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Publication #FCS7215-Eng

Sustainable Community Development Step 2: Conduct a Community Assessment1

Kaylene Sattanno, M. E. Swisher, and K. N. Moore2

Overview

This document explains why it is important to conduct a community assessment during a sustainability project and gives guidelines and suggestions about where to obtain needed information.

Conduct a Community Assessment

A community assessment helps lay the groundwork for a sustainability project by providing information on the status and availability of resources and by identifying and prioritizing problems to address. Filling out a table like the sample table, listing community strengths, weaknesses, resources, limitations, opportunities, and barriers, may assist you in identifying those issues of greatest concern for which data should be collected while allowing you to assess the resources at your disposal and the potential challenges faced. It is important to include the stakeholders identified in Step 1 in the process of completing this table. (See Table 1 for sample table and Table 2 for a table to fill out.)

Once the table is completed, work with stakeholders to prioritize the issues listed under “weaknesses”. Begin by gathering baseline data on those issues your community identifies as the highest priorities. It is often essential to step into the community's routines in order to gather information from the stakeholders themselves. Visit the local diner, a barber shop, coop, an extension meeting, gardening club, Kiwanis meeting, and/or other routine gatherings of community members.

The information from the community assessment will later be used for measuring progress and can help identify the key goals of a sustainability campaign. It is advised that community assessments be performed periodically throughout the life of the sustainability project to assess the changing needs and assets of the community.

The information for a community assessment can come from many sources, including interviews, focus groups, and print, electronic, and other media. Often a literature review provides a solid foundation upon which your project can build. Researching other communities that have undertaken sustainable community initiatives will expose your team to the varying approaches taken and the successes and failures achieved.

The following guide for obtaining local information focuses on print and electronic data sources. While emphasizing Florida, it also provides resources that are applicable to researching other areas of the country.

Background and Historical Information

  • Search the community's local library for planning commission documents, directories, and local histories.

  • Look at archives and recent issues of local newspapers and other periodicals.

  • National Register of Historic Places in Florida: Search for historic places by county. (http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/fl/state.html)

Government

Demographics

Crime and Justice

Economy

  • US Census Bureaus Economic Census Profiles: Provides economic and business data to the zip code level from the 2012 Economic Census. (https://www.census.gov/econ/)

  • Government Information Sharing Projects Regional Economic Information System: Presents state and county level economic data sources on a wide variety of subjects such as income, employment, industry sectors, and more. (http://www.econdata.net/)

  • US Department of Labors Bureau of Labor Statistics: Includes regional wage data, state and local wages, unemployment rates, and additional economic information. (http://stats.bls.gov/)

  • Census of Agriculture: Provides a complete picture of the agricultural sector in the US economy by county, state, or ZIP code. (http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/).

  • Florida Agricultural Statistics Service: Provides information on Florida aquaculture, citrus, economics, field crops, horticulture, livestock, poultry, and vegetables. (http://www.nass.usda.gov/fl/)

  • Florida Research and Economic Information Database Application: This database from the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation provides economic indicators at the county and metropolitan area levels. (http://freida.labormarketinfo.com)

  • Florida Statistical Abstracts: This reference book, compiled annually by the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic Business Research, provides economic and demographic data about Florida. University of Florida, Bureau of Economic and Business Research, 720 SW 2nd Ave #150, Gainesville, FL 32601, 352-392-0171.

Education

  • National Center for Education Statistics: Includes information on public schools, school district finances comparisons, and school district demographics. (http://nces.ed.gov/)

Environment

Health and Social Services

  • FL Department of Health Public Health Indicators Data System: The Division of Public Health Statistics & Performance Management offers current public health indicator data and the ability to create your own custom reports. (http://www.floridacharts.com/charts/default.aspx)

  • FL Department of Health Vital Statistics Annual Reports: Include records of live births, deaths, fetal deaths, marriages, and dissolutions of marriages. (http://www.flpublichealth.com/VSBOOK/VSBOOK.aspx)

  • Kids Count: This project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation is a national and state-by-state effort to track the status of children in the US by providing benchmarks of child well-being. (http://datacenter.kidscount.org)

  • Directories or inventories of agencies: Available at public libraries, UF/IFAS Extension offices, mental health centers, and United Way offices.

  • Surveys of community-based organizations (YWCAs, YMCAs, churches, cultural organizations, non-profits, etc.).

Tables

Table 1. 

Sample table.

Strengths:

Low population density

No long-term debt

Weaknesses:

Aquifer contamination

High poverty rate

Resources:

Large land area

Historic downtown

Limitations:

Outdated technology

Limited budget

Opportunities:

Room for “smart growth”

Agro-tourism potential

Barriers:

Lack of civic participation

Short-sighted development

Table 2. 

Strengths:

______________________________________

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______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

Weaknesses:

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

Resources:

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

Limitations:

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

Opportunities:

_____________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

_____________________________________

Barriers:

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

Community: ___________________________

Date of Assessment: ________________

Footnotes

1.

This document is FCS7215-Eng, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date September 2003. Revised June 20104 and May 2017. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Kaylene Sattanno, Florida SARE program assistant, UF/IFAS & FAMU, Center for Sustainable and Organic Food Systems; M. E. Swisher, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; and K. N. Moore, lecturer, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.