Birthing a New Organization


The creation of a new non-profit last year was a singular experience and at the start felt like an oxymoron in action:  developed by a consultant and funded by a public agency.   After all,  non-profits come from the community – not government or the head of a consultant – don't they?

In July of 2012  Guided Pathways–Support for Youth and Families was officially birthed with the help of SLR.  The creation of Guided Pathways (GPS) was funded through the King County’s MIDD (Mental Illness and Drug Dependency Action Plan ) with the goal of filling in a gap in the County’s system of mental health care for children and families: peer support for families, an evidence-based practice that is a critical component of improving outcomes for kids and families.

So what made it work?

  • A commitment to focusing on infrastructure and capacity first, to build the organization right from the beginning, even when it meant delaying providing services.
  • Involving families and youth at each step:  in selecting the Board, hiring the Executive Director, setting policies, setting the budget, finding office space, and starting programs.
  • Teaching the Board about effective governance practices by integrating it with their work,  giving them tools as they needed them.
  • King County DCHS staff set the standards and gave advice when asked – but then admirably kept hands off so this became a genuine community led effort.
  • What's next?

    Family members, with the lived experience of caring for children and youth with severe mental illness, behavioral challenges, or substance abuse make up the Board, the staff, and its volunteers.  This summer the family run, family support organization, located in Kent, Washington began offering one to one, parent to parent support as well as parent education and family social events.  

    We know that the life of a non-profit is difficult, but GPS has not just the  the passion and energy of the founders going for it, but the values,  systems, and relationship to those it serves that will, if our organizational theories hold true,  enable GPS to grow and thrive.

    Learn more

    Board members and I  gave a workshop at the Federation of Families Conference in Washington D.C. about the story of Guided Pathways and building a sustainable family support organization last November.   Take a look to learn more about how we built the organization.