Showing posts from 2010

Major Database Layer Upgrade

We are very pleased to announce that we completed a successful and significant upgrade of our core database systems last night.  While not as flashy as some of our feature upgrades for users, this is the kind of infrastructure upgrade that sustains VisionLink and our customers over time.

Some four months in the making, this upgrade provides faster and more efficient response times for users, a more sophisticated set of management tools for our developers, and offers a more advanced platform for our customers' continued growth and expansion over time.

Personally, I am very proud of our excellent VisionLink staff that prepared and practiced the scripts and testing protocols to ensure a solid upgrade, along with wide spread testing across all of the Community Operating System modules and features--in an extraordinarily quick maintenance window.

It's a balance always, between deploying new features for users, and attending to the core technical infrastructure; it is good we are purposefully doing both.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

Today is Colorado Gives Day!

As always, VisionLink supports our non-profit customers in every way we can. In our own backyard, today is Colorado Gives Day.

Today is the day to search for over 500 Colorado charities, become inspired by their good work and make a charitable contribution that will get a boost from the Incentive Fund.

Make a gift on − an online resource for information about Colorado charities. This is the place you can learn more about your favorite charities, discover new ones, and support the organizations that speak to your passion.

Click here to learn about Colorado Gives Day, an initiative to increase philanthropy in Colorado through online giving, presented by Community First Foundation and FirstBank.

We are honored to support your work!

Ray Thompson
SVP of Marketing & Development

New Search Features

In time for the busy holiday season, VisionLink has released new Community Resource Directory searching tools.  While the details are available in the Customer Resource Center, the release includes the following:

Quoted Search Phrases--with simple quotation marks authorized users can search for specific phrases or sentences, and can include such quoted text with non-quoted text for even more effective searching.  The quoted search tools operate alongside the linguistically aware tools, stripping out, for example, plurals from the search terms.

Search Results Sorting--we have also enhanced the choices authorized users have to control the view of search results.  These include the ability to sort results by frequency and rank.  See the documentation for  details.

We have also moved the linguistically aware searching tools into the Taxonomy Search toolset.

Happy Holidays!  May your searches be quick, and the help you provide be quick, effective and personalized!

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

All Services Report Enhancement

Making reports easier to run, and the results easier to view, VisionLink is pleased to release a significantly enhanced multi-page report showing information about every Service in our customer's Community Resource Directories.

Or, alternately, the same report can be run to review all un-posted services.  And both provide information about affiliated Agencies and Programs, Taxonomy codes and more.

The pre-built, pre-formatted report also includes an option to export to a spreadsheet for further manipulation.

This should definitely help with year-end reporting.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

HMIS Data Quality Report

VisionLink is pleased to announce a new reporting tool in our Homeless Management Information System module.  

The HMIS Data Quality Report is designed to help communities evaluate the completeness of their data.  Using a selection of several HUD required data fields, the Data Quality Report generates a quick visual to help identify Clients with missing data.

The report can be limited by agency or date and can return data in just one HMIS module or several at the same time.  System Operators can access the report from the SysOp page by clicking the HMIS Reports link.  Other users can run the Data Quality Report for their Agency by going to the URL for the report.   

As usual, release notes can be found in the Customer Resource Center.  Here's to time saving focus on quality data!

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Great 2-1-1 Reporting

Kudos to the United Way of Denver and their Colorado 2-1-1 partners.  We are pleased to support their work with our Community Operating System (formerly Tapestry) and wanted to do a shout out about their excellent reporting.

Note in particular the clearly presented information about top met and unmet needs, presenting needs, the monthly snapshot, and trend data.

Here's to powerful reporting!

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

VisionLink Deploys Boulder Fire Resources

Humbled by the dire loss of homes and property from the Boulder, Colorado Fourmile Canyon Wildfire, VisionLink is honored to be a significant part of the response.   As a community service we have deployed a situational analysis map with information about the burn area, evacuation zones, locations of destroyed homes and structures, road closures, photographs, twitter feeds and more.

Streamlined for public use, this is the same technology that our customers can deploy--yet in their case they can design their own maps and boundaries, overlay their client and resource information, and do this for many different maps for many different programs and user groups simultaneously.  Go to the map.

We have also released a number of web pages explaining our role from supporting the data management for sheltering, to 2-1-1 information services, to Safe & Well--used to re-connect friends and family.  Learn more here.  On these same pages you can find links useful and reliable resources.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those impacted by the wildfire.  As we can be of service, let us know.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

VisionLink Becomes NVOAD Partner

We are very pleased to become a partner of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), an organization where members share knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle--preparation, response and recovery--to help disaster survivors and their communities.

We would also like to thank Diana Roth-Smith for her excellent service as the NVOAD executive director.  She has given much to NVOAD, and we wish her well with her expanding family.  And of course, we would like to welcome Bob Liepold as the new executive director.  The future looks bright for the national VOAD!

VisionLink is very pleased to participate as a national VOAD partner. Stay tuned for many significant developments as these two organizations work together.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Safe & Well Launches: Video

VisionLink has launched a new site for the American Red Cross, designed to help friends and family locate one another and share news following a disaster.  The site, Safe & Well, is available through web browsers and mobile devices, and offers a streamlined tool to reconnect following a disaster.  We are honored to provide such mission critical services to America.

The American Red cross has launched a great video to explain Safe & Well, and its impact.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Compliant with AIRS 6.0 Standards

VisionLink has completed another review of our compliance with the Alliance for Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) standards, version 6.0.  We are pleased to report that we are just so slightly shy of the 100% benchmark.  We'll have the last bit taken care of very soon.

We strongly endorse operational, technical, and data exchange standards as each increases the efficacy with which information and referral organizations can connect needs and assets across communities and states.  Certainly, every community and region has it's own particular needs, but a standards-based approach provides a tested foundation, a starting point, from which local areas can build and enhance their solutions.

We were in fact the first to support the AIRS XML Resource Data Exchange standard, the first to support all six levels of the AIRS taxonomy, and we also support the auto-update protocols for the taxonomy itself.

If you would like to learn more about AIRS, you can visit their home page, learn about member benefits, or explore version 6.0 of their overall standards.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

Safe & Well Launched Nation-Wide

When disaster strikes, trying to find out how your friends and family are doing can be agonizing.  Not knowing is an awful feeling.  To meet this need, the American Red Cross offers Safe & Well.

Those who are hit by a disaster large or small can register on the Safe & Well site, and then their friends and family can search the database and receive information about a loved one's most recent status.

VisionLink is proud to provide this solution across the United States for the Red Cross, and we remind our 2-1-1, elder care, homeless management, crisis call centers and other customers that they may want to embed a link to the Safe & Well site, as preparation for future disasters.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

New Customer: Complete College America

We are very pleased to announce another new customer among the VisionLink network, Complete College America.

Funded by Gates, Ford, Carnegie, Kellog and the Lumina Foundations, this is a nation wide initiative building voice and capacity to increase college completion rates, with a state by state strategy.

The president of the National Governor's Association has adopted this as a primary issue for the NGA, and in a very short time, this alliance has grown to more than 25 member states.

Our Strategic Advantage team, led by Lois Ann Porter, will be assisting with planning, materials, and implementation for their very first Academy to be held in Denver, this coming October.  Participants at the Academy will be representatives from governor's offices, state boards of education, colleges, universities, etc.  There will be a Spring Academy for additional states, and the longer term plan is for the states to each host their own Academies.

We endorse this focused effort on college completion rates.  In an economy this rough, the skills or our workforce have fundamental consequences for our communities and our nation.  We cannot spend our way out of these deficits; we can, however, earn our way out with a productive and talented workforce.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

Doing Your Part: Supporting 2-1-1 Legislation

We have launched a new page on our website which you can find here supporting the national call for 2-1-1 legislation.  Quick summary information, and a really easy tool offered by the United Way to contact your representative are waiting for you.  All you need is your Zip Code to get started.

Great momentum is building behind this effort to help make 2-1-1 available and sustainable across the United States.  Particularly in this economy, efforts to better coordinate limited resources are truly necessary.

If you've not made your voice heard, start today--right now.   It will take 2 minutes.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

New Customer: Crisis Call Center

We are pleased to welcome another new customer to the VisionLink network.  This is the Crisis Call Center of Nevada, established as an outreach effort of the University of Nevada, Reno, due to the high rates of suicide across the state.  The center is supported by individual donations, government sources, corporate and foundation grants and the United Way.

Over the years, Crisis Call Center has developed a number of education and information programs for the purpose of preventing crises, particularly suicide, child and elder abuse, and sexual assault, as well as ongoing support groups for Survivors of Suicide Loss and adult and adolescent victims of Sexual Assault.

Even better, this is being launched as a portal of the existing United Way of Reno / 2-1-1 statewide solution to integrate resources and save money on technology, so that more of the funds can be used to directly support their clients.  This is what a CommunityOS partnership is all about, and we are honored to support this work.

Welcome aboard!

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Let Freedom Ring

Happy 4th of July!

As we have before, we're passing on some great writing and insight from Stan Stahl.  You can check out more of his writing since 2005 on his blog:


“We are in the very midst of revolution, the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world.”

John Adams

July, 1776

The Fourth of July parade. Oil City, Pennsylvania. A lot of years ago. Flags flying. Trumpets blaring.  Cymbals crashing. Fifes and drums playing. The High School marching band. The Oil City Downtown Business Association. Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Brownies and Girl Scouts. The city’s churches and its synagogue. The Rotary Club, the Elks and the Optimists. The American Legion and the VFW. Marching bands playing the songs of America – My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty. … Glory, glory hallelujah. His truth goes marching on. … Columbia the gem of the ocean. … Yankee doodle went to town. … And the caissons go marching along. … You’re a grand old flag. You’re a high flying flag. …  From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli. … Hurrah for the flag of the free. May it wave as our standard forever – a grand patriotic cacophony of song opening a young boy’s heart to the meaning of America.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Declaration of Independence

July 4, 1776

In declaring our independence from England’s King George, the American Revolution was, in part, political. But it wasn’t the political revolution that moved the young boy; it was the moral revolution: all men and women are created equal. Swept away in one fell swoop was the notion that any one of us is created more equal than the rest. Not King George. Not his Ministers. Not you. Not me. Not anyone.

Four score and seven years later, Abraham Lincoln was to characterize the meaning of America in the great words of the Gettysburg Address: our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.


In today’s culture wars, it’s hard to hear the meaning of America. The angry and insistent voices of the factions that make up today’s political landscape are like all the bands marching in the Independence Day parade of my youth, each playing its own patriotic song in its own key as loudly as it can in a vain attempt to drown out the other bands; each band convinced of its right to be more equal than others.

Most of the time we listen to the bands that play the songs that appeal to some mixture of our sense of America mixed in some proportion with what is, truth be told, our own self-interest. Most of the time, we don’t listen to the bands that aren’t playing our songs; the louder they play, the more we shut our ears to them. Study after study demonstrates human behavior being what it is, we listen to the arguments that support our conclusions while ignoring those that don’t.

Today, 234 years after the start of the American Revolution, let’s not focus on the band playing our music. Today is Independence Day, time for a revolution.

Today, let’s set aside our normal human behavior for a moment and listen to the entire ensemble of bands, listen to all the factions that make up modern America all at once, all together. When we do … when we listen very quietly … we hear something wondrous. We hear the sound of freedom, just like that young boy heard during that Independence Day parade many years ago.

In our arguments over the war on terror and our Afghan policy we hear the sound of freedom.

In our arguments over energy policy and off-shore drilling we hear the sound of freedom.

In our arguments over financial reform and economic policy we hear the sound of freedom.

In our arguments over gay rights and the balance between pro-choice and pro-life we hear the sound of freedom.

In our arguments over the meaning of the Constitution, over presidential power and the rule of law we hear the sound of freedom.

And in everything else we, the people, argue about, in all of it we hear the sound of freedom. After the sound of laughing children, it is perhaps the most beautiful of sounds.


Today is not the day to quarrel over America’s culture wars. Today is the day to celebrate that we, the people, are free to have culture wars. Today is the day to listen to all the voices, even those with which we disagree, rejoicing in our resonant discord.

Listen to our voice, the voice of America. That’s us we’re hearing, we, the people. Listen to the music we are making. Hear our reasoned analysis and our quiet prayers, our anger and our disrespect. Hear our hearts and our dreams, our fears and our joys, our loves and our hates, our hopes for the future and our broken hearts for the past. Hear in our voices our sense of right and wrong, of liberty and justice, and our relationship to our God or whatever.

Be proud of this voice, for it is the voice of a free people, alive to the challenges of today and the promises of tomorrow. Be proud of this voice that we hear in the grand discord that is America’s culture wars. That’s our voice we hear, we, the people, governing ourselves as best we can just like we’ve been doing for 234 years. Listen and be proud, grateful to the founders for bequeathing the blessings of liberty to us and committed to bequeathing these same blessings to those generations yet unborn


There is a truth that emerges in the stillness, when we listen quietly to the sound of freedom, to our 234 year argument with ourselves over the meaning of our creed and how it is best reflected in our government: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The simple truth that emerges in the quiet stillness is that this is what government of the people, by the people and for the people sounds like: a messy discordant atonal arrhythmic cacophony, the voice of we, the people.

We have always been, we are now and we will always be the argument as, we, the people meet our challenges. The culture wars are the very chords and rhythms of freedom.

So tomorrow, when we go back to whichever side of the culture wars we happen to be on, let us commit to doing so with a spirit of tolerance and cooperation, a spirit that recognizes that all are created equal, so that we may continue the revolution, the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world.

Let freedom ring.

© Copyright 2010. Stan Stahl, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

BRACE Luncheon

BRACE, "Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies," is sponsoring it's annual luncheon next week, June 29th, downtown Pensacola Florida.

Dr. Steve Picou will be presenting on the sociological impact of disasters. Yours truly will also be presenting, focusing on the efficacies of multi-agency partnerships, and their ability to leverage resources--all the more important in the current economy.

BRACE offers a national model for multi-agency collaboration, capacities which will be more than necessary to fight the oil spill.

You can read more about the event, even register via this link at

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Volunteerism Highest in 6 Years

Even in these economic times, Americans are reaching out to support one another at rates higher than for the previous six years.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, summarizing a report by the Corporation for National and Community Service, says that more than 63 million Americans (and that's only counting adults), volunteered to help a charitable cause last year.  That is nearly 27 percent of the adult population.  Read the details.

This is clearly a tremendous resource, and to help manage, coordinate, and leverage the time and talents of  these volunteers, VisionLink will be releasing a new Volunteer Management module in its Community Operating System software this summer.  Designed in partnership with a number of customers, including design and funding support from the Coordinated Assistance Network, it's a powerful solution supporting both individual and groups of volunteers.

Let us know if we can help your community make a difference!

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Award Winning Boulder

Our home base community of Boulder, Colorado was just named number four Best Cities for the Next Decade.  This is good news--the community continues to attract the rare combination of technical competence and social awareness that drives our Community Operating System software, CommunityOS.

The text from Kiplinger follows (authored by Marc A. Wojno, Senior Associate Editor)

Science meets scenery in our number-four pick for Best Cities for the Next Decade.

It’s a city of crunchy environmentalists, early adopters and entrepreneurs, meandering bike paths, public-transit buses named Dash, Stampede and Bolt, and restaurants powered by wind energy. You’ll find scores of art galleries, performing-arts venues, chic boutiques -- even a Tesla Motors electric-car dealership. Boulder is an intellectual hot spot where environmental and scientific ideas blossom into businesses.

Three economic drivers power Boulder: the University of Colorado, federal research laboratories and more than 6,600 small businesses and corporations, all woven into an entrepreneurial fabric. 

For example, Ball Aerospace, responsible for instrumentation and repairs for the Hubble Space Telescope, develops businesses with the university’s aerospace engineering sciences program and federally funded labs, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 

Green Garage, a small auto-services shop that turns old cars into hybrids, works with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the university’s Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute.

Sun Microsystems, Xcel Energy and Siemens have set up offices to tap into this type of collaboration. IBM, which came to Boulder in 1965, recently opened a 110,000-square-foot, energy-efficient data center. And the plan is to add even more data-center space in Boulder, says James Butcher, manager of data center hardware planning at IBM, which recently added 500 jobs in the city.

The solar industry is also a major driver of Boulder’s economy. Namasté Solar, which installs solar systems atop houses and offices, is emblematic of Boulder’s newer, employee-owned small businesses, which have experienced a meteoric rise. “We’re just over five years old, and we’ve grown from three people to about 70,” says CEO Blake Jones.

But Boulder is more than just aerospace, data centers and solar panels. The city is a mecca for those seeking healthy, active lifestyles. Outdoors enthusiasts can grab a lunch-hour workout on the city’s 150 miles of hiking and biking trails located throughout the 45,000 acres of open-space land surrounding the city. This undeveloped land, purchased by the city over the past several decades, underscores Boulder’s commitment to preserving the environment.

Article continues...

If you'd like to work for us, please contact

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Using Our Own Software Internally

I've always been interested in whether other software providers use their own software for their own purposes or deploy other tools.  Seems like this is a great line in the sand.

So, we decided to jump off that cliff and recently moved all of our own customer tracking and account management to our own Community Operating System.  While it is true that CommunityOS is designed for case management, volunteer coordination, referrals and so forth--and in many different sectors--we decided to deploy it for account management as well. It's a great test of the flexibility of the solution.

Pleased to report it is going well.  And from the CEO's perspective, one of the primary benefits (besides saving money and so forth), is that all members of VisionLink's staff are now consumers themselves of our core software solution, and thus we become our own additional source of bug identification or better yet, feature enhancement ideas.

If you run a software firm, I can't encourage you enough to try something similar.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

AIRS Conference

VisionLink joins the Alliance of Information & Referral Systems (AIRS), at the annual national conference, in Rochester New York.

Conference tracks include Aging and Disability, Disaster, Military, Resource Database, Service Delivery, Technology, Trends and Tangents, and 2-1-1. VisionLink's Community Operating System offers solutions for each of these areas and more.   At each successive annual conference, the focus turns more and more to integration, multi-agency partnerships, and true community-wide solutions.   The drivers?  The need to provide coherent client services, and in highly cost-effective ways.

If you are at the conference, please stop by and see us at booths 124 and 125, or join us Tuesday early evening at the VisionLink hospitality suite.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Keeping Costs Down: The Moral Imperative

"Our hearts drive the mission, the bank account drives the scope," so said one of the presenters at the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) conference this morning.  We could not have said it better.

Those of us who provide technology to the non profit, charitable, and faith-based sectors have a moral obligation to keep the costs of technology as low as possible.  The technology is a tool, it is a mean towards collaboration, it can mitigate fraud, and more--but it is not unlike fundraising:  if the administrative costs are too high, it weakens the overall cause.

We have deployed as a SaaS provider for many years, and this allows us to reduce costs tremendously.  So to does our practice of distributing at no charge upgrades paid by any one customer to all of our other customers. Working together everyone works better, and our customers appreciate this.

We also focus on highly advanced server systems which help us reduce costs, and we shy away from many of the "fads" of the technical moment to be sure the cost is actually of merit and is effective.

Overall, however, the greatest gain by the users of our Community Operating System software, is the efficiencies they gain by having multiple sectors within any one community or state share a common technology, a common resource directory, and a collection of unified (but customized) client management tools.  The cost savings are huge, the improvements in client services are amazing.  Let's keep driving costs down so that the bank account does not need to limit the mission.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

New Staff - Welcome Aboard

Pleased to report that we have just finished a week of orientation and training for two new account managers a new customer service manager.  Chris, Joanne, and Joan bring great professional backgrounds and keenly useful experience to their roles, and we are certainly pleased to welcome them aboard!

This greatly expands VisionLink's ability to reach to out to new customers and partnerships, and to provide deliriously great service to our current clients.   It will take a while to get them fully up to speed, but based on the progress this week alone--it won't take long.

Thanks to Nevada, Texas, South Carolina, and Colorado--wonderful customers who were willing to share some of their time and insight, helping to orient the new staff.  We always say we are are customer driven; perhaps good evidence is that customers are part of staff training itself!

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Census Bureau Data Displays

Have you returned your Census Bureau form?  Using this year of the Census as a kick off, we are pleased to integrate US Census Bureau data into our mapping layer.  This is the same module that allows our customers to display the locations of their clients (or sub-sets of clients), and the location of relevant community services as well.

Now, with the addition of Census Bureau data by zip code, I&R call operators, elder care specialists, youth services advocates, mental health professionals, disaster relief managers and others can all call up demographic and other Census Bureau data with a click.  It makes for quick, effective, and visually-enhanced decision making.

Admittedly, the current data is past Census Bureau data, but this way we can help our users gain expertise with the tool set, and be all the more ready when the new data, being collected now, is available for release.

If your partnership would like to not only serve clients and manage community or state services resources, but map those relationships and layer over Census Bureau data as well, give us a call.  Our relational technology can improve your work.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Data Exchange White Paper: Benefits

We have a new White Paper on the Thought Leadership section of our main VisionLink Web Site:
Non Profits Sharing Data: Increasing Effectiveness Through Data Exchange

As we work with a wide variety of social services, homeless management, elder care, 2-1-1s, disaster relief, volunteer, and donation networks, we often find ourselves at the center of data exchange conversations.

To inform and kickstart the conversation in your partnership, check out the White Paper.  We discuss various components of the work, and several key benefits including:

- Saving money and resources
- Better information and better decisions
- Improved data quality
- Improved service delivery
- Access to real time data
- Competitive advantage

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Mapping Boundaries Upgrade

Ever wished you could draw a diagram on a map with a few clicks?  Wish that you could show your board members the relationship between needs and assets across your community visually?  Well, part of the much larger upgrade being released this week allows authorized users to create their own mapping boundaries--for nearly any purpose.  Need to outline the boundaries of the school districts in your service area?  Perhaps the police jurisdictions?  The service areas for larger nonprofits? An eligibility boundary for a state or locally funded initiative?  All this and more is now just a couple clicks away.

Integrated with the Resource Directory in CommunityOS, these mapping tools become even more valuable as clients and community resources can be visually presented.  And for those who asked us to include basic US Census Bureau data, now you can, with a click.

To create mapping boundary displays, an authorized user has three choices:  1) import a standards-based mapping data file; 2) import GIS coordinates directly; or, 3 simply point and click across a map to create appropriate boundaries.  Create many boundaries, name them appropriately, link them to web resources (or content inside VisionLink's CommunityOS solution) and more.

The Mapping Boundaries module is also VisionLink Portal compliant, so this means that authorized users can create different sets of mapping boundaries for different portals, deployed for different purposes.  So--across a community or state, we offer single-system integrated GIS solutions, yet deployable in a manner that presents the right map to the appropriate users.

Keeping it simple:  While it is harder to build, we have constructed this solution so that no third party software or browser plug-ins are required.  All this just works inside standard browsers, making it easy to use and deploy.  Next time you have a board or funder presentation, let's use graphically displayed information on Maps!

Epic Upgrade Releasing Next Week

A major (perhaps epic?) upgrade rolls out next week, and this after several weeks on staging so our customers could review and provide input before we move to production.   Indeed, we received helpful comments from many communities and made several refinements to the final version, releasing next week.  Thanks to everyone for their input!

Overall, this upgrade provides a number of modules:  a linguistically aware full text searching module with ranked results; a mapping module which can display client and resource data simultaneously; a real-time situational analysis module with multiple boundaries; integration of US Census Bureau data; and some additional taxonomy tools for Information & Referral specialists.

Over the next week, I'll summarize each module.  Each component can be used right away, and yet each also provides fundamentally new and advanced capacities which can drive, and be driven by, complex community and partnership issues and needs.

Stay Tuned as the Community Operating System (tm) takes another major leap forward.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Recommended Conference: NTEN

We just returned from the 10th annual Non-Profit Technology Network Conference, held in Atlanta this week, which was attended by over 1,400 representatives from non-profits from around the world.

Leading up to the Conference, we hosted a Webinar in February, "No Wrong Door" which introduced a large philanthropic audience to CommunityOS.

At the conference, we hosted two Affinity Group discussions, "Data Exchange Specialists" and "Disaster Response Partners". These groups were a big hit, with participants ranging from local non-profits from across the country, to international organizations such as  Habitat for Humanity, Compassion International, Ushaditi, and the American Red Cross.

We also presented a workshop "Data Sharing: The Need for Client & Resource Data Standards" which focused on the need to, and the options for, sharing data across partnering organizations.  We discussed data sharing on common technical platforms, and data sharing across dissimilar systems. Clearly, there is a great deal of energy on this topic and we hope to support an ongoing conversation among participants in these various sessions.  And if that weren't enough, we hosted the NTEN Cyber Cafe and a booth at the "Science Fair".

NTEN is a great resource, check them out at  You'll find everything from quick tips to solid research and resources useful to nonprofit organizations.  And the best part is that the organization attracts high caliber talent, so the networking and conversations between participants and members is truly engaging and worthwhile.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

International Red Cross Support in Haiti

VisionLink is pleased to announce that we have been (for several weeks already), supporting the work of the American and International Red Cross in Haiti.

We were able to deploy a large scale solution to capture and manage information about the needs of individuals and households in Haiti.   Given that much of this is quietly unfolding, we'll be quiet about the details here on the blog.  I am particularly proud however, that our development team was able to launch a system of this scale in only four days from receipt of the task order.  While the technology launched quickly, the real human needs will continue for years.

A number of Red Cross staff members have just returned from Haiti and I have no doubt they will have enhancements and workflow requests to fine tune the system.  In an area with such need, and where the management and coordination of relief is so critical to long-term success, we are honored to be able to deploy CommunityOS.  Or put another way, the many clients, customers, and users of CommunityOS deserve the thanks--their ideas and insights have built a solution which is both highly flexible and yet specifically useful.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Basic Needs Network in the News

The good folks in Abilene, Texas (and the surrounding counties) have done a great job explaining the benefits of 2-1-1 and their Basic Needs Network.  Clients are served more effectively, and donor resources are used more efficiently.  Particularly in this economy, this is the responsible way to work.

This is exactly what VisionLink's Community Operating System is all about, helping partnerships of agencies work together to make resources and donations go further.   

To view the great news clip, follow this link to KTXS Channel 12 in Texas, or go to

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

New Customer 211 San Diego Presents at AIRS

We are pleased to welcome 211 San Diego to our VisionLink network.  It will be an honor to support their work!

If you are planning on attending this year's AIRS conference you will be able to enjoy a number of worthwhile workshops from these good folks at 211 San Diego.  For that matter, if you have not yet registered for the conference, here are 7 more reasons to do so:

Managing Disaster Relationships
Presenter: Thomas Bennett, 211 San Diego, California
This course will provide an overview of governmental organizations and agencies for which they should develop and maintain relationships.  It will detail the methods, values and benefits of those relationships both long and short term.  (Tuesday, May 25, 10:30am – 12:00am)

2-1-1 at Times of Disaster (Emerging to experienced collaborations: Local, regional, and nationwide response strategies)
Presenters: Terri Brock and Luease Graham, Centerpoint Community Services/2-1-1 Connections, Shreveport, Louisiana; Denny Huff, Council of Community Services, Roanoke, Virginia; Mona Freels, 2-1-1 San Diego, California
A varied panel of providers, representative of small, mid-size and large organizations, will discuss their experiences in developing, implementing and reviewing a comprehensive disaster program.  Panelists will provide an interactive environment where participants can learn best practices regardless of organization size.  (Tuesday, May 25, 2:15pm – 3:45pm)

IS-700.a NIMS; An introduction (Part 1 & 2)
Presenter: Thomas Bennett, 211 San Diego, California
This course introduces and overviews the National Incident Management System (NIMS).  NIMS provides a consistent nationwide template to enable all government, private-sector, and nongovernmental organizations to work together during domestic incidents. At the end of the second workshop, the attendee will be able to complete the FEMA IS 700.a exam.   This successful completion will certify their familiarity with NIMS/ICS emergency management system. (Note that Part 2 must be completed to take the test).  (Wednesday, May 26, 9:00am – 10:30am & 2:15pm – 3:45pm)

I&R Excellence Through the Six principles of Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC).  Be First!  Be Right!  Be Credible!
Presenters: Trisha Steiniger, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg, Virginia; William York, 2-1-1 San Diego, California
When disaster strikes, ANY information is empowering, that is why it’s so important to get out GOOD information quickly.  Communication is a broad science and imperfect art but, these 6 principles of Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication will guide your planning ahead of disaster.  Crisis Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) training will provide the nuts and bolts of crisis communication planning and the tools necessary to implement an effective communication response during a crisis or emergency risk situation.  (Wednesday, May 26, 10:45am – 12:15pm)

Learning to Use Commercial Call Center Philosophies and Experience in Social Service and Disaster Call Centers
Presenters: Mona Freels and William York, 2-1-1 San Diego, California
High-end commercial call centers across the globe have accumulated a huge amount knowledge, operational management experience, standards for the domestic call center’s operation and management indicators, inbound /outbound flow traffic handling techniques, call center cost control, staff recruitment, management process, personnel and training programs in order ensure their success in a competitive global market. They have laid a mighty foundation.  (Monday, May 24, 3:15pm – 4:45pm)

In the meantime, I&Rs across the country are still asking the question, “Are we a call center or a social service?”. And the answer is… “Yes, we are a call center that delivers social service and disaster information.” We should take advantage of this mighty foundation, millions of dollars of research, real world experience and the insights of commercial call centers. In this presentation, we’ll discuss the need for, techniques and strategies to provide more extensive, competitive and innovative I&R service based on the methods of American Express, Cox Cable and other award-winning commercial call center operations.

Food Stamp Outreach – It’s Not Just a Referral Anymore
Presenters: Mona Freels, Bill York and Claire Oksayan, 211 San Diego, California
Learn how to go beyond standard referrals to your local Food Stamp office by providing Food Stamp outreach to clients that increases revenues to your local economy and increases revenues to you. Practices that have helped 211 San Diego work closely with their county to improve Food Stamps (SNAP) throughout the region.  (Wednesday, May 26, 9:00am – 10:30am)

Phone System Efficiencies through Technology:
How Cloud Computing Can Improve Services and Flexibility

Presenters: Rodney Sackett and Mona Freels, 211 San Diego, California
Call centers today are faced with extraordinary decisions when it comes to technology needs. Many solutions can be expensive to purchase and sometimes even more expensive to implement. In this discussion we are going to walk through all the “cloud computing” technology changes made at 211 San Diego and cover our successes, challenges and why we made the decisions to change. (Wednesday, May 26, 10:45am – 12:15pm)

It's like a comprehensive course in a single conference!   Many, many other courses and workshops are being offered at AIRS 2010 as well.

VisionLink will be presenting, too, or stop by and say hello at our booth.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Veterans AHAR for Homeless Management

We are pleased to announce another tool for those managing Homeless Coalitions, funded by HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development).

The AHAR now allows users to run the report for Veterans Only (or, as previously, for all non-veterans as well.

The AHAR tool is designed to assist Continuum of Care jurisdictions in preparing data to submit to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for their annual report to the US Congress.  Our release notes are available in the Customer Resource Center.

It is increasingly clear to us that communities need to integrate their homeless prevention strategies with other community partnerships, such as elder care, information and referral, and so forth.  An integrated response reduces the costs of data collection and management, decreases the costs of software and hardware, reduces fraud and duplication, and improves client service.  Can't get much better than that! 

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

Compliments Connect

We recently launched one of our new customer's sites, and our lead contact there sent back a wonderful note:

"I'd like to say what a pleasure  it's been, working with your staff.  [They] have been amazing.   At all times, they have maintained the sense of confidence and of support that our technology team felt from day one. The availability and expertise of your staff is so appreciated."

I greatly appreciate comments like this.  It reminds us all that the work we do in our offices is directly related to the work our customers can do in theirs.  In a positive working space, everyone does even better work. 

We have as our goal to provide deliriously great customer service, and to that end we have strengthened our account management operation and the integration of our internal teams that work with our customers (really partners--that's how we see those we work for).  We are adding additional resources in this area as well.

Our mission is to provide the most advanced and flexible software to connect people with community assets, and to do so in a way that keeps reducing the cost of technology.  When we do that, we free up resources that can be used by the customer for their mission--not technology.  And that's the point. 

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

Revised QPR for Homeless Management HMIS

Responding to revised specifications from HUD, we are pleased to release a revised Quarterly Progress Report.  The logic tables have been updated to the revised specifications, ensuring accurate and useful reporting tools for Homeless Management users.

There is more!  We have also improved the data set up process for HMIS records related to the QPR, and cleaned up several data entry steps.  A click saved, is a coffee break sustained (or something like that.)  Seriously, though, these are important reports for decision makers, program staff, and funders.  It merits increased quality and increased ease of use.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

New Customer: Jobs for the Future

We are very pleased to welcome Jobs for the Future to the VisionLink network of partners across the United States and around the world.

Jobs for the Future identifies, develops, and promotes new education and workforce strategies that help communities, states, and the nation compete in a global economy.  JFF is the authoritative source for best practices, policies, and research across a wide range of workforce and educational issues.

In the "company you keep" category,  JFF is supported by some of the most preeminent foundations, including the following: 

The Annie E. Casey Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
The Ford Foundation
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
The Hitachi Foundation
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Lumina Foundation for Education
MetLife Foundation
Microsoft Corporation
The Prudential Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The Wal-Mart Foundation

JFF is deploying VisionLink's Community Operating System to manage national best practices, and as a suite of tools for internal coordination and data and document sharing.  We are very pleased to welcome JFF aboard.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO


Thanks to a wonderfully coordinated effort (no pun intended) by both the national CAN staff and VisionLink's development, Q&A and Help Desk staff, the new national Coordinated Assistance Network solution has been released across the Web. 

This major rebuild provides client I&R and case management portals which match the FEMA disaster regions, communication tools that support both nation-wide messaging and disaster specific needs, and extraordinary security and permission tools that provide granular controls over portal access and client record access.

In addition, a great deal of useful resources, libraries of information, online tutorials and much more have been added to this national system.  This is literally the nation's most advanced multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional solution for coordinated disaster relief and recovery.  I doubt that the founding members of CAN ever envisioned it's rapid growth, to what is now some 1,300 affiliated partners.

Built to respond instantly to the changing dynamics of real disasters, content, forms, client registries, case management tools, dashboard reports and much, much more can be dynamically and instantly adjusted to meet the needs of a national disaster, or to the meet the needs of many smaller disasters simultaneously.  With this kind of flexibility, needs can be met more coherently, and the technology can become only an enabling tool--while the focus can stay on those in need.

VisionLink is truly honored to support this extraordinary partnership with CommunityOS.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Congrats to Bay Area CAN

We wanted to congratulate the staff and partners of Bay Area CAN for a successful launch last week!

This partnership focuses on powerful client management tools, including a shared disaster client and resource information database, working across nonprofit and faith-based organizations in the ten county area around San Francisco.  These counties include:  Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma.

Organized through SFCARD, the founding partners include the Bay Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, the San Fransisco Department of Emergency Management, the United Way of the Bay Area, 2-1-1, the Salvation Army, the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), and the Fritz Institute.

This is an extraordinary advance, supporting both locally driven needs, and the option for full integration with national responders and partners should a large scale disaster occur.  The Community Operating System solution provided by VisionLink supports the entire range of work across the planning, response, and recovery stages of disasters.   This is the same community integrating solution used by others for HMIS, elder care, youth opportunity, information & referral, mental health, crisis line and other initiatives where client and community resources can and should be more effectively and efficiently coordinated.

Again, congratulations and welcome aboard, we are honored to support your work.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

One Click Community Organizing: Instant Portals

Okay, right off the top we know full well that one click partnership building is not possible.  However, during yesterday's Sprint Review, I was able to see the nearly completed One Click Portal Module.  Thanks to some serious development effort, we will be able to launch Community Operating System Portals with a click.

This is not a small thing.  A CommunityOS Portal provides client tracking and case management, resource directory and asset mapping, content management (everything from calendars to message forums, eNewsletters, file libraries and more), and some seven levels of reporting, all of which can be deployed for the specific needs of an agency, or a program, or a stakeholder group, or a specific purpose.

Need to focus on Elder Care?  What about that literacy initiative, or the Jobs Program?  Does your disaster relief team have the private space to plan and the public tools to get out important bulletins?

The most important part, of course, is that your information can be either completely private between portals, or completely shared, and anything in between.  Thus, privacy can be sustained and collaboration encouraged quickly, easily, and at very low cost.

As I've said before, technology is finally approaching common sense.  Or said another way, technology is finally able to support the complex, dynamic, and evolving needs that are our communities.  As technology becomes ever more powerful and less expensive, we can help to focus resources and assets on the needs of people, not the technology.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

New International Customer: Salesian Mission

Pleased to report that we are welcoming a new international customer to our VisionLink network.

The Salesians of Don Bosco serve almost three million youth in 131 countries.  Their 34,000 staff work to improve the lives of poor youngsters through the teaching of skilled trades and scientific agriculture. There are 225 Salesian orphanages and shelters, 216 hospitals and clinics, 850 nurseries and 3,408 schools around the world.  Their US Headquarters is in New Rochelle, NY.

The Salesians have selected CommunityOS to help coordinate relief efforts in Haiti; their staff and facilities--and obviously those they serve--were heavily impacted in the Haitian Earthquake.

We are proud that they have chose to rely on VisionLink for their mission critical work.

Dr. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

Coordinated Assistance Network Growing Quickly

Compliments to the steering committee, staff, partners, and 1,300 affiliated agencies and organizations of the national Coordinated Assistance Network.  In the map below, you will see the number of disasters, by state, to which the partners of CAN provided coordinated relief during the last two years.

It's an honor to support this work--the world's largest multi-agency, multi-jurisdiction partnership. 

Next month we launch an entirely redesigned infrastructure to support this work.  When CAN began, as a way for nonprofit and charitable organizations to work together more collaboratively, I doubt anyone expected this kind of growth, or this kind of rapid acceptance of the coordinated relief model.  The new infrastructure deploys regional portals across the nation, with state and disaster specific resources.  The communication model supports nation-wide content dissemination, as as well as state, region, and disaster specific content.

It makes sense though. The disaster survivor is served much more effectively, donor contributions are leveraged more efficiently, and fraud becomes much more difficult. 

Well done is all we can say to the many leaders and organizations that have been able to work together so powerfully, and to the American Red Cross, the primary funder.

Dr. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

No Wrong Door Webinar for NTEN

We have been selected to host a webinar for NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network).  The session description is as follows:

Economic pressures drive the need, and technology is finally approaching a level of common sense. This workshop will focus on portal-based technologies that allow communities to deploy a single technical architecture, yet allow each organization to use their own client management and resource tools. We'll focus on what information should be public, what information should be private, and what information should be shared to drive collaboration among organizations working with shared clients, resources, and/or objectives. We'll also investigate new reporting technologies that allow real-time reports available through dashboards.

If you would like to learn about how to participate, you can: here

We already have quite a list of distinguished participants.  Clearly, much of the value will be gaining from each others insight and experience.

We will also be presenting at NTEN; we find it be an extraordinarily effective gathering of nonprofit leaders and system builders.  More as we approach the conference dates.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

16 Million 2-1-1 Calls in 2009

From our colleagues at the United Way of America, an update on 2009 Call Volume:

2-1-1 call centers across the country have completed their annual survey of call traffic.  In 2009, these calls totaled more than 16 million calls across America.  This is an increase of 13% in call volume over 2008.

More than 40% of the 16,235,348 callers had basic human service needs for housing, utilities, food, clothing, personal and household goods.  In the basic needs category 27% of the calls were for housing and utilities and 10% for food and meals. Requests for health and mental health services increased to 15% of all calls.  

VisionLink's Role

VisionLink customers are among those providing 2-1-1 services, from New York to Washington state, from Florida to Maine, and here in our own state of Colorado--and for many regional and metropolitan systems in between.  We are particularly pleased to support those partnerships that weave 2-1-1 operations into a more holistic effort, such as when integrated with elder care, homeless management, or disaster response.

VisionLink is a strong supporter of AIRS standards (the certifying body for 2-1-1 operations), and was in the fact the first to endorse and to deploy XML based data exchange standards used to move resource information among compliant software providers. 

2-1-1 Background

2-1-1 is available to over 240 million Americans – approximately 80% of the United States population –covering all or parts of 47 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“2-1-1” was designated by the Federal Communications Commission in 2000 as the national 3-digit telephone dialing code for health, and human community services. 2-1-1 is an easy to remember phone number that connects individuals with resources in their community.

With approximately 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States plus scores of government agencies, finding help can be confusing and intimidating.  People who want to give help often do not know where to begin.  2-1-1 centers are staffed by trained specialists who quickly assess the callers’ needs and refer them to the help they seek.

It’s simple to remember, accessible to everyone at no cost, available 24/7, with multilingual capabilities.  2-1-1 offers information on a broad range of services, including rent assistance, food banks, affordable housing, health resources, child care, after-school programs, elderly care, financial literacy, job training programs and legal services.

National leadership for 2-1-1 US is provided by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems, United Way Worldwide and the 2-1-1 US Steering Committee.  2-1-1 is funded through local and state sources including United Ways and other nonprofits, foundations, businesses, and state and local government.  The Calling for 2-1-1 Act, S 211 and H.R. 211 seeks to authorize federal funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help implement and sustain 2-1-1 nationwide.  For more information, please visit

Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

February 26th Design Session, 1:00 pm Mountain

VisionLink’s development team is queued up to focus on another round of enhancements to the Taxonomy Management & Reporting capacities of CommunityOS, and we want your input!

Join us for this important Design Studio that is designed for you to provide VisionLink with guidance based on your day to day experiences as we seek to improve on key features to the system.

I will be joined by Kyle Kuczun, our CIO, and Craig Quincy, our Software Development Manager.

As you know, we've been adding a number of enhancements in this area, and want to make the workflow even easier and more powerful.  Note that we are holding a Feature Review on the 12th of February that would be a great session before this one.  Please attend both if you can.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Feature Review, February 12th, 1:00pm Mountain

Join us on February 12th for a Feature Review session focused on client needs and taxonomy management.

Specifically, this session will focus on tools and tips for managing and reporting presenting needs, met and unmet needs.  In addition, we will provide an overview of new and existing Taxonomy Management Tools.  Note that this this session is helpful precursor to the Design Studio scheduled Feb. 26th (see below).

Join us for a WebEx Feature Review of this set of workflow and taxonomy tools available in your CommunityOS.  Contact us to register for the session.

Your truly is presenting.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

25 Major Releases, 50 Feature Enhancements

We just completed a review of 2009 and are pleased (and a bit amazed) to report that we completed approximately 25 major releases last year, along with more than 50 feature enhancements.   Some of these were customer specific and many were released to the entire customer base.   It is this pace of amazing improvement that allows us to create community-wide solutions, and provide sector-specific solutions (e.g., elder care, HMIS, 2-1-1) simultaneously.

This pace of development is a testament to great feedback from customers, a brilliant and tenacious staff, and also to our SCRUM development methodology.  Organized into 10 day sprints, our development staff has been working this way for more than two years now, and our effectiveness and efficiency simply continues to improve.

For our customers it means that we are more predictable in our delivery schedule, and also that we can be even more responsive when timely opportunities arise, or when disasters strike.  As a CEO I've learned not to interrupt the current Sprint, yet, in return we gain significant improvements in our pace, quality, and flexibility.

The best part? We have a number of customers who have adopted many of the core aspects of the SCRUM (part of the Agile methodology) for their own work day-to-day.  It turns out to be a great way to prioritize weekly and monthly tasks in more general ways as well.  If you would like to learn more about SCRUM, go here.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO

Needs & Offers for Haitian Relief

VisionLink has launched a web-based Needs & Offers management solution for PQMD, the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations, to help with their relief efforts in Haiti.

PQMD helps to coordinate the work of pharmascetical firms and nonprofit partners around the world who provide more than $4 billion dollars in medical equipment, medicines, and other related contributions to more than 150 nations around the world every year.

As the earthquake struck Haiti, members of the partnership have been quick to respond--a response which has been complicated by the lack of basic infrastructure in Haiti.  The bottlenecks at the airport, the main port, and the state of the roadways have all added to the challenge.

At the request of PQMD, VisionLink quickly developed a solution to capture information about Needs and information about donor Offers, and the tools to connect them.   While this is not the full Gifts in Kind solution we are building as a major component of our Community Operating System, it's a great example of how our flexible architecture supports rapidly deployed, customized solutions.  And given the diverse and ongoing needs in Haiti, it is simply an honor to be a part of the solution. 

Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

2-1-1 Maine Partners with CDC

We are pleased to report that one of our customers, 2-1-1 Maine, has partnered with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to share vital information for state residents.

By using resource information managed in CommunityOS, VisionLink and 2-1-1 Maine partnered to set up a feed of much-needed and valuable health-related information that can be found not only in 2-1-1 Maine's CommunityOS solution (, but also on an external website created by government partners (

This gives residents quick and easy access to targeted health-related information. By participating in an initaitive spearheaded by Governor Baldacci's Office and the CDC, 2-1-1 Maine has further strengthened local partnerships and are supporting residents in powerful and innovative ways.

This is an important example of how the value of resource information expands as it is exchanged and delivered through multiple channels.

The launch of this significant work was announced as part of Governor's Baldacci's State of the State address last evening, which can be found here:  Gov's Address

Congratulations to the 2-1-1 Maine team.  Well done!

Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

Martin Luther King Day - Let Freedom Ring

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I'd direct you to Let Freedom Ring, written by Stan Stahl (and included below.)  I was able to meet Stan some years ago when we were both working on a project to support youth and their successful education and employment.  Stan has years of commercial security expertise, and yet he turns out to be a gifted writer.  His comments for Martin Luther King Day are included below, and the link to his blog above will take you to the half dozen or so essays he does annually.  Amazingly powerful insights on America and our role building this nation.


Martin Luther King Day, 2010

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability,
but comes through continuous struggle.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

I remember when I discovered my own racism. It was in a small town in northeastern Ohio, six months after my ex-wife and I adopted our son, Jonathan.

Adopting Jonathan—an African-American—was an act of faith in America, in the dream that “one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

Three and a half years before we adopted Jonathan, Cathy and I had sat together, tears streaming down our faces, when we heard the news that Martin Luther King had been shot in Memphis. Our hearts might have been broken that night, but we kept the faith that our child, like Martin Luther King’s own four children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

And here I was in this small town in Ohio, the white father of a 9-month old African-American baby, becoming aware of my own racism. These are the important moments, when we come up against who we are.

What I saw that day was indeed racism; the racism that is buried deep in the American psyche. But it was so much more than just Black-White and White-Black racism that I saw that day. The racism I saw is only the tip of an iceberg. Beneath the water, what I saw is a fundamental element of our common human character.

Racism exists to separate us, one from another. 50,000 years ago, after we left our African homeland, our hunter-gatherer ancestors would periodically “bump into each other.” The result was often war, often resulting in the enslavement or annihilation of one side or the other. In those days it was necessary to feel stone cold hatred for your enemy, for how else could you kill him. And if you did not kill him, it would be you who would die.

In the battle to secure their own survival, our ancestors had to learn to hate those who were different from us. Racism has been in every culture ever since. Humans can no more escape the racism in our cultures than we can escape the carcinogens in the air we breathe.

King understood just how deeply racism is buried in the human soul. He reminded us that the end to racism would not come on wheels of inevitability, but would come only through continuous struggle.

The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

King also understood that there was something else in our souls, something buried every bit as deep as our collective racism, a weapon powerful enough to defeat racism.

Surviving against our enemies 50,000 years ago not only required you to hate your enemy; survival also required that you love your own tribe every bit as much as you hated your enemy. It was not your survival after all that mattered; what mattered was the survival of your tribe. Others might sacrifice their life for you; you must be prepared to do the same for them. From this was born the Golden Rule, the one moral rule found in every religion on this Earth.

If fear and hatred of each other is our species’ original sin, then the Golden Rule is our salvation.

King recognized—perhaps more clearly than anyone before him—how deeply the Golden Rule is embedded in America’s creed ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

By holding a mirror to the ideals of America, King forced America to confront the question who do we mean by all men? Was all men to include all men or were there to continue to be two classes of Americans, one created more equal than the other? Just who is to be allowed to pursue the American Dream? Just who is our neighbor that we are commanded to love? Blacks? Women? Gays and Lesbians? The result is not inevitable. The struggle continues. The dream endures.

This is not just America’s struggle, America’s dream. This struggle, this dream, belongs to the world. As the world grows smaller, as we get to know each other, our 50,000 year old fear and hatred of others is bumping up against 50,000 years of the Golden Rule.

We see the tragic consequences when fear and hatred win out over the Golden Rule in places like the Middle East, Iran, North Korea, Darfur, Zimbabwe, and Myanmar. The terrorists bent on destroying our way of life know only how to hate; they have not learned to love.

But we also see the glorious results when the peoples of free nations live in accordance with the Golden Rule, for what is government of the people, by the people and for the people but the Golden Rule applied to political power. The Blessings of Liberty are nothing but the logical outcome of the Golden Rule, just as the current recession is the inevitable outcome when avarice and greed come to trump the Golden Rule.

In December of 1964, Martin Luther King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize with words of faith that are as necessary today as they were 45 years ago.

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind.

I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.

I refuse to accept the idea that the "-isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

 I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.

I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.

I still believe that We Shall Overcome!

This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom.

When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.

We miss you more than ever, Martin. America and the world need you more than ever. Even as the tears continue to roll down our cheeks, we keep faith with your memory. For your faith, Martin, is our North Star.

Let freedom ring.