Assess Your Community
The primary focus of the assessment stage is the testing and validating of assumptions, typically identified when creating a shared vision. Trying to understand available data and determining what is viable or practical for your community are key activities.
To respond to community needs, you must first have a clear understanding of what those needs are, what assets or capacity the community already has for addressing those needs, and what new options or solutions are possible. A community needs assessment provides comprehensive information about the community, helps identify community priorities, and should result in informed decisions based on data and the input of key stakeholders.
Tip: Don’t be discouraged if you discover that your original vision needs to be adjusted based on what your community needs assessment discovers.
Using data to assess and understand your community
Most often community groups use data to support evidence-based decision making, planning, priority setting, performance tracking, and accountability.
Use data to:
- clarify community needs and concerns
- identify trends
- select appropriate indicators of success
- communicate evidence-based recommendations to communities of interest, decision-makers and funding partners
Use local data and our mapping tools for effective community planning and informed decision making.
Need some advice on getting started with your community needs assessment or exploring who your community partners could be?
Getting Started with Partner Development
Working with community partners often allows us to accomplish more than we could working on our own. This resource provides a brief overview and selection of resources, websites and other materials to ‘get you started’ in developing partnerships.
Conducting a Community Assessment: Strengthening Nonprofits: A Capacity Builder’s Resource Library
National Resource Center (2010)
The findings from an assessment will define the extent of the needs that exist in a community and the depth of the assets available within the community to address those needs. This understanding of needs and assets can be used to strategically plan and deliver relevant, successful, and timely services. The Conducting a Community Assessment guidebook will be helpful to any organization or coalition of organizations that wants to know what assets and needs exist within its community.
Templates and Tools
Good Data = Good Decision-Making: Community Driven Change
Advancement Project (2015)
This document provides an overview of how community-based leaders and advocates are using geographic data and communications tools to be more effective at advocating for and securing change.
Big Data for Small Places Workbook
Rural Ontario Institute (2017)
Big Data for Small Places Workbook which was developed under the Measuring Rural Community Vitality Initiative for the Rural Ontario Institute, with financial assistance from the Government of Ontario. The workbook is intended to facilitate the advancement of data literacy and the effective utilization and dissemination of data for the benefit of communities and organizations.
From Strategy to Implementation: An integration toolkit for community- based health service providers
Woodgreen Community Services (2012)
In 2012, Woodgreen Community Services and Community Care East York combined efforts under a single corporation. Recognizing that all integration efforts are unique, this toolkit is intended as a general resource for Board members and Senior Executives that are considering integration. It includes readiness assessment checklists and a sample memorandum of understanding.
Financing and Funding
The Ontario Trillium Foundation
The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s largest granting foundations. With a budget of over $136 million, OTF awards grants to some 1,000 projects every year to build healthy and vibrant Ontario communities.
The OTF has adopted an Investment Strategy that includes six different action areas as well four granting streams.
Grow Grants are grants that support the evidence-based development of activities.
Rural Economic Development (RED)
Ontario’s RED program helps rural communities remove barriers to community economic development.
The RED program supports the government’s plan to create jobs, grow the economy, and help people in their everyday lives by:
- Helping remove barriers to economic development for rural communities, Indigenous communities and organizations, and not-for-profit organizations.
- Helping rural communities identify their economic strengths and develop strategies to attract business and investment which will help to retain and create jobs.
- Helping rural communities and partners to be in a more competitive economic position so that they can diversify and grow their local economies – making economic growth more inclusive so that Ontario’s growing economy delivers real benefits to rural Ontario.
Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever)
Stanford Social Innovation Review (2016)
Data-driven and evidence-based practices present new opportunities for public and social sector leaders to increase impact while reducing inefficiency. But in adopting such approaches, leaders must avoid the temptation to act in a top-down manner. Instead, they should design and implement programs in ways that engage community members directly in the work of social change