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 Reinforcing Success – Practice & Performance Drive AmericaServes Forward

By Colonel (U.S. Army, Ret.) Jim McDonough, Managing Director, IVMF, Dr. Jen DeLucia, DAT, Senior Director, Community Services, IVMF and Gilly Cantor, M.P.A., Program Evaluation Director, IVMF 

There’s an old adage deep within the Army – reinforcing success – that is particularly relevant at this moment in time as the AmericaServes team and its community partners reflect on our collective progress while offering an update on the very real gains being made across the country to serve military connected populations better. 

As it pertains to warfighting and its affiliated tenets, the maxim of reinforcing success refers to the principle that as success unfolds, it is the responsibility of the team to create even more success by committing all we have to the opportunity at hand. Committing fully is important, perhaps more so than anything else, in the pursuit of our team’s responsibilities when it comes to getting AmericaServes ‘right’ for the long haul. 

While the task of reinforcing success assumes first that a degree of success has already been achieved, if we are honest, four years ago there were no digitally-enabled, coordinated networks of care and services established anywhere in this country; soon we will be closing in on 18 different communities adopting these approaches, and already today there are 16 community-based networks of comprehensive services and care. At the same time, we know that the momentum around implementing these highly coordinated, community-based networks of care and services can be fleeting, if squandered. That translates into an imperative to reinforce our success as we continue our work. 

The collective effort to promote system-level changes across the country in how military-connected populations thrive continues to grow and advance with each community, and in turn, with each provider. Joining the movement involves taking a pledge to use technology, to serve with transparency and accountability, and to continue to advance our collective practice around coordinated care. Likewise, as the team supporting this effort we have taken a pledge to remain agile and responsive to, and participatory with, our partners. 

Building a Participatory Practice 

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. We continue to realize that collective and participatory approaches to learning, mentoring, and support are what help to advance the work of all of our teammates – from within the AmericaServes team and extending out to our community of partners and providers. It is our practice – Practice360 – and the activities nested within the practice that advance our work around coordinated care. The two driving forces within Practice360 are the practice itself – the vehicle by which we engage communities around coordinated care – and the performance it is oriented upon improving – how well are we serving the military-connected population. 

One is a journey (the practice), the other, a destination (success). Beginning later this year, Practice360 will further come to life with the introduction of a regional component. This new, regional layer of the practice is designed specifically to respond to our communities’ ongoing need to enhance the professional development and capacity of their providers and partners so that they may serve their military connected members and families better. 

In Dallas this October, we will gather all our national Coordination Center partners along with select stakeholders for the annual AmericaServes Practice360 best-practice symposium. Our teams will convene at Equest, an AmericaServes provider in the TXServes-North Texas network, to work together to create greater shared responsibility and consciousness around driving change by transforming care and service delivery for the country’s military connected members and their families. 

As a recurring element within the Practice360 construct, bringing our partnering communities together year-over-year helps to unify the AmericaServes practice, reduce performance variance, and share best practices around coordinated care. The convening builds upon the daily work of Coordination Centers and IVMF leads supporting them across the 16 AmericaServes communities. 

National sharing and convening, regional professional development and capacity building, and local performance coaching are the key activities at the heart of the AmericaServes practice. As we work to remain responsive to our partners and to reinforce success we recognize the need to spend some time explaining new roles and responsibilities assigned across the team. We recognize that every good team – every great team – constantly reinvents itself to reinforce its own success. As most of our supporters recognize, AmericaServes strives to remain both a responsive and participatory effort, ensuring that as opportunities arise and are recognized, we respond – in acute fashion – to not only take advantage of the opportunity, but to fully exploit it in reinforcing success fashion. 

AmericaServes Team of Teams 

Our most recent opportunity comes in the form of building a practice, internally and externally, that supports improved performance through an integrated and participatory approach. We recognize that for AmericaServes’ network and enterprise performance to continue increasing year-over-year, it will take a concerted practice to shepherd a series of coordinated, well-designed efforts by the team to make that a reality. Very soon we will be closing in on our 20,000th AmericaServes client reached, with nearly 70% of their associated 35,000 requests for assistance resolved favorably. It will take an ongoing practice, led by an AmericaServes partnership with its communities, to keep driving service and care coordination excellence even further upward and outward. 

Today, that team of teams within Practice360 serves in a coordinated fashion, with discrete responsibilities oriented toward driving better performance across all sixteen AmericaServes networks. The teams represent distinct efforts designed to deliver timely, decentralized and empowered decision-making and execution, reflective of the scale and highly complex and dynamic circumstances unfolding daily across all AmericaServes networks. 

Importantly, a strategy has to be defined – in participatory fashion, with our partners – and subsequently integrated into Practice360 to support a streamlined, decision-implementation cycle that responds to opportunities as they arise to ensure the viability and credibility of the practice on an ongoing basis. Its origins lie in developing insights through data and keen observation, then ‘feeding’ the development of actionable strategy and effort by which the teams can design, test, validate and ultimately excecute upon performance oriented objectives to increase network and enterprise level impact into the outyears and beyond. 

Building Capacity with National Providers 

As we reinforce success through internal realignment, we are also working to strengthen national partnerships that facilitate better, more comprehensive care across a spectrum of needs. Within AmericaServes, significant capacity is being added this year to expand upon service and care offerings, as nationally-facing organizations addressing human needs and care discover that AmericaServes can help them reinforce their own success, and serve others better as well. 

One such example on the national front is the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN). SWAN is the only organization in this country with national capacity solely focused on the needs of service women and women veterans. SWAN has established itself over the past decade as the leading U.S. organization that focuses on gender-specific needs and issues faced by women and other marginalized populations in the U.S. military. Late this year we will be introducing SWAN’s highly specialized (and needed) capacity to all AmericaServes communities, improving our collective ability to serve our clients and connecting this important partnering provider to the nearly 900+ providers already working in AmericaServes networks. 

Integration with Onward to Opportunity 

Within the IVMF itself we are also currently busy integrating our Onward to Opportunity (O2O) efforts, now operating on 18 different DOD installations across the country (including Hawaii!) with AmericaServes. O2O supports the career preparation and employment readiness needs of service members, veterans and their spouses. The integration’s goal: quite simple, actually, serving people best. 

In another opportunity recognition moment, we realized that in the course of training and credentialing service members, veterans, and spouses through IVMF’s O2O initiative (this month, August, we will enroll 840 participants in our online cohort, our highest number yet), we were addressing needs outside their employment needs on an increasing basis. With several AmericaServes and O2O initiatives operating in the same communities, the obvious answer was to integrate O2O staff as providers in their own organization’s AmericaServes networks. Yet another example of onging innovation within our AmericaServes practice! 

These are indeed exciting times for AmericaServes. As we write, this the team is coming out of Florida where we recently supported United Way Worldwide’s first-ever Florida Veterans Symposium, a gathering of their Mission United affiliates, who themselves are innovating upon their service delivery models to serve Florida veterans better. Reinforcing success may in fact become more of the norm. Sure beats reinventing the wheel…….. 

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