Community Needs Assessment

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Research Method Paper
A Community Needs Assessment

Research is conducted in a variety of different ways using different methods and methodologies. How these methods are used is imperative to how clear and accurate research will be. Community needs assessment is a research method used by many researchers that assists in finding gaps within a particular target group within a particular community. Throughout this paper I will discuss what a community needs assessment is and when and how it is used. I will also discuss some of the strengths and limitations of this method. I then continue to explain some theoretical and practical perspectives when dealing with this method and how it would apply when conducting your own research in a community. By the end of this paper the reader should have a basic understanding of a community needs assessment and some issues that arise around it.

Community Needs Assessment itself has been given many definitions. The United Way of America (1982) defined it as “a systematic process of collection and analysis as inputs into resource allocation decisions with a view to discovering and identifying goods and services the community is lacking in relation to the generally accepted standards, and for which there exists some consensus as to the community’s responsibility for their provision.” McKillip (1987) defined it as a process of “ordering and prioritisation of community needs.” (Neely,T R ). A community needs assessment can be used in many situations but usually follows a common goal; to gather relevant data and put it into a community needs assessment and have that data be acted on for positive community changes.

According to Finifter, Jensen, Wilson & Koenig (2005) a collaboration of the following three-step process, if used correctly, should be an effective process when conducting a community needs assessment. “Component 1- Assessment, Empirical, Comprehensive. Component 2 – Dissemination, action orientated. Component 3- Implementation, Action orientated (Finifter, Jensen, Wilson & Koenig, 2005 p.294).” Component one includes a collection of primary and secondary data and a case study is usually constructed to gain an understanding of the particular issue. “The needs assessment allow the identification of gaps in services and indicate potential strategies to remedy these gaps (Finifter, Jensen, Wilson & Koenig, 2005 p.294).” Component two is basically just a dissemination of the data in order to inform the community what results have been discovered, these can be covered in journals, community forums/meetings etc. Component 3 is where implementation of projects, relevant to the research findings, takes place to assist in filling in the gaps that were found (Finifter, Jensen, Wilson & Koenig, 2005). This method can display many strengths when used correctly but if pieces are left out of the process then it may cause a variety of limitations within the effectiveness of the community needs assessment.

When conducting community needs assessments a variety of method may be used in order to gather all the relevant information. The collection of primary data through questionnaires, surveys and sampling are just a few methods that are used in this process. Although this is where limitations can be found within this field of research. “As assessments may not have been conducted by well-trained researchers; the researchers may have been under time pressure to obtain their results; and funding agencies may have put pressure, whether deliberate or otherwise, on researchers to publish results consistent with their views in order that they could influence policy-making decisions (Neely, T R).” These may all limit the accuracy of the research outcome. A problem with collecting primary data according to Neely, TR, is that it can often be costly and time consuming. Although, “careful and artful combination of secondary and primary sources… greatly strengthens a research design...
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