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How do I create a network of disabled veterans creating meaning and sense of purpose through community development

Veteran

Ryan Christman Whitmore Lake, MI

I am a total and permanent disabled veteran but I have significant education and further personal training in philosophy. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Service Peer Support has supported me to lead a recurring training in philosophy to help veterans working in peer support find ways to use their peer support skills to build community.

I need a creative way to build this initiative on a grass-roots level.

21 November 2019 2 replies Leadership & Management

Answers

Veteran

Ryan Christman Whitmore Lake, MI

Steve,

Thank you for responding to my post. I'm sort of attacking this problem from all angles to see where I gain traction. The primary effort is studying philosophy and working to develop community philosophy groups, however, the ultimate goal is to translate the philosophy to practical community engagement. We held our first veterans workgroup in Lansing, MI on October 23rd with the support of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services peer support division. They offered overnight accommodations, meals, and meeting space for free. It was a one-day meeting, but it was an incredible time as the other veteran peer support specialists knew a lot of philosophy and understood where I was coming from in trying to define what it is about being a veteran and being a peer support specialist that might have unique value and application in other realms (other than just healthcare.) The director of peer support services sat in on the afternoon portion of the workshop and offered us another training in December, and suggested that we might be able to make it a regular offering four times or so per year. So, that was a big accomplishment.

However, there is a lot of time between October 23rd and December 13th and I feel like I'm spinning my wheels trying to figure out what to do next to start establishing what I hope will become a much larger initiative. There were five veterans who participated in the October 23rd workgroup, so I am prioritizing keeping them in the loop and excited about further participation. One of the guys is not responding to email or phone calls, so I hope we don't lose him because every person is very important. The peer support director gave me permission to expand the training and I have a group email list that I started with from which I hope to recruit another 4-5 veterans for December to expand to approximately 10.

My first instinct was to capture the knowledge created during the workgroup. The only recording of ideas that was made was the big idea pad upon which we sketched our ideas throughout the day. So, a few days after the workgroup, I created a one-page synopsis of the big-picture philosophy with which we are starting. Based on my previous work in philosophy, I am very optimistic about our start. A week or two later, I took the sketches (which I had ripped off all the pages and taken them with me) and captured them in a 10-page word doc. So those are our two primary knowledge items from which we carry over to the December meeting.

My general philosophy is somewhat complex to describe quickly. I will just say that I have a web site www.realityseeker.org, where I have been interviewing subject matter experts (mostly university philosophy professors) for more than a year asking the important questions to this line of inquiry. The conclusion I have reached, which matched the beliefs of the workshop participants, is that in order to find meaning and truly peer relationships, one must avoid becoming comfortable with knowledge structures. Instead, it is important to be present and see what is developing and listen actively with mutual respect rather than to create explanations and live within those self-defined boundaries. Living a life of constant creation and excellence allows us to achieve continuous growth and improvement. That is the basic philosophical idea.

I work on a suicide prevention research study for the University of Michigan, and I also recently was accepted to participate on the Veterans Research Engagement Council (VREC) at the Ann Arbor VA. Earlier this week, I had a coffee meeting with the VREC program director and I explained to her the results of our workgroup and what I am trying to accomplish with community development projects. She suggested a current research study involving meaning making and peer support for veterans in which I might volunteer. I also sent a key article to my boss on the suicide prevention study, and we have a coffee meeting scheduled to discuss what that might mean for future research. I have no idea if I will be able to justify my project via real scientific research, but I have certainly started reaching out to find out.

Yesterday, I had a phone call with AmericaServes from the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families. I thought I might be able to get support creating this proposed network from them, since they have established provider networks in 17 cities around the country. They referred me to the IVMF alumni services director, since I am a 2012 graduate of the IVMF Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans. That is how I found app-advisornet and I also posted a message at the Veterans Business Network. I also asked about the Veterans Program for Politics and Civic Engagement at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. I was a public affairs officer and I want to learn about civic engagement work and building a public platform (but not necessarily interested in traditional politics) So, I am really throwing out a lot of feelers and seeing what takes.

In the mean time, I need to really study the material and create a good program for the next workshop in December, since that is where the principal focus should be. I currently operate a very successful community philosophy group with non-veterans that meets almost exclusively online. That model (hosted by discord) costs no money and has been very successful. We hold the few face-to-face meetings we do have at Panera. I am attempting to establish something similar with the veterans in the workgroup that will take place on December 13th.

Thank you for receiving this long explanation of how I'm trying a lot of things right now to see where I gain traction. Hopefully, you can offer some assistance.

Thank you,
Ryan

Veteran

Steve Adolt Lancaster, PA

Ryan,

An incredibly noble and invaluable idea!

Who have you already reached out to within the well known veteran communities?

I have some fairly creative ideas but want to understand if you've tried them or not.

Looking forward to hearing back from you!

--Steve

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