American Sociological Association

Sociology in Action: Stanley Capela

Stanley Capela, HeartShare Human Services of New York, works with the Council on Accreditation in New York City, where he helps ensure that human service standards are met. ASA asked Capela about his work:

What is the mission of Council on Accreditation? The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Founded in 1977 by the Child Welfare League of America and Family Service America (now the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities), the mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards. 

Can you describe your work with the Council on Accreditation? As a team leader and peer reviewer my function is to ensure the organization meets the standards that are set by the Council on Accreditation. Since I have been predominantly a team leader my responsibilities are to coordinate the site visit, allocate standard assignments, conduct interviews, and review various materials.

What sociological knowledge and/or skills do you use? The key skills I focused on are observation, communication, and assessment of the organization's ability to meet the standards set forth by the Council. Further, within a brief period of time I have to develop a strong team model and communicate clearly how well the organization has performed in meeting the standard.

How did you connect with the Council on Accreditation? HeartShare is accredited by the Council on Accreditation and I volunteered to be a peer reviewer on site visits. Since 1996, I have either been a peer reviewer or team leader on 112 site visits in 36 states, District of Columbia and 4 countries. Overall, I have assessed approximately 80 nonprofits, 1 for-profit, 14 military programs, and 15 government agencies.

Duration of the project? Each site visit ranges from three to five days.

Is there anything else you would like to share about this work? Overall, I have been able to use my applied sociological skills to coordinate a team, communicate with a variety of diverse stakeholders, and more importantly provide the organization with a clear sense of how well they are doing in meeting national standards of accreditation (see www.coanet.org). Finally, the fact that I have been all over the country as well as military installations in the U.S., Germany, Japan, and Guam, as well as conducting a number of site visits in Canada, has provided me with an opportunity to use my applied sociological skills. As a past President of the Society for Applied Sociology, I have concluded that sociology has tremendous value and provides an avenue to help one realize that you can make a difference.

I often go to a city to which I have never been, where I collaborate with people I have never met, and in a short period of time I have to develop a team. I review organizations with budgets ranging from $100,000 to over $100 million. My sociological skills have helped me to become a successful reviewer. In 2000 I received the Consuelo Zober Award for peer reviewer of the year.