Carl DeLine

Building Doorways (circa 2002)

Building Doorways Exists:

Simply put, if you or your community want to help youth at risk perhaps we can be of service to you.

Frequently Asked Questions:

All too often life gets too complicated. The simplicity of this project has allowed it to be an encouragement to all who participate in it.

1. What do I need to know to start a project like the back door?

There has to be an identified community need or a target population such as: youth on the street, young people failing school or dropping out, youth in some form of correctional or juvenile system, or some another identifiable situation.
Are there a group of people or even one or two other people who believe the stated identifiable target population is real? If so, who are they? Are there potential resources available to help develop a solution or meet the perceived need?

2. What kind of support will I need to develop a project like the back door?

It is important to know that young people will need to develop a network of safe people and safe situations to move away from what ever negative situation they find themselves in. Volunteers, staffing, finances, in kind donations, facilities along with an environment where young people can nurture values which will sustain them will be needed. The amount each project will need will be dependent on how large or small a project will be developed.

3. How much money will it cost?

Costs, as in all charitable work will be balanced between what has to be paid for and what can be donated to the project in goods or services. Expenses will include the following:

Many costs can be covered by what is called an “in kind donation.” Donations of a building, space, office equipment, supplies, vehicles, volunteer time goes a long way to defray financial expenditures.

4. Do I have to do contracting and use the bonuses?

Many programs use contracting. The use of contracting and the bonuses is what makes the back door unique. If you do not use bonuses you do not have the back door.

5. Is training necessary to run a project like the back door?

Yes, but the training begins with reading and understanding the concepts of the contracting. We have found that people are wanting more information.

6. How does a program qualify to receive financial support and give charitable tax receipts?

In Canada the project must be a legally registered charity. In the USA the project must have 501c3 status. In both countries a project can be developed under an existing charity as long as the new project is adopted by the parent charity and comes under the approved mandate of the parent charity.

7. Is a board of directors necessary?

Yes, if a new charity is to be developed. Sources for board members can be: community leaders, service clubs, social clubs, churches, police departments, professionals, businesses, schools, ex-individuals of similar concerns being addressed, and last but not least-people who share the vision.

No, if the new project is to be a part of an existing program. The creation of an advisory council would be advised.

8. Does a new project need its own space?

Yes, The contracting project is unique and should be seen as separate from other programs.

9. How is success determined?

Success must be measured in light of the original mission statement. In the case of the back door we found ourselves being looked at by so many different groups with differing criteria that we ultimately said success is when the person has become a taxpayer.

Success also comes when an evaluation process which has been put into place will produce measurable and understandable statements at regular time periods. Can you say you are on target at six months, one year, three years, five years, etc.

10. How long does a project need to last?

For as long as there is a need for it. Another answer could be, for as long as the original mandate declares. A time period can be put into the statement opening the way for ongoing changes as they are necessary.

11. Is there away to learn more about the back door and developing a project in our community?

A workshop on the back door would include the following subjects:

  1. Philosophy and mission
  2. Overview of book the back door, an experiment or an alternative
  3. Unique features of contracting used at the back door
  4. Being legal as a charity
  5. Paying for such a venture
  6. Role of volunteers and staffing
  7. Operations and overhead-hidden costs
  8. Understanding words and terms

All too often life gets too complicated. The simplicity of this project has allowed it to be an encouragement to all who participate in it. (circa 2004)

Building Doorways Exists To:


Building Doorways began in 2001. It comes on the heals of a very successful project called the back door. We came about because people from other cities began asking what it would take to to use the contracting and bonus concepts in their city or community. To date, people from over 25 states, and nine countries have enquired about this process. The awareness continues to grow as there have been almost 20,000 hits to the web page, over 500 downloads of the book on the back door and over 15,000 printed books have now been distributed.

Building Doorways now invites you to consider how such an ideal may be beneficial to people in your community. Please take the time to browse the web page. If after you have considered what we are about and want to know more please contact us for further information.

Executive Summary:

In our communities a need for individual change arises as social, employment and other conditions change. There is an increasing need for many to adapt and adjust to avoid being left behind. In a number of respects the need for change and adaptation for many members in crisis in our communities is akin to what faces individuals arriving in our communities from another culture having a need to adapt and adjust to the new local “norms.”

Building Doorways has identified a program designed to address the need for change of “youth at risk” who were “on the street” as part of a subculture often dominated by violence, drugs and sexual abuse coupled with a profound distrust of the mainstream. This life situation soon becomes a way to think and survive for its participants. Questions that confronted the program organizers, providers of funds and participants included “How much blood, sweat and tears and ultimately money will it cost?”

Building Doorways believes that there are economically positive answers to such questions with the answers arising as each person begins to contract with himself or herself for bonus reward and self esteem creation covering steps toward a new direction in life.

The contract is created in conjunction with caring people in the community supported with the reward of cash bonuses as illustrated in the book, the back door, an experiment or an alternative. The Back Door program was successful in moving troubled street youth in crisis to a life “off the street” at a reasonable cost.

Contracting and the use of incentives is becoming a growing phenomenon in the social environment. While these concepts are gaining acceptance, the use of the contract and the bonus together somehow gets separated. Contracting is often used without bonuses and money (bonus) is often used without contracts. Building Doorways suggests that when the two are used together a tremendous level of individual responsibility is placed on the person who has chosen to get off of the street or out of crisis. This process respects the inner strength of the individual regardless of the circumstances that led him or her to a life on the street or whatever crisis they find themselves in. It shows a profound regard for the dignity of the individual, and a belief in their own ability to make appropriate choices for themselves.

It is common in the fields of social disciplines to say empowerment and self-sufficiency are the ultimate goals for people in transition. It has been found that operating by this maxim requires nurturing trust that ultimately allows for change to happen. The contracting with bonuses being introduced here provides acceptance without judgment or prejudice. For example, this trust is seen in providing the bonus when the contract is made, prior to any results being achieved. The bonus is given for daring to participate in a system the participant views (at least initially) as untrustworthy.

Consistent with this process is the notion that a person is a participant, not a client. This enables the person to take ownership for him or herself while developing accountability to themselves. The role of the community person, staff or volunteer, in this contracting process, is not to provide answers, advice or therapy. It is to listen, clarify, and reflect back to the participant their own thoughts “as to what they are saying and what that means in this culture they are moving to. It is then to discuss possible actions the participant might consider to achieve the participants announced step objective and questions which arise from the contracting process”; and questions, which arise from the contracting process. The contracting process will raise questions, suggest avenues to explore and offer support where required. True self-esteem is developed as the participant achieves the many small steps that he/she has chosen and for which he/she is solely accountable. The result is increasing independence rather than dependency on a social system. The role of victim is ultimately abandoned.

The approach is holistic. Participants receive help with whatever aspect of their life is required. The contract goes beyond education, or medical treatment, or housing. It involves a hands-on process by the participant to take ownership for their own dilemma and the steps toward moving beyond that dilemma. The assistance offered by the contracting process is timely and based on the immediate reality of the person’s situation.

This approach does not replace other existing programs. It causes the participant to be discerning as they attempt to use the system more appropriately. It creates avenues that fit instead of bouncing around inside the system. An individual takes ownership for not only who they are but where they are going with their life.

Rather than create additional bureaucracy or dependency, the contract replicates, to the extent possible, the market economy and helps participants to seek solutions within the market place. In the market place employees-officers throughout the country are motivated to perform-succeed by receiving pay/reward/recognition for contract performance, being free to spend/deal with the pay/reward as he/she thinks fit. This Driving Engine-Norm adds to self-esteem, dignity and a desire to continue-improve-change if needed in the market place.

The contracts and bonus program applies these established outcomes to the participant situation where the individuals also have a keen interest in being treated with respect-dignity, in being considered important as a person and, with trust established, having a desire to change.

Participants using the contracts and bonuses program are correctly afforded equal treatment on these matters with that available to people in the market place, with similar positives outcomes as participant trust is established.

The contract along with the accompanying bonus nurtures acceptance, forgiveness and the all important concept of, “Try, try and try again.”

In the successful program covered by the above book, each individual enters into the contract process in the following way:

  1. The young person makes the conscious decision to say “I want to go a different direction with my life.”
  2. Once the potential participant states this desire a contract process is started with a local community organization.
  3. The participant then creates a contract which will point him or her in this new direction.
  4. The participant then uses the contract form and completes it.
  5. The participant discusses this contract with a volunteer or staff person identifying what this contract is about and the necessary steps to carry it out.
  6. The participant then receives a $15 bonus for having created this contract. The money is paid when the participant creates the contract not after the completion of the steps.
  7. After leaving the contracting space the participant will then come back to continue the contracting process and discusses the success or failure of the said contract steps. Once this is done the participant is free to create yet another contract and repeat the process.

In the business world people believe in use of perks and bonuses. We call this $15 a bonus. Each person will qualify for up to eight bonuses in a month and no more than 100 bonuses in a twelve-month period with a maximum of 24 months of contracting.

“Contracting, with each contract identified as part of a plan to point in a new direction, remains the prime basis of communication between the participant and the program staff person-volunteer. The categories that can be included for contracting are extensive and can be tailored to fit the particular crisis/needs involved. In the street kids program referred to in the above book, 13 categories of contracting were involved. A young person comes to the program because they say they want to go in a new direction. The program staff/volunteers are aware that often people say they want to do things and other things get in the way. The goal is not to judge the desire of the young person or the capability of the young person. The goal is to enable this young person to make the changes necessary to move in this new direction. The success or failure is based on the learning from doing and moving on to the next step process. Once this learning process is identified more steps can then be developed. Each step remains an activity that continues to point the participant in their new direction. Each step will ultimately build on one another. At first the step will usually deal with a crisis or an immediate identifiable need. In time the participant will begin to contract with longer-term goals in mind.

The contracts and bonus program can have application to a number of situations where an alteration in participant attitudes and practices is considered to be worthy of pursuit, the “street kids” program above being only an example. Building Doorways invites others with an interest in developing programs to create new attitudes and practices for individuals in crisis to experiment with the contract and bonuses approach.

Contracting Page

Contracting is a form of experimentation. The goal is to simply identify what needs to be worked on today. What is the most manageable task for this moment? (Eventually the contracting process creates patterns and will become connected. Each contract will begin to build on other contracts.)


“Carl DeLine and the back door project introduced to us a new approach for serving youth in a rural area. In Willmar, MN we are in our third year of contracting. It has been an exciting experience that has involved many interested community members and agencies. The back door project philosophy challenges all of us to take another look at how we provide opportunities for change.” -Ms. Maureen Gaety, Program Director, Goodwill Easter Seals, St. Paul Minnesota

“Carl’s visit to Oklahoma City University was a great success in that it planted the seeds for future programs based on the back door concept. I would encourage other universities and community organizations to take advantage of an opportunity to hear Carl DeLine’s message of hope and transformation for homeless youth. He challenged us all to think outside the box.” -Dr. Mark Davies, Dean, Wimberly School of Religion and Graduate Theological Center

“Throw out conventional wisdom. Throw out the textbooks. Throw our the theories of those who know how to solve problems. Forget moralizing about what people ought to do and how they ought to act. Forget about social conscience and moral uplift. The book is about something else… The Back Door tries to open ways where there are no paths. Ways for the drifter, the hopeless one, to begin making the first halting steps toward health… I am glad that there are people trying to make paths back from the lostness and aloneness that’s really out there.” -Rev. Loren Mead, founding president of the Alban Institute, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland