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Before you open a new business in your community, you want to make sure that you will draw customers before you invest your money. How would you determine if people in your community will be interested in your idea? Large corporations conduct various types of research activities before deciding to establish a business presence in a community. They conduct research to determine if there are enough qualified employees who could work at their business. They examine the level of income of residents to determine if people could afford their services. They also conduct focus group interviews and surveys to determine if people are interested in their services.

Like large corporations, human and social services professionals should investigate the need for a program prior to implementation. Needs assessment is an initial step in program development. Just like the resources of a large corporation, human and social services resources (e.g., clinical skills, funds, and time) need to be protected. Thus, program planners should strive to initiate programs that are clearly needed.

The first phase of a needs assessment is pre-assessment. During this phase, program planners seek to discover the specific needs of their client populations. Imagine that in your community, you have observed that there are an increasing number of unaccompanied minors from Central American countries, or that there have been an increased number of heat-related fatalities among the aging population. It appears that there may be unmet service needs in your community, and a needs assessment can tell you more information about those needs and help inform your planning to meet them. The initial pre-assessment steps consist of planning who you need to target and how you will effectively gather the data and/or use existing data to inform your planning decisions.

In this Discussion, you consider human and social services issues that might benefit from needs assessments and begin the initial steps of implementing one for an issue of your choice.

To Prepare

Select an issue relevant to your professional interests that you believe would benefit from a needs assessment. Consider how you might go about implementing a needs assessment for this issue. Use the following questions to guide your thinking:

  • Why do you believe a needs assessment is necessary?
  • What is the target population you hope to gather data about?
  • Are there existing data sources that you can use?
  • Do you need to collect new data? If so, what methods will you use to collect it?

Post a description of the issue you selected. Explain how a needs assessment would benefit this issue and contribute to social change. Then explain the preliminary steps you might take to implement a needs assessment in this area. Include the type of sampling you would use to find key stakeholders and why this type of sampling is appropriate.

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