At the point when a community worker might consider a community assessment, she/he has already spent considerable time in the pre-assessment phase examining a variety of different factors and issues which will influence the community assessment process. As adapted from Lee's work, the following describes the community worker's understanding and relationships as she/he moves from the pre-assessment phase to the community assessment phase. She/he:
- has an understanding of her/his organization's expectations;
- has examined her/his own principles, style of practice, strengths and limitations;
- has an understanding of the socio-political context within which she/he works;
- has an understanding of relationships within his/her organization as well as the its relationships within the community;
- has spent some time "in "the community;
- has some knowledge of the community, the people and their values;
- has established a presence in the community and her/his existence is known about by a reasonably wide range of community members;
- has a strong network of contacts, many of whom have credibility and influence within the community;
- has an understanding of the formal leadership structure within the community and, beyond those already involved in this structure, has a sense of community members who have leadership potential;
- has some conception of the problems/issues faced by the community and where the community's strengths lie; and,
- has some awareness of the diverse interests or reference groups in the community (Lee, 1992).
In working through the pre-assessment phase, a community worker may ascertain that a community assessment is not appropriate or timely because of the following circumstances:
- you and/or the community are not yet well enough engaged to pursue a community assessment, and more contacts and connections need to be made;
- the community has been recently assessed as part of another planning process;
- there is no support/commitment from other agencies, community groups or citizens;
- there is a lack of financial and/or human resources within your organization; and,
- the purpose or potential focus of a community assessment has not been discussed and agreed upon within the community.
Often the decision to move from pre-assessment to community assessment is made before considering why a community assessment is required and whether or not the timing is right. Drawing on the information provided thus far, Worksheets 1 and 2 will help determine whether a community assessment will be useful at this particular time (Edmonton Social Planning Council, 1988; Lee, 1992). The worksheets will also assist in documenting the information that has already been collected about the community.
Initially you may want to complete these worksheets on your own. However, a community assessment should not be done in isolation. To be really effective, it should be done with the community rather than to the community. As you engage community members or groups during the pre-assessment phase, you will want to discuss the possibility of conducting a community assessment. It may be helpful to use some of the questions in Worksheet 1 to focus these discussions. If a group of community members can be engaged to conduct the assessment, you will be ready to develop a plan for this information gathering process.