I meet Dave Diaz while I as in Baltimore observing Operation Charm City Charge, I was really lucky as I also got to meet Mary Beth Bruggeman, Vice President, Program Strategy and incoming President of the Mission Continues. Dave was kind enough to organise to meet with me at the Mission Continues office in Washington DC.

While I meet with Jake Wood, the Team Rubicon US CEO at the start of my research tour, meeting Dave at the end seemed to balance the project out perfectly. Dave is the Vice President, Regional Operations, he is a military veteran with a city planning and economic development background. Dave served in the US Army in both a full time and reserve role before working as the President & CEO of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance were for nearly 10 years he worked to the revitalise the city of Raleigh, North Carolina. After making an impact in Raleigh Dave joined the Mission Continues. Dave’s military experience and his passion for community building make him an excellent fit for his role.

After meeting with Mick Plue in San Diego and Kimia Flournoy in Baltimore it was great to spend time with Dave to get an understanding of the Mission Continues from a strategic perspective. Dave oversees 5 regions which include 56 cities and 87 platoons. Dave calls the Mission Continues is a “Movement of Service” where community development and community impact are achieved through veteran leadership development.

This makes the Mission Continues a little different from the other organisations I looked at. While Team Rubicon and Team RWB also have a goal of reconnecting veterans with a sense of purpose, a sense of service and community the Mission Continues puts the community development aspect first. This was one of the things I talked to Jake Wood about, the balance between Team Rubicon volunteer and work outcomes. TR has modified a military adage  Mission First, People Always  to attempt to clearly communicate this balance. The nature of the Missions Continues work means that there is an opportunity for more detailed planning, keep in mind, Team Rubicon is a disaster response organisation.  More detailed planning and the development of a longer term, ongoing relationship with a given community provides an opportunity to provide a greater impact. Dave is the perfect person to leverage these opportunities to ensure maximum community impact. I saw this first hand in Baltimore, Operation Charm City Charge, the mass deployment I visited was the culmination of a long term relationship, the local platoon has been working with this parish for several years.

The multi levelled approach that TMC has created allows the organisation to identify and target communities most in need. Local platoons establish links with local communities and plan local engagement and service projects, bigger projects can be identified and supported by local, regional or even national TMC resources, as was the case in Baltimore. Local platoons also work to identify and connect with strategic partners, this could take the form of equipment, supplies, funds or other volunteer groups. City Impact managers who are full time TMC employees work with platoon leaders to assist with identifying and developing these opportunities. 

The Mission Continues started as a veteran fellowship program with a focus on community service as it has evolved the focus on veteran leadership has remained but the more structured relationships with local communities have developed by establishing platoons and linking them to specific communities with the help of city impact managers. This is a model that could be developed to link volunteer emergency services units with local communities in Australia. This would be a great way to increase community resilience, identify and new volunteers in existing and new emergency service units.

Another thing that Dave introduced me to that I found very interesting was the Empowered Veteran Index (EVI). While empowering veterans and supporting communities is the primary work of the Mission Continues it is important to be able to measure this impact. The EVI uses personal growth, connectedness and community impact as metrics to help develop and measure the efficacy of all of their programs. As I have mentioned in past blogs, evidence-based research excites me, while doing the work is important, measuring the impact of that work is just as important.

Volunteer leadership development is still a major focus for TMC, this is a feature that attracts volunteers to the organisation. Service Leadership Corps training, a six-month structured program runs biannually, this program provides leadership development opportunities in community service. Veteran leadership

A rich six-month program with a competitive selection process, the Service Leadership Corps is an opportunity for veterans to build new skills and further develop their leadership. The experience includes four in-person weekend-long sessions, team-based work in your local community, and a virtual curriculum.

TMC has a similar flat leadership structure that is a feature of other successful contemporary volunteer organisations with Leaders give autonomy to run their own Platoons. Volunteers are provided with leadership development openings and a variety of flexible engagement opportunities. Platoons schedule a range of activities ranging from service projects to support projects, where the platoon supports another platoon or organisation and social engagements. Events are scheduled well in advance and clearly communicated to all members.