Showing posts from June, 2014


The Strategic Advantage team at VisionLink concluded a three-day engagement in the Washington DC area last week — a significant convening of the top executives of public and private industry leaders in the fields of technology, social media, crisis management, multiple levels of federal government and academia. The sessions engaged leadership from the Centers for Disease Control, National VOAD, Facebook, Target, FEMA, Health & Human Services, Homeland Security, United Way Worldwide, Operation HOPE, the US Chamber of Commerce, GE Healthcare, American Red Cross, Booz Allen Hamilton, and many others.

The purpose of the meetings was to establish vision and direction and to form a number of workgroups to focus on infrastructure, processes, people, and tools that could improve the timeliness, quality, availability and access of real-time information during and after crisis situations across America. It is a goal of Operation Dragon Fire that outcomes will help communities, organizations, and response teams make better decisions with better data.

VisionLink’s Strategic Advantage team, directed by Lois Ann Porter, has been working as part of the Project Management Office with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and NVOAD on the planning and execution of the Kick-Off as well as the preparation of content and meeting documents. Douglas Zimmerman, CEO of VisionLink, is a member of this ongoing Functional & Technical Considerations Workgroup. 

The forums were made possible by seed funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; VisionLink’s work was under contract to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

AIRS Annual Conference: Innovation Platform for I&R

Every year, I&R industry experts, cross-sector partners, and friends gather in a major city to present, share new technology, connect with friends, and discuss ideas shared in conference sessions or sketched out on paper napkins in the hotel lobby. These gatherings also provide an opportunity for a crash course on the latest technological and cultural innovations impacting the human services environment.  

To understand the scope of ideas shared over the years and the changing field, it’s fun to review past conference programs and past hot topics. For example, at the 1996 AIRS Conference, technology came front and center: “I&R and the Internet, Is it Time to Consider a Connection?” Or my personal favorite: 1997 - "United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta introduces a 2-1-1."   What ever happened to the idea of I&R kiosks on every corner? (Editor’s note: Lori Warrens was instrumental in creating the concept and national support for 2-1-1.)

I think the conference is a required stop for sharing an idea, conducting mini-market research, and determining whether your idea “has legs.” I’m speaking from personal experience. This year I had the honor of sharing a new I&R service and partnership concept with an audience comprised of I&R stakeholders so comprehensive and balanced that it offered a one-stop focus group Don Draper would envy.

This week, I presented “Tapping into New Community Resources - Medical Surplus Recovery Organizations" along with Mary Cooksey, the 2-1-1 Program Director at A Call for Help Community Resource Center at the United Way of Abilene, TX. The session gave us the opportunity to discuss and hear feedback on the partnership that grew between 2-1-1 Texas A Call for Help and Global Samaritan Resources (GSR) out of a need to better coordinate the connecting of people to durable medical goods. Session participants shared some innovative ideas and others shared their great need for this type of coordination in their communities to address unmet community needs and build the capacity of such partnerships.

GSR and other Medical Surplus Recovery Organizations (MSRO) across the county collect surplus medical supplies and equipment. They organize, store, and ship requested supplies to communities in need around the world. 2-1-1 and GSR are also working together to meet domestic needs by distributing GSR’s goods locally via the Abilene Basic Needs Network. To learn more about the project goals and outcomes, click here to view the presentation.

I couldn’t stay for the entire conference, but I know that the rich discussion that Mary and I experienced with our audience was repeated across the meeting rooms, dinner events, and small group discussions. I also know that those discussions have a lasting impact that is shaping the next generation of I&R products, services, and professionals. At the same time, I know the AIRS conference can't do it all. I hope that all of us will seek and support strategies to incubate and ultimately launch the next great I&R idea.

To learn more about how VisionLink is supporting Medical Surplus Recovery Organization expansion and quality improvement efforts, visit

Lori Warrens
Senior Director of Community Solutions

A Story From the Team

Our help desk team works around the clock to ensure that our customers have the support they need. We love to hear about moments from our incredible help desk team that remind us of how proud we are to work with such great folks. Here's one story from a recent call:

"Hi Everyone,

As you know, in Help Desk we tend to talk to people who are frustrated, confused, or experiencing some sort of issue. Once in a while we get to see the other side, so we decided to share this story with the whole team.

A very nice woman called this morning about her dossier submission. She was having trouble accessing her scores and was clearly very nervous as I guided her to the correct page. She told me that she was doing this in front of her class and that her boss had just walked in.

When she finally found the page with access to her scores, she saw that she had passed! She told her students and cheers erupted from the whole class. Needless to say, she was very happy. It was a very nice moment to be a part of, and one of those few concrete reminders we get of the ways we help our customers.

VisionLink Help Desk

Moments like these remind us of why we work so hard to support so many valuable nonprofits and human service organizations. We hope this pause for celebration sparks a smile for you as it did for us.