This is an Eval Central archive copy, find the original at freshspectrum.com.
This is a series of posts providing quick of overviews of important topics in research and evaluation. Each post in this series will include at least 3 cartoons from my archives and at least 3 links to recommended resources.
What is a Need?
In most needs assessment surveys, a need means something that specifically relates to a particular group or community. It’s not usually a universal need, such as the need for food or affection. But it’s more than an individual need, as in I need a new couch for the living room, or I really need a vacation. Those may truly be needs, but they are not generally the types of needs that are assessed in needs assessment surveys.
What is your scope?
It is important to limit the scope of a needs assessment to what can be reasonably addressed. For example, there would be little point examining health data or asking community members about health if there is no scope to address health needs. At the scoping stage, it is also helpful to record any other pre-existing priorities or limitations (e.g. funding limitations, geographic boundaries).
Considering your Audience.
Given your objectives and resources, consider the target audiences and data sources that will help you assess your needs. Is it most effective to administer a survey to a wide range of community members, to hold several focus groups with hospital administrators, examine existing reports, or directly observe project participants? Sometimes you’ll need to conduct several, complementary needs assessment activities to collect data for a range of stakeholders.