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Assessing Community Needs and Resources. Community Tool Box Curriculum Module 2 Understanding and Describing the Community. Learning Objectives: How community descriptions and needs assessments may be used.

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Assessing community needs and resources

Assessing CommunityNeeds and Resources

Community Tool Box

Curriculum Module 2

Understanding and describing the community

Understanding and Describingthe Community

  • Learning Objectives:

    • How community descriptions and needs assessments may be used.

    • Several methods for obtaining information about the needs and assets of a community.

Case study example

Case Study Example

  • Rosedale Neighborhood

    • Small neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas

    • Key partner organization is the Rosedale Development Association

    • Concerns from the community include: housing, safety, economic opportunities

Understanding and describing the community1

Understanding and Describingthe Community

“It is better to ask some questions than to know all the answers.”

--James Thurber

Understanding and describing the community2

Understanding and Describingthe Community

  • Community—People who share a:

    • Place

    • Experience

    • Interest

Understanding and describing the community3

Understanding and Describingthe Community

  • Community Description– Information about:

    • People

    • Situation

    • Geography

    • Demographics

    • History

    • Problems and Strengths

Understanding and describing the community4

Understanding and Describingthe Community

  • Why write a community description?

    • To capture unspoken but important concerns

    • To develop a richer understanding

    • To gain perspective about local concerns and conditions

    • To take stock of strengths and shortcomings

Understanding and describing the community5

Understanding and Describingthe Community

  • When should you write a community description

    • New people need to be better informed

    • Need to have current information

    • Considering starting a new initiative

Assessing community needs and resources

Understanding and Describingthe Community

  • What should you include in a community description?

    • Boundaries and history

    • Key people and leaders

    • Demographic information

    • Resources and assets

    • Concerns

    • Key allies and opponents

Understanding and describing the community6

Understanding and Describingthe Community

  • How can you use a community description?

    • As a reference

    • To guide your work

    • To share with others

    • As background information

    • As justification when requesting funding

Understanding and describing the community7

Understanding and Describingthe Community

  • Basic Principles for Learning About A Community

    • Be a learner with an open mind

    • Seek to understand context

    • Use easy but rich information sources

    • Rely on more than official sources

Understanding and describing the community8

Understanding and Describingthe Community

  • Gaining an Understanding of Your Community

    • Gather basic tools and information

    • Observe the area

    • Redraw your map

Understanding and describing the community9

Understanding and Describingthe Community

  • Review the area, watching for growth, deterioration, social interactions and connections

  • Contact and interview key community stakeholders

  • Visit local hangouts and gathering spots

  • Bring along a partner or local person when interviewing and observing

Understanding and describing the community10

Understanding and Describing the Community

Activity--Outline the plan for describing the community

  • Types of information

  • Sources of information

  • Whether sufficient resources to collect the information

  • Methods used to collect information

  • Assess the quality of the information

  • Strengths and problems identified

Assessing community needs and resources

Understanding and Describing the Community


    • What types of information might best describe the community? Why?

    • What types might be easier to obtain? More difficult? Why?

    • What sources of information would you trust? Why?

    • What information-gathering methods might be particularly helpful? Why?

Assessing community needs

AssessingCommunity Needs

  • Key Learning:

    • Community Need-def.-

      The gap between what a situation is and what it should be

Assessing community needs1

AssessingCommunity Needs

  • Why assess and identify community needs?

    • Knowledge

    • Awareness

    • Credibility

Assessing community needs2

AssessingCommunity Needs

  • When should we identify community needs?

    • Needs are varied or unclear

    • Confirm what others care about

    • When the community requests it

    • Ensure that there is community support

Assessing community needs and resources

AssessingCommunity Needs

  • When should a community needs assessment not be done?

    • There is absolutely no doubt as to the community’s needs

    • Urgent action is called for

    • Recent assessment has been done

    • Community members would view the assessment as threatening or wasteful

Assessing community needs and resources

AssessingCommunity Needs

  • What are the uses for descriptions of identified community needs?

    • To give focus and direction to your effort

    • To target a particular area or group

    • To promote awareness and action about an issue

    • To provide information for collaborators

    • To strengthen a grant application

    • To establish baseline measures for evidence of progress

Assessing community needs3

AssessingCommunity Needs

Identifying Community Needs- 10 Steps:

  • Agree on the value and purpose of the information you will collect

  • Determine when you will use data

  • Determine what you want to know

  • Determine who will find the information

  • Identify possible sources

  • Set limits as to what you will collect

Assessing community needs4

AssessingCommunity Needs

Collect the data (e.g., archival records, interviews, observations, surveys)

Identify gaps in your knowledge

Re-do the process to fill in gaps

Compare data with results from other communities or nationally, or within your own community over time

Identifying community assets and resources

Identifying CommunityAssets and Resources

“Every single person has capacities, abilities and gifts. Living a good life depends on whether those capacities can be used, abilities expressed, and gifts given.”

--John McKnight

Identifying community assets and resources1

Identifying CommunityAssets and Resources

  • Key Learning:

    • Community Asset or Resource

      Those things that can be used to improve the quality of community life

Identifying community assets and resources2

Identifying CommunityAssets and Resources

Some uses for identified community assets and resources:

  • Tackle a new or renewed project

  • Stimulate use of assets in community efforts

  • Target areas for improvement

  • Bring groups and organizations together

  • Attract more assets to the area

  • Coordinate and match assets to needs

Identifying community assets and resources3

Identifying CommunityAssets and Resources

Identifying Community Assets

  • Begin by reflecting on key issues

  • Decide whether you wish to identify the assets of groups and/or individuals

  • Identify the assets of groups and/or institutions

  • Identify the assets of individuals

Assessing community needs and resources

Identifying CommunityAssets and Resources

  • Some types of assets:

    • Individuals with particular knowledge and skills

    • Community-based organizations, NGOs

    • Institutions

    • Businesses

    • Others?

Conducting assessments

Conducting Assessments

“What the people believe, is true.”

--Anishinabe Indians

Conducting assessments1

Conducting Assessments

  • Why conduct an assessment?

    • Data base for guiding action

    • Useful source of information

    • Involve community members

    • Ask people what is important

    • Get valuable feedback

    • Broader agenda for action

Conducting assessments2

Conducting Assessments

  • Quantitative data – def: -

    • Numbers from different methods to help answer the question: “How many?”

    • Give a perspective on the breadth of the issue: How many people are affected?

Assessing community needs and resources

Conducting Assessments

  • Some aspects of surveys (a quantitative method):

    • Uses uniform and close-ended questions to get consistent information of relatively narrow scope

    • Can collect information from large numbers of people in a short time

    • Can collect information about difficult to observe behaviors

Conducting assessments3

Conducting Assessments

  • Qualitative information-def.-

    • Information from interviews and stories to help answer the question “What does it mean?”

    • Helps to understand the issue in depth: e.g., Why are so many people affected? (e.g., contributing factors)

Conducting assessments4

Conducting Assessments

  • Some aspects of qualitative methods:

    • Public forums offer people from diverse backgrounds a chance to express their views

    • Listening sessions are smaller, more intimate, and provide more depth

    • Focus groups provide greater depth about a specific, predetermined topic

    • Interviews provide spontaneous, accurate and thorough communication of a few people’s ideas

Conducting assessments5

Conducting Assessments

  • Public Forums-def.-

    • A public session in which community members discuss important issues and identify and solve problems

Conducting assessments6

Conducting Assessments

  • Listening session-def.-

    • When a group is gathered to share ideas and experiences about a particular topic or range of topics

Conducting assessments7

Conducting Assessments

  • Focus group-def.-

    • A small-group discussion guided by a trained leader, used to learn more about opinions on a designated topic and to guide future action

Conducting assessments8

Conducting Assessments

  • Interview-def.-

    • Semi-structured conversations with the purpose of gathering in-depth information on a particular topic

Conducting assessments9

Conducting Assessments

  • Observation-def.-

    • Systematic observation of behaviors of interest, and what happens before and after. Observation notes over time or over multiple cases can help you see patterns emerge about how things work.

Conducting assessments10

Conducting Assessments

  • Survey-def.-

    • A way of collecting information from a group by asking questions that call for specific answers

Assessing community needs and resources

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we may listen twice as much as we speak.”

--Epictetus, Greek philosopher

Doing a swot analysis

Doing a SWOT Analysis

  • What are the elements of a SWOT Analysis?

    • Strengths

    • Weaknesses

    • Opportunities

    • Threats

Doing a swot analysis1

Doing a SWOT Analysis

May be categorized by positives and negatives



Assets Limitations




Doing a swot analysis2

Doing a SWOT Analysis

Putting it all together assessing your community s needs and resources

Putting it All Together: Assessing Your Community’s Needs and Resources

  • Creating a Plan for Assessment

    • Review the Steps

    • Apply what you learned to your situation

Putting it all together assessing your community s needs and resources1

Putting it All Together: Assessing Your Community’s Needs and Resources

  • Critiquing the Plan for Assessment for:

    • Clarity

    • Completeness

    • Appropriateness

    • Likelihood of contributing to the goal

Putting it all together assessing your community s needs and resources2

Putting it All Together: Assessing Your Community’s Needs and Resources

  • Wrap-up/Conclusion

    • Take away lessons

    • How this all fits together

    • Carrying It Forward: Applying this in my home organization or community

    • A look ahead to the Next Module

Assessing community needs and resources

“Genius…means little more than having the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.”

--William James

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