Phase 3

Community Needs Assessment

Community Needs and Strengths Assessment

At the community level, your goal as a social worker is to engage in the process to maximize the self-determination of community residents toward the betterment of the community rather than to work toward or achieve a specific outcome (for or against). You will take a facilitator role to work toward an agreed-upon resolution of the issue. As you encounter conflict in the community change process, you will utilize many individual practice skills to navigate these dynamics and help the community coalesce around desired outcomes.

You work with the youth leadership group to determine ways to engage in the community consideration of the redevelopment proposal. To begin their work, the youth group decides to conduct a needs and strengths assessment of the community. They see this as a way to increase their own knowledge of Brickville and to engage more residents in identifying available assets and priority needs. The youth group outlines a plan to incorporate the perspectives of the groups working for and against the redevelopment, as well as the experiences and opinions of those who have mostly stayed on the sidelines so far. As background research, the youth group discovers that there has not been a community needs assessment completed in at least 10 years; further, this most recent effort did not capture the considerable strengths and assets in Brickville, resulting in an overly negative portrayal of the community. The youth group is committed to a process that will be more inclusive and empowering than this last assessment.

Use the map and sociogram to begin your consideration of the relevant subsystems and institutions in Brickville. Outline other important sources of information you would want to consult for your community needs and strengths assessment. You may also want to review available assessments for other communities, to learn more about the process and product used for this type of analysis. Then choose from the possible assessment methods to chart a plan for assessing strengths and needs in Brickville—an essential step in the process of determining a development path that will help the community achieve its goals.

Needs Assessment Methods

  • Secondary data - Using secondary data from the city, county, state, and federal government, the youth can develop tables of relevant data and draw conclusions from the data. What questions do you have, about which aspects of Brickville? What data would you want, for example, about the demographics, housing stock, economic conditions, crime statistics, environmental quality, and historical trends?
  • Observation – The youth can collect data from observations throughout the community and at community events, newspaper articles, and organizations in the community. What information could the youth uniquely glean from this first-hand observation? What might this approach miss?
  • Participant observation – The youth can collect data by interacting with residents at various public places and asking questions of the residents. How could this approach be constructed to intentionally incorporate the perspectives of diverse groups within Brickville?
  • Convene focus groups – The youth could facilitate one focus group comprised of advocates in favor of and one comprised of advocates against the proposed redevelopment, or they could construct focus group samples to specifically glean insights from particular sectors of stakeholders. How would you want to help the youth plan and facilitate these groups? What would you want to learn from this method?
  • Convene a large community forum – All residents, business owners, community advocates, and politicians who represent the community can be invited to a large forum to a community forum to be facilitated by the youth. In the forum, the strengths and challenges of the community are discussed, and the needs of the community are prioritized. What considerations should guide the use of this method? When might it fit best into the timeline of the community needs and strengths assessment process?
  • Draft and administer a survey (targeted or community-wide) – The youth can create a survey about the community needs, and administer the survey through organizations in the community, at sporting events, at schools, and door-to-door. Alternatively, they could administer a survey online or by telephone. Additionally, the survey could be small and targeted (i.e., to parents only, or only to people in certain neighborhoods), or administered community-wide. What kind of survey do you think would be most valuable? What considerations should guide the youths’ development of the survey instrument?
  • Interviews with key informants – The youth can create a key informant interview guide and select key individuals in the community to interview. How many people do you think they should interview? What should determine the list of interviewees?

Needs and Strengths Assessment Reports

Creating the needs and strengths assessment report involves organizing the data from multiple sources into categories and determining themes that emerge to create findings. Effective community assessments also attend to how the findings are displayed and interpreted, so that people can make sense of the results and incorporate them into the community’s decision making. For example, data from the Census and focus groups may indicate that affordable housing is an issue in the community, although the sources do not agree on the solution to the problem. You might, in this case, list affordable housing as a community need, and state that residents are mixed about potential solutions. However, these findings might also spark additional questions to be explored through the ongoing assessment process. For example, one of the strengths identified could be a promising pilot project that diverts part of a family’s rent payment to put toward a downpayment and has helped dozens of households purchase homes. This program could be included among the community’s assets, and it might figure into the community’s conversations about how to address the identified needs.


Review the community sociogram.

View Sociogram

Critical Thinking Questions

These core questions, specific to each client, will help you better understand and assess your client. Refer back to your answers throughout your assessment.

View your questions