MVE TIG Week: Nathan Graeser on Using Initiative Grants to Improve Veteran Transitions

I’m Nathan Graeser with the Center of Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (CIR) at the University of Southern California. Over the last three years, we have lead a collective impact movement dedicated to address reintegration challenges faced by our veterans, service members and their families. As the director/facilitator of the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative, it has become increasingly clear that despite undergoing massive efforts to collect data on the needs of Veterans (see LA/OC Veterans Study), our strategies were still making little dent in the outcomes we hoped for. Our current efforts, while thoughtful and robust, still failed to address the scale and magnitude of the problem. Much more needed to be done to support creative outreach, better access to care, connecting Veterans back into their community, employment support, and better access to physical and behavioral health care. Despite the tremendous momentum and collective work being done, the list of needs and systemic failures was still daunting.

We needed a process to try out new strategies- based on data- to learn from and adapt our current efforts. Using a developmental evaluation process, we decided to encourage our community to begin to try out new ideas with the hope that we might be able to learn new ways of addressing some of these challenges. It was our hope that by trying out new ideas we might learn as a community and thus change the way we deliver our services and programs which, just maybe, might change the way Veteran experience transition in Los Angeles.

Lesson Learned: In order to encourage these new ideas in our collective impact movement, in October we launched a Community Initiative Grant offering pilots as a way to do this in real time. Members of the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative now have access to seed money to try out new ideas with the specific purpose of sharing failures, successes and lessons learned to the larger community. Our hope is that this will encourage members to try our ideas- that they will work with the intended outcome to grow our community capacity, not necessarily only their own. The first seven pilots have been submitted and it has already been an amazing process to watch them unfold and the community behind them. We are looking forward to seeing what happens next- hoping to adopt strategies that will allow us to evaluate our be fast enough to meet the growing need for the thousands of Veterans and their families transitioning out of the military.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating MVE TIG Week with our colleagues in the Military and Veteran’s Issues Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our MVE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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