Since 2011, the Old Brewery Mission (OBM) has been engaged in a partnership with the McGill University Social Development Research Group. The purpose of the partnership is to merge the analytical expertise from a third-party academic institution to the homelessness expertise of a service-driven not-for-profit organization to build research capacity, better understand the homeless population served and improve on service models offered. This paper describes the need for place-based knowledge and the role of new technologies to facilitate partnership. It also describes the OBM-McGill integrated partnership model and analyzes its successes and challenges.
This integrated community-academic partnership model is an ideal example of improving the systems-level response to homelessness by creating a regular feedback loop at the community level. Not only does it provide evidence that services are meeting the needs of the homeless population, but it also creates a culture of research that encourages critical thinking, the examination of biases and the desire to constantly improve.