OATS Theory of Change
All social change implies a theory of change—a conceptual map of causes and effects, of linkages between action and outcomes. It is these inter-related assumptions about the mechanics of the world that underpin effective strategic thinking.
As an organization that has taught tens of thousands of classes to older adults determined to learn challenging new skills and information so that they can work, communicate, get around, and take care of themselves, OATS has developed a strong appreciation of the transformative potential of older adults. We have seen first-hand how much desire seniors have to remain independent, to continue learning and growing, and to contribute to the world around us.
It begins with the individual.
For us, change originates in the developmental spark that illuminates every participant at Senior Planet. It begins with individual transformation and recognition, and a refusal to be curtailed into marginalization or premature dependency.
Identity is central.
The way we see ourselves drives decisions about what’s possible and appropriate for us and our environment. If our lens is frailty and dependency, then we will envision change in that context. On the other hand, if we see ourselves as powerful and creative, then our orientation toward change will take that form instead.
Change is difficult when the setting is a dingy concrete bunker illuminated with buzzing fluorescent lights. Change requires taking yourself seriously, “daring mighty things,” and creating experiences and settings where important results seem within reach.
Talented people working and learning together over time—properly resourced with a common set of norms and objectives—are critical to achieving lasting change at a meaningful scale.
From one to many.
Change flows from the individual to the community, and eventually to society at large. As individuals become confident in their own personal power of transformation, they find they can help others (which in turn makes them stronger themselves), and as their skills and networks develop they can contemplate changing society and policy.
OATS has developed a strong appreciation of the transformative potential of older adults. Our theory of change is rooted in observations of change, working in classrooms and community centers all over America side-by-side with older adults as they learn, share, and create. By joining our organizational mission and framework to the energy generated by our members, OATS is able to engineer new systems that are shaping the future of aging.
Once you see first-hand how much desire seniors have to remain independent, to continue growing and contributing, you have no choice but to build new models to help make those things happen. It’s what OATS does.