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A Key Component of Community Work

Community work is depicted here in a linear manner with discrete stages. In reality community work is a much more complex process in which the phases often overlap and integrate.

The following model, which is adapted from the work of Bill Lee, identifies where a community assessment fits within the community work process. Community work is depicted here in a linear manner with discrete stages. In reality community work is a much more complex process in which the phases overlap and integrate (Lee, 1992).

One of the major reasons why community work fails is that after spending a significant amount of time on the pre-assessment phase, there is often a temptation to launch into the organization and development phase without conducting a more formal assessment (Lee, 1992).

Pre-assessment Phase

Understanding your organization's expectations, the socio-political context within which you work, the relationships within your organization, your organization's relationships with the community; examining your principles and style of practice as well as your strengths and limitations; establishing contact with the community; beginning to identify community leaders and understand the community's people, structures and dynamics; beginning to build relationships and establishing trust; and, clarifying community expectations.

Community Assessment Phase

Gathering information; developing leadership; broadening participation and support; developing a community image and coherence; and identifying strengths and needs and setting priorities for future actions through collaboration and consensus.

Organization/Development Phase

Developing an organization and plan for action and change based on the identified priorities; attaining funding and appropriate training; further developing relationships/partnerships and building support.

Action Phase

Maintaining and strengthening the organization, electing and implementing the plan for making the changes, reviewing progress, sharing the accomplishments and looking to the future.

Evaluation Phase

Examining what happened, what went well, what didn't go well, what has been learned and what should happen next.

Continuation/Termination Phase

Deciding to continue in some capacity or bringing the relationship to a conclusion.

It is important to remember that the success of each of these phases is reliant on the work done in the previous phase. The decision to undertake a community assessment is often made prematurely, without spending enough time laying the foundation in the pre-assessment phase. On the other hand, one of the major reasons community work fails is that after spending a significant amount of time on the pre-assessment phase, there is often a temptation to launch directly into the organization and development phase without conducting a more formal assessment (Lee, 1992).