Social entrepreneurship/Needs Assessment

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Purpose: gain an understanding of community needs to design interventions to improve quality of life.

Additional objectives may include:

  • Gain a broader understanding of the community, its members, culture(s), education levels, socio-economics, diversity, ...
  • identify and prioritise real community needs (ideally by the community for the community, or at least in close collaboration with key stakeholders and representatives)
  • Identify research questions
    • determine data requirements and develop research programmes and tools to answer the questions and enhance understanding of the community
  • discover relevant previous activities and initiatives which may be extended.

In the process of social entrepreneurship in southern Africa, where this collection of learning resources began, needs assessment requires cognisance of other parts of the curriculum - most notably, sections concerning community engagement. This may apply more generally. The following questions suggest actions for conducting a needs assessment at inception of a program, or later on to check that the original rationale still holds.

Key Questions[edit]

  • Whose needs are being assessed?
    • How are they being involved in the assessment?
    • How will they be involved in decision making influenced by the assessment?
  • Why is the needs assessment being done?
    • What information will be produced for whom in order to decide what?
  • What prior knowledge is available for use or validation?
    • Have previous needs assessments been done, and if so, how do the results inform the process of this assessment?
  • Do you have the resources required to do the need assessment at the required level of detail and community involvement to make the right decisions?


Approaches, Tools, Techniques and Methodologies[edit]

Some methodologies may already be in operation on account of past or on-going programmes with embedded monitoring and evaluation activities. A first step is to find out what is already available.

Possible sources of information include:

  • Data routinely collected by government, community based organisations, NGOs and researchers.
    • Which data is relevant for your programme?

In addition, it may be necessary to do some research of your own using combinations of techniques such as the following (as appropriate):

  • Questionnaires/surveys (by hand, by mail, by e-mail, web, ...)
  • Interviews (face to face, by telephone, group interviews, ...)

Read up on these methodologies and think hard about the design of these questionnaires and surveys (target groups, length, language, focus, sensitivities, ...).

Some types of information are best gleaned by talking to key people in a community such as

  • community leaders
  • decision makers
  • active and prominent community members, often found in or associated with
    • community based organisations,
    • church/religious groups
    • NGOs
    • etc.

With all of the above approaches, the results and interpretation should be shared and discussed with the community.

Community fora are another effective source of insight into community needs and the types of solutions that might be suggested as well as serving a venues for gaining trust and support.

Finally, stakeholders, community representatives and people with the required knowledge may be assembled for workshops, brainstorming and various forms of facilitated dialogue. The approach taken at these meetings should be tailored for the participants (culture, diversity), the scale of the proposed intervention (if there is one already) and the type of interaction required. Such meetings should be planned closely with, or by, well positioned community groups/organisations with a good understanding of the culture and able to advise on design of effective interactions.

Further Reading[edit]

Social Science:

Approaches which may be used in needs assessment (and beyond) include the following:

External links[edit]