Évaluation de votre communauté
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Évaluation de votre communauté

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Introduction to Community Development

Getting Started

Assessing Your Community

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Assessing Your Community

Sharing Issues and Concerns

To further the group's knowledge of the community, and to start the process of involving the wider community, it may be helpful to conduct a community assessment prior to bringing community members together. This can be done by volunteers using relatively informal methods, or the group may wish to partner with an existing organization or seek funding in order to undertake a more in-depth and professional approach.

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Assessing Your Community

Informal methods may include asking a small sample of individual residents what they like or dislike about their community, what they would like their community to be like for their children or grandchildren, or to list their needs, goals, skills, knowledge and experience.
It may also be useful to collect data about the community from other sources, such as the latest census, social service agencies, environmental conservation organizations or the local economic development office. Reviewing the characteristics of a healthy community (see resources) may give you some ideas of areas that you will want to learn more about.
More formal methods of community assessment are described later in the course.

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Assessing Your Community

More formal methods of community assessment are described below.

Key Informant Survey

This method involves individual interviews being conducted with community leaders or people that have a broad understanding of the community, using the same schedule of questions for each interview.

Community Survey

Residents are asked a series of questions either in person by volunteers, by telephone, or using a questionnaire that is sent or dropped off at each house. To be effective, expert advice should be sought on the selection of residents to be contacted, the construction of the questionnaire and the analysis of the responses. It is important to consider the best time of day to contact people, whether translation or interpretation will be required, and how to provide sufficient follow-up to ensure an adequate response rate.
It is also important to find out what other community surveys have been done in the past and how the results were used. Some communities are over-surveyed and some members may be reluctant to take part in what they see as another futile exercise. Community surveys are time-consuming and labour intensive, but can yield excellent results. It is often very effective to hold a community meeting to review and discuss the results of a community survey, and start to develop a plan to address the issues or needs that were raised.

Asset-Mapping

This method is popular with Healthy Community groups because it is empowering for communities. It focuses on the assets or resources of the community first, before considering its needs or deficits. When we look only at the negative aspects of a community, it tends to lead our thinking in the direction of seeking external resources, often in the form of professional services, to meet the identified needs.
However, when we look at assets and resources first, we become aware of the capacity of the community to meet a significant portion of its needs from within the community. Community assets include the human resources (e.g., skills, knowledge, experience), natural resources (e.g. trees, lake, soil), physical assets (e.g., schools, community centres, churches), economic activity (e.g. Businesses, local economic trading systems), social capital (e.g., social networks, trust, good will), cultural expression and spiritual aspects.
Community capacity is the connections among all these assets that can be used to meet community needs. By identifying or mapping these assets, community members learn a great deal about their communities and where they go to meet their needs and interests. Asset-mapping can be done in many ways: from simple half-day sessions to complex, long-term undertakings.

Focus Group

Reaching less people but providing more in-depth information, a focus group meeting with a few selected residents may be helpful. In a focus group meeting, invited participants are given a few open-ended questions to discuss. The facilitator encourages all to express their opinions and the points that are raised are recorded, either on paper or using a tape recorder. There is no agreement required; it is purely an exploratory exercise to identify opinions, issues, needs, potential solutions and recommendations.

Assessing Your Community

What is a community problem?

Here are some 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)
This last criterion -- perception -- is an important one, and can also help indicate readiness for addressing the issue within the community.
Keep in mind that what is seen as a problem can vary from place to place, and from group to group in the same place.

Assessing Your Community

What is analysing community problems all about?

Analysing community problems is a way of thinking carefully about a problem or issue before acting on a solution. It first involves identifying reasons a problem exists, and then (and only then) identifying possible solutions and a plan for improvement. The techniques for analysing community problems require simple logic, and sometimes the collection of evidence.
Why should I analyse a community problem?
• To understand what is at the heart of a problem.
• To determine the barriers and resources associated with addressing the problem.
• To develop the best action steps for addressing the problem.
Assessing Your Community

What is analysing community problems all about?

Every community problem should benefit from analysis. The only possible exception is when the problem is an immediate crisis that requires action this very moment. And even then, analysis should help later.
• However, there are conditions when analysis is especially important. And these are:
• When the community problem is not defined very clearly
• When little is known about the community problem, or its possible consequences
• When you want to find causes that may improve the chance of successfully addressing the problem
• When people are jumping to solutions much too soon
• When you need to identify actions to address the problem, and find collaborative partners for taking action.

Assessing Your Community

How should you analyse a community problem?

External Relationship

Justify Choice

Justify the choice of the problem.
Apply the criteria we’ve listed above – frequency, duration, range, severity, equity, perception – as well as asking yourself whether your organization or another can address it effectively, in order to decide whether the problem is one that you should focus on.
Example:
The percentage of overweight and obese children in the community has been steadily increasing, and now approaches 25%. Since we know that childhood obesity tends to lead to adult obesity, and that obesity and being overweight are linked to chronic conditions – diabetes, heart disease, stroke – this is a problem that needs to be addressed now. Our organization has the will and the ability to do it.


Frame problem

Frame the problem.
State the problem without implying a solution or blaming anyone, so that you can analyse it without any assumptions and build consensus around whatever solution you arrive at. One way is to state it in terms of a lack of a positive behavior, condition, or other factor, or the presence or size of a negative behavior, condition, or other factor.
Example:
There are too many children in the community who are overweight or obese. The problem is particularly serious among low-income families.

What needs to change

Identify whose behavior and/or what and how environmental factors need to change for the problem to begin to be solved.
This can be as straightforward as individuals changing their behavior from smoking to not smoking, or as complex as persuading legislators to change laws and policies (e.g., non-smoking ordinances) in order to change others’ behavior (smokers don’t smoke in buildings or enclosed spaces used by the public) in order to benefit yet another group by changing the environment (children are protected from secondhand smoke in public.)
Example:
All, and particularly low-income, children should have the opportunity and the motivation to eat more healthily and exercise more. Parents may need to change their children’s – and perhaps their own – diets, and schools may need to adjust their lunch programs and exercise schedules. In low-income neighborhoods, there needs to be greater access to healthy food and more safe places for children to play or participate in sports, both outdoors and indoors.

Analyse root cause

Analyse the root causes of the problem.
The real cause of a problem may not be immediately apparent. It may be a function of a social or political system, or may be rooted in a behavior or situation that may at first glance seem unrelated to it. In order to find the underlying cause, you may have to use one or more analytical methods, including critical thinking and the “But Why?” technique.
Very briefly, the latter consists of stating the problem as you perceive it and asking “But why?” The next step is to answer that question as well as you can and then asking again, “But why?” By continuing this process until you get an answer that can’t be reduced further, you can often get to the underlying cause of the problem, which will tell you where to direct your efforts to solve it.
The difference between recognizing a problem and finding its root cause is similar to the difference between a doctor’s treating the symptoms of a disease and actually curing the disease. Once a disease is understood well enough to cure, it is often also understood well enough to prevent or eliminate. Similarly, once you understand the root causes of a community problem, you may be able not only to solve it, but to establish systems or policies that prevent its return.
Example:
There are too many children in the community who are overweight or obese. The problem is particularly serious among low-income families. (But why?)
Because many low-income children don’t eat a healthy diet and don’t exercise enough. (But why?)
Because their parents, in many cases, don’t have the knowledge of what a healthy diet consists of, and because, even if they did, they lack access in their neighborhoods to healthy foods – no supermarkets, produce markets, farmers’ markets, or restaurants serving healthy food – and therefore shop at convenience stores and eat out at fast food places. Kids don’t play outside because it’s too dangerous – gang activity and drug dealing make the street no place for children. (But why?)
Parents may never have been exposed to information about healthy food – they simply don’t have the knowledge. Market owners view low-income neighborhoods as unprofitable and dangerous places to do business. The streets are dangerous because there are few job opportunities in the community, and young men turn to making money in any way possible.
By this point, you should have a fair understanding of why kids don’t eat healthily or get enough exercise. As you continue to question, you may begin to think about advocacy with local officials for incentives to bring supermarkets to low-income neighborhoods, or for after-school programs that involve physical exercise, or for parent nutrition education or for anti-gang programs…or for all of these and other efforts besides. Or continued questioning may reveal deeper causes that you feel your organization can tackle.

Identify Driving Forces

Identify the restraining and driving forces that affect the problem.
This is called a force field analysis. It means looking at the restraining forces that act to keep the problem from changing (social structures, cultural traditions, ideology, politics, lack of knowledge, lack of access to healthy conditions, etc.) and the driving forces that push it toward change (dissatisfaction with the way things are, public opinion, policy change, ongoing public education efforts, existing alternatives to unhealthy or unacceptable activity or conditions, etc.) Consider how you can use your understanding of these forces in devising solutions to the problem.
Example:
Forces restraining change here include:
• The desirability and availability of junk food – kids like it because it tastes good (we’re programmed as a species to like fat, salt, and sugar), and you can get it on every corner in practically any neighborhood.
• The reluctance of supermarket chains to open stores in low-income neighborhoods.
• The domination of the streets by gangs and drug dealers.
Some forces driving change might be:
• Parents’ concern about their children’s weight.
• Children’s desire to participate in sports or simply to be outdoors.
• Media stories about the problem of childhood obesity and its consequences for children, both now and in their later lives.
A full force field analysis probably would include many more forces in each category..

External Relationship

Find any relationships that exist among the problem you’re concerned with and others in the community.
In analysing root causes, you may have already completed this step. It may be that other problems stem from the same root cause, and that there are other organizations with whom you could partner. Understanding the relationships among community issues can be an important step toward resolving them.
Example:
We’ve already seen connections to lack of education, unemployment, lack of after-school programs, and gang violence and crime, among other issues. Other organizations may be working on one or more of these, and a collaboration might help both of you to reach your goals.

Personal Factors

Identify personal factors that may contribute to the problem.
Whether the problem involves individual behavior or community conditions, each individual affected by it brings a whole collection of knowledge (some perhaps accurate, some perhaps not), beliefs, skills, education, background, experience, culture, and assumptions about the world and others, as well as biological and genetic traits. Any or all of these might contribute to the problem or to its solution…or both.
Example:
• Genetic predisposition for diabetes and other conditions.
• Lack of knowledge about healthy nutrition.
• Lack of knowledge/ skills for preparing healthy foods.
Environmental Factors

Identify environmental factors that may contribute to the problem.
Just as there are factors relating to individuals that may contribute to or help to solve the problem you’re concerned with, there are also factors within the community environment that may do the same. These might include the availability or lack of services, information, and other support; the degree of accessibility and barriers to, and opportunities for services, information, and other support; the social, financial, and other costs and benefits of change; and such overarching factors as poverty, living conditions, official policy, and economic conditions.
Example:
• Poverty
• Lack of employment and hope for young men in low-income neighborhoods
• Lack of availability of healthy food in low-income neighborhoods
• General availability – at school as well as elsewhere – of snack foods high in salt, sugar, and fat
• Constant media bombardment of advertising of unhealthy snacks, drinks, and fast food
Agents of Change

Identify targets and agents of change for addressing the problem.
Whom should you focus your efforts on, and who has the power to improve the situation? Often, these may be the same people. The best solution to a particular problem may be policy change of some sort, for instance, and the best route to that may be to mount an advocacy effort aimed at officials who can make it happen. People who are suffering from lack of skills or services may be the ones who can do the most to change their situation. In other cases, your targets may be people whose behavior or circumstances need to change, and you may want to recruit agents of change to work with you in your effort. The point of this step is to understand where and how to direct your work most effectively.
Example:
Targets of change might include:
• Parents of children in low-income neighborhoods (or all parents in the community) for education purposes
• The children themselves
• Elementary and middle school teachers
• School officials responsible for school food programs
• Executives and Public Relations officers of supermarket chains
• Gang members and youth at risk of becoming gang members
A short list of potential agents of change:
Parents of children in low-income neighborhoods (or all parents in the community) as controllers of their children’s diets
The Superintendent of Schools, School Committee, and school administrators, as well as those directly responsible for school food programs
Local public officials who could create incentives for markets to move into underserved neighborhoods
Community Recreation Commissions, school officials, YMCAs, and other entities that might create safe outdoor and indoor physical activity programs for children
Community hospitals, clinics, and private medical practices
ublic relations offices of national or regional fast food restaurant chains

Introduction to Community Development

End of Unit:
Getting Started - Assessing Your Community
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