6 Community Needs Assessment-Process and Tools

Dr. Mahbub Hasan MSW, Ph.D.


  1. Community Needs and Resources
  2. Analyzing Community Problem
  3. Tools in Community Needs Assessment and Planning
  4. Sources of Information for Community Needs Assessment
  5. Case Study



The community needs assessment is an essential task and step in community development, and the community worker should have skills in identifying community needs and community needs assessment for any community initiatives. This chapter will define key concepts and processes in community needs assessment and discuss using tools to understand needs and voices.

Material in this chapter is adapted from: Berkowitz & Wadud (2022, July 11). Developing a Plan for Assessing Local Needs and ResourcesCommunity ToolBox.  Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

1. Community Needs and Resources 

Needs are the gap between what a situation is and what it should be. Resources are those things that can be used to improve the quality of community life.

1.1 Why should you identify local needs and resources?

  • To understand the environment.
  • To understand public opinion.
  • To make decisions about priorities.
    Listening to the community and assessing their assets and needs are the crucial role of a community worker. Photo: Mahbub Hasan, Noakhali, Bangladesh. Year: 2008.















1.2 Who benefits from identifying needs and resources?

  • Those experiencing the problem.
  • Service providers.
  • Community leaders.
  • Community workers

1.3 When you should identify needs and assets:

  • You are planning to start a program.
  • You are implementing an initiative.
  • Efforts are being reviewed.

1.4 What are the phases of developing your plan?

  • Brainstorming: developing preliminary ideas.
  • Using what you already have to answer your questions.
  • Finalizing questions.
  • Identifying your target population.
  • Deciding what methods to use.
  • Deciding what is missing.
  • Deciding if you have the resources to conduct a survey.

1.5 Tools for Collecting Data

  • Listening sessions.
  • Public forums.
  • Assets mapping: One mapping method is to find a large street map of your community, with few other markings (you can probably print one out from Google Maps or some other similar site.) Then just mark with a dot, tag, or push-pin (maybe color-coded by type) the geographic location of the groups and organizations you have found.
  • Needs assessments tools’ existing data. This is the research you might do to unearth the information in census and other public records, or to find information that’s been gathered by others.

Interviews and focus groups.  Open-ended questions (those which demand something more than a yes or no or other simple answer), follow-ups to interesting points, and a relaxed atmosphere that encourages people to open up are all part of most assessment interviews. A focus group is a specialized group interview in which group members are not told exactly what the interviewer wants to know, so that they will be more likely to give answers that aren’t influenced by what they think is wanted.

Direct, and sometimes participant, observation. Direct observation involves seeing for yourself.  Do you want to know how people use the neighborhood park on weekends? Spend a few weekends there, watching and talking to people.

Surveys. There are several different kinds of surveys, any or all of which could be used as part of a community assessment.

1.6 Interview Tips

  • Start with small talk.
  • Explain your motives.
  • Ask for a definition of the community.
  • Follow up on leads and go on to subjects and areas you haven’t reached yet.
  • Ask who else you should talk to.
  • Let interviewee end the interview.
  • Thank interviewee for his/her time.


2. Analyzing Community Problem

Problem can occur any moment in a community. Some of the community problem may include access to clean drinking water, child abuse and neglect,  domestic violence,   ethnic conflict, health disparities,  hunger,  lack of jobs, lack of affordable housing, poverty etc.

Criteria you may consider when identifying community problems:

  • The problem occurs too frequently (frequency)
  • The problem has lasted for a while (duration)
  • The problem affects many people (scope, or range)
  • The problem is disrupting to personal or community life, and possibly intense (severity)
  • The problem deprives people of legal or moral rights (equity)
  • The issue is perceived as a problem (perception)


Video: Issue Analysis Technique 1 Root Cause

Source: YouTube, https://youtu.be/Ej73eqhO0Wg

3. Tools in Community Needs Assessment and Planning

Source: YouTube, https://youtu.be/-j-_Y7D35H4


  • Identify a problem in your community based on the community consultation. 
  • Analyze the root causes of the problem. 
  • What are the consequences of the problem? 

This activity will help you to understand the root causes of community problems and plan projects/actions to address them. Your project should address the root causes, which are expected to bring positive changes in the community.   



Source: YouTube, https://youtu.be/WI1qXpaAbJs

Question for Reflection:

  • When should you do a SWOT analysis?

4. Sources of Information for Community Needs Assessment

Various sources can be used for writing a community needs assessment report. The preliminary information should come from your community consultation. To support issues and problems discussed in the community, you should use data from credible sources. Libraries are always a vital information source; you can visit the library in person or access various online library resources. I am providing some references for collecting information for your community needs assessment.

  1. Data collected from community
  2. Government statistics/statistics Canada.
  3. Neighbourhood profiles of the city or municipality.
  4. News stories from mainstream media
  5. Academic articles
  6. Relevant Books and publications
  7. Reports written by NGOs or local community agencies
  8. Publications of research agencies

5. Case Studies

Video 1: Community Development-Needs Assessment by ActionAid Bangladesh. 

Source: YouTube, https://youtu.be/IyCMIjFQLGc
Together In Change is a video on the community needs assessment process of ActionAid, an international development agency working in over 45 countries worldwide. This 13 minutes documentary was made in 2002, which was conceptualized & coordinated by Dr. Hasan of ActionAid International. The community was located in a rural and poverty-prone area of Bangladesh. This community needs assessment video was used for recruiting sponsors from Greece, and over 600 individual sponsors were recruited within six months. Each sponsor used to donate $30/per month, which raised $216,000/year for an integrated community development project focused on land rights, women’s entrepreneurship, and children’s education.

Question for Reflection:

  1. Who conducted the community needs assessment?
  2. What were the issues identified by the community? 
  3. What tools and processes were followed in this assessment?

Video 2: Community Development Needs Project – Scarborough North

Students of Social Service Worker program of Centennial College created this video as part of their community needs assignment.

Source: YouTube, https://youtu.be/nwpGJ3OEnXs

Question for Reflection:
1. What were the process and tools  utilized by Centennial students?


Key Takeaways and Feedback 

We want to learn your key takeaways and feedback on this chapter.

Your participation is highly appreciated. It will help us to enhance the quality of Community Development Practice and connect with you to offer support. To write your feedback, please click on Your Feedback Matters.

Thank you!



Berkowitz, B. & Wadud, E. (2022, July 11). Section 1. Developing a Plan for Assessing Local Needs and Resources. Community ToolBox. Retrieved from https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/assessment/assessing-community-needs-and-resources/develop-a-plan/main


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Community Development Practice: From Canadian and Global Perspectives Copyright © 2022 by Dr. Mahbub Hasan MSW, Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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