Planning the Process of Information Gathering
The process of data gathering will depend on which approach of needs assessment is selected by the investigators. For example, a needs assessment that aims to understand the perceptions of a community about particular issues may involve direct
The decision to conduct a needs assessment of the Haitian American community in Hillsborough County was made to provide a quasiscientific or a research foundation to our future intervention in this community. More specifically, the needs assessment aimed to:
- Identify the priorities in the needs of the Haitian American community in Hillsborough county.
- Ensure that the organization's goals match with the expectations of this community. Create a database of information that can help make systemic and effective interventions within this community.
- Use the findings to develop a strategic plan and action plans that meet the real expectations of the people in the community.
data collection from members of a community. Therefore, the process of information gathering will be similar to the planning of a community survey (e.g., brief literature review on archival information and possible previous studies, identification and location of potential participants, strategies to contact the participants, resources needed, and timeline). In another context, a needs assessment might prioritize social indicator analyses. In that case, the process of information gathering might focus more on collecting data from libraries, the Internet, and academic and specialized databases and sources.
The methodology will outline the data-collection approaches to be used. Will determine who will be contacted (if surveys, interviews, or focus groups are involved). Will determine what instrument of data collection will be used (e.g., interview guides, questionnaires, focus group guides). Will indicate what sample of the population the data-collection activities will involve. Will indicate what sampling strategies will be used. And will indicate how the data-collected will be analyzed. See Box 4.3 for a sample of needs-assessment methodology.
Identification and Planning of the Resources Needed to Collect the Data
Obviously, conducting a needs assessment requires time and energy (in any case) and money (in some cases). This requires a systematic and detailed action plan. The action plan is a document that describes all the resources needed. If there are expenses to be made, a budget of expenses must be developed. The budget should include a line item justification. The plan of action should outline a timeline of activities, the resources needed to perform the tasks in such activities, the person in charge, and a completion date. All elements of planning, implementation of the data-collection process, and data analysis and reporting should be included in this action plan.
There is no particular hypothesis for this needs assessment. Some research questions will guide the development of the data-collection instrument. For example,
- How do Haitian American leaders in Hillsborough County perceive the needs of Haitian children, youth, and families?
- What have they identified as barriers and obstacles that may hinder satisfying these needs?
- What do they suggest to overcome the barriers and obstacles and to satisfy the perceived needs?
This needs assessment will collect data that are qualitative in nature. Qualitative data-collection tools primarily will include key informant interviews, focus groups, town hall meetings, and open-ended survey questions. A survey questionnaire will be developed. Individual face-to-face interviews will be conducted with 200 people. The interviews will last between 15 and 20 minutes. For validation purposes, the questionnaire will be pilot-tested on a sample of five people with profiles similar to those of the target population. The questionnaire will be revised for clarity. The sample is restricted to people in positions of leadership in groups of different sizes (e.g., small-business owners, community leaders, and religious leaders). The questionnaires will be administered in May, June, and July 20xx. Participants will be contacted via flyers, in local churches, community meetings, public markets, and through other similar strategies. In addition, there will be three (3) focus groups of six (6) to ten (10) participants. The focus groups will last 45-60 minutes. A group of 10 volunteer graduate students will help conduct the interviews and the focus groups. The survey questionnaire will serve as guide for the focus group. The data will be analyzed to identify frequencies and trends regarding the perceptions of the target population on social services available in their community. The analysis will also analyze patterns of suggestions of services or service improvement made by participants. Such information will help develop a strategic plan that accounts for the perceived and real needs expressed by participants.
Planning the Use and Strategies of Disseminating the Findings
As indicated earlier, the findings from a needs assessment can be used for various purposes. After the needs assessment is completed, the first step is to write the needs-assessment report. The needs-assessment report is similar to a survey report. Once the report is published, the investigators should make every effort to promote the findings by writing short summaries, key highlights, and presenting or distributing them to people who are involved in the decision-making process of an organization. In addition to strategic planning, a needs-assessment report can provide information to write grant proposals, justify fund-raising campaigns, and other activities that can help generate income for a nonprofit organization.