Findings, Priorities, Action

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The data collection step should result in ample data and information about your community’s needs and assets. You now need to analyze the data to identify the assessment’s key findings, set priorities based on your findings, and create an action plan to guide your post-assessment planning. Key findings serve several purposes: they validate anecdotal evidence of community needs and assets, they highlight significant trends found in the data collection process, they reveal differences across segments of the community, and they help clarify answers to the community assessment’s key questions. Set priorities as your findings are revealed and then begin to create your action plan. For each part of your plan, determine how you will measure the effectiveness of your actions. Adopt measures that help define your strategy and that you will be able to track over time.

Organize your key findings into categories.

Key findings can be organized into categories to help summarize the data.  When you separate your key findings from one another, you can use them more effectively when planning your response. Common key findings categories used in community assessments include:

  • Strengths
  • Gaps
  • Opportunities
  • Challenges
Click to open interactivity Key Findings

Key Findings

Use this worksheet to help you organize your key findings.

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Overcome the challenges of priority-setting.

Priority-setting can be difficult because it requires developing consensus among community members with different opinions and views on how community issues should be addressed.  Cornell University Cooperative Extension identifies four barriers to priority-setting and offers suggestions for minimizing the barriers.

    The "human problem" and the difficulty of getting people to focus on key issues, decisions, and conflicts:

    • Start by striving for consensus on what you are trying to accomplish by priority-setting.  Why are we doing this and what are the stakes?
    • Actively recognize that there is strength in differing viewpoints and don’t place viewpoints in value order.
    • Build in time to allow people to reflect on information presented, digest it, and modify decisions.

    The "process problem" and the challenge of managing information and ideas during a priority-setting process:

    • Be very specific in defining priorities to minimize multiple interpretations.
    • Make key information available prior to decision meetings.
    • Beware of taking too much time to analyze information (analysis paralysis) and/or rushing to meet deadlines.

    The "structure problem" and the difficulty of priority-setting across different issue areas:

    • Cultivate open communication.
    • Carefully nurture relationships throughout the planning process.
    • Keep focus on current priorities, not precedent.

    The "institutional problem" and the challenge of translating priorities into action:

    • Build on existing strengths in implementation.
    • Create well-defined implementation plans.
    • Individuals responsible for carrying out key tasks must be committed to implementing changes.

Visit the Cornell University Cooperative Extension (2008) for more information on priority setting resources, including selected background information and techniques.

Create an action plan based on your priorities.

After setting your priorities, create an action plan based on those priorities. Your action plan should include specific actions and deadlines and should identify a person responsible for each action. The action plan is an excellent tool to set agendas for future meetings. Click the icon at the right to download a sample action plan.

Click to open interactivity Action Plan

Action Plan

Download this sample action plan template to help you move ahead.

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