are the suggestions that emerged:

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The Rose Andom Center opened the summer of 2016, as the first Family Justice Center in the Rocky Mountain region, with a mission to improve the lives of domestic violence victims by facilitating better access to the services and staff of community organizations and government agencies in a single, safe location. The Rose Andom Center is named in honor of successful Denver entrepreneur and former McDonald’s franchise owner, Rose Andom.

The innovative model of the Rose Andom Center brings together 7 city and 13 community-based organizations in one building, representing the forward-thinking, collaborative approach to provide ‘best practice’ services to some of our most vulnerable citizens. The staff of partner organizations provide a wide array of services, including domestic violence advocacy and counseling, crisis intervention, civil legal support, services for children, law enforcement services, information regarding the criminal justice system, assistance with public benefits, housing resources, and referrals for job readiness and job search assistance.

What is one interesting fact about your space?

In 2017, the Rose Andom Center was honored to receive a Downtown Denver Partnership Award, given to businesses that have made significant contributions toward creating a unique, vibrant, and diverse Downtown environment, and have left a lasting, positive impact on Downtown Denver. Since opening, we have had over 3,300 victims and 900 children come into the Rose Andom Center to access multiple services from our partner agencies. The building underwent a comprehensive renovation to provide a warm, welcoming, safe environment for the clients and to promote collaborative work among the partners. A centralized “nest” area provides comfortable interview rooms for private conversations with clients, as well as an open great room and kitchen for their use, and a playroom for the children to enjoy while their parent meets with service providers. The playroom includes a custom wall-sized Light Bright Wall, enjoyed by all who visit the Rose Andom Center!

What are your favorite resources that you would recommend to others?

Working with the Nonprofit Centers Network, Denver Shared Spaces and Oz Architects helped ensure we could think through our goals in developing the best shared space possible, that would meet our mission and be of benefit to our clients!

Center Name: Rose Andom Center

Location: Denver, CO

Center Website:

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Paul Evensen

As we worked to create a regional framework for Social Purpose Real Estate and non-profit colocation in St Louis we looked to the considerable experience of the 400+ non-profit centers in the U.S. and Canada that have preceded us. Our review of this experience suggests that we could gain six specific benefits (Table 1) from creating non-profit centers. 1. Co-locating non-profits can enhance access to services by integrating services and putting them together in one shared location. The measurable outcomes might be increased use of services, easier access for constituents, and the establishment of a continuum of care. 2. Co-locating non-profits can lower costs by sharing “back of house” supports such as accounting, human resources, and risk management. Further, reduced turnover and the benefit from being near other organizational directors and program administrators could contribute to the bottom line. The measurable outcomes could be increased operational strength and efficiency, lower costs, and better managed organizations. These benefits may be particularly valued by smaller non-profit organizations or by newer ones seeking to establish effective systems.

Jenny Camhi

The Hive is a coworking and events center where we build a stronger, more connected community. Inspired by Jewish wisdom and our natural and farmy surroundings, we provide a thriving environment for social entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and local community organizations to work, meet, and grow in a unique environment. Our goal is to become a model for community collaboration and to promote creative Jewish expression, both at home in Encinitas, San Diego, California, and around the world. The Hive offers robust monthly professional development programs to service our local nonprofit community from a range of topics including: board management, public speaking, emotional intelligence, strengths based leadership, fundraising, and grant writing to name a few! In addition, The Hive offers arts and cultural programming for creative Jewish expression and exploration. These programs include: theatre performances, meditation workshop, art galleries, and holiday celebrations. Collaboration, connection, and learning all with an ocean view!

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I’ve had several conversations with new NCN members just starting the process to see if a nonprofit center is the right thing for their community. People talking this project for the first time are some of my favorites to work with – the energy, the inspiration, the passion. Inevitably, at some point excitement transitions to overwhelmed, as leaders struggle to balance their vision with the growing workload. That’s where we come in! Because how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! We’ve helped so many people break down their shared space project into manageable chunks, making their dream a reality.  Here are my top tips for managing this process: Write down your why: Whether it’s an official statement of purpose or just the top three reasons you want to see a shared space in your community, this is your guiding principle as you go through this project. Form follows function throughout this process.

Summer Hess

Type the word “innovation” into Google, and you’ll get nearly 7 million search results; it seems that all companies and entrepreneurs are striving to make it a part of their brands. And while new technologies are important, the unchecked stampede for innovation may be draining energy from the full application of existing innovation strategies—some of which come with 3.8 billion years of intelligence and design practice. Biomimicry distills life-sustaining patterns and strategies into a lens that can be applied to a diverse array of design challenges. Importantly, its primary requirement/constraint is that solutions be conducive to life. That means it cannot hide or mask externalities that actually drive up the true cost for pocket books, people, and the planet. Instead, it provides a framework for systems-level thinking that emphasizes interdependence and the emulation organizing principles that support the integrity whole system.

Asheley Lovell, Ph. D.

Nonprofits come in many shapes and sizes, but one thing they share in common is a desire to scale up their impact on the world. Collaboration has long been touted as the best way for nonprofits to scale up, but the actual practice of collaboration is often messy, making it hard to measure the impacts of these efforts. At The Alliance Center in Denver, CO (home to the headquarters for The Nonprofit Centers Network), over 50 nonprofit and for-profit organizations work under one roof. We are a mission-driven nonprofit with an event and collaborative working space which is dedicated to bringing people together to create a sustainable and inclusive future. As the operator of a collaborative working space, we strive to create a work environment that is inspiring, inviting, and that promotes constructive interactions between tenants. The Alliance Center recently underwent a brand realignment process to reconnect with our mission. As part of this process we changed the name of the organization from the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado to The Alliance Center. For many years, the building that houses the collaborative working spaces was named The Alliance Center while the nonprofit organization that managed the building and created programming was called the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado. This caused considerable confusion. While we are excited to have one name for all aspects of our work, changing our name to The Alliance Center is about a lot more than simplifying our moniker.

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An Evaluation! Those two little words strike fear into leaders’ hearts. I hear “It’s too expensive!” or “We don’t have time!”  or “No one ever fills out surveys anyway!”  Earlier this year, we set out to help shared space managers tackle this question with the support of Laura Sundstrom and Elena Harmon of Vantage Evaluation.  Through a combination of structured learning webinars, peer learning and hands on homework, we worked with approximately ten different shared spaces to see what methods we could test. While we are still crunching the quantitative and qualitative data, here are my preliminary take aways. Have a clear goal for your collaborative work. What are you trying to accomplish through shared space? Break it down as simply as possible and unpack common jargon-filled phrases. Trying to show the impact of collaboration? Make sure you know what that looks like in your community?

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