A conversation between Kelsey Merkeley, OAT Project Lead and Sarah G. Schmidt, Design & Development
Sarah: We’ve launched the tool and I was hoping you could tell me more about this project.
Kelsey: Sure, the Organization Assessment Tool (OAT) is an interactive tool that we developed for our members. It has two parts: Part 1 begins with the Organization Assessment Tool Questionnaire (OATQ), where members complete an 18-question self-assessment on the structure of their organization and the delivery of their organization’s programs. Part 2 begins after the member has completed their OATQ self-analysis. As soon as we receive the member’s OATQ responses, we compile their answers and send them a link to their Organization Assessment Tool & Resource Bank (OAT RB). The OAT RB is a visual and interactive platform for members to review their OATQ answers. Their compiled answers are presented to them in an infographic wheel, which is attached to a resource bank. Our goal in displaying answers this way is to help our members easily interpret and understand the strengths and needs of their organizations.
S: This was a huge undertaking. Why did Propellus make this?
K: We are capacity builders and our mission is to strengthen organizations. Through extensive research, feedback from our members, and a strong understanding of the complex issues that non-profits are faced with on a daily basis, we could see clearly that our members not only needed additional support and understanding into how to strengthen their organizations, but also recognition for what they are great at doing within their organizations. So, we put our heads together to come up with a creative and accessible way for our members to self-assess and visually understand their organizations better.
S: You said that it was built for the members. Is there anyone else that can benefit from this?
K: Absolutely! I think that the OAT is a really exciting development that a lot of people can benefit from. Specifically, people in the funding community who are interested in understanding more about the non-profit landscape in Calgary, or funders who want to learn more about the capacity building work that we do at Propellus.
Additionally, because the OATQ has gone out to over 500 organizations we have been able to compile significant data findings on these assessments. Our findings summarize the current state of the non-profit sector in Calgary: they identify trends within the non-profit community within unique cause areas and across numerous organizations differing in size and scope. In terms of the data we’ve compiled, I think that people involved in policy advocacy, capacity building, and the government would benefit from taking a look. Really, anyone passionate about change, the non-profit sector, or wanting to a make a difference in our community would benefit.
S: How do members get access to it and, once they do, how do they use it?
K: We are sending out OAT RB links to all of our member organizations that have filled out the OATQ. If a member hasn’t completed the OATQ yet, they should contact us. If members want to learn more about how to navigate the OAT RB system they should check out the OAT FAQ section on our website or contact us.
S: Could you take me though a hypothetical example? Say I’m a member and I’m looking in the Board & Staff Relationships category. Over the first week I read a few articles, download some of the free worksheets, and try to work through it. But say I get stuck and not sure what to do next. What would you suggest I do?
K: If they get stuck, we want our members to know that we are here to support them. They should reach out to us, so we can hear the specifics, and together come up with some solutions. Whatever it may be, we always have time to talk, and are happy to set up a time to meet with them in person.
S: What happens if a member wants to take their OAT farther?
K: If a member wants to move forward with some capacity building, we can help them figure out the best option, based on their priorities and resources, for their organization. On the phone, by email, or in person we would discuss a variety of capacity building options including: using their OAT in the most effective way possible, signing up for workshops, completing a facilitated learning project with their organization, or building a customized consulting plan.
S: Let’s say a member has something to share. Perhaps, for example, they want to provide feedback about this tool or something else. What’s the best way for them to do that?
K: Get it touch with us! Call us, email us, tweet us, or stop by. We encourage them to engage with us in whatever way works best for them. We love to host members in our space, visit them in theirs, and treat them to coffee. We think that all feedback is good feedback and truly want to hear what our members have to say. In terms of the OAT, we want to know what’s working, what’s not, if they see any areas they need more resources for, or if they are excited about something and see an opportunity for us to facilitate an event for them to participate in.
S: Has Propellus taken the questionnaire?
K: Yes, of course!
S: What did Propellus learn from their OAT?
K: When we completed ours, it shed light on a lot of things that we needed to improve on. Every person in the organization filled out the OAT individually but we shared our results collectively. This was great because it got us all on the same page, and showed us how differently we all view our organization. It has taken a lot of hard work to make the necessary improvements that our OAT identified, but it has been worth it. We are still learning from it, and are still a work in progress (but who isn’t?). There were some tough moments for us, but we got through them. Thanks to the OAT, we are a better and stronger organization today, because the OAT enabled us to visually identify and communicate our diverse perspectives, and areas of strengths and needs.
-Conversation edited for length.