NPower and the Power of Research

Author: NPower

As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of LEO, we are sharing a special "how to" series guest-authored by some of our awesome provider partners. Our partner NPower works tirelessly to provide upward mobility for military veterans and young adults from underserved communities by helping them launch careers in the technology workforce. They take folks with promise who might lack clear pathways to opportunity, train them up with marketable skills, and help them access technology careers. It’s still too early in the research process for results, but NPower has still seen the impact taking part in research has had on their growth and success—both in fundraising and efficiency. Below NPower tells us how to make the most of being a LEO partner and putting their program to the test:

About NPower:

Through job training and placement, NPower works with opportunity youth and veterans to create career pathways into the information technology industry. NPower’s Tech Fundamentals program is an intensive 23-week crash course that helps participants gain full-time employment in an information technology career. Over the first 16 weeks, students attend a tuition-free course that helps them earn industry-recognized certifications. Following, they are immersed in the professional scene and receive a 7-week paid internship with one of NPower’s corporate partners. After completing their internship, students graduate from NPower and receive ongoing job-placement assistance.

Our study with LEO is to see if participation in NPower’s Tech Fundamentals course increase students’ labor market outcomes and level of educational attainment. Read more about our study here.

How research changed the way we operate:

Preparing for research caused us to take a deep dive into our existing data collection and reporting practices. Before the RCT process, we'd had no way of monitoring applicants who might apply to the program multiple times, which makes tracking outcomes tricky. Working with the team at LEO and through the financial support of funders like Wilson Sheehan we were able to hire a team of consultants to implement a single student ID system which allowed us to better track the life cycle of applicants. This inevitably helped us streamline the process for all our programs.

While our team initially had concerns about introducing randomization, we saw that randomization removes unconscious or conscious bias in selection and helps to address equity in access. Anecdotally, we often see candidates with greater digital access apply earlier in the enrollment process, so enrolling candidates on a first come first serve basis may disadvantage those who do not have equal access. Implementing randomization at the point of interview will provide a real representation of how our program performs as an intervention in economic inequity.

How research has elevated our fundraising efforts:

As we sought to expand across the country, increasingly funders inquired about the evidence behind our approach. Despite being a data-driven organization—capturing completion rates, certification levels, and changes in income—we had never done a rigorous study of our programming. Not only are randomized controlled trials (RCTs) expensive to conduct, they require access to data outside the scope of the program. Through our partnership with LEO, we designed an approach to effectively measure a suite of post-program outcomes. Being part of an RCT—especially with an organization that has such a strong reputation—has opened up a whole new dialogue with funders.

Participating in rigorous research says something about us to others in this space. One, the fact we can talk about an RCT signals that we’re serious about introspection, finding out what really works, what we need to fine tune, and fostering a culture of continual improvement. The second thing it says is that we're really serious about getting what we do right so we’re in a better position to scale. This will help us be more successful as we grow, which is increasingly important in the world of smart philanthropy. People want to invest their money into something they know works. And, like us, funders want to support solutions with the potential to improve the system. We believe that the findings from this study will help influence public policy and change even more lives across the country.

In case you missed it

As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we asked 10 LEO staff to write a letter to a partner that inspires them. Below, assistant professor of research economics, Patrick Turner, reads the letter he wrote to NPower

To learn more about NPower, click here.

To learn more about LEO's partnership process, click here.