Imagine a young mother who works at a low-wage job. With her earnings she still needs nonprofit services to support her children—a fifth-grade daughter who is having academic trouble at school and a preschool son with serious medical issues. Accessing these vital services, however, requires her to cobble together programs from various providers across the county in which she lives. So every month she must travel many miles: weekly trips with her daughter to a nonprofit tutoring program and frequent visits with her son to a nonprofit medical clinic. She also tries to attend a weekly nonprofit job skills program so she can get a better job. These trips are in addition to her commute to her full-time job across town and visits to a food bank.

What if we erased that barrier? Instead of this mother driving or taking the bus to multiple places, often missing appointments or being late to work, we bundle many of the services she needs in one place – a Direct Service Center. What if medical, social, and educational professionals could collaborate as a unit to help this family? …

These Direct Service Centers are just one of four organizational types of the nonprofit center, or shared space, model (for the purposes of this book, we use these terms interchangeably). This model also includes three other types … Theme Centers, where all residents are related to a particular focus, such as the environment, health, or the arts; Generalist Centers, where nonprofits working on a variety of issues co-locate for the shared space benefits; and Flexible Space Centers, such as coworking and incubator sites.

The shared space model is versatile, applicable to many nonprofit organizations with different missions and concerns and in varying locations and demographics. … In Louisville, KY, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky operates (c)space, a membership-based coworking space for nonprofits and socially minded businesses. Even the smallest start-ups gain an address, a community and new networks to advance their mission.

Read the full article about a shared space model by China Brotsky, Sarah M. Eisinger, and Diane Vinokur-Kaplan at Stanford Social Innovation Review.