Define the Scope

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With an understanding of community needs and assets, you are ready to begin your community assessment.  Step 1 involves defining the scope of the assessment to be performed. Because community issues are complicated and one issue is often related to many other issues, it is easy to keep expanding the range of issues to include in your assessment.  A community assessment can address several issues and their inter-relationships or it can focus on just one of the issues.  To define the scope of your community assessment, you must clearly state the community needs to be assessed, the community members who will be impacted, the geographic area that will be addressed, the key questions you want answered, and the level of detail you want to include in the assessment.

Defining the scope means being clear about the issues to be addressed.

When starting to define the scope of your community assessment, you should first determine the specific needs you want to address. Choosing a focus can help develop a clear path to a successful assessment. Many community issues are related to each other, so you need to determine if you want to address several related issues or focus on just one of the issues. See the interactivity at the right for an example of related issues and how to narrow your focus.

Click to open interactivity Watch and consider the ways these community issues are interconnected.

Watch and consider the ways these community issues are interconnected.

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Narrow down the key questions you want answered.

When defining the scope of the community assessment to be performed, it is important to narrow down the key questions you want the assessment to answer.  Here are some examples of key questions:

  • What are the basic demographics of my community? (Consider income levels, races/ethnicities, number of youth.)
  • Who are the faith-based and community organizations serving people in my community? What services are they providing and to whom?
  • What services are local public agencies providing, and to whom? (Include law enforcement, probation, courts, schools, workforce development.)
  • What organizations are funded by foundations and government agencies to address the community issue?
  • What do local residents see as the primary needs for this community?
  • What are the various intervention strategies being used in my community to address the issues? Are these practices demonstrating any clear outcomes?
  • Who are the leaders in my community? What key players in local government are concerned with the issues we want to address?
  • What local volunteer groups (e.g., Rotary clubs) serve the community?
  • Who are the people in my community who care about the issue?
  • What community organizations focus on the issue?  Are they delivering services in a meaningful way?
  • Are there partnering opportunities with other nonprofits or faith-based and community organizations?
  • What are the gaps in service to people in the community? What would a complete system look like?
  • Are community members ready for a change in the issue we are trying to address?