MFLN “Network News” – February 2017

Calendar* by Dafne Cholet (Flickr, CC0)

The past year has been one of change, collaboration, and innovation for the MFLN. We started 2016 by implementing a new approach to program planning and delivery: identifying timely and relevant issue-driven content reflecting the professional development needs of our audiences. We also shifted to a collaborative planning approach, which helps us address issues from multidisciplinary standpoints. Finally, we began shifting program delivery from lecture-style content delivery to problem-centered learning approaches that rely on our audience members’ participation and experience. These shifts in programming resulted in seven collaborative webinars, five “Lunch and Learn” sessions (discussion sessions as follow-ups to webinars), and two open-forum webinars. Across the network, you may have noticed some of these changes as a part of your participation experience: an increased use of case studies, intentional interaction in webinars and social media, and dedicated “chat times” in webinars; blog posts responding to questions and issues raised in webinar chats; expanding webinar conversations to our social media platforms; and programming topics that reflect your requests. We are just getting started on these new approaches and will continue to refine our work as we move into another new year of programming!

We also welcomed several new staff members in 2016: Caitlyn Brown and Bari Sobelson joined Family Development at Valdosta State as information specialist and social media specialist, respectively; Alicia Cassels joined the leadership team as evaluation consultant; Kristen DiFilippo joined Nutrition & Wellness as professional education coordinator at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and Mitch McCormick joined Community Capacity Building as social media specialist at Cornell. New staff and old have been instrumental in implementing programming changes and also in keeping the MFLN mission at the center of all we do. We are grateful not only to our brilliant and dedicated staff, but also to our colleagues at the Department of Defense and across the Cooperative Extension System for helping to make 2016 one of our most productive and successful years yet.

We also want to thank YOU, our audience members, for your continued participation and support! In 2016 alone, 5,725 of you attended our 50 live webinars and 3 virtual learning events. In total, you earned 7,727.5 continuing education credits (way to go!). We ended the year with 26,742 Facebook likes, 3,445 Twitter followers, and 94 LinkedIn group members. Please keep up the pace for 2017, and let us hear from you! We want to know what issues are important to you. We want to hear about your professional experiences. We want you all to have the opportunity to learn not only with us, but from each other. Interact with us during webinars, on social media, and on our blog pages. Contact the staff of the CAs to let them know about your professional development needs, facilitators you would like to interact with, and ideas for future programming. Please let us know how we can continue to serve you as you continue another year of service to our nation’s military families.

Don’t forget to check out our upcoming webinars for February! If you do not currently receive the MFLN “Network News” to your inbox each month, we invite you to subscribe.

Go Beyond the Webinar: Insights, Experiences, and Strategies on Chronic Illness Shared by Participants

By: Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT

Sunrise Ocean
Adapted photo: Pixabay[Sunrise Ocean Sea Coast by MartyNZ, November 7, 2015,CCO]
MFLN Family Development, Family Transitions, Nutrition and Wellness, and Military Caregiving teams presented the first part of a two-part series on chronic illness titled “Chronic Illness: Empowering Families in the Journey”. Dr. Mendenhall shared a wealth of knowledge on the topic including what stressors are associated with chronic illness and the ways in which this impacts the health and wellness of individuals and families. Additionally, he guided participants in exploring how families influence the health and well-being of each other and ways in which interdisciplinary collaboration among service professionals can enhance care for families and individuals impacted by chronic illness. Listed below are some of the conversations (in question/answer format) that took place during the webinar. We would love for you to continue in these conversations by adding your thoughts, ideas, questions, and strategies by commenting on this blog!

Q: What are some examples of the link between the health of a couple’s relationship and their individual physical health?
A: Participants provided the following responses:

  • Poor physical health may lead to stress, which can take a toll on their relationship, which can lead to further decline [in their] physical and emotional health.
  • Couples can support each other in managing illness, or work against each other.
  • I believe it takes energy to have a successful relationship … and if one of the partners is dealing with a chronic illness there may be limited energy to invest in the relationship.
  • More likely to prepare healthy meals when couples are doing well.
  • In diabetes, if the partner [has] a [helping] attitude  rather than adversarial relationship — it works much better.
  •  Physical fitness is better as a couple -bonding.

Q: Share your experiences and insights (related to working with families/ couples who are impacted by Chronic Illness)
A: Participants provided the following responses:

  •  I usually tell couples (one or both with diabetes) to check their blood glucose before an argument or serious discussion.
  • Learning to listen –is always a challenge.
  • My cousin and her long time husband decided on their honeymoon that MWF things were her “fault” and TTh and Sat it was “his fault” and Sunday was no ones’ fault. This stopped a lot of stupid arguments. They are still together after 20+ years.
  •  I had an elderly couple once and the lady would speak so eloquently about her husband and just how he would look at her as though they were just beginning to date and this was during their old age and illnesses. I will always remember that even in the worst of times, couples can still share beautiful experiences.
  •  From personal experience, I believe it is hard for other family members without disease or disability to really understand what the disabled individual is going through even though they see it and they are helpful as much as they can be. I have a brother who is disabled and it seems like other family members try to limit things that he does instead of empowering him and helping him to accomplish what he wants to do. [An] example is working on the farm. He is still able to do some of those things but my other brother tries to [leave him out] for his own convenience. It’s hard to see and hard to get through to him.
    • I encourage Veterans to try to reframe how they view spouse’s comments….. Instead of “hen pecking”, look at the encouragement to check BGs etc, view it as their way of saying I love you & want to spend many years together with you.

Q: What are other strategies for working with families struggling with chronic illness?
A: Participants provided the following responses:

  • I find it very important to point out to caregivers that their loved one’s decline is not a sign of failure. I attribute that to the disease process. I try to refocus them on comfort measures such as warm presence, light touch and managing symptoms all that are within their locus of control to help decrease their anxiety. It really boils down to control and sometimes caregivers focus on something they have no control over hence “The Serenity Prayer”. 
  • That is perhaps one of the most perplexing things about caregiving: The caregiver can do everything “right” and the situation not improve.
  •  Most of my clients are disabled due to pervasive mental illness so I try to offer them experiences that help them to understand what it may be like. For example I might wisper in an ear of the partner to help them understand voices and distractions. This promotes empathy.
  •  I help them to see all the positives vs. focusing on a few negatives. A lot of time, families have to see things one by one to believe that they are doing better than they think. As a former caregiver of my dad, it was helpful for me to remember all the good things that were going on vs. just his illness and going into depression. It would’ve been easy to do that. Development, success, seeing it differently-this process is hard work but the results are well worth it.

Don’t forget to check out part 2 of this webinar series here.

This post was written by Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT, the Social Media and Programming

Coordination Specialist for the MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Development concentration on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Fake News

It’s 2017 and “Assessing the reliability of online information” is still relevant.

In 2012, Stephen Judd wrote a blog Is that so? – Assessing the reliability of online information”. This blog is an update to his post with a focus on fake news and social networks, especially since Facebook and Google are beginning to take steps to combat it.

Facebook and Google see themselves as technology companies, but critics see them as media conglomerates with the power to deliver fake and real news to most news consumers. The Pew Research Center states that 62 percent of U.S. adults get news on social media. Facebook and Google are taking the first steps in combating fake news by prohibiting advertising on sites found to “contain content that is illegal, misleading or deceptive, which includes fake news.” This reduces the fake news sites revenue, but perhaps the best way to fight fake news is to become more knowledgeable about detecting fake news.

Judd’s post list the C.R.A.A.P, (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy and purpose) test as a way to determine the accuracy of an information source. ABC News reports that 5 questions all journalism students learn can be applied to spotting fake news.

  • Who is telling the news?
  • What is the evidence?
  • Where did the information come from?
  • When was the information reported?
  • Why is the information being reported?

Additionally, we can become more media literate by following the advice of Melissa Zimdars and Alexios Mantzarlis. NPR summarized their best practices as:

  • Pay attention to the domain and URL
  • Read the “About Us” section
  • Look at the quotes in a story
  • Look at who said them
  • Check the comments
  • Reverse image search

There are a number of sites that regularly vet news stories and rumors, including, Snopes.com and Factcheck.org. Technology will not be able to detect all fake news, so it is imperative that we become more knowledgeable about detecting fake news ourselves. Sharing and perpetuating fake news stories can damage our personal and organizational reputations. Stopping the spread of fake news is not something that will happen overnight, but we must continue to be vigilant to not be duped by fake news.

Author: Terrence Wolfork (+Terrence Wolfork,@trwolfork )

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on January 23, 2017.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Military Family Challenges During Relocation: Children with Autism

 

The information for this blog post was gathered from ‘The Experience of Military Families
with Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders During Relocation and Separation
’ written by Jennifer M. David and Erinn H. Finke.
Many families throughout the United States have experienced moving their family to a new home and all of the changes and stresses that accompany them throughout that move. Military families relocate almost three times as often as non-military families. With each relocation military families face unique stressors, especially the military families who have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The relocation process often results in stress and uncertainty for the military family members, including the children.

Barriers During Relocation Process

Military families that have a child with ASD often face barriers during the relocation process:

  • Delayed Therapeutic Services
    • They are often placed on waiting lists.
    • Delays in obtaining services are reported to be 1 to 3 months in length, although sometimes that wait time may be longer.
  • Limited Providers
    • Military families may have to travel long distances to a provider.
    • Sometimes there are limited choices in providers, especially when a military family has been relocated overseas.
  • Lack of Therapeutic Service Continuity
    • Relocation can disrupt the continuity for children with ASD, whether it is due to the family relocating or sometimes the provider relocates.
  • Starting Over
    • When relocated, military families don’t know where to go and essentially have to “start over.”
    • It is often confusing and overwhelming trying to get insurance situated and figuring out which providers are accepting new patients.
    • This process is time consuming. Military families must go through all of the phases of establishing therapeutic services each time they relocate.
  • Lack of External Support
    • Typically, there isn’t family in the new location to help and offer support, leaving military families without external support.

Although there are many stressors and barriers when relocating for military families with children with Autism, it is not always a negative move. There are instances where the military family is relocated to an area that has a bigger selection of providers and services available to them.

 

Davis, J. M., & Finke, E. H. (2015). The Experience of Military Families with Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders During Relocation and Separation. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,45(7), 2019-2034. doi:10.1007/s10803-015-2364-2


 This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on January 20, 2017.

Bouncing Back with Laughter

By Mary Marczak

“I decided I am going to be a prostitute!”

This declaration never failed to evoke a big belly laugh from my parents because it’s part of my very devout Catholic mom’s favorite joke: A daughter is telling her parents that she wants to be a prostitute. Her parents mishear and almost have a heart attack. After clarifying that she did indeed say “prostitute,” the punch line goes, “Oh, thank goodness — we thought you said ‘Protestant’!”

Humor and positive thinking has never been more important to your health than now. No matter who you are, collectively we are bruised from this brutal, negative election year.

Barbara Fredrickson, principal investigator of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has developed a “broaden-and-build” theory of positive emotions. Her research has shown that a person’s body reacts to negative emotions by heightening activity in the sympathetic nervous system (that is, the system that activates our fight or flight response), which has the result of narrowing our behavior options to, basically, attack or escape.

Positive emotions, on the other hand, quell autonomic arousal and “broaden one’s attention, thinking, and behavioral repertoires.” This theory suggests that positive emotions lead to actions that are novel, expansive, or exploratory, i.e. broadening, and that, over time, these actions build meaningful, long-term resources such as social relationships. 

In 2005, the National Institute of Health (NIH) re-published an article by Fredrickson and her colleagues on the connections between positive emotions, positive thinking, resilience, and health: Psychological Resilience and Positive Emotional Granularity: Examining the Benefits of Positive Emotions on Coping and Health. In this article, she and her colleagues lay out the accumulating evidence of benefits of staying positive:

  • Laughter and humor increases positive emotion, which in turn positively influence our immune system. Those who cope using humor show increases in levels of a vital immune system protein, body’s first line of defense against illnesses.
  • Interventions that promote positive emotions are beneficial to health. One study had participants assigned to three groups: 1) count your blessings, 2) list daily hassles, or 3) control. After 10 weeks, people who “counted their blessings” reported broad-range of positive health outcomes including fewer physical complains, more time exercising, more hours of sleep, and better sleep quality.
  • Laughter and positive emotions have been shown to benefit individuals who are already sick. For example, a study following people who were admitted to a hospital for cardiovascular-related disease showed that those who report positive emotions 90 days after hospital release had lower readmission rates. Positive emotions predicted readmission rates over above other factors like health status at release.
  • The benefits of positive emotion may last a lifetime. Research that followed people who used positive writing and humorously positioning their earlier life trauma (which the authors call positive emotional disclosure) showed greater longevity.
  • Positive emotions help coping and adjustments to acute and chronic stress and help to buffer against stress and depressed mood.

So let’s find humor in our everyday life, share our laughter, and be positive. It’s good for our health!

Mary Marczak, works at the University of Minnesota, as the Director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation. 

 

 

Foreclosure and Active Duty Servicemembers: Options Under the SCRA

This month we’ll present a webinar on the Foreclosure Process, on Tuesday, January 24, at 11 a.m. ET. Join this webinar and find supplemental resources here: https://learn.extension.org/events/2814

By Carol Church

Although the foreclosure problem in the United States has receded from the crisis levels it reached during the recession, thousands of homes across the county still are foreclosed every year. At times, the many changes and income fluctuations involved in a military lifestyle can endanger service members’ ability to pay their mortgages. Fortunately, the government, loan providers, and the military have worked together to create protections from foreclosure especially intended for those who serve. One such protection is folded into the SCRA, or Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

What is the SCRA?

The SCRA actually protects service members in a variety of situations. Its purpose is to help those on active duty who may have a hard time meeting financial or legal obligations due to absence or changes in income. In addition to protecting against foreclosure, the SCRA also can lock in low interest rates, delay court judgments, and allow service members a penalty-free exit from loans and contracts, such as a lease or cell phone plan. Service members’ dependents may also be eligible for protections under the SCRA.

What are the Options if a Service Member is Behind on House Payments?

The options in this situation may be affected by the service member’s location. In general, however, this part of the SCRA may be able to delay foreclosure proceedings while members are on active duty and immediately afterwards. Some protections apply whether the service member took out the loan before or after going on active duty. (Note: the SCRA also applies to those who are absent from active duty due to injury or leave.) However, the protections for these two categories are somewhat different, with more offered for those who took out the loan pre-service.

Obtained from Pixabay.com https://pixabay.com/en/new-home-for-sale-construction-1633889/

If the service member bought the home before starting active duty

Under the terms of the SCRA, if a service member acquired the mortgage before beginning active duty, the home cannot be foreclosed or seized during active duty or one year after duty completes. The exceptions are if a court issues an order for the foreclosure (a judicial foreclosure) or the lender obtains a waiver from the service member permitting the foreclosure. It’s important to know that as of Jan 1, 2018, the one-year period is scheduled to be reduced to 90 days. However, Congress might alter this, so stay tuned.

Also, be aware that a lender can still ask to foreclose if the bank can prove that the service member’s financial status or ability to come to a court date has not been negatively affected by active duty (for instance, in the case of a reservist whose pay has not been affected by service).

If the service member bought the home after starting active duty

This situation is a little more complicated, but service members are often still protected against a default judgment (one ordered because of failure to appear or take action) being ordered against them, and can contest one if it is entered. The exact protection will depend on the state of residence and whether it has judicial (in court) or nonjudicial (out of court) foreclosures.

Be Aware

SCRA protections are not automatic and must be requested. To be protected, the service member must demonstrate that service had a “material effect” on their ability to pay or attend proceedings. Usually, protection must be requested during active duty or soon afterwards.

To use the protections of the SCRA, members first need to contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office. To find this office, visit this link.

If a service member is having difficulty paying his or her mortgage, there are many options, such as loan modification (changing the terms of the loan), forbearance (short-term suspension of mortgage payments), refinancing, or a repayment plan. Look for a future post on these options soon.

Resources

Info on the SCRA from HUD

Official SCRA website

Homeowners’ Protection Under SCRA

NOLO: Foreclosure and the Military

SCRA Questions and Answers

Freddie Mac: Military Relief Options for Service Members

 

How to Keep Your New Years Resolutions!

 

Flickr CC Navy NADAP Make a New Years Resolution taken March 5, 2013

by Joanna Manero

Happy New Year! With every New Year, come the return of New Year’s resolutions. In fact, 41% of Americans usually set a resolution. It is evident when you step into the gym or look at your social media that a large percent of these resolutions have to do with nutrition and exercise. Although those new gym-goers and social media enthusiasts may seem motivated and committed to their resolutions, most of them will drop their resolutions and return to old habits. So how can we help people remain motivated and committed to their health goals? Let’s look at a longitudinal study that examined fidelity and success of New Year’s resolutions.

A sample of 213 men and women who made New Year’s resolutions were recruited. On average, participants made 1.8 resolutions which consisted of giving up smoking (30%), weight loss (38%), and relationship improvement (5%), among other resolutions. Researchers found that after just one week, nearly a quarter (23%) of participants reported failure in keeping their new year’s resolution. After one month, over half (55%) reported failure. And finally, after two years, only 19% of participants had kept their new year’s resolution. No effects were found for age, gender, or particular resolution. Furthermore, these numbers are likely elevated by the nature of the volunteer sample and participation in the study. When researchers asked about methods that led to a successful resolution, they found that multiple methods worked and were dependent on the stage of change of the person. Any single method had a moderate effect on success at best. Some of the successful methods were counter conditioning, in particular, using exercise, a gradual reduction in behavior rather than cold turkey elimination, stimulus control, and contingency management. When asked about what caused participants to fail, the most frequent response was the lack of will power. Finally, most participants experienced slip-ups on their journey. When asked about the cause of these slips, the top responses were a lack of self-control, stressful situations, negative emotions, and social pressures. (Norcross and Vangarelli, 1989) Although this study took place in the late 80’s, the factors affecting fidelity and success remain relevant.

Lack of self-control was the most frequent cause of slip-ups in keeping a new year’s resolution. In the past, self-control has been described as a limited resource, much like a muscle gets tired from exertion, and self-control becomes depleted and causes failure of a task. However, motivation can temporarily block the effect of ego-depletion that is associated with overused self-control (Roy et. al, 2007). Similarly, motivation was found to have a moderating effect on task completion when self-control was depleted. In particular, people with motivating thoughts that their efforts could benefit themselves or others had greater success in completing a task when self-control was depleted (Muraven and Elisaveta, 2003). This research suggests that although self-control may be a limited resource, motivation may aid in task completion. It is important to motivate your clients throughout their journey. Find out what motivates them; this can include positive feedback, reminding them of their goals, or even the act of overcoming a challenge.

Often the causes of failure and slip-ups can be just as important as the causes of success. By identifying past causes of missteps, you can help the client plan for triggering situations in the future.

Here are some quick tips to help keep to your new year’s resolution:

Stressful Situations/Negative emotions:

  • Become Aware of your Stressors- By recognizing what makes you stressed, you can better plan for the situation.
  • Attempt to Reduce the Intensity of Your Emotional Reaction- Ask yourself, “Am I viewing the situation in an exaggerated manner? Have I overcome a similar situation in the past?”
  • Build on your Social Circle- Seek support from close friends and family about the stressful situation.
  • Recognize What’s in your Control- What can you change about the situation? Can you attempt to tackle the problem little by little?

Social Pressures:

  • Practice the Buddy System- Find a friend who shares your goals for the new year and supports each other in social situations.
  • Practice saying “no”- Rehearse scenarios in your head and practice saying “no”, it will help your confidence.
  • Think of the consequences- Imagine giving in during a social situation, then image the consequences of your actions; do they outweigh the immediate pleasure?
  • Avoid stressful situations- If you can, avoid situations where you know you will be tempted to break your goal.

 

What are your with New Year’s resolutions?

Share what makes you, or your clients, more likely to achieve them.

What will you do to help your clients stay on track this year? Share with others your methods of encouraging motivation throughout the whole year.

Hope your 2017 is filled with joy!

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0899328988800166
http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167203029007008
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2007.00534.x
http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/rabideau.html
http://www.yourlifecounts.org/blog/20-ways-avoid-peer-pressure
https://solveyourproblem.com/setting-goals/managing_stress_for_goal_achievement.shtml

This was posted by Robin Allen, a member of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the MFLN Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website, on Facebookon Twitterand LinkedIn.

What’s Ailing Us: Things to consider when a loved one has a chronic illness

By: Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT

Woman thinking
pixabay[ thoughtful woman by Unsplash, February 2016, CCO]
Connie is sitting in the lobby of her doctor’s office waiting for the door to open and her name to be called. In reality, she is waiting for so much more than that. Connie is waiting for her husband to come back from the longest deployment they have ever experienced as a family. She is waiting for her 2- year old son to start using more words so that his tantrums will decrease. She is waiting for the phone call from her realtor that their house has finally sold so that they can prepare for their next move. She is waiting to find out why her body doesn’t seem to function like it did last year.
This has been the hardest year of Connie’s life. In addition to all of the daily stressors of being a full-time working mother with a husband who has been deployed for most of the year, Connie has been experiencing a multitude of unexplainable symptoms. She has been referred to countless specialists who all seem to be just as mystified as she is about the decline in her health. Because she lives in a rural town, she has had to travel to be seen by most of the specialists only to be poked, prodded, and sent home with no answers again.
Connie can’t sleep. Her hair is falling out. She is in pain more often than not. It appears as though none of her doctors have communicated with each other, as she has to repeat her story at each new visit. Her sick leave is running low at work and her desk is piled high with endless tasks that need to be completed. As she sits in the lobby today, Connie thinks about her children and her job and her husband and her friends. She closes her eyes tightly and uses her last ounce of hope on the thought that this may be the time she finally gets an answer.
The diagnosis process for Connie is familiar to many people with chronic illness. Oftentimes, it is neither a simple nor quick process. Here are some things to consider when you have a family member or friend with a chronic illness:
They may not look sick: If you don’t remember anything else from this list, remember this. Many chronic illnesses are invisible; meaning you are unable to see them from the outside. This does not make the illness any less significant or serious.
Don’t ask them how they are doing unless you really want to know: This applies to everyone you ask, but especially those suffering from chronic illness. While you are certainly trying to sound considerate and supportive, this question can actually have the opposite effect if you really don’t want to know the answer. Many times, the person you ask is trying their very best to make you comfortable with their answer by saying that they are fine. The truth is, though, they are probably not “fine”.
Don’t offer unsolicited advice: Telling a person with a chronic illness that they should try the latest and greatest remedy for their condition can be insulting. It can also be frustrating. What if they have already tried that remedy and it didn’t work? What if they just can’t muster up the energy to try anything else at the moment? What if they don’t want solutions, but just a place to vent or find support? So, unless someone asks you directly for advice, try to keep it to yourself.
Offer support: While you may not be able to help “cure” your loved one, you can certainly be supportive. Ask them what you can do to help support them. Offer to go with them to an appointment, pick their children up from school on an especially hard day, etc.
Remember that they are a person first: Before any illness comes the person. When your loved one is suffering from a chronic illness, remember this! They may not want to talk about their diagnosis or their symptoms. Perhaps they just want to tell you about something funny they saw on tv or an interesting meeting they had at work. Always keep the person and the illness separate.
Be empathetic: No, you can’t put yourself in their shoes. It’s impossible to do that. Even if you had the exact same illness, your experience would be different. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be empathetic to their situation. Don’t compare their illness to someone else’, don’t tell them you know how they feel. Do validate what they are feeling and do encourage them to talk to you.
Next time you decide to reach out to someone with a chronic illness, try to consider these things. If you would like more information on ways to empower families in their journey surrounding chronic illness, join us on January 19th and January 26th here.

This post was written by Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT, the Social Media and Programming Coordination Specialist for the MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Development concentration on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Featured Research – RAND Study: Military Installation Public to Public Partnerships

 

U.S. Military installations have a long history of collaborating with communities. If we look back to the history of the earlier camps & forts in the U.S., they were strategically placed to protect settler and travel routes on expanding frontiers, protect communities from attack and provide relief after natural disasters. Over the years, both urban and suburban communities have developed around military installations and in turn, have developed relationships that have allowed both the installation and community to evolve together.  This week’s Friday Field Notes features RAND Corporation’s research on the overcoming barriers to establishing strong partnerships between military installations and their surrounding communities. 

The purpose of the Military Installation Public-to-Public Partnerships study (2016) is to clarify the potential value of Public to Public Partnerships (PuPs) to the Department of Defense, identify barriers to their cost-effective application, and recommend ways to overcome those barriers and provide an overview of lessons learned from existing PuPs. The study contains valuable information that would be of interest to congressional and military leaders, policymakers, decision-makers, installation staff, managers across DoD and community leaders and staff who have an interest in promoting installation partnerships.

Barriers to partnership – Through examination of hundreds of military installations the study identified that the most common barriers to partnership were as follows:

1.) Challenges to both installation and community:

  • cultural differences between the military installations and communities
  • resistance to change by individuals and groups
  • partner(s) not able or willing to make the commitment required
  • deciding how to manage and share risks
  • place-specific partnership opportunities and obstacles based on unique local circumstances

2.) Community specific challenges:

  • little community interest or political support for partnering
  • staffing issues within the community
  • communication roadblocks with military installations
  • frustration with the slow military decision-making and approval processes relative to the community’s processes
  • constraints on community capacity and expertise.

3.) Installation specific challenges:

  • installations not wanting to partner with the community
  • installation staffing issues
  • installation communication challenges
  • security and access concerns on the installation
  • assessing the partnership in relationship to other activities.

4.) Challenges in creating, implementing, and maintaining the partnership agreement or contract:

  • determining which authority and what type of agreement to use for the partnership
  • installation and community lawyers, contracting personnel, and other staff disagreeing
  • on the specific terms of the partnership agreement or contract
  • an installation’s inability to appropriately monitor performance and provide contract oversight
  • the agreement or contract not having sufficient flexibility to change over time given changes and challenges that arise.

Wide Range of Benefits Experienced by Installations and Communities from Installation PuPs

1. improved military mission
2. economic benefits, including cost savings, earnings, and cost avoidance
3. improved installation and community operations, facilities, infrastructure, workforce,
and services
4. access to additional capacity in resources, skills, expertise, facilities, and infrastructure
5. improved strategic regional collaboration
6. improved government and community relationships
7. enhanced outreach to military personnel and their families and communities
8. energy and environmental benefits
9. facilitator and political help with federal, state, and local governments and other
organizations
10. helping maintain community character and way of life.

Recommendations for Installation-Level Actions for Developing and Implementing
Partnerships

  • Establish synergistic goals and objectives.
  • Invest in the partnership with the intent to develop a long-term relationship.
    Have committed leaders and staff.
  • Facilitate partnership champions who can communicate objectives, motivate change, and address barriers.
  • Make sure there are routine and ongoing communications at multiple levels.
  • Ensure that clear responsibilities are assigned to the different partners.
  • Develop a well-written partnership agreement or contract that includes objectives and performance criteria, spells out risk-sharing and other responsibilities, and provides the consequences for not meeting the agreement terms.
  • Ensure that all partnership participants know that part of this process is to develop a
    long-term mutually beneficial relationship.
  • Involve all potentially relevant stakeholders in the process.
  • Develop a joint process for handling the media regarding the partnership.
  • Encourage on-site field trips to help develop the partnership relationship and project
    ideas.
  • Once implemented, evaluate the partnership progress on an annual basis.

 

The document is worth the read for anyone working to develop a community-installation partnership!  It is worth mentioning that the full study expands upon each of the barriers to partnership as well as the strategies for strengthening partnerships listed above in much more detail.

Access the full research study:

Military Installation Public-to-Public Partnerships