There are several reasons why social workers may conduct a community needs assessment. The primary purpose is to define the problem that needs to be addressed within the community. Secondly, the assessment is used to determine what causes the problem. The information helps in developing an appropriate plan to address the most prominent problem or issue in the community.
What is a community needs assessment?
Community needs assessment involves analyzing information to better understand the scope of the condition. It evaluates existing resources, barriers to receiving services, and plan interventions to build healthier communities. In other words, it clarifies what the problem is and why it exists, before creating solutions” (Source: Hooper 1999).
In order for social workers to serve the community more effectively, they must understand the needs of the community. An essential feature of a community needs assessment is community involvement. Community needs assessment incorporates many of the principles of community development. Engaging those who represent the community about the issues and problems they are dealing with is essential to effect meaningful change.
Needs identified by the community are gained through various methods. Some of the most useful methods that can be employed to gather information include interviews, observation, surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, public meetings, existing records, and databases. These methods provide a comprehensive picture of the community’s interests and needs.
As mentioned, before finding solutions to a problem, the goal is to understand the problem, why it exists, and how to deal with it more effectively. Once the information is collected, the results are interpreted. At the end of this process, a report is prepared, and findings are brought to the people, stakeholders, agency, or organization’s attention, allowing the opportunity for improvements to be made.