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Welcome to the e-learning lesson on Conducting a Community Assessment. In order to be effective in serving a community, it is important to assess and understand that community. This lesson is intended to help organizations answer some key questions about conducting a community assessment. For example: What community issues should we focus upon? Who should be involved? What questions should we ask? How do we collect the data? What do we do with the data? And, how do we share our findings and decisions with community members? Also, you will learn each of the six steps involved in conducting a community assessment: define the scope, go solo or collaborate, collect data, determine key findings, set priorities and create an action plan, and share your findings.

There are many benefits to conducting a community assessment.

The following are ways an assessment can benefit your community; you can work with other organizations in your community to identify additional benefits as an exercise to build consensus and buy-in for the process. 

  • There is increased understanding within the community about its needs, why they exist, and why it is important for the needs to be addressed.
  • Community members have the opportunity to share how the needs impact the quality of life for the larger community.
  • Community engagement is increased because members from different parts of the community are included in discussions about needs, assets, and the community’s response.
  • The community’s strengths and weaknesses are identified.
  • There is an inventory of the resources currently available within the community that can be leveraged to improve the quality of life for community members.
  • Communities identify the asset gaps that exist in their communities.
  • Community members have an increased awareness of how they can contribute to their community’s assets.
  • Community organizations can use the information about community needs to assess their service delivery priorities.
  • There is data for making decisions about the actions that can be taken to address community needs and how to use the available assets.
  • Data can be used to inform strategic planning, priority setting, program outcomes, and program improvements.

There are six steps to conducting a community assessment.

The six recommended steps in the process of planning and conducting a community assessment are: 

Step 1: Define the Scope
Step 2: Go Solo or Collaborate
Step 3: Collect Data
Step 4: Determine Key Findings
Step 5: Set Priorities and Create an Action Plan
Step 6: Share your Findings

Steps 1 through 3 should be considered an iterative and sequential planning process.  Each step should be discussed independently.  The information identified in one of the steps may change the approach to another step.  For example, an organization may decide to collaborate with a key partner to complete the community assessment, but the key partner has to wait three months before it can start.  The organization now has to decide if it wants to wait three months before beginning or decide to change the community assessment scope, look for a new partner, or move forward without a partner. Steps 4 through 6 focus on analyzing community assessment data.