Outlook: Newsletter of the Society of Behavorial Medicine

Summer 2018

Community Organization Partnerships to Extend Reach: An Interview with Team Red, White & Blue

Ryan Kalpinski, PhD and Katherine Hoerster, PhD, Military and Veterans Health (MVH) SIG Co-Chairs

Team Red White & Blue (RWB) is a Veteran Service Organization dedicated to helping Veterans reintegrate into their community through physical and social activity. The MVH SIG’s collaboration with Team RWB provides an example of a mutually beneficial research-community partnership. The MVH SIG interviewed Caroline Angel, RN, PhD, Team RWB Research Director and Megan King, Director of Development to learn about their growing collaboration with SBM. We conclude with key lessons regarding how to build such partnerships. We hope to inspire SBM members to partner with community organizations to extend our reach.

Tell us about Team RWB’s approach and mission.

RWB is one of the fastest growing veterans organizations…developed with a positive psychology foundation. RWB’s mission translates decades of multidisciplinary research from psychology, neuroscience, and sociology, into best practices. The transition from active duty to civilian life can be difficult; RWB assists in facilitating that process for many by encouraging physical activity and helping veterans and civilians build authentic relationships. RWB is not just another group organizing adventure runs and doing CrossFit together. We define enrichment as “having physical, mental, and emotional health; relationships built on close, positive enduring bonds within a larger social network; and having a sense of individual and shared sense of purpose, to include positive role identity.”

Why build relationships with SBM members?

Leveraging connections with researchers internationally and across disciplines, especially in translation of research to practice, has been crucial to the work RWB seeks to accomplish. SBM researchers (e.g., David Goodrich, Katherine Hoerster, Katherine Hall) have been excellent partners. When RWB connected with just a few individuals at SBM, it soon paid dividends with on-the-ground collaborations, research partnerships and professional panels.

What plans do you have for next year’s SBM Annual Meeting?

From a marketing perspective, this year’s meeting got the wheels spinning to consider how we can collaborate with researchers to extend our reach and benefit more than we previously imagined. Next year, the goal is to increase visibility on both sides by engaging RWB’s Eagle Leaders and SBM members to take part in physical activity sessions to showcase both organizations’ dedication to health and social connectedness. We also have a few manuscripts in process we hope to share.

How do you balance Team RWB’s practical goals with the rigidities of research and evaluation? 

Evaluation of our outcomes is vital. We can make decisions and activate them very quickly when it comes to research, and if we can maximize the utility of our efforts to reduce the burden on the volunteers doing the work on the ground, everyone benefits. We collaborate with academic and research labs to ensure rigor is upheld with RCTs and other standardized approaches. It is important to us that our research primarily focuses on outcomes directly related to the mission of the organization, and if others are willing to engage in that work, collaboration is welcome and encouraged.

MVH SIG Perspective: Key Lessons for Academic-Community Partnerships

The MVH SIG is honored to partner with Team RWB, and we’ve learned a lot. We conclude by sharing a few key recommendations for initiating and fostering such relationships:

  1. Learn about organizations in your community with which you share research or clinical interests. Great ways to get in the know include social media, reading the local and national news, and being part of community organizations. Put simply, we’re unlikely to learn about community organizations through traditional academic outlets.
  2. Make a pitch of how partnering would be mutually beneficial. Schedule a meeting, preferably in person, maybe over some coffee!
  3. Listen closely to their mission. While you may share goals, it’s important to understand where your goals converge and diverge with the organization’s. Find common ground.
  4. Keep an open mind. Remember that in academic and clinical positions, we can develop a narrowed perspective. These partnerships provide an excellent opportunity for broadening our outlook with the populations we study and serve.
  5. Have fun. Getting to work alongside people deeply committed to topics you care about is a privilege, can be tons of fun, and is most often very rewarding.

We hope we’ve inspired SBM members to connect with Team RWB and other organizations to extend our reach. To pursue collaborations with Team RWB, visit RWB’s website or contact Caroline or Megan