Serving America’s Veterans through Collective Impact

Metis helped the first-ever collective impact effort for supporting military-connected individuals to assess its pilot program in New York City. Findings supported the expansion of the initiative nationwide.

Snapshot of progress for NYServes, the pilot collective impact project of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). Image courtesy of the IVMF at Syracuse University.

In response to the persistent lack of coordination, collaboration, and collective purpose among organizations serving the military-connected community, AmericaServes, the nation’s first collective impact initiative serving veterans, service members, and military families, was created by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) in 2015. 

The collective impact approach built into the AmericaServes model is based on the following theory of change: organizing providers into a coordinated network improves veterans’, service members,’ and military families’ access to and use of appropriate, high-quality services, which in turn improves their well-being. The initiative uses a place-based approach to coordinating service delivery across 12 service domains (e.g., housing, employment, legal, veterans’ benefits).

Through the use of the UniteUS technology platform and local coordination centers, AmericaServes aims to streamline the referral process for clients and providers.  UniteUS is a software-as-a-service care coordination platform and serves as the cornerstone of the AmericaServes model.  It is designed to connect providers on a common-entry, centralized, HIPAA-compliant data system to improve access to services, collaboration and accountability among providers, and outcomes for clients. 

Piloting AmericaServes in New York City

With a planning grant from the Robin Hood Foundation and the identification of a Coordination Center (the designated “backbone organization”), IVMF launched the AmericaServes pilot site NYServes – New York City.  At inception, NYServes engaged the active enrollment and participation of 40 veterans-serving community-based organizations, including the Community Healthcare Network, Good Shepherd Services, the NYC Veterans Alliance, Samaritan Daytop Village, and many others.

Understanding the Efficacy of NYServes

Following a competitive process, IVMF commissioned Metis Associates and its partner – gothamCulture – to conduct an independent evaluation of the NYC-based pilot.  The purpose of the assessment was to understand NYServes’ impact on systems, providers, and clients, and inform the expansion of the initiative to other sites across the country.

During the 18-month pilot evaluation, the evaluation team documented the initiative’s progress regarding:

  • Enabling veteran-serving community-based organizations to become part of a broader effort for veterans 
  • Increasing these organizations’ visibility in the field
  • Improving veterans’ access to services
  • Improving the speed with which veterans access services 
  • Improving the quality of services veterans are able to access

In addition, data from the evaluation indicated that while stakeholders noted a few challenges associated with UniteUS system adoption, most participating service delivery staff found the platform to help support their day-to-day work.

As the pilot site for AmericaServes and the first collective impact project of its kind, NYServes faced and addressed many implementation challenges.  As the evaluator, Metis provided several findings and recommendations to IVMF for mid-course corrections.  For example:

  • Provide “behind the curtain” support to the Coordination Center, allowing it to take a more visible lead as the collective impact backbone organization
  • Develop system enhancements that enable UniteUS to capture data needed to study the long-term impacts of the network on the well-being of veterans
  • Establish clear membership criteria for providers to ensure that all network participants understand and are committed to AmericaServes’ expectations

Lessons learned from these early experiences have been used to inform the expansion of the initiative to many highly-functioning sites.  AmericaServes currently has networks in 17 locations across the nation.