The Power of Collaboration: Helping Children Cope with Trauma
For more than 20 years, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has been awarding nonprofit organizations for their extraordinary contributions toward alleviating human suffering. During this time, the 22 recipients of the prestigious Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize formed an independent alliance called the Hilton Prize Coalition to achieve collective impact in humanitarian assistance, human rights, development, education and health.
In the fall of 2016, the Hilton Prize Coalition’s Secretariat, Global Impact, received a profound idea for a new collaboration from one of its award-winning members, Casa Alianza, the Latin American arm of Covenant House. The proposal centered on launching a “Trauma-Informed Care Models” pilot project to help children affected by multiple forms of trauma in Latin American countries.
The Casa Alianza team had extensive experience and success in providing shelter, protection and rehabilitation for children and teenagers abused, trafficked, or abandoned; however, they noticed a lack of resources on this subject for Spanish-speaking care providers. The goal of the pilot project became to leverage the proven work being done in the U.S. by one of Covenant House’s Medical Directors, Dr. Ken Ginsburg, M.D., M.S. Ed.
Dr. Ginsburg had decades of experience working with adolescents as a pediatrician specializing in Adolescent Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The team was inspired to translate and adapt Dr. Ginsburg’s findings to create culturally-sensitive reference and training materials for these care providers.
At this time, another Coalition member, the International Rehabilitation Council of Torture Victims (IRCT), identified this topic as a need in common and a capability to provide valuable resources through their Latin American networks. IRCT was interested in learning from the Covenant House approach and applying this to the context of survivors of torture, modifying the approach in accordance to IRCT’s practice and experiences in the region. Once this connection was made, IRCT was brought in as a co-lead for this project.
“Each organization brought particular strengths to the collaboration,” said Samantha Ducey, Director of Partner Solutions at Global Impact, the Secretariat of the Hilton Prize Coalition. “Most importantly, both teams were willing to openly discuss ideas and different perspectives to find the best path forward.” Ducey worked alongside these nonprofits, making sure parameters were set early and deadlines were met over a year-long process.
Local experts within the organizations were identified and brought in. Gabriela Monroy, Covenant House’s psychologist and regional project lead in Guatemala, played a key role in translating concepts and providing context based on the trauma-informed care model that Dr. Ginsburg pioneered.
IRCT experts who analyzed the trauma-informed care approach based on their work with survivors of torture included Dr. Emma Bolshia of the Institute of Therapy and Research (ITEI) and the Coalition Against Torture in Bolivia and Dr. Edith Escareno of the Collective Against Torture and Impunity in Mexico.
“This project opened doors for local collaboration,” said Roberto Cubero Espinal, IRCT’s Regional Associate for Latin America. “At times this work can be isolating, so having a strong network of peers is invaluable.”
Covenant House echoed IRCT’s sentiments about synergy. “When collaboration can happen directly at the local level, you find real richness and expertise,” said Meredith Fabian-Ludke, Vice President of Latin America and Project Lead at Covenant House’s international headquarters in NYC. “We learned a lot about our own processes while gaining valuable insights from IRCT’s practices, curriculum development and cultural knowledge of other Latin American countries.”
Covenant House and IRCT offered 3 key tips for nonprofits starting a collaborative process:
- Engage experts within your organizations as early as possible. Local and regional expertise was critical for this project.
- Meet in person when possible, especially for a first meeting. Relationship-building is an important part of the work, and the investment in one-on-one connection supports the collaboration.
- Discuss the decision-making processes in each organization. Then, co-design goals and processes.
Leanne MacMillan, IRCT Director of Research Development and Project Lead, recommends defining the decision-making processes in the beginning. The plan should also include who and how to ensure a smooth process because there are different organizational cultures to account for. Also, the facilitation of the relationship by a third party, in this case Global Impact, was crucial to keep the collaboration moving and to navigate different types of organizational setups.
Fabian-Ludke added, “You will most likely think and operate differently, so instead of trying to fit into each other’s way of operating, learn about your differences and leverage what you have.”
In November, the teams plan to roll out a co-authored background paper, “Cultivating Resilience,” and a training package, which was inspired by Dr. Ginsburg findings as well as “Reaching Teens: Strength-based Communication Strategies to Build Resilience and Support Healthy Adolescent Development,” published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The materials will be made available for download on the Hilton Prize Coalition website.
For further information on this collaboration, please contact: Meredith Fabian-Ludke, VP of Latin America, Covenant House at firstname.lastname@example.org, Leanne MacMillan, IRCT Director of Research Development, at email@example.com, or Samantha Ducey, Hilton Prize Coalition, at firstname.lastname@example.org.