By Aimee Coombs, University of Massachusetts Lowell
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An important competency, that is essential to supporting other competencies, is conducting community needs and resource assessments. A community needs and resources assessment is defined as, “a comprehensive analysis that examines the historical and existing context, conditions, assets, and capacity of the community to respond to a community issue (Scott & Wolfe, 2015)”. This assessment helps to guide the actions, and decisions made on behalf of the community once the knowledge of the issues that need attention have been determined. Once the issues have been identified, all involved in determining resolutions that will benefit the community can come together and mobilize a plan that will benefit all in the community.
In regards to the community needs and resource assessment, I have listed four important considerations in conducting the assessment that I feel will help influence the manner in which assessments are done, and help to ensure positive outcomes.
- Participatory evaluationwhich is defined, “as a collaborative process of systematic inquiry, actively engages stakeholders in all phases of the assessment, and has with the shared goal of utilizing information to support action in addressing an issue (Scott & Wolfe, 2015)”. Considering this perspective in the assessment process allows for all of those involved and affected by the issues being addressed to have a say in defining the issues and solutions that will bring about changes wanted within the community.
- Prevention oriented approach looks at, “potential antecedents (i.e., precursors) that serve as risk or protective factors associated with behaviors of interest in the community are examined as part of the assessment (Scott & Wolfe, 2015)”. Utilizing this perspective helps to not only to consider the current state of issues but to also consider future probability of how the issues may stand in the future and what the needs and resources will be needed then.
- Ecological perspective,“recognizes the interaction between individuals and the multiple social systems in which they are embedded (Scott & Wolfe, 2015)”. This perspective allows for the needs across several socio-ecological areas to be considered. Having this perspective allows for a broader view of the needs within the community to be integrated as part of a whole.
- Action-focused assessment is the goal of the assessment to support a collaborative process that enables informed decision making for planning and taking action on issues that matter to the community (Scott & Wolfe, 2015). Taking this perspective encourages everyone that is involved utilizes the data gathered toward meaningful resolutions that will benefit all.
Using these skills and perspectives helps a community psychologist to ensure that when conducting the community needs and resource assessment that the best interest of the community is addressed and that all areas of the community are included as part of the whole. Community psychologists should strive to apply the ideas presented when doing the assessment to help guide the actions needed to be taken, and decisions needed to be made, for the communities they work with.
Aimee Coombs is a graduate student in Autism Studies program at University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Scott, V. & Wolfe, S.M. (2015). Community Psychology Foundations for Practice. United States of America: SAGE