North Conway Institute has worked since 1951 to shape and create policy concerning alcoholism. This ecumenical organization, led by Episcopal priest, the Reverend David A. Works, began in New Hampshire and later moved its offices to Boston in 1962. Though the Institute invested a great deal of energy in the New England area, NCI demonstrated national influence as well. Staff members of NCI served on numerous national church and government boards. Unlike most church-influenced groups before it, NCI wasn't an abstinence group. The work of NCI focused on educating church leaders and working as a catalyst to shape public policy.

"Prior to the founding of the North Conway Institute most American churches either largely ignored the problem of alcoholism or were still influenced entirely by the old abstinence tradition," write Paul C. Conley and Andrew A. Sorensen, in their book, The Staggering Steeple, The Story of Alcoholism and the Churches, "NCI is largely responsible for bringing the combined approach of the AA tradition and the scientific-medical treatment method of alcoholism into the alcohol policies of the larger American church bodies."

Much of NCI's influence was due to the charismatic and sometimes controversial leadership of the Reverend David A. Works. After serving as rector of Christ Church in North Conway, New Hampshire from 1948 to 1960, Works made NCI his life's work.

Works strove for NCI to be a catalyst in the church and society. He encouraged people and groups to come together to face the problems of alcoholism. The Institute sponsored conferences, seminars and created working partnerships with government organizations and private sector businesses. Yearly conferences hosted by NCI brought together leaders within different disciplines to share and discuss information and to propose solutions to problems caused by alcohol. Doctors, clergy members, government workers and business leaders were among those that attended the summer conferences.

During the 1950s and 1960s, NCI worked at the forefront of discussion concerning drunk driving. In 1956 and 1959, North Conway Institute co-sponsored the Governor's Conferences on "Drinking Drivers." In 1963, North Conway Institute worked with the Institute for Safer Living of the American Mutual Liability Insurance Company to host a Conference on Church Action for Highway Safety.

NCI was also instrumental in forming The Ecumenical Council on Alcohol Programs (TECAP). This group created the first policy guide written by an interdisciplinary and ecumenical board which accepts the use of alcohol by church members. The Ecumenical Council on Alcohol Programs involved Protestants, Catholics, Jews and several secular agencies. A speech presented at the 1958 North Conway annual conference by Father John C. Ford, S.J. served as the basis for the 1970 statement by The Ecumenical Council on Alcohol Programs.

During the 1960s many groups concerned with alcohol problems widened their emphasis from care of the alcoholic to include prevention of alcohol problems. NCI was involved in this movement through sponsorship of the 1968 annual NCI conference which explored how the church could help prevent problem drinking. During this same time, NCI worked with the National Council of Churches Task Force on Alcohol Problems to introduce the 1967 Cooperative Commission on the Study of Alcoholism report to the public. This report was the result of a six year study by an interdisciplinary committee funded by a $1.1 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. The report proved controversial at the time because it supported the changing of drinking practices and attitudes as a way to prevent future problems with alcohol in American culture. Specifically the government report called for a lower drinking age and encouraged the responsible use of alcohol by youth in such environments as church and sporting events.

Much of NCI's influence in government and industry resulted from the experience of its leader David Works who served as a consultant for federal, state and church agencies. Works was once called "the prophet the church did not want to listen to," by The Rev. J. David Else, president of the National Episcopal Coalition on Alcohol. In 1955 Works was appointed chairman of the U.S. Government Commission on Alcoholism among American Indians. This was the first action concerning alcoholism taken by the federal government after Prohibition. During the 1970s Works served as chairman for numerous committees including the National Council of Churches Task Force on Alcohol and Drug Problems, a U.S. Department of Transportation study on drunk driving programs, the Conference for Religious Leaders of the National Safety Council and the Massachusetts Drug Rehabilitation Advisory Board.

NCI also quietly helped hundreds of families and individuals affected by alcohol problems. Many of the resources collected at the NCI offices and brochures published by NCI were shared with pastors, friends and associates who were trying to help a family member or employee with an alcohol problem.

In 1997, the Archives of the Episcopal Church became the repository for the records and resource material of NCI and are now available to the research community. The collection contains speeches, reports and brochures related to alcoholism, in addition to the correspondence and organizational files kept by NCI.