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Community Needs Assessment

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At the community level, your goal as a social worker is to engage in the process to maximize the self-determination of community residents toward the betterment of the community rather than to work toward or achieve a specific outcome (for or against). You will take facilitator role to work toward an agreed-upon resolution of the issue.

You work with the youth leadership group to determine ways in which they could help the residents empower themselves, even those that have not joined one of the groups. The youth group decides to conduct a needs assessment of the community as a way to both engage more residents, and inform the groups working for and against the redevelopment about the needs as perceived by the community. There has not been a community needs assessment completed in at least 10 years. Their community assessment work includes interviewing members of the Brickville Community Benefits Alliance and Vision Brickville.

Use the Interaction Matrix tool and Sociogram to review community subsystems and their interactions. Then, using the scenarios in the "Resources" tab above select the most appropriate needs assessment methods given different timeframes available to the youth group.

Needs Assessment Methods:

  • Secondary data - Using secondary data from the City, County, State, U.S., and from organizations in the community (e.g., U.S. Census data, crime data, housing data, economic data, and others), the youth can develop tables of relevant data and draw conclusions from the data.
  • Observation – The youth can collect data from observations throughout the community and at community events, newspaper articles, and organizations in the community.
  • Participant observation – The youth can collect data by interacting with residents at various public places and asking questions of the residents.
  • Convene two focus groups – The youth can facilitate one focus group comprised of advocates for and one comprised of advocates against the proposed redevelopment. The goal of the conducting the focus groups is to gain insight into the perceptions and attitudes of various stakeholders.
  • Convene a large community forum – All residents, business owners, employees of businesses, and politicians who represent the community can be invited to a large forum to a community forum to be facilitated by the youth. In the forum, the strengths and challenges of the community are discussed, and the needs of the community are prioritized.
  • Draft and administer a survey (targeted or community-wide) – The youth can create a survey about the community needs, and administer the survey through organizations in the community, at sporting events, at schools, and door-to-door. These can be small and targeted (i.e., to parents only), or administered community-wide.
  • Interviews with key informants – The youth can create a key informant interview guide, and select key individuals in the community to interview.

It is important to consider time, funding and personnel as resources when developing intervention plans. The amount of available resources will allow or limit possible interventions. Intervention plans, both short-term and long-term, must include a timeline for accomplishment within the context of personnel and financial resources. Consider the scenarios below in your decision to use various needs assessment methods.

Scenario #1 – Youth have one month to complete a needs assessment, and no funds.

Secondary data
Observation
Participant observation
Correct
Incorrect

Scenario #2 – The youth group has three months to complete a needs assessment, and very small amount of funding.

Secondary data
Observation
Participant observation
Focus group
Community forum
Correct
Incorrect

Scenario #3 – The youth group has five months to complete a needs assessment and a small amount of funding.

Secondary data
Observation
Participant observation
Focus group
Community forum
Targeted surveys
Correct
Incorrect

Scenario #4 – Youth have seven months to complete a needs assessment, and some funding.

Secondary data
Observation
Participant observation
Focus group
Community forum
Targeted surveys
Community-wide surveys
Key informant interviews
Correct
Incorrect

There are several websites from which Census data can be obtained for a community, to include the website for the U.S. Census Bureau and Social Explorer. Follow the instructions below to learn about your community from Census data:

  • Go to www.census.gov
  • In the search engine in the upper right corner, enter 'census tract data 2010'
  • Select 2010 Census Tract Reference Maps'
  • Select your state
  • Select your county
  • Select the file name with the extension 'pdf'
  • Identify the census tract of your neighborhood/community, and write this number down.
  • Go backwards 4 clicks to the results page of your search.
  • Go to 'Data Access Tools'
  • Select '2010 Census Interactive Population Map'
  • From the top right, select 'Total Population'
  • Enter your city and state in the search tool on the right.
  • Hover your mouse over the census tracts to locate the census tract of your choosing, taking care to match your number with the number that appears on the top right.
  • Now that you know how to access the data, access the data for your census tract relative to race, ethnicity, age/sex/ or household.

Activity:
Create a table that compares two variables (total population, race, ethnicity, age/sex, and/or household) of two-three different census tracts in your community.

Needs Assessment Reports

Creating the needs assessment report involves organizing the data from multiple sources into categories, and determining themes that emerge to create findings. For example, data from the Census and focus groups may indicate that affordable housing is an issue in the community, although the sources do not agree on the solution to the problem. You might, in this case, list affordable housing as a community need, and state that residents are mixed about potential solutions.

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Sociogram

Review the community sociogram.

Critical Thinking Questions

These core questions, specific to each client, will help you better understand and assess your client. Refer back to your answers throughout your assessment.

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