The Evolution of an Educational Organization

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


This study describes the evolution of a nonprofit corporation, The Cottage Family and Child Care Center, from its conceptual stage in 1989 through its institutional stage (or first two years of operation) in 1994 in order to identify the ingredients required to create and to sustain a viable educational organization. Research questions for the study included: (1) What were the environmental conditions that necessitated the creation of a parent and child center? (2) What was the vision of the leaders? (3) In what way did diverse groups come together on this project, and why were they able to join forces and to work together toward a common goal? (4) What were the major challenges along the continuum from conception to completion of two years of operation, and how were they handled?

The research method employed was an interpretive study of a single case. Qualitative interviewing of five founders of the organization was the primary method for obtaining data. Additional sources of data included legal documents of the nonprofit organization, newsletters, personal calendars of the researcher, foundation proposals for funding, and "before" and "after" photographs of the site. Data analysis included a multistage process of reading verbatim transcripts of the long interviews until categories and patterns were distinguished and themes were identified.

The findings suggest that vision, money, power, trust, expertise, contacts, time, risk-taking, and tenacity are required for a collaborative venture in creating a new organization. The theories that emerged from the data can be categorized as: the significance of serendipity, the role of specific leaders in emerging settings, and the conundrum of collaborative education. Implications of the findings for future initiatives include: the benefit of out-of-the-box thinking, the need for collaborative outreach, the value of disciplined passion, the diverse role of the university, and the importance of funding.

The research contributes to the general field of organization study, especially the birth and early stages in the life cycle of an organization. It also gives both a developmental description and a theoretical overlay of one organization's efforts to collaborate with other nonprofit organizations in an attempt to address the needs of the at-risk child in a holistic, comprehensive, and preventive manner.



Leadership, Community-Linked Services, Collaboration, Organizational Creation