older adults are leading change


Conduct Research


Go get the information you need. You’ve convened community stakeholders, gathered existing data, and identified what you still need to know. Think about the simplest ways to find answers with a reasonable degree of confidence. Multiple methods and sources may be needed to collect data from different segments of the population. Pay close attention to the language you’re using, watching out for jargon or labels that might not be relevant to older adults, communities of color, and other groups.

Don’t miss the opportunity to begin involving people, particularly older adults. Remember that this phase of the work is not just about collecting and analyzing quantitative and qualitative data: Assessment also stimulates discussion of opportunities and challenges. This time can be used to build awareness of emerging issues and open in-depth conversations with a wide variety of people.

Effective Practices for Conducting Research

Design your methodology.

Engage an advisory committee to assist with the development of the process, protocols (e.g., surveys, focus group facilitator guides) and to help identify additional community stakeholders.

Plan the process. As appropriate, interview key informants, stakeholders, representative older adults, nonprofit and civic leaders; convene and facilitate large-scale gatherings and focus groups with nonprofit service providers, faith-based groups, older adult neighborhood residents, public agency personnel, etc.

Identify organizations to interview whose work focuses on: aging/older adults; volunteerism; lifelong learning; and/or activity to address specific community concerns. The “snowball” method identifies additional contacts as interviews unfold.

Develop research tools for surveys (telephone, on-line, in-person) and interviews (face-to-face, telephone).

Engage community partners to assist with planning and hosting focus groups, helping to identify meeting locations, publicizing the effort, and extending personal invitations to participate.

Use media to generate awareness and participation in focus groups.

Collect data.

Conduct web-based research and a literature review on civic/community engagement and older adults, at both national and local levels.

Conduct key informant interviews with individuals whose work explicitly focuses on civic engagement among older adults, nonprofit, and civic leaders, and people representing different perspectives from throughout the geographic area under consideration.

Execute phone surveys.

Convene focus groups/ listening sessions.

Convene informal group discussions with civic and philanthropic leaders about needs and priorities.

Compile demographic data.

Examine the information gathered.

Compile research data.

Analyze data from interviews, focus groups and surveys.

Explore community resources and opportunities.

Re-analyze relevant data from past surveys.


Free guides and tools you may find useful include sample Assessment surveys, interview guides, and focus group protocols; an RFP for a community assessment; and more.

Related Resources