Needs assessments are a critical component of helping to build understanding about a community need and ultimately the theory of change that a collaboration or organization is pursuing to address that need. Our approach to needs assessments is grounded in the principles of Community-Based Participatory Research and Asset-Based Community Development, meaning that we want to support assessment processes that allow for the collection of input from community members in their own words, that are focused on the strengths or assets of that community, and that are intended to support the betterment of the community being studied.
We often tell folks that we support “people-focused community assessments.” What does that mean?
Grounded in Qualitative Research Methods
Whether it is conducting listening sessions, stakeholder interviews, focus groups, or surveys, we utilize general principles of qualitative research informed from our backgrounds in social work and public policy, including informed consent, confidentiality/anonymity, and methods to reduce bias. Above all, our approach to engaging in qualitative research is based on a fundamental respect for research participants and their autonomy. We also understand the limits of qualitative methods and often aim to supplement qualitative data with quantitative analysis when available.
Oriented Around Community Assets
Consistent with the strengths-based approach we bring to all of our work, we aim to identify the natural assets of the communities that we work with to assist them in building upon these strengths to achieve their goals. Just as we utilize Strengthsfinder to help individuals and teams maximize their potential, we take the same approach to communities by focusing on what is going well instead of just on the problems. This often leads us to advocate to develop needs assessment processes to engage not just persons with professional experience, but also those who have lived experience in the issues that we are helping group to tackle, such as persons with justice involvement and in recovery from substance abuse.
Focused on Social Impact
We are not interested in doing needs assessments just for research sake. One of the core values of our firm is results for the clients we take on, and we take that responsibility seriously. This is one of the reasons that we often continue to provide implementation support after an assessment is competed so that leaders are able to focus on their objectives while we can help keep everyone on task.
There is no one way to conduct a needs assessment. As with all of our projects, we listen closely to what the client needs in order to provide an individualized process and product. We utilize a number of strategies and product types under the broad category of needs assessments, including asset mapping, organizational assessments, gap analysis, system mapping, journey mapping/user experience analysis, and fiscal mapping.
Here are some examples of needs assessment activities that we have completed. If you feel like our approach to needs assessment matches what your organization or collaborative is looking for, contact us to talk further!