query: community needs assessment
colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Mon Jul 31 22:45:01 CDT 2006
[ed: thanks to Cheryl and Candee for continuing the discussion.]
From: "Cheryl Honey" <wecare at familynetwork.org>
A tool that takes ABCD inventory to the next level is the new technology
developed by the Family Support Network, Int'l. www.familynetwork.org.
This technology was developed to enable individuals (a.k.a. Good
Neighbors) to pool resources and access them directly (without an
intermediary). All participants can post educational, recreational and
social activities based on their individual strengths and interests.
Anyone in the community can participate. It's free! Reports can be
generated to measure social ties, build up and bridging of social
capital, frequency and types of volunteerism (service learning), civic
engagement, quality of life and sense of wellbeing.
This approach is often used an an infrastructure for self-organization
to occur as individuals from across diverse sectors of the work toward a
common goal to save our children's future. They congregate around shared
interests and work together to co-create their future together.
I'd be glad to take those who are interested on a webcast tour to learn
more about this exciting new people helping people technology that
weaves the human and tangible resources of the grassroots with the
skills and expertise of formal systems to create a more caring, just and
Cheryl Honey, C.P.P.
Family Support Network, Int'l
From: Candee Basford <candee at bright.net>
To the editor:
Your response surprises me, makes me think and elicited this response.
Like you, I also despise some of the asset talk- in particular programs that
promote of ready made 'list' of assets necessary to 'make it" in the "real"
world. Making it, in this context, usually implies passing standardized
testing, making money, being a patriot citizen - playing the game so to
But assets also imply human capacities rarely, if ever, celebrated in our
culture, assets that are expressed and identified about oneself or by people
who are close to us. Capacities and gifts like love, presence, alternative
ways of knowing, music, art, and even the capacity to make others smile.
Working towards communities in which these gifts can manifest themselves,
believing that all citizens have gifts to give is hardly right wing. It is
at it's core about connecting, about belonging, about relationships and is
in my experience, the work of community building - or maybe it is the work
of communities remembering.
I agree that focusing on people's needs will indeed get us things. History
tells me that it will get us more programs, institutions, professionals,
clients (and maybe even street lights). But that all comes with a cost to
the people who's needs we just used to get more of the same. The "needy"
become more embedded than ever in the service system, more identified by
their needs (even to themselves), less viewed as having capacities, and
their gifts to the community are lost.
I'm interested in communities that welcome and value all of their citizens.
To me that means meaningful relationships and connections built not on
benevolence but on Respect for each individual's gift to the whole. Living
wages, health care, housing, education, voice and street lights don't lie
outside of this ideal but are at the heart of it. It seems to me that
citizens would be more supportive of change for fellow citizens with which
they have a relationship than clients they have no connection to.
I believe that citizenship and community grow in the direction of respect
for humanity not because we've discovered just how dang broken you are but
because we have discover who you are in relationship.
-- Candee Basford
3320 Buck Run Road
Seaman, Ohio 45679
> [ed: thanks to Candee, Richard, and Sarena for responding to Vy's
> query. A response from me at the bottom of this message.]
> From: Candee Basford <candee at bright.net>
> in response to your question about needs assessments:
> You might like to take a look at the inventory samples from the ABCD
> institute and the work of John Mcknight. Not a needs assessment but an
> inventory of gifts and capacities to create community. Wonderful,
> powerful ideas.
> Candee Basford
> 3320 Buck Run Road
> Seaman, Ohio 45679
> From: Richard Layman <rlaymandc at yahoo.com>
> Well there is the whole issue of "needs" vs. "assets". I go back and
> forth, but the Asset Based Community Development Institute model is
> really one of the best out there. Their basic assessment model is
> available online for free. Otherwise they publish a bunch of
> workbooks with more detailed processes in particular areas.
> Richard Layman
> Citizens Planning Coalition
> Washington, DC
> From: Sarena Seifer <sarena at u.washington.edu>
> Dear Vy,
> I would recommend taking a look at the Community Toolbox
> at http://ctb.ku.edu/ including its section on community assessment:
> http://ctb.ku.edu/tools/en/part_B.htm and its toolkit on assessing
> community needs and resources. Would encourage you to assess not only
> community needs, but resources/assets as well.
> Community-Campus Partnerships for Health
>> From: vy nguyen <vy_kiwa at yahoo.com>
>> I'm wondering if anyone has samples of surveys used by community
>> groups for a general community needs assessment. We are in the
>> process of developing one and would appreciate some examples.
>> Vy Nguyen
>> Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA)
>> Los Angeles
>> Vy Nguyen
>> Lead Organizer
>> Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA)
>> 3465 W. 8th Street
>> Los Angeles, CA 90005
>> fax: 213-738-1833
>> vykiwa at kiwa.org
> [ed: OK, apologies to everyone in advance, but "asset assessment" is
> one of those things that drives me crazy. I can't tell you how many
> times I have encountered communities who spent a whole bunch of
> resources (money and time) mapping their assets and end up with
> absolutely nothing to show for it because they realized that, to put
> those "assets" into play, they "needed" all kinds of other resources.
> Community organization shelves are clogged with asset maps that never
> amounted to a hill of beans. Asset assessment is one of those really
> badly understood practices that has become fetishized because it feels
> good to think of people who have nothing as instead having something.
> It plays far too easily into "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps"
> and other kinds of victim-blaming thinking. And thinking about it as
> the opposite of needs assessment helps to mystify the reasons that
> people have needs to begin with--corporate disinvestment, government
> discrimination, regressive taxation, low wages, and so on. Now, that
> doesn't mean that I am against doing an asset assessment, but I am
> only for it in the context of a strategy where a community understands
> its needs. Needs assessment strategies have been horribly
> misrepresented by those who see them as portraying communities as
> weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. A community that
> knows what it needs can then go get it. That is what community
> organizing is all about. Think of needs not as personal troubles but
> as public issues. A community where half the streetlights are burned
> out may decide that it "needs" new streetlights. So they organize 100
> people to go down and yell and scream at the director of streetlights
> until he agrees to start replacing the streetlights. There's nothing
> weak about that. Or, maybe a community decides it needs better
> childcare, and one of the things they then do is start asking who has
> child care training, and who is willing to get child care training, in
> the neighborhood. That is an asset assessment, but it is one done in
> the context of an identified need. Or maybe a community decides that
> it "needs" better morale, and one of the ways to do it is for people
> in the community to go around and map all the places in the
> neighborhood that make them feel good. That produces an asset map,
> but in the context of identified need. Ultimately, this is about
> strategic planning. No one should do either a needs assessment or an
> asset assessment without also doing good strategic planning that will
> lead to action.
> So, sorry, but I am so fearful that we are getting sucked into
> right-wing thinking by the national culture of "asset talk." For
> those of you who want to really understand needs assessment, I
> recommend either of the two books on the topic written by Bell Ruth
> Wilkin. Not the most exciting reading, but the most comprehensive.
> In the context of Vy's question, it may not be a survey that you want,
> but a door-knocking process or a phone interview process that will not
> just gather needs information, but engage people in organizing around
> those identified needs. This is often just a two or three question
> process that finds out both what people see as their issues/needs, and
> which ones they feel strongly enough about to act on. Needs
> assessment is less about what specific questions are asked, but how
> the information is used.
> All responses are welcomed.]
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