As we begin our second quarter of the NYCServes coordinated services network for veterans and their families, it is the optimal time to share some updates and successes with everyone. On February 25th, 2015 the Community Engagement team of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) gathered a combination of stakeholders, providers and partners to conduct the first quarterly in progress review (IPR) of its innovative network of providers. Just as the motto for the NYCServes network states, “It’s our turn to serve you”, the team (IVMF, Accenture, Unite Us and SUS) stood tall and delivered on the promise for transparency. Being the first services referral network of its kind, it has understandably attracted attention and the IPR was a great event that showed the intrigue by fostering engaging conversations and questions. The attention is for good reason as the first performance review exhibited why this concept has the potential to change the way we serve our veterans and their families. More importantly as the network continues to build capacity, the value, too, will grow.
For the 18 month pilot program, the first quarter “soft launch” was intended to not only finalize processes but align human capital correctly to support the endeavor. Built into this strategy was a marketing campaign using social media, reading collateral, and online advertising that was designed to bring initial traffic as self-referrals into the network. It was successful as over 80% of the referrals were brought in by way of the NYCServes.org website. Using the first quarter as the “launch pad” ensured our systems were aligned to serve the population well and to educate providers about the power of the network. In total 215 veterans and family members were referred to services by NYCServes in the last three months. Those individuals requested 246 services which included employment, housing, benefits, education, mentoring, financial, legal, healthcare, spouse support and disability services.
What have we learned so far? Beyond the numbers, which were above our target goal by 43%, we learned that veterans and their family members demand comprehensive services. The initial response to a coordinated network by the customers was undeniably there, and the response is ongoing, but we have learned that due to our technological approach we can now measure data points that may not have been observable before. Examples are:
- How long a referrals take to get to a provider of services (to generate and to accept)
- The number of veterans served by referrals from provider to provider
- The way veterans access a referral network
- Correlations in service requests
- Demographics (era of service, gender, location of services)
As the data informs these observations and others, we can analyze them to see where best practices lie and lessons learned can be used. Also by concentrating on coordinating services, we are able to leverage the private and public sector’s investment because we are not building service capacity specifically, but leveraging a network of existing providers.
With 15 months remaining in the pilot program, we expect to learn and to grow in our understanding of best practices, and also to ensure the network serves veterans and providers alike. During that period it will be the transparency displayed in our first IPR that will ensure everyone involved has a voice in the evolution and success of this network and other similar networks that we will be starting over the upcoming months. Based on the engaging questions and feedback from the audience in New York City at the IPR, there are many organizations and people who believe this effort will have a long-lasting impact on how we serve our selfless population of veterans and their families. More important are the cities coming up in the AmericaServes initiative as we will progress this work to other parts of the country with cities in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Washington.
Jamie Bazdaric is the Senior Director for Innovation and Organizational Development on the Community Engagement Team at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. He served 21 years in the U.S. Army and is a veteran of the war in Iraq. His bio can be found here: http://vets.syr.edu/ivmf_people/jamie-bazdaric/