Cover: The Impacts of Dog Tag Inc.

The Impacts of Dog Tag Inc.

A Mixed-Methods Exploration of an Entrepreneurial Fellowship for Veterans, Military Spouses, and Military Caregivers

Published Oct 12, 2022

by Stephanie Brooks Holliday, Kathryn E. Bouskill, Sarita D. Lee

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Research Questions

  1. What impacts does the Dog Tag Inc. Fellowship Program have on alumni's personal and professional lives?
  2. How can Dog Tag Inc. gain a richer understanding of how its fellowship program shapes the careers and life trajectories of its alumni?

Dog Tag Inc. is a nonprofit organization that seeks to help veterans, their spouses, and those who serve as their caregivers reintegrate into civilian life. The organization runs the Dog Tag Inc. Fellowship Program, a five-month entrepreneurial fellowship program designed to enhance reintegration into civilian entrepreneurial and employment opportunities.

This report describes research to help Dog Tag Inc. better understand how its fellowship program shapes the careers and life trajectories of its alumni. The authors first conducted focus groups and interviews with program alumni to better understand their experience with the fellowship. Using this information, as well as existing quantitative data on Dog Tag Inc. alumni outcomes, the authors worked with Dog Tag Inc. to revise the organization's existing alumni survey to more adequately and meaningfully capture the longitudinal impacts of the Dog Tag Inc. Fellowship Program at scale. They then fielded two waves of the revised survey in 2020 and 2021, the results of which are presented here and complemented by qualitative data. In addition to providing valuable information to Dog Tag Inc. as the organization continues to expand and refine its programming, these findings are likely to be of interest to other organizations serving veterans, spouses, and caregivers.

Key Findings

  • Research has identified significant challenges faced by veterans who have served in the era since September 11, 2001, their families, and those who care for them. Key among these are the difficulties inherent to acculturating back to civilian life, rebuilding one's identity, finding one's purpose, and seeking fulfilling and meaningful work.
  • Focus groups and interviews provided a more complete picture of the perceived impact of the program and the continued needs of alumni fellows.
  • Survey responses highlight the high levels of satisfaction that fellows have with their fellowship experience. More than 94 percent of fellows reported that they are satisfied or very satisfied with the program, and fellows reported being extremely likely to recommend the fellowship to a friend.

Recommendations

  • Continue to monitor the ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the employment sector, including its effect on entrepreneurship.
  • Determine what role Dog Tag Inc. wants to play in supporting alumni, and consider offering programming, resources, or awareness building efforts to address common alumni challenges.
  • Consider the role of technology in the program for future cohorts.
  • Identify ways to maintain fidelity to the Dog Tag Inc. model as the program grows.
  • Find opportunities to diversify the staff of the organization and ensure their cultural competence with military populations.
  • Continue administering the annual alumni survey, and continue to bolster data collection at enrollment and completion of the program in a way that complements the alumni survey.
  • Perform regular focus groups and interviews, facilitated by a third party.
  • Explore the possibility of conducting a formal evaluation of the Dog Tag Inc. Fellowship Program.
  • All veteran, veteran family, and veteran caregiver programs should consider implementing rigorous data collection to track the impact of their efforts.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by Dog Tag Inc. and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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