A group of Philadelphia-area post-9/11 Veterans formed a new type of service organization in November 2016. Beyond just thinking about the problems facing our community, we are acting by engaging our skills, resources and relationships, hence our name, Action Tank.
“The ultimate, most holy form of theory is action.” by Nikos Kazantzakis
The idea for Action Tank was born at an impromptu lunch on Veterans Day in 2016, when Chris Diaz, Navy veteran, persuaded a dozen veteran friends to join him for a meal. The veterans who showed up—all of whom had served in different branches of the service and now worked in a variety of industries—were surprised that they lived and operated in Philadelphia for several years but had never crossed paths. They were also moved by the conversation that afternoon: about service and community and the desire they all shared to continue to serve in the place they called home. They left that lunch committed to do more.
The nonpartisan group has acted boldly. To start, Action Tank has set its sights on helping to address Philadelphia’s opioid crisis, one of the greatest challenges to the city in at least a generation. Fortunately, a founding member of the organization is Matthew Miclette, an Army veteran currently conducting policy research at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the foremost experts in the city on curbing opioid addiction. Action Tank has already issued a clarion call and has met formally with members of the Philadelphia City Council and influential nonprofit organizations to propose solutions and offer the services of its members in this fight. Those members include attorneys, entrepreneurs, scientists, nonprofit directors and candidates for public office. All of them are determined to do what it takes to move Philadelphia forward in the face of this terrible epidemic.
Six months from the initial lunch meeting, several service projects and a dozen more members later, Action Tank is a thing—specifically, as its mission statement reads, “Action Tank solves tough problems aimed at improving the social conditions of their community by harnessing the experiences, skills and relationships of service-minded citizens.” Much is written about the divide that exists between civilians and veterans or how veterans are somehow “broken” from their service. Our focus is not on our differences, but on what binds us together.
Action Tank has observed the erosion of people’s willingness to work and live for the function of an effective society. We have learned the necessity of this social capital. Who better to take on these societal problems than those who have previously taken on these challenges together? Our experience as veterans has led to a unique type of growth and resilience that can be leveraged for the benefit of our community. Philadelphia, with her rich history of serving as the founding city of our military branches, is perfectly suited to launch this initiative.
The above article was written by Action Tank member Ryan Peters and adapted from the Philadelphia Bar Reporter, Vol. 46, No. 7 from July 2017.