There is a military phrase that has made its way into the common vernacular called “boots on the ground.” To us, this signifies a direct involvement approach to problem-solving that involves careful listening to providers and people, in order to design solutions that best meet their needs.
Last month, the IVMF’s Community Based Services team virtually participated in the 3rd Annual Community Information Exchange (CIE) Summit organized by our partners at 2-1-1 San Diego. The CIE Summit brings together 500+ thought leaders across sectors, roles, and geographies for an interactive experience to help attendees build stronger, more equitable communities through care coordination and information sharing.
One of the most striking takeaways from the CIE Summit came out of discussions about the need for highly skilled “boots on the ground” as a complement to technology systems, in order to better support community members seeking to deliver care and services to people in need.
While technology can simplify and optimize complex systems of care, people are critical to the effort to guide, asses, and manage the implementation and usage of technology to ensure meaningful and positive change on behalf of the individuals our systems seek to serve.
This theme was evident during one of the Summit’s casual networking events. One participant noted, ‘I keep hearing people say that technology will make us stronger, faster and better and while those are all positive affirmations, what scares me is that we are forgetting about the human capital’. Simply put, the human element is a must. Without it, there is no trusted connection between a client and a provider. Moreover, you cannot rely on a technology platform alone to guarantee an approach to care that emphasizes equity and inclusion.
In another session, one of the panelists said there needs to be an entity that owns the strategy and development of the technology component of community collaboratives. When asked what type of entity would be best, the panelist responded, ‘technology is very important, but should not drive the conversation’. Another panelist expanded on this point and added that the best choice would be an organization whose mission aligns with the collaborative but can act as a neutral broker that brings all other parties to the table. This broker would apply a more objective lens to listen and guide (but not push) solutions on behalf of community stakeholders.
In a world where technology is being applied to every facet of our personal and professional lives, it was important to hear from others doing similar work that there is still a critical need for human interaction.
In our experience, community collaboration is not just about learning how to use a technology platform. Change in communities is not accomplished by watching one webinar, and people are always going to be skeptical. Adoption does not happen right away – even if most of the community is onboard in theory or principle.
Change takes time, resources, and a passion for the work. The use of change management strategies and relationship management to foster new relationships and nourish existing ones with partners is complex, because people are complex. And the people at the table cannot only be the ones who will use the technology. There needs to be a comprehensive approach.
This recurring theme is why this year’s Summit really resonated with our team. At the IVMF, we work across communities with a specialized focus on the needs and resources of military-connected families. We could not do it without technology, but we rely on our experience supporting community engagement efforts in states and communities to ensure lasting systems change. Our capacity building efforts also focus on creating a culture of evaluation, where data is transparently shared and used to make new narratives visible on behalf of those we serve.
Technology is a vigorous force multiplier that in the hands of the well-trained community. With better, more seamless tools, partners and providers can work wonders in delivering higher quality and more accountable care and services at reduced costs and efficiencies. But none of this can happen without boots on the ground, paving the way, setting conditions, supporting the trainings and learnings via communities of practice and continuously being on call to support the human dimension to the delivery of human services. The IVMF and its partners in communities across the nation are proud to be part of that boots on the ground effort that we know has the power to change and improve lives. And we were heartened that the participants at the CIE Summit 2020 seemingly agree.
-Community Based Services Team, IVMF