4. How to determine your community’s needs

detrmine-community's--needsThere may be several alcohol-related issues in your community, but which of these do you tackle? Successful projects always start out by determining the needs of a community. This is called a needs assessment ­– a way of asking a group or community members what they see as their most important needs. The answers they provide should guide and inform future action on the issue. With a needs assessment you shouldn’t only find out what the community thinks are the problems, but also the solutions. You’ll want to know how strongly the community feels about the issues and what their biggest concerns are. Make sure you talk to and consult with a wide range of people including:
  • the target audience
  • people the project will affect
  • people who will benefit from the project
  • people who can contribute information to help develop the project
  • people who can help deliver the project.
Here are some ways you can undertake your needs assessment:
Organise a community forum
As the name implies, a community forum is an event where community members come together to participate in a highly interactive discussion on an issue. The forum presents a panel of speakers knowledgeable on the topic and members of the audience are encouraged to ask questions. This is the strongest way to gauge how a community feels about an issue. It’s a great way to:
  • present facts on an issue to the community
  • find out what the community thinks
  • recruit people who may want to get involved
  • raise awareness of an issue.
To make the process easy, we have developed templates to help you organise a community forum.
Survey the community
Rolling out a survey is a great way of asking your community direct questions about an issue. While the findings of your survey can be limited by the number of people taking part, and who the survey is distributed to, it still has value. The information can give you a good idea of what people in your community think about the problem and the possible solutions. The ‘Community Toolbox‘ website provides step-by step instructions for developing a survey. Do you want to roll your survey out online? Survey Monkey is a popular online survey website that’s easy to use, and best of all, it’s free.
Organise a focus group
A focus group is a form of group discussion run by trained group leaders. They guide small group discussions where participants are encouraged to discuss opinions, beliefs and attitudes on a specific topic. These discussions are a great way to gauge opinion as well as guide future action. The ‘Community Toolbox‘ website provides  step-by step instructions for running a focus group.
Talk to your local media
Engaging and making contacts with the media is a great way to raise awareness about your project, spread messages about the issues and win support from the community.
Feedback the results
Once you have the results of your Needs assessment, it’s a good idea to feed this information back into the community. You can do this by: Feeding your results back into the community is a great opportunity to raise even more awareness of the issue and find out who’s willing to help with your project.
Community Strengths
bulb You will want to identify the strengths of your community. Your project will be more successful if you can harness the skills and talents that already exist in your community. Some of the strengths in your community might include:
  • the skills and talents of individual people
  • the resources offered by local associations and organisations and health services
  • the resources offered by institutions such as major employers, schools, and the council
  • land, property, buildings, parks or the environment
  • local businesses or industries
  • the arts, culture and heritage of the community.