Why You Should Conduct a Community Needs Assessment

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January 15, 2013 — 1,150 views  
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Community needs assessment (CNA) includes a mixture of focused action, community engagement, and information gathering with the aim of improving the community. Such assessment identifies the weaknesses and strengths of a particular community. The leaders of a community, advocacy groups, local groups, or other combination of groups may address these points through development or change in policy. A variety of assessment strategies and sources are used in assessing the needs of a community.

The assessment of needs serves as a foundation stone for the improvement of the community. NGOs and the health department will require more direct needs assessment for effective operation. Properly engineered needs assessment will help the planners identify problems related to adequacy, effectiveness, and availability of certain services.  

Benefits of Community Needs Assessment

A well-designed community needs assessment plan will help establish appropriate activities, objectives, and goals. It will also help define the scope and purpose of the needs assessment. Behavioral and social attitudes of the community can be easily identified by conducting a community needs assessment. By implementing a successful plan, NGOs can establish support for the entire community and ensure that the planned activities are carried out in the right manner. 

Formal and Informal Community Needs Assessment

A CNA may be formal or informal. A formal CNA involves the collection of data in a systematic manner. The data is then analyzed, which requires the planner to carry out several important duties such as the identification of questions that are required to be answered, determination of the manner in which data is going to be collected, identification of the sources of information that already exists, collection of data, comprehensive study of the information, etc.

An informal CNA may take place through recurrent personal interactions and conversations with clients and colleagues. Clientele and staff usually interact with one another during the delivery of services. Therefore, thoughts are exchanged on whether the services are unsatisfactory or useful. Staff meetings can also be a platform for CAN as information is transferred and shared among colleagues.   

Information from the community needs assistance report must be reviewed by the staff before steps are taken to fix them. The kind of information required to develop an effective plan include the following:

  • Current trends and stats involving the particular problem.
  • Demographic and socioeconomic status of the entire community along with the targeted audience.
  • Existing negative points in the services and programs currently offered.

Before a community needs assessment is conducted, the planning staff must consult the leaders of the community from their targeted population. This will enable you to understand their perception of what the community needs and help in discussing an appropriate plan for improving the community.

Conducing a Community Needs Assessment

Sources of data and information must be identified as the first step of the process. The particular problem faced by a community must be reviewed in detail. Other organizations may be surveyed so that program activities do not overlap with those of other agencies. Key members of the community, having experience or knowledge of the issue, must be interviewed to better understand the situation. Conducting a community needs assessment will help you eliminate all the problems in your locality and ensure that the society is happy.

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