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Why do it?

The literature suggests that there are many reasons for conducting a community assessment (Bruner et al., 1993; Lee, 1992; Samuels et al., 1995) The purpose and outcomes of a community assessment also depends on the model(s) of community practice being used - community development/locality development, social planning or social action (see Rothman's Three Models of Community Organizing). The potential purposes and outcomes include the following:

  • to provide a comprehensive and holistic picture of the community by compiling and interpreting information from a wide variety of sources;
  • to identify needs and issues and establish clear definitions of the problems;
  • to develop an understanding of particular groups and/or issues in the community;
  • to identify the formal and informal resources available in the community;
  • to address a particular problem that has arisen in the community;
  • to better understand and respond to the impact of a significant change which has taken place in the community;
  • to develop a deeper understanding of how services succeed and fall short in meeting community needs in order to inform decisions regarding service reform;
  • to provide baseline data that can be used to track and community conditions and then establish desired outcomes;
  • to assist in establishing community priorities and developing action plans;
  • to assist in the allocation of funding and other resources such as staff time;
  • to support funding proposals;
  • to inform elected officials and members of organization serving the community;
  • to move an interagency group from an information sharing group to a more action oriented collective;
  • to strengthen the community's ability to advocate on its own behalf;
  • to collect data to support actions to address systemic inequities;
  • to develop more collaborative service delivery systems;
  • to build upon a network of contacts by developing purposeful working relationships;
  • to enhance community organization by developing indigenous leadership, strengthening community participation and forging community consensus;
  • to mobilize the community to take ownership for what happens in the community.