The case for local, evidence-based coordination in Veteran, service members and Military Family services and the AmericaServes Initiative.
The Prevailing View
There is a serious gap in how American communities care for their veterans, service members and military families. This gap does not exist, however, due to a lack of public concern or resources. Rather, this gap lies between the organizations—public, private, and nonprofit—that serve veterans, service members and their families. It persists due to a lack of coordination and collective purpose and threatens the long-term well being Veteran and their families.
- Veterans, service members, and their families, when in need, express multiple needs for clinical and social services at once. Numerous studies by the RAND Corporation, the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work, and others have repeatedly made this observation.
- Veterans’, service members, and their families needs extend well beyond the resources provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Community-based social service delivery systems are equally critical to addressing the challenge.
- More than 40,000 nonprofit organizations provide services exclusively to veterans, service members and their families, and thousands more to the public. Yet, a scare few organizations are equipped to provide a comprehensive range of “wrap-around” supportive services.
- Navigation of benefits and services is the #1 cited transition challenge in a recent Institute for Veterans, service members, and Military Families survey of nearly 8,500 current and prospective student veterans.
The Call to Action
Given the quantity and fragmentation of actors across the veterans’ services landscape, local communities confront a challenge and opportunity to maximize and sustain positive impacts on their veterans, service members and military families through improved, evidence-based coordination of resources, services, and care. We argue that collective impact, an innovative and tested approach to cross-sector collaboration on complex social problems, presents an opportunity for communities, in partnership with the VA, other federal, state, and local government agencies, and private industry, to improve outcomes for veterans, transitioning service members, and their families.
The Basics of Collective Impact
Collective impact is motivated by the view the status quo alternative – that is, the isolated impact of one or a few organizations—is typically insufficient to address complex social problems that cross sectors of society and the economy and demand continuous learning or adaptation.1 Collective impact initiatives unite groups of actors from different sectors through a formalized, long-term commitment and common agenda to address a particular social problem. Unlike public-private partnership models that are often confined to the delivery or production of a single public good or service, collective impact models engage the full range of stakeholders around a specific social issue of great need.
At least five conditions drive success in collective impact initiatives.
1. Share commitment to a common agenda
To work, participating organizations must find consensus around a set of shared goals, objectives, and actions.
2. Jointly developed performance measurement system
Defining collective success and performance indicators to measure safeguard long-term goal alignment and accountability.
3. Mutual Reinforcement
Individual programs, data collection, evidence-based information sharing must all complement, inform, and drive a central plan or framework.
4. Continuous communication.
Constant interaction and information exchange are necessary to build trust and promote group learning and problem solving.
5. Backbone organization
Driven by the common agenda, backbone organizations guide vision and strategy, support aligned activities, establish shared measurement practices, build public will, advance policy, and mobilize funding for the group as whole.