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Conditions of Success: Mutually Reinforcing Activities

This is the fourth installment in our series on Collective Impact and the five conditions of success. If you’d like to get caught up, you can visit any post in the series: 

Collaborating For Impact (Introduction)
Common Agenda
Shared Measurement
A Backbone Organization
Continuous Communication

Mutually Reinforcing Activities, as explained by John Kania (Global Managing Director, FSG) and Mark Kramer (Founder and Managing Director, FSG) in their foundational 2011 article, mean encouraging collaborators to “undertake the specific set of activities at which it excels in a way that supports and is coordinated with the actions of others.” This condition is why it is so vital to convene a diverse roster of stakeholders. Participants’ unique capabilities, thoughtfully combined, move the collaborative closer to a solution--in NVI’s case, fostering collaboration to reduce navigation confusion, improve Veterans’ access to services and reduce variability in outcomes.

Harmonizing Diverse Capabilities

Consider a jazz band. Each instrument and musician is capable of producing a unique sound; some are limited in range or volume. The beauty of a musical ensemble is in the euphonic harmony, dissonance, and interest created by the layering of sound through thoughtful coordination.

Kania and Kramer warn against prescribing activities; instead, they suggest allowing each participant to operate within their expertise and choose the activities that best support the Common Agenda. Just as our metaphorical jazz band doesn’t collectively blare one cacophonous melody, a collaborative need not push its participants to perform identical activities.

Reinforcing Local Partners

We at NVI believe strongly in the power of Mutually Reinforcing Activities. That’s why you won’t find us duplicating work or competing. The unique, complementary activities that we’re contributing to the Veteran space are:

  • Ecosystem Data Empowering Veteran collaboratives with better data for better decisions
  • Collaboration Funding Providing backbone organizations with one-time grants to help with operations and sustainment
  • Learning Gathering and sharing tactics, techniques and procedures to accelerate effective collaboration
  • Public-Private Collaboration Supporting communities in convening diverse stakeholders—government, nonprofit and business—to strengthen collaboratives

We are providing these complimentary services because they are what communities have told us they need. We will continue to develop these with community and stakeholder input.

Success Study: Tristate Veterans Community Alliance

Our Local Partners are creating positive outcomes for Veterans through Mutually Reinforcing Activities. Take, for instance, the Tristate Veterans Community Alliance (TVCA) Veteran call coordination pilot project. TVCA serves as a backbone organization, and provides a good example for both Shared Measurement, and Mutually Reinforcing Activities.

In 2016, TVCA’s Health, Wellness, And Family Support Workgroup decided as a team that they wanted to respond more effectively to Veteran emergency assistance requests. Three organizations in the community comprised the veteran response partners: the United Way 211, Community OneSource operated by Easterseals Tristate, and the TVCA VIP Center.

Let’s take a look at three key partners’ unique capabilities, and the contributions that each made to the four-month pilot:

Veteran Call Coordination Project

OrganizationUnique Capabilities  Project Contributions
United Way 211-Staffed 24 hours/day, 7 days/week
-Trained service professionals with broad community services knowledge
-Access to new resource referral technologies through national United Way / 211 channels
Ability to direct connect callers to resources
-Broad reach (not population-specific)
Easy number to remember
-Screened callers for Military/Veteran status
-Identified eligible Veterans with emergent needs for referral to Easterseals Community OneSource (note: callers with a behavioral health crisis or literal homelessness were referred to other appropriate providers)
-Provided direct connection and warm handover to Easterseals Community OneSource
-Evaluated United Way 211’s new text resource referral technology to potentially capture Post-9/11 Veterans with resource needs
Easterseals Community OneSource-Able to be staffed flexibly (on-call/after hours)
-Excellent military cultural competency
-Specialized, localized Veteran resource referral knowledge
-In-house emergency case management capability
-In-house financial assistance capability
-Flexed scheduling to be available by phone after hours (nights and weekends)
-Accepted warm handover from United Way 211 when Veteran callers needed more than basic services (but were not in behavioral health crisis or literal homelessness)
-Provided resource navigation and follow-up to callers
TVCA VIP Center-Administrative staff for coordination and technical assistance
-Comprehensive case management model and trained case management staff
-Performed data management for project
-Made follow-up phone calls to ensure needs were met and assess outcomes
-Provided service coordination for Veterans with more than one-time need

Now that we understand the inputs, let's take a look at the outcomes:

  • Easterseals Community OneSource call volume increased 70%
  • The process changes were implemented at almost no cost to partners
  • 91% of surveyed callers reported that they were likely to refer fellow Veterans to 211’s services
  • 59% of callers reported the initial issue prompting their call is no longer a problem
  • Callers receiving warm handovers reported an issue resolution rate of 66%, as opposed to 25% for other calls
  • 68% of callers identified that the Veteran call specialist was completely or mostly responsible for the resolution of their issue

Callers receiving warm handovers reported an issue resolution rate of 66%, as opposed to 25% for other calls

Based on the information from the pilot, the working group was able to make data-driven recommendations on eligibility screening, marketing, Veteran experience, staff scheduling, and other fronts.

TVCA’s veteran call coordination pilot project is a great example of Mutually Reinforcing Activities (not to mention Common Agenda and Shared Measurement). Their success was enabled by a collaborative that allows collaborators to play to their strengths and supports the coordination their activities.

Want to learn more about Collective Impact and how your community can leverage this framework to serve Veterans? Bookmark our blog, and join our email list!