Indicators That Matter
If money is the currency of the modern economy, accountability is the currency of social change. Accountable nonprofit organizations measure impact by collecting data through surveys, program observation, external evaluations, and collaborative research.
By tracking extensive metrics and collaborating with leading academic researchers to refine the organization’s research and assessment tools, OATS has set new standards for a data-driven organization.
Since its inaugural program in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn in 2004, OATS has been measuring participant outcomes with post-course surveys, and has tracked over 20,000 responses. We use this extensive evidence-based data to analyze program impact, curriculum relevance, and the quality of trainers and program environments. We’ve raised the bar when it comes to collecting actionable program data and creating reliable systems for management, program design, and external reporting. Adhering to the highest standards of accountability, OATS will demonstrate the strong return on investment (social and financial) that results from support for quality programs that change the way we age.
Here are some highlights from the development of the OATS knowledge base:
A 2010 “Social Impact Analysis” of the OATS programs conducted by the New York Academy of Medicine, which tracked OATS participants from enrollment through course completion and six months afterwards to assess technology use and social engagement.
A 2013 collaboration with Cornell University Sociology Professor Erin Cornwell and the AARP Foundation to create the nation’s first comprehensive survey instrument to measure the effect of technology training on social engagement of senior citizens.
A 2014 phone survey of 1,200 older Americans, sponsored by OATS and New York Law School and conducted by Research America, Inc., which tracked technology use and the impact of training on social outcomes.
A 2014 collaboration with the Columbia University Institute on Aging to develop a suite of field-ready surveys to track OATS participant outcomes on health, civic engagement, financial security, and lifelong learning, subsequently used to assess outcomes for over 5,000 participants.
A 2016 door-to-door survey of 215 senior-headed households in the Queensbridge Public Housing development in New York City that assessed technology use, training priorities, and community-level goals for change, sponsored by the Citi Community Foundation and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.
A 2019 tracking study of 459 OATS participants in San Antonio, Texas, measuring the social engagement impact of participation in OATS programs, in collaboration with the Renssalaerville Institute, sponsored by the Humana Foundation.
OATS tracks more than 200 different program outcome variables across five impact areas, along with dozens of data points on demographics, program and site information, and trainer performance. All data are entered into Qualtrics for analysis and cross-referenced with information on programs, participants, sites, and staff maintained in a Salesforce database. In addition to quarterly all-staff reviews of metrics and outcomes, our leaders regularly publish research findings in peer-reviewed journals, academic publications, and public convenings.
Meaningful research requires an extraordinary commitment to continual data collection, analysis, and refinement of methods. As a learning organization with a near-fanatical commitment to program accountability, OATS continues to set new standards for excellence and impact, strengthening the case for expanded investment and engagement by public, private, and philanthropic entities.