Catholic Family Service (CFS) and CUPS have stepped into a partnership as part of both agencies’ strategic directions with the express purpose of offering more effective services to those who take the courageous step to seek help.

You may be wondering… why are CUPS and CFS working together? Don’t they have different missions and offer very different services? That is exactly the point. We saw the potential of leveraging each of our strengths and bridging our vision to collectively have an even greater impact on the community.

So, we began with Question #1:

What if, by taking away the walls between our agencies to leverage each other’s strengths, we could dramatically increase the odds for families and communities to build resilience for generations?

And this led us to Question #2:

What would a partnership look like that applied brain science principles, and served people holistically with joint processes, like a single point of entry and one set of paperwork?

Which led to Question #3:

And what if, by intentionally integrating service delivery and infrastructure across two or more organizations, we could contribute to a broad wave of change with the potential to transform the delivery of social services in Calgary?


In the non-profit community, collaboration is talked about extensively these days. It is certainly no secret that our current environment is dealing with the reality of increasing demands in the face of falling revenue, compelling us to search for a new way to deliver services.

Yes, the current realities in our community encouraged us to engage in this conversation but our inspiration comes from the clients we serve. They are facing complex needs that are often impossible for any one agency to address on its own. And we believe it is incumbent on the leaders of organization to clear a path of service, not the clients, and not our staff.

You see, to those who reach out during the darkest hour of their life, the name on the door and the forms to fill out are less important than a clear path and welcoming person who can broker a continuum of services to support long-term resiliency. We started talking about how we could work together intentionally to deliver powerful long-term impact to people — holistically, seamlessly, efficiently, effectively and in a person-centered way — while continuing to pursue our mission as separate organizations.


Where to start with such big questions on the table?

To test our theory, we decided to launch into our collaboration with an expansion of Catholic Family Service’s GED program, Never Too Late. This program already has a history of success in the city and, by expanding it through this inter-agency initiative, we knew we could work together to make a bigger impact on the community. Never Too Late has been helping vulnerable Calgarians achieve their high school equivalency since 2005, recently expanding to a second location in 2017, and just last week opened a third location at CUPS jointly delivered by both CFS and CUPS staff. 30 students from across the city took a brave step and enrolled in this new location.

So, what is different about this expansion?

  • Enrollment is not restricted to geographic area and entry can be through CUPS or CFS
  • Classes take place at CUPS – not in a school
  • Child minding and meals are provided
  • In addition to class time, a one-hour session focused on student reflection about learning, building core life skills and reducing stress were added
  • There will be access to additional CUPS and CFS services
  • The program is founded in Brain Science principles

Here is what the news media has to say:

https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/bold-initiative-sees-cups-and-calgary-catholic-service-collaborate-to-create-new-upgrading-program

In order to measure success, we’ve put in place an extensive evaluation framework and are adopting “rapid-cycle iteration” to ensure we are constantly testing, learning and refining along the way. We hope to create a replicable process to support other organizations who are doing this work and who may want to work with us in the future. Following this pilot, we look forward to updating you to share our learnings and progress.

We would like to acknowledge all the staff involved for their incredible hard work over the past six months and commend their efforts to launch this program in such short order. This has been new territory for both organizations and we could not be more inspired by the passion and dedication of both teams on the ground.

Patricia Jones, CEO, Catholic Family Service

Carlene Donnelly, ED, CUPS