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Heroes of Ground Zero

Instructions on Creating, Conducting, Analyzing, and Reporting Your Own Community Needs Assessment

As this is your project, the directions ask you to do things your teacher normally does-such as breaking the class into smaller groups. Take this responsibility seriously and your project will be a great success!

As you know, a community needs assessment permits one to gather specific and reliable information about what members of a community want and need. As most elected leaders are responsive to citizen demands (remember they want to stay in office) a well-done, informative community needs assessment may be a powerful tool of change.

You must complete four stages:
  • Determine what information are you seeking?
  • Go about obtaining it?
  • Analyzing the data you obtain
  • Decide how will your release your findings?
What information?

You must first identify those things someone your age needs for a safe, secure, supportive, and pleasurable adolescence.

  1. Break your class down into small working groups of four to five students

  2. Ask each group to list five essential items they think one needs to grow up in a safe, supportive, community. A typical answer might be, for instance, a "safe place to chill" or "a basketball court that ain't trashed" or "a decent mall with movies."

  3. Each group then presents their five items to the class as a whole. The class should debate the list and by voting, settle on five to ten items in which there is broad agreement.

  4. Be as specific as possible in formulating your final list. It will serve as the basis of your questionnaire.

How will you obtain it?

You must second determine if your community meets those needs. Remember what we are trying to find out is how the community feels not how you feel.

  1. Take each item from your final list and formulate each one as an evaluative question. For example, let's say your class determined having adequate basketball facilities is important you would formulate the survey question in the following way:

    1. How do you rate the basketball courts in (name of your community) in terms of?

    Excellent Fair Good Poor
    Sufficient number for kids who want to play

    Their playing condition

    Their safety

    Hours of availability

  2. Do this with each item from the list until you have a set of questions that address the existence and condition of the items you identified.

  3. Add the following introduction and demographics questions to the beginning and end of your survey.

At top each survey

We are conducting a survey to determine if our community adequately meets the needs of its adolescent population. It is important that we complete the entire survey so (name of your community) can determine its needs and priorities for future planning. We appreciate your help and cooperation in completing this survey. To protect your confidentiality, we will not put your name on the survey.

At bottom of each survey


  1. Are you:

  2. Which category best represents the age of the head of household?
    18-24     25-34    35-44    45-54    55-65    65 OR OLDER

  3. How many family members reside in your home?
    1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     OR MORE ___

  4. How many family members are between the ages of 13 and 19?
    1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     OR MORE ___

  5. How many years have you lived in (name of community) ?
    0-3     4-6 7-10    11-15     16-25    OVER 25

  6. Which of the following categories best describes your total family income (from all sources, including children) during the last year?
    Under $10,000     $10,000-$19,999     $20,000-$24,999     $25,000-$29,999
    $30,000-$34,999     $35,000-$39,999     $40,000-$49,999    $50,000-$59,999
    $60,000-$69,999    $70,000 AND OVER ___

  7. If you have additional comments about facilities for adolescents in (community name), please feel free to add them here:

Now you must determine of whom are you going to ask these questions. The size of your community's population will determine if you can survey most households or if you must use a sample. If your community has more than a few hundred households you will need to use a sample. If you use a sample, the accuracy of your results will depend on how you assemble it. Asking questions of people on the street or seeking volunteers will produce a biased study that will not be credible. The best sampling procedure is to select a sample in which every member of the population an equal opportunity to become part of the sample. One way for you to do this is to use maps and the instructions below adapted from Utah State University Extension Community Needs Assessment Survey Guide. (

  1. Determine the number of households in your community. The US Census Bureau web site is a useful place to start. (

  2. Obtain a map of the area that has sufficient detail to show all streets and lots in the city. Create a grid on top of the map by drawing equally spaced vertical and horizontal lines across the map. Number the cells of the grid from 1 to n, with n being the last cell of the grid.

  3. Determine the required sample size. This is hard number to determine. You may have only a few students who can administer the question or you may have only limited amount of time. For the purpose of this exercise, it is suggested you take the number of students and multiply that by ten. This means that working in pairs, each group should be able to conduct twenty interviews. This thus would become the number of households to be surveyed.

  4. After the sample size is determined, divide that number by 15, which provides the number of districts or cluster areas within the population to be sampled. Fifteen is used because this is the number of households that can reasonably be visited by each two-member team of volunteers in one evening.

  5. Using a random numbers table, or some other chance device, draw a number. This number must be within the range of numbers assigned to the cells of your grid on your city map. Find the cell that corresponds to the number you pulled. This cell contains the starting area for your first district. Repeat the process until you have as many starting "cells" as required districts (step 5).

  6. Map the districts to be visited by volunteers using these district starting points. Find the lot closest to the lower right hand corner of each district "cell". This lot becomes the first house to be surveyed in that district. Highlight the next twenty or so homes on the map by highlighting the lot (home) that's to the right of the one just marked.
How do you analyze the data?
You must now take the raw numbers from your surveys and turn them into results that are understandable.
  1. Take the results of each question and turn the raw data into percentages.

  2. Break the class down again into the same groups with which you started and assign a particular topic or two to each group.

  3. Each group should now examine the results for each question using the demographic information and look for interesting trends. THINK CREATIVELY HERE. For instance, larger families with low incomes may be more negative about the quality of facilities in comparison to other groups.

  4. Have each group report their findings to the class as a whole.

  5. As a class select those findings that you think are most important.

  6. Write them up as a report, in clear, understandable prose. Be sure to carefully proof your work, nothing will undercut your credibility then a poorly written report with spelling and grammar mistakes.
How will you release your findings?
You must now decide how and to whom will you release the findings of you work.

In conjunction with your teacher decide to whom you will send your report. Among the most likely recipients should be those elected officials who have responsibility over the community needs you were assessing. For instance there is little point in sending your report to your US Senator. In addition to the officials, be sure to send a copy to your local newspapers, radio and televisions stations.

© 2002 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.