Community Needs Assessment

A needs assessment (or needs analysis) is a process used to identify 'gaps' between where things are at now, that is current performance or conditions and where you want them to be (desired performance or conditions). 

Needs assessments are often used for improvement in individuals in relation to education or training, but a similar process can be used by community groups or organisations.

The results of a needs assessment can be used to draw up an agenda for change, develop a project to meet needs or to offer activities and services which build capacity within the community.

Typically, community needs assessments are used to specifically analyse the needs that people have in order to live in:-

  • an ecologically sustainable environment (useful for groups with specific environmental aims such as minimizing ecological impact or addressing things like climate change)

  • a socially vibrant community (one that meets all the social and human needs of its individuals)

  • a community that operates in a ‘green’ manner and is economically resilient (meeting individuals economic and financial requirements)

  • a manner that permits political participation in decisions that affect the community as a whole and the individuals within it

As such, a community needs assessment is a valuable tool for a wide range of community groups, ensuring that they meet green objectives of:-

  • social justic

  • participatory democracy

  • non-violent resolution of conflict

  • ecologically sustainable development

Planning a community needs analysis

Be clear about the aim and specific purpose of the needs assessment. What does your group needs the data for and how you will use it?  Identify any issues likely to be generated by the needs assessment process and what the benefit of the needs assessment will be.

In the initial planning stages consider whether there are other organisations you could partner with in carrying out the needs assessment.  Get to know partners through initial meetings and develop specific goals and objectives.

Be realistic about timescale and resources required, and ensure you have the capacity to carry out the needs assessment.  Identify your target population and the method you will use to conduct your needs assessment.

Research the community you intend to assess. Consider any existing information on the area including where the community is in terms of service delivery and current resources. Look at the results of any previous assessments, consultations or profiles.

After the assessment has been carried out – you will need to pull the information together and summarise it as a report. Always remember to make your written report publically available – particularly to the community that was being assessed. You may also want to pull key points from the report into a press release for the local media or use them to inform future funding applications.