One goal of a community assessment is to develop an informed understanding of the gaps or needs that exist within a community and their impacts upon the community’s members. Low high school graduation rates mean that there is need to find effective ways to keep kids in school. Senior citizens are living longer but that may mean that many need more assistance to pay for medical bills or prescription drugs. In communities where pet owners want more park space but sports leagues want the same park space for playing fields, there is a need to balance competing interests.
Community needs can affect a large or small number of a community’s members. This may include families, individuals, youth, seniors, parents, businesses, community organizations, faith-based organizations – essentially, anyone who claims membership in the community. If community needs affect a large number of community members, there will likely be more support for addressing the needs.
Sometimes community needs are referred to as “community problems.” This reference should be avoided in community assessments. Framing a “need” as a “problem” immediately establishes an “us versus them” relationship that prevents collaboration and community-building.
The Community Toolbox
Visit the Community Toolbox for a collection of resources on building healthy communities.
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