Growing an Abundance of Recovery

Colorful bowl of M&M candies

Long, long ago, I participated in an employer-sponsored staff retreat. I was a young professional in a very different career from where I am now, and it was my first experience with trust falls, a ropes course, and all the other cliches of mandatory team-building. In one exercise, our facilitator had us pair up with a colleague, place an elbow on the table, and grasp hands. Every time the back of our partner’s hand touched the table, we’d get a point for ourselves. We had ten seconds to get as many points as possible. For each point an individual got, they’d receive an M&M at the end of the exercise.


My partner and I assumed our positions and started to arm wrestle. Deadlocked, neither one of us succeeded in pinning the other person’s arm to the table despite great pain and effort. We were both denied M&Ms. The pair next to us, however, chose to flip-flop their hands back and forward as fast as they could. They got a lot of M&Ms. 


I’ve often reflected on that “aha” moment in the decades since. By collaborating instead of competing, these two individuals exceeded their goals. They chose to use their strengths to help each other, whereas my partner and I reverted to a primal instinct to compete. We were operating under a “scarcity” mindset that assumed a zero-sum game. If one of us did well, it could only be at the expense of the other. In the end, we both lost.


The Minnesota Alliance of Recovery Community Organizations (MARCO) exists because Minnesota’s growing network of Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs) recognized that recovery is not a zero-sum game. We saw that we could not survive if we operated with a scarcity mentality that pitted us against each other, chasing resources, recognition, and even recoverees. Nor could we serve the needs of Minnesota’s recovery communities with any measurable impact as competitors. 


Six years ago there were only a handful of RCOs in Minnesota. We started a monthly conference call to share knowledge, offer each other support, and perhaps complain just a bit about the impossible job of running an RCO. We often disagreed, worked through it, and disagreed again. We leaned into discomfort, questioned the status quo, and started to trust one another. Slowly we stopped “arm wrestling” and began working together, shifting to an “abundance” mindset. Instead of focusing on a lack of resources, we started thinking about how we could share resources, build programs together, innovate, learn, collaborate, and grow new opportunities to support all RCOs. Together, we were bigger than individual RCOs. We were building an ecosystem of recovery.


Representatives from RCOs throughout Minnesota’s diverse geographic and cultural communities established MARCO as an independent nonprofit organization with a mission to educate, advocate, and mobilize resources to grow the community-based recovery movement across Minnesota, and the IRS recognized MARCO as a 501c3 nonprofit in 2023. MARCO received funding through a competitive RFP process from Minnesota’s Department of Human Services to provide professional and technical support for the state’s growing network of RCOs, to develop and implement an RCO certification process, and to provide education about substance use issues and grassroots recovery support services. 


As grassroots organizations led and governed by representatives of the recovery community, RCOs share a common purpose and mission: mobilize resources within and outside of the recovery community to increase the prevalence and quality of long-term recovery for all who seek it. We do this through peer-to-peer recovery support services, public education, and advocacy. MARCO is here to help Minnesota’s RCOs harness their collective strengths and lift each other up in pursuit of this mission. 


MARCO has been launching its programs and services over the past few months, with more arriving every day. Look for these opportunities to get support, be involved, and help grow the grassroots recovery movement:


  • Become a certified Recovery Community Organization
  • Share your knowledge and experience as an RCO Certification Peer Reviewer
  • Participate in one of MARCO’s monthly RCO meetings
  • Show up for recovery at MARCO’s Recovery Day on the Hill
  • Look for upcoming opportunities to volunteer with MARCO or apply to join the Board of Directors
  • Help us plan this summer’s Community Recovery Summit – the state’s first gathering for RCOs and recovery-centered organizations
  • Look for professional development opportunities on a range of RCO topics, from integrating billable Peer Recovery Support Services to writing RFPs
  • And more! We want to hear from you. How else can we support RCOs and grassroots recovery efforts?


We invite you to join hands with MARCO as we pursue an abundance of recovery for all Minnesotans. Together, we are stronger, creating a healthy, robust, and thriving recovery ecosystem.


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