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A needs assessment is a systematic process for determining and addressing needs, or "gaps" between current conditions and desired conditions or "wants". The discrepancy between the current condition and wanted condition must be measured to appropriately identify the need. The need can be a desire to improve current performance or to correct a deficiency. It can refine and improve a product such as a training or service a client receives. It can be an effective tool to clarify problems and identify appropriate interventions or solutions.
Needs assessments can help improve the quality of policy or program decisions—thus leading to improvements in performance and the accomplishment of desired results. Improving results—that is, moving from current to desired performance—is typically a worthwhile and valuable effort. The results of a needs assessment will guide subsequent decisions—including the design, implementation, and evaluation of projects and programs that will lead to achieving desired results.
Defining 'need' is an essential starting place for needs assessments. Though the word need is used casually in many context without a definition, in order to assess them a need is often defined as a gap in results where its satisfaction, or partial satisfaction, is necessary for the achievement of another specific socially-permissible result.
Each need therefore consist of two related gaps in results, leading to the assessment size, direction, characteristics, etc. This distinguishes needs assessments from surveys of people 'wants" or favorite solutions.
There are three perspectives on need in a needs assessment; perceived need, expressed need and relative need. Within a performance improvement framework, needs assessments play a critical role in starting the improvement process see Figure A. Assessments inform future decisions; at the same time, they are informed by the results of past decisions. Needs assessments thereby link together past and future performance, guiding decisions throughout the improvement effort.
Considered the "father of needs assessment",  Roger Kaufman first developed a model for determining needs defined as a gap in results. Kaufman argues that an actual need can only be identified independent of premature selection of a solution wherein processes are defined as means to an end, not an end unto themselves.
To conduct a quality needs assessment according to Kaufman, first determine the current results, articulate the desired results, and the distance between results is the actual need. Once a need is identified, then a solution can be selected that is targeted to closing the gap. Kaufman's model in particular identifies gaps in needs at the societal level, what Kaufman calls "Mega" planning, along with gaps at the Macro or organizational and Micro level the level of individuals and small groups.
If the desired results are not directly societal, but are delivered to society such as automobiles or college graduates , then a Macro level assessment should be performed. If the desired results are building blocks for larger results such as a single sale or a passed inspection , then a Micro level needs assessment is appropriate. Kaufman articulated 13 indicators for societal well-being, which there will be no losses of life nor elimination or reduction of levels of well-being, survival, self-sufficiency, and quality of life from any source, including but not limited to: Depending on the scope of the project a needs assessment can be a costly and labor-intensive project.
A general twelve step process might entail the following: In the past 50 years, it has been an essential element of educational planning. That is the process used to determine customer needs and wants for products and services. Other terms used somewhat interchangeably to describe this process include needs analysis, market analysis, front end analysis, and discrepancy analysis.
The broad difference between extensive and intensive needs assessment is that extensive research uses a large number of cases to determine the characteristics of a population, while intensive research examines one or a few cases in depth to understand cause and effect. The use of population-based indicators is common in extensive needs assessments and has several strengths. The strengths of the survey method are: The strengths of this source of data are: One type of extensive needs assessment is SWOT analysis.
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The figure below lists a simplified version of the SWOT process. Once the group has identified needs, they then generally turn to intensive needs assessment in order to rank the identified needs so they can choose what they will address.
An important thing to note is that while the ambitious may want to dive right into their list of needs, generally money and time constraints do not allow for all needs to be addressed and that is where an intensive needs assessment is useful.
As mentioned earlier, intensive needs assessment requires the ranking of priorities. While there are many methods to rank needs, it is important to develop ranking criteria. Feasibility is often used as criteria, but it is often useful for a group to identify their own set of criteria. This part of the research is not so much concerned with developing a detailed plan for solving the needs situation, but rather for examining the depth of the need and potentially required resources.
Force field analysis, developed by Kurt Lewin, is one method for facilitating determining needs feasibility. The illustration below displays a model force field analysis. As mentioned previously, the use of population-based indicators does have several strengths; however, it also has several weaknesses.
These include that such data reveal problems more readily than they do solutions, may not include specific variables of interest, are difficult to alter in terms of type of data collected, not always available in a timely manner, and any individual data point may be of questionable validity. Service and program databases are also not useful data sources for intensive needs assessments, because they do not provide data on unmet needs that are not directly addressed by the given service or program, address demand for only that program or service, only provide data for those who seek and participate in the program or service, and some data elements may be of uncertain quality.
Regardless of the method used, intensive needs assessments typically allow deeper analysis and greater flexibility in terms of type of data collected. While often not as convenient as extensive needs assessments, they can be quite useful for determining needs in a small setting. One method of data collection for intensive needs assessments is a structured group. Some strengths of this method are: An example of an intensive needs assessment is a project conducted by the Environmental Law Institute, titled Building Capacity to Participate in Environmental Protection Agency Activities: A Needs Assessment and Analysis.
The purpose of the interviews was to identify: A needs chain model is composed of aligned horizontal and vertical processes in which there are four different kinds of needs that describe and identify the ultimate performance goal, solutions, and what might affect these solutions. The needs chain model provides tools that assist organizations in prioritizing resources and identifying areas that require improvement.
A needs chain model is a framework that allows organizations to consider the individuals needs within an organization as well as the organizations needs simultaneously in order to come to solutions to prioritizing resources and areas of improvement for the organization. Once the organization has completed the model, it gives them a better picture of the organization's priorities in a timely manner. One of the benefits of this model is that it can be used to help decision makers quickly come to solutions to priorities that may change over time.
In order to conduct a needs chain model, the organization must identify the following: The organizational level applies to behavior or outcomes, where as the individual level pertains to individual attitudes to things such as job performance or how they view the organization. The data about each of these levels comes from different data collection methods:.
The most difficult data to collect in this model are the unconscious needs. In order to gather this information about the individual, careful methods must be used to allow for trust from the individual while discussing sensitive topics about their thoughts on the organization. Training needs assessment is a systematic inquiry of training needs within an organization for the purposes of identifying priorities and making decisions, and allocating finite resources in a manner consistent with identified program goals and objectives.
Organizational assessment evaluates the level of organizational performance. An assessment of this type will determine the skills, knowledge, and ability needs of an agency. It also identifies what is required to alleviate the problems and weaknesses of the agency as well as to enhance strengths and competencies. Organizational assessment takes into consideration factors such as changing demographics, political trends, technology, and the economy. Occupational assessment examines the skills, knowledge, and abilities required for affected occupational groups.
Occupational assessment identifies how and which occupational discrepancies or gaps exist, as well as examining new ways to do work that could fix those discrepancies or gaps. Individual assessment analyzes how well an individual employee is doing a job and determines the individual's capacity to do new or different work.
Individual assessment provides information on which employees need training and what kind. Conducting a needs analysis is usually done to gauge what training is needed for new employees or to identify and find solutions to:. There are many tools to gather information about employee performance, which work best in different circumstances. A community needs assessment is a combination of information gathering, community engagement and focused action with the goal of community improvement.
A community needs assessment identifies the strengths and weaknesses needs within a community. A community needs assessment is also unique and specific to the needs within a community and is usually an extension of a community's strategic planning process.
The community needs assessment places great emphasis on the abilities of the people in the community, and on the agencies and organizations within that community that provides services to the children and families.
Community leaders, local government, advocacy groups or a combination of these then address these identified needs through policy change or development. A community needs assessment can be broadly categorized into three types based on their respective starting points: First, needs assessments which aim to discover weaknesses within the community and create a solution Community Needs Assessment I.
Second, needs assessments which are structured around and seek to address an already known problem or potential problem facing the community Community Needs Assessment II. Third, needs assessments of an organization which serves the community domestic violence centers, community health clinics etc. Community needs assessments are generally executed in four steps: Depending on the type of needs assessment being conducted one can tailor their approach.
Community needs assessment I — This type of needs assessment seeks to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses within a community and create or improve services based on the identified weaknesses. Organizing this type of needs assessment is primarily structured around how to best obtain information, opinions, and input from the community and then what to do with that information. This process may be broken into targeted questions which can direct the project overall. Community needs assessment II — This type of needs assessment is constructed around a known problem or potential problem facing the community for example, disaster preparedness, how to address an increase in violent crime etc.
This type of community needs assessment centers less around the direct involvement of the community but rather the governing entities, stakeholders, businesses, advocacy groups and organizations which will be potentially affected or can contribute to the community need.
Potential organization questions could include:. Community needs assessment III — This final type of needs assessment is based within an organization which either serves the community at large, is currently addressing a need within the community, or is dedicated to an under-served population within the community. This type of needs assessment centers around improving the efficiency or effectiveness of such organizations.
Implementing a community needs assessment — The exact methodology to implementing a community needs assessment is partially determined by the type of assessment that is being performed discussed above.
However, general guidelines can be proposed. Selecting members of a focus group first requires choosing a target community, population, or demographic which will structure the community needs assessment. This information guides the selection process for a focus group. The principle of the focus group is to select members who are diverse yet share a degree of commonality.
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Community level needs assessments should include the community at all stages of planning, and should consider all people that might be affected by the planned intervention, including children, the elderly and the mentally ill.
There are a number of components in a community level needs assessment, all of which are aimed at gathering data that will answer what the practitioner needs to know and inform the decisions that he or she makes. Community demographics assist the practitioner to get a feel of the field that they are working in. Demographics include things like age ranges, the number of people living in a certain area within the community, the number or percentage of people within a certain socio economic status and gender characteristics.
Consumer leadership assessment is an assessment of the frequency with which community members use or are likely to use an existing or planned service. Consumer leadership assessment is meant to give an indication of the different types of leadership activities and roles that are related to transformation in relation to some health or social issue that is being addressed. This may give an indication as to the degree of the need for an intervention or not. An assessment of service gaps is meant to give an indication of the types of services that are needed the most at the particular point of time in which the assessment is being conducted www.
The scale also assesses the availability of other services in the community such as support groups, education and employment services that may be of interest to the practitioner. The following are the actual tools that can be involved in the process of gathering data to be used in the community needs assessment.
Surveys can be used especially in relation to the gathering of community demographics where a large number of people may be involved, and also in which multiple variables such socio-economic status, education levels and employment are being measured in relation to the planned intervention. Large scale surveys involving many people can reveal useful information, while smaller surveys may be less generalizable and used only in the context within which they are conducted.
Survey design will vary depending on context, such as internet and phone surveys for well resourced communities or face to face surveys for less resourced communities. Often, a practitioner may be wanting to implement a service that they think will be of benefit to the community. The problem facing the practitioner will be where and how to place the service at a particular point in the community, and whether that service is likely to be used. Community mapping is where the practitioner gets people in the community to draw a map of the community of the places that they visit the most and how often they go there.
This will give an indication of where to locate a service so that it is conveniently placed and accessible to community participants whom it is intended to service. The problem may arise where there are differences between the places that people visit. A seasonal calendar allows the practitioner to look at seasonal trends that may affect the use or implementation of a service in a community. Seasonal calendars may reveal important reasons for the gaps between service utilization and intervention outcomes.
This will allow the practitioner to plan for other things that may not have been considered as part of the intervention but which will greatly improve the quality of the intervention and make life better for the community members. To use the seasonal calendar as a data collection tool, the practitioner gets community members to write a list of the things that they have to do throughout the year.
These things are related to work, cultural activities, certain times of the year in which participants are unavailable at all and so on, and to plot how they share them with other members of the community. Focus groups are sessions in which community members can answer questions about different aspects of the intervention in the form of planned discussions.
This is a good opportunity to actually find out about the needs and concerns of the community. It is also a good opportunity for addressing service gaps and what needs to be done about them. This is a good example as needs are identified in several different ways, such as research, survey analysis, and current gaps in service provision.
All of this information can be used as analysis towards future policy implementation or as a focal point for discussion. The author examined significant statistics that showed a need within the community of Bayview Hunters Point in order to "identify gaps in service delivery system to create a road map for improving neighborhood conditions by rationalizing the allocation of city dollars to social service programs" Burke, 7.
Such numbers could signify a need within the foster care system or family resources. The author also looked at the broad-based survey, Project Connect, which gathered data from 10, households specifically about their needs for services and current service utilization practices in the summer of According to the Child Care Planning and Advisory Council, in the unmet need for subsidized care in Bayview Hunters Point included 2, slots for children Such needs were gathered from identifying how many slots exist, and whether families can pay for those slots.
It forms a first step in any project that aims to secure:. Community needs assessment has especial usefulness in action-learning projects, and in ensuring that organizations meet green objectives of: A cross-sectional study of the mental health beliefs and perceptions was conducted which employed a combination of interviewer-administered questionnaires that explored the levels of awareness, current practices, attitudes and stigma concerning depression and suicide among a randomly selected quota sample of community members in Ireland.
Communities are the experts in their own experience. In order to define and create solutions for communities, needs assessments should be conducted.
The following reflect the models included in that analysis, with a few new additions:. To supplement this list, a comprehensive bibliography of needs assessments articles and books is maintained at: An organizational guide Rev.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Perceived needs are defined by what people think about their needs, each standard changes with each respondent. Expressed needs are defined by the number of people who have sought help and focuses on circumstances where feelings are translated into action.
A major weakness of expressed needs assumes that all people with needs seek help. Relative needs are concerned with equity and must consider differences in population and social pathology. Interview with Roger Kaufman. Retrieved 22 September Rojas, Hannah Mayer Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications, Inc.
A Guide to Assessing Needs: Tools for collecting information, making decisions, and achieving development results. The concept of need. New Society, 30, Designing and managing programs: The Hague, the Netherlands: Availability and usefulness of selected health and socioeconomic data for community planning. American Journal of Public Health, 57, Educational Technology, Pp Needs Assessment Since The State of the Practice.
Evaluation Practice, 15 1 , 17— Rojas, Hanna Mayer A digest, review, and comparison of needs assessment literature. Performance Improvement Journal, 37 7 , Alternate Models of Needs Assessment: Selecting the Right One for Your Organization. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 11 1: Retrieved 18 September Research Methods for Community Change. Available in print, or free online at www.
Needs Assessment in Public Health: A Practical Guide for Students and Professionals. Retrieved 20 September Office of Personnel Management. A Contradiction in Terms. Educational Technology, 36 6 , According to him there are five kinds of needs viz.
The survival of human beings would be in danger if these needs are not satisfied. These needs are biological in nature and keep the body fit. There is a famous saying that a man can live on bread alone if there is no butter.
After the physiological needs are satisfied to a reasonable degree, the safety needs take the place e. In choosing a job, security needs play an important role. Social needs include need for love, affection, friendship, acceptance by group etc.
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