New, Free App Aids Military Families

MML in handMilitary families shouldn’t have to struggle to find information they need.

MyMilitaryLife, an app by the National Military Family Association, eliminates the stressful search by connecting families with credible and tailored information. With the new Military Spouses Advice feature, spouses can recommend resources and share their expertise.

Users have unique access to advice from fellow military family members. Spouses can also rate resources and provide reviews on programs and services they’ve used. MyMilitaryLife is free for both iPhone and Android devices.

Features include:

  • Customized to-do lists
  • Tailored suggestions based on branch of Service, location, and needs
  • User rating system for resources
  • Advice from fellow military spouses
  • Due date reminders
  • Notices of new programs
  • Emergency phone numbers specific to military family needs
  • Social networking features to share information

Please note: If you download this app from a smart phone, it’ll take you to the app store or Google Play (depending on the device). If you click from a computer, you’ll be redirected to the online version of the app. The only downside to the computer version is that it hasn’t been updated with the new feature above.

Regardless if you’re in the app or online, you can enter as a guest. As a guest, you can view content, but you’ve gotta create an account to add content.

Folks, it looks like a good attempt to provide milfams with the resources they need, but we need military spouses and family members to enter info on programs and add reviews for this to be effective.

Why I Support Vets

Photo Credit: U.S. Dept of Veteran Affairs
Photo Credit: U.S. Dept of Veteran Affairs

Bottom line: if someone volunteers to risk taking a bullet to protect me, I should stand up and help out.

This might date back to my mid-teens, towards the end of the Vietnam war. I saw returning vets getting treated without respect. At that time, I knew that was wrong, but couldn’t articulate it.

Maybe seven years ago, I was at a lunch, sitting next to a guy from the Iraq & Afghanistan Vets of America, IAVA.org. Finally, it clicked in, that this was the right way to support regular people who gave up a lot to protect us, and that includes their families.

Now, I’m on the board of IAVA, and am involved with a lot of vets and military families groups, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (I’m their official nerd-in-residence).

What are some reasons you support vets and military families?

Big News: Over $345K Raised for America’s Heroes

Hey, big news just in time for Independence Day! We just raised $346,438 for America’s Heroes during the Veterans Charity Challenge 2. The organizations raised $296,438 online. Another $5,265 was raised offline, and I gave $50,000 to support these Veterans, Military Families, Police, and Firefighter organizations.

final

winners

A total of 94 teams signed up. All of ’em were the real deal. Folks, I can’t thank you enough for all the good work you’re doing.

  • The grand prize winner of $20K is Warrior Canine Connection (WCC), which raised $74,687 for training therapeutic service dogs. WCC utilizes clinically based Canine Connection Therapy to empower returning combat Veterans who have sustained physical and psychological wounds while in service to our country. This is WCC’s second time coming in first place.
  • 2nd place winner of $10K is Dogs on Deployment, which raised $32,800 to give military members peace of mind concerning their pets during their service commitments by providing them with the ability to find people and resources able to help them.
  • 3rd place winner of $5K is Leave No Veteran Behind (LNVB), which raised $26,528 for their innovative educational debt relief scholarship, community service, employment training, and job placement programs. LNVB invests in heroes who have honorably served our nation and seek to continue their service as productive citizens in their communities. Last year LNVB came in 2nd place.

It was really close in the end, and an exciting finish. Our team was able to call and chat with (or leave messages for) each of the big winners, and really thank them for all they’re doing for our service members and their families. I figure if someone’s willing to risk their life for me, this is the least I can do to give back…

Over the course of the Challenge, there were 6 Bonus Challenges, and we had 13 teams win.

  • Bonus Challenge #5,  get the greatest number of individual donors this week: Warrior Canine Connection won $2500.
  • Bonus Challenge #6, the first 5 charities to get 5 donations this week: Things We Read won $2K.

I’ll be interviewing some of the winners in the coming weeks…more to come…

If you didn’t give during the Challenge, you can still give now. And it’s a great way to honor our heroes for Independence Day, and really, every day.

Did you participate in the Veterans Charity Challenge 2? I’d like to hear your feedback. And again, congrats to all those orgs who really have their boots on the ground making a difference for our heroes.

6 reasons to make a difference

Folks, I believe that it’s important to help people out when you’re able to, and that means making a difference. It doesn’t have to be big stuff to really create change.

A lot of the work I do on craigconnects involves quiet, back-channel communications, which I might never go public with. Mostly you hear from me bearing witness to good works of others, or, if I think I’m funny. (I know I’m not as funny as I think, though by Washington standards, I’m hi-larious.)

Here are 6 reasons that I work to make a difference:

  1. Code is power, and it’s important to encourage girls to learn how to code. Orgs like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code are doing this.
  2. Vets and their families do a lot for us. If they’re willing to risk their lives for me, I’m willing to give back to them as much as I can. It’s one of the reasons I became the VA’s Nerd-in-Residence.
  3.  Ok, I really just want news I can trust. Trustworthy journalism’s far and few between lately, and that needs to change. Couple years ago, I blurted out that “the press should be the immune system of democracy,” and I still believe that.
  4. The Declaration of Independence reminds us that everyone is equal under law, and I figure election integrity is a big deal. However, there are some bad actors that are trying to pass legislation that will keep eligible people from voting. I’m working with folks like Voto Latino to stop ’em. Here’s an infographic the craigconnects team and I created about these issues: Think You Have the Right to Vote? Not so much!
  5. Consumer protection is needed to protect regular people from predatory financial institutions. That’s like home loaners who’ll make loans to people who can’t pay the bills, or payday loaners who deceive military families. Check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to see how an effective government org gets stuff done.
  6. I’d like to help give a voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless. Everyone should get the chance to be heard. It’s why I started craigconnects. My goal’s to team up with good folks in an effort to connect people and orgs around the world to get stuff done.

I’m looking to help solve problems that exist now, while learning how make things work better in the longer term by motivating people in increasingly large numbers.

social change
Photo Credit: Aleksi Aaltonen

That includes figuring out how to get people to work together, particularly the people at groups with similar goals. Nonprofits with common goals normally find it really hard to collaborate, and that begs for a solution.

To be sure, I don’t feel this is altruistic or noble, it’s just that a nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

Sure, sometimes I gotta be a squeaky wheel, or sometimes I need to be annoying enough to motivate people, but will do so reluctantly. What are your reasons for making a difference?

Supporting some nonprofits, and some not, here’s the deal

For well over ten years, a whole bunch of nonprofit orgs (NPOs) have asked me for assistance, and I think I’ve gone way above and beyond to help as much as I could.

The vehicle for all that is now craigconnects.org, where I support some causes for the short term, while learning how to do it way, way better with a twenty-year horizon.

I’ve chosen a range of causes that feel right to me, they resonate for me at a gut level. Military families and veterans efforts feel right, so does the effort to help restore trustworthiness to journalism.

altruism2-meme

One way that I validate my gut reaction about a NPO is through good orgs like Charity Navigator, Guidestar, Center for Investigative Reporting, and GreatNonprofits. They help me find good, effective nonprofits. When they talk about America’s 50 Worst Charities or rate how NPOs are doing, I pay attention.

If I believe in a cause enough, it becomes a craigconnects focus, and my team and I locate NPOs who are really good at helping, at “moving the needle,” and support them.

Also, I’ll support NPOs that are effective and do things that I believe in, with no specific pattern.

The danger with going with my gut is that we’ve learned, the hard way, that some NPOs are really good at telling a really good, heart-rending story. Turns out that they aren’t really good at helping anyone who needs help. Cash sent to them winds up in some briefly attention-getting awareness raising, something normally useful, and in salaries and perks. Usually, an NPO gets attention via getting real results, but the kind I’m talking about, they get attention, and hope that no one checks if they get anything done.

NPOs want help from me in social media, both in consulting mode and in using social media to their benefit. I’m okay with both. Even a nerd can get to be good at all this, though I’ll never be good as a natural.

For more, please check out craigconnects.org, check out [connect with Craig], that’s a start, and I really appreciate it.

Thanks!

 

The nerd-in-residence

The Department of Veterans Affairs has named me a “nerd-in-residence.” You can find more under VA team bios > Craig Newmark.

I really am a nerd, old-school, wore a plastic pocket protector, and glasses taped together, in the early sixties. I can now simulate social behavior for an hour, two hours tops, but then I start getting cranky. nerd-4

Far as my team’s concerned, this makes me the biggest nerd in the USA…

maybe the world.

(As you see, I’m comfortable being a nerd, and also, I might have a sense of humor. I don’t seem to be too concerned with dignity.)

On the other hand, I’m a customer service rep for craigslist, have been for more than eighteen years, and that changes humans. The stuff I do, I can see we help people put food on the table, and that matters.

The job also reminds me that crap rolls downhill, aimed at people with jobs that can be grinding and thankless. For example, I’ve first-hand seen that thousands of frontline VA people are doing everything in their power to do right by Vets, but government employees are being demonized or neglected.

(Dilbert is an excellent reference work regarding this. I’ve always resisted despair, that’s Wally; I’m Dilbert.)

Ever since connecting with the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America I’ve been getting more and more involved with military family and veterans’ efforts.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is doing some really good stuff for vets that no one hears about, catching up since 2009. I’ve helped, in a very minor way for several years, now I gotta do more, for VA, military families, and vets.

Anyway, a nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

Interview: Swords to Plowshares

Hey there, as many of you know, I gave $50k to the CrowdRise Veterans Charity Challenge earlier this month. The total money raised for Veterans and Milfams exceeded $448,000.

SwordstoPlowsharesLogo-51660c58206e4

 

In my #VetsChallenge wrap up post, I asked you to stay tuned for the interviews I’d be conducting with two great orgs, both winners of a Bonus Challenge.

The first interview was with Jordan Towers, Social Media Coordinator for Swords to Plowshares. Jordan talked about how the org has provided core services, like housing, employment, and training to vets since 1974.

Some of the things that Jordan said during the interview really stuck out to me,

“The amazing thing about Swords to Plowshares is that we help all veterans of every generation…[We help] about 2,000 veterans in the San Francisco Bay area every year….[and] really try to tackle what the veterans need, and to restore their dignity and self-sufficiency. All veterans are welcome, regardless of discharge status.”

 

 

You can listen to the full interview here:

Help me give back to military families via DonorsChoose.org

Okay, teachers in a lot of schools never get a break, and that’s often true in schools that serve military families.

Remember that the families of active service troops also serve when troops are deployed.

A really good way to give teachers and military families a break is via DonorsChoose.org. They’re a great example of how we all use the Net to help each other out, by pooling a few dollars to give people a break. DonorsChoose is something I can understand. It’s like microfinance applied to classroom projects; we all can contribute a little to fund a classroom projects. Teachers are under-appreciated and underpaid, and if we all work together, we can help them out.

As many of you know, I work closely with lots of orgs who support vets and military families. I teamed up with DonorsChoose to sponsor a Double Your Impact Offer. I’m giving $10k to match half the cost of projects with the keyword “military” if someone like you provides the remainder. This offer’s for projects geared toward grades 6-12 and with a total cost of $800 or less.

There’re a lot of underfunded school districts out there, and it’s real unfair for teachers to fund stuff from their own (inadequate) salaries. This match will remain on DonorsChoose.org until the funds are fully matched, or for one calendar year from today. After just 24-hours of being live, 5 projects and counting have already been met with my match

After I introduced Stephen Colbert to DonorsChoose, he began to focus on milfams, and I tried a similar effort later, but it didn’t persist.  However, I’m talking with people in milfam groups and the DoD about creating a program that’ll keep on helping. And am working on this matching campaign with DonorsChoose right now.

craig newmark & stephen colbert
photo credit: the future Mrs Newmark

Here’s a video about why DonorsChoose works with Internet people, like myself:

 

Speaking of Colbert, he and I did some stuff for DonorsChoose with Vanity Fair and Annie Leibovitz that’ll be released online soon. I can’t let the squirrel out of the bag yet, so more to come…

In the meantime, if you’re able, I’d really appreciate it if you can give to the military family projects on DonorsChoose.org. I figure if they’re willing to give so much for our country, this is just my small way of saying thank you. A nerd’s gotta do…

 

Big IT development at Dept of Vets Affairs

(from the dept of giving-credit-where-it’s-due)

Peter Levin and Roger Baker leave Dept Veterans Affairs

VistA is the Dept of Vets Affairs health record system, and it’s been a huge success. VA has open sourced it, which is remarkable achievement for
Washington, a really big deal. It means that anyone can improve it or interface with it. Check out the Challenge.gov VA Medical Appointment Scheduling Contest.

What they’re now saying is that the Dept of Defense is considering a health records system, and that VistA should be considered for that.

That sounds right to me, it gets the job done, has been working well for years, and is already available publicly for the public to better help veterans. That means people can find ways to add function to better help active service troops. Find out more here: http://fedscoop.com/va-responds-to-defense-iehr-rfi-with-open-source-recommendation/

But wait, there’s more! Folks at VA have been doing some big stuff since 2009. They’ve announced the VA Center for Innovation. I’d say that the
following is a small part of VA innovation, I’ve seen it firsthand and it’s real. Here’s a little of what they have to say:

As you can see, the new VA Center for Innovation is more than a name change for us. And to make this all the more real, we get to announce a
few recent milestones along with the VACI rollout:

  • Launched a dozen new innovations covering telemedicine, prosthetic socket designs, kidney disease, mobile health/Blue Button, and robotics for sterilization of medical equipment
  • Launched the new VACI website at: www.innovation.va.gov
  • Published the 2010-2012 Stakeholder Report (available for download at www.innovation.va.gov)
  • Selected our first Senior Fellows (Dr. Adam Darkins and Dr. Peter Almenoff on telehealth and healthcare value, respectively)
  • Named serial entrepreneur and Air Force veteran Steve Blank as Senior Advisor to VACI
  • Appointed our first EiR in Doug Trauner, CEO of theCarrot.com and co-chair of the FCC’s mHealth taskforce
  • Added our first participant in the Partnership program with the nation’s largest health carrier, UnitedHealth Group
  • Added our second Partnership, this one with TEDMED

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