By William Kincaid (VtVN Board President) and Emily A. Greenfield (Professor, Rutgers University School of Social Work)
Throughout 2023, Village to Village Network (VtVN) made great progress toward a central goal in its 2023-2026 strategic plan: Demonstrate the impact that Villages have on community-based aging through quantitative and qualitative research.
VtVN continues its work to improve the availability of data toward measuring the cumulative impact of the Village Movement. It does so in collaboration with partnering organizations from the nonprofit, tech, and academic sectors, as well as with Village leaders throughout the United States.
This work has taken place through two projects: Village Impact Project and Villages as Key Partners for Healthy Aging Research, as recapped below. To learn more about these projects, refer to materials from VtVN’s 2023 National Gathering: recorded session, presentation slides.
Village Impact Project
Spearheaded by the VtVN Board’s Development Committee, the aim of this multi-year project is to gather information on the services, programs, and events that Villages provide to their members. These are key outputs that Villages perform for their membership. Using data to systematically measure outputs across Villages is an essential step toward generating evidence for their impact.
Work has continued with our tech partners to generate and aggregate data from multiple Villages based on the service information already being collected through web-based applications. More than two-thirds of VtVN member Villages use such applications to manage their key operations.
Building on the proof-of-concept data aggregation pilot with Helpful Village conducted in 2022, over the last year, VtVN has worked with Club Express/Run My Village to make changes to their system that allow for easier aggregation of participating Village data. Over this next year, VTVN will continue to stress the value of data mining and data sharing to improve the management of Villages, improve the lives of members, and demonstrate activities and services across Villages. And we will work with all Villages to increase their skill at using the data which they own and store in their information systems.
Villages as Key Partners for Healthy Aging Research
A multi-organizational national team launched this project in August of 2023 with support from an Engagement Award of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). The project aims to strengthen mutual understanding and visioning for future healthy aging research with Villages, focusing specifically on patient-centered outcomes/clinical effectiveness research (PCOR/CER) to optimize health interventions through Villages.
This project’s first accomplishment was a communications infrastructure to engage Villages in the project and share updates. We developed a standalone project website and mailing list, including information about the project’s multiple components and how Villages throughout the United States can get involved.
We also completed a series of focus groups in which nearly 50 Village members, officers, and staff from across the United States participated. The focus groups addressed priorities for healthy aging research, barriers and facilitators to partnering with researchers, opportunities for engagement with PCOR/CER, and motivating Village members’ participation in research. We are looking forward to sharing the findings in the spring of 2024.
We also are now in the process of forming the Villages Healthy Aging Research Ambassadors Group. Members of this new national work group will serve as key thought partners on the design of future healthy aging research projects. They also will collaborate on developing a series of virtual summits on Villages and healthy aging research to take place in the summer of 2024. Our project team is currently working on forming the Ambassadors Group, with the goal of balancing membership in terms of individual background, organizational context, and geographic representation. The Ambassadors will begin meeting in February. Stay tuned!
In conclusion, we are proud of the strides we are making toward our long-term vision of promoting robust evidence on the impact of Villages for aging in community. We think these efforts are key for advancing the Movement’s scale, reach, impact, and equity well into the 21st century. We thank the many individuals who have contributed to these efforts so far, and we look forward to our continued work together in the new year!