When the masterminds behind the military spouse and family non-profit pow-wow held in the D.C. area last month first put their heads together, they had a hypothesis: many military non-profits would benefit from working together, and it was almost as if they needed permission to do so.
Josie Beets, current president of the Military Spouse JD Network and Patty Barron, who heads up the Association of the United State Army’s military family programs, wanted to fix that. Why not bring together in one room players from the military non-profit space for a day of brainstorming and collaboration?
So that’s what they did. Held August 26, "Learning and Leaning In" hosted a powerhouse of military spouse non-profit leaders whose organizations tackle every subject from spouse employment to mental health issues.
Barron and Beets wanted to help them do one basic thing: build a roadmap for their organizations through collaboration. And, looking back on the event, that’s exactly what they believe they did.
“I was incredibly pleased with the event, and I think my biggest take away is that our intuition was on target that something like this was needed,” Barron said. “There are very passionate people out there who care about military families but don’t have a roadmap.”
Getting the non-profit players in the room to hear from expert panels and work with each other gave them the permission they did not actually need, in a way, to work together, Beets said.
“We walked in with this hypothesis that people really need to make sure they’re focusing on their mission and they need to open to these opportunities for collaboration,” she said. “We got to provide tools for people.”
One of the big questions that came up during the event, which I was able to watch livestreamed from my current roost in Alaska, was over helping military spouse non-profits get the word out about what they do. If you’ve been in this community even a little bit, you’ve noticed that there are a lot – and I mean a lot – of non-profits focused on military families.
Even talking that problem through shows the organizers that there is still plenty of work to be done on the subject, Beets said. Collaborating with each other – even to the point of combining forces -- may be one answer, she said, and was one potential solution discussed at the event.
Meanwhile, Barron and Beets said, they are looking for ways to continue the momentum that was started during the meeting. They said they hope do the live event yearly, with some virtual collaboration in between.
“We’re still struggling to figure out what the immediate next step is,” Beets said. “I’m going to work with Patty and the planning committee to put something together hopefully next week or week after, sort of a summary of the day and where we think we can go moving forward.”
(Photo: Courtesy of AUSA)