Podcast: Uniting for Impact


How the Arizona Coalition for Military Families Collaborates to Spearhead Change

How do you take an innovative approach to address a vitally important public health issue that is intertwined with social and economic issues and build a nationally recognized coalition of partners across the spectrum of partners from large national government systems down to individual volunteers?

That is exactly the challenge that faced the Arizona Coalition for Military Families (ACMF) 15 years ago. Recently, Nicola Winkel, Project Director for the Coalition, was interviewed on Practicing Connection, a podcast by OneOp, where she shares the journey that built the foundation of the Coalition and the Be Connected program. It is a pioneering example of collective impact — a framework that leverages collaboration across different sectors to achieve significant and lasting social change.

The Coalition’s work involves bridging the gap between military and civilian spheres, ensuring that both sides work synchronously to support service members and their families comprehensively. From the outset, the Coalition was designed to be a sustainable entity, focusing on long-term goals rather than short-term fixes. This vision has allowed them to adapt and grow, even as external conditions change.

In the interview, Nicola shares an important differentiation that sets Be Connected apart from other programs as an upstream approach to suicide prevention. “People have historically equated suicide prevention with crisis intervention,” Nicola points out. But suicide prevention runs an entire spectrum, including proactive upstream prevention and postvention, after someone is affected by suicide.

We talk about Be Connected as an ecosystem of support, as being here for the 500,000 service members, veterans, and their families, as a phone number you can call anytime. You don’t have to be in crisis.

“Your chances of intervening with somebody in that crisis period is very low and highly dependent on luck, really, that somebody who is trained and willing to help is there at that moment. So we thought, if we can help people before they go into crisis, that would be better,” Nicola says.

So how do you build and maintain a statewide coalition that contributes to an entire ecosystem of support? Nicola emphasized the importance of relationships and trust in building and maintaining effective partnerships. She advised that successful collaborations require engagement at all levels of participating organizations and should be resilient enough to withstand leadership and structural changes.

We invite you to listen to the full episode of the podcast that underscores the power of collaboration and strategic planning in creating a sustainable coalition working every day in a collective impact model to nurture an ecosystem of support that is available for every service member, veteran, and their family members in Arizona – no matter what situation they may be facing.

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Be Connected and ConnectVeterans.org are provided in partnership by:

Special thanks to the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family for their partnership and support.

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