The determination of whether you write a problem statement or a needs assessment may hinge more on the funder’s priorities than your own passion for the project. Either way, the same information will be stated either as a reduction of what is currently a problem or an enhancement of a need to be added to a current situation.
For example, let’s look at a fictitious rural community facing a particular environmental situation. The federal public land manager in charge of a watershed surrounding the small, rural community of Cottonwood Creek brings a partnership of local stakeholders together worried about the namesake stream that flowed through their town of 4,000 people. The meeting includes representatives from the power generation plant, military installation and farmers upstream, wildlife biologists and recreation specialists from the state and county park systems, and business and civic leaders from the region. Other citizens show up, not yet convinced there is a need for action because they don’t trust government.
Collectively, they might talk about the situation as a problem of degradation of the banks right in town, pollution both upstream from agricultural activity and in town storm drain design. The sediments eroding from unstable banks are threatening fishing, including one endangered species of trout. Of course, the discussion would have to include evidence that a problem does indeed exist and development of the conviction that not acting would lead to a bad result for the stream, the town, and the individual stakeholders.
Using the IDPER approach, a possible problem statement might read as follows:
Cottonwood Creek – Problem Statement outline
I=Cottonwood Creek is experiencing destruction of valuable riparian habitat along several miles of streambed. In the past year, the signs of neglect and abuse have become hard to ignore, even from the most skeptical observers. D=The once scenic creek...