The Power of Partnership: Partners for Youth Opportunity and StepUp Durham

At ReCity Network, we’re all about collaboration. We’re not just a coworking facility or event space, and we’re not just rewriting the story of our city—we’re doing all of this together. This is the first of many stories we’re telling on our blog about ReCity members coming together to face challenges in our community. These stories demonstrate the power of partnering with other ReCity members to provide layered services and have a deeper impact on the people of Durham.

Partners for Youth Opportunity (PYO) and StepUp Durham are two ReCity partner organizations that came here with the right mindset of being collaborative and seeing how they could make a bigger impact on their clients through working together. They’ve also found that, by partnering together, they can help their donors make a bigger impact with their money. Every dollar that a donor gives goes further, impacting the missions of multiple organizations. Working as partners doesn’t dilute the impact of donor dollars, it actually makes that impact grow. “StepUp Durham has only been around for 18 months, but we wanted to have a collective impact quickly,” said Syretta Hill, executive director of StepUp Durham. “ReCity helps us do that. We’re able to build relationships and deepen partnerships organically and in an authentic way.”

The problems that our partners are trying to solve are all intertwined—housing, food, employment, education. Any one of them alone is big. PYO and StepUp have made a conscious effort to keep their scope small and serve, say, 100 people well rather than 500 poorly. By keeping their scope small, they’re able to tackle solving several big problems. Providing people with multiple layers of support allows them to become more self-sufficient and grow into a positive contributor to the community. Every win that organizations create together turns into a give-back to the community.

Partnership also has a positive impact on the organizations themselves. By being as effective as possible, even with a limited number of clients, the executive directors are able to firm up their programming, stabilize their organizations, and focus on bringing in donations to sustain and hopefully grow their missions. “We can achieve better results and have a deeper impact if we’re hyper-focused,” said Julie Wells, executive director of PYO. “When we provide comprehensive services through our partnerships, we can solve several issues for our clients.”

PYO and StepUp now have multiple programs they’re working on together. One is the Career Academy, a two-week work training program. Previously, StepUp had targeted this program toward their adult population, but they’ve now translated the program and are delivering training to PYO’s youth population as well. Another partnership program they’re providing is called Step2—a longer, nine-month program focused on helping people develop stability in many areas of their lives. This program is similar to PYO’s comprehensive model, but is tailored for adults. The two organizations are also currently working on other joint initiatives, including a program to tackle the effects of incarceration on family members—a common problem in Durham and many other cities.

Both Julie and Syretta agreed that for ReCity partners to get the most out of their membership, they need to be partnering with other organizations. Their advice is to know yourself well enough to know your gaps and look for ways to collaborate authentically with others. Partnering with other organizations can make you look unique and different, and you should be leveraging that. If you’ve been here a number of months and haven’t formed any partnerships, it’s time to get started!