It all begins with seeing opportunity – identifying a problem and then ensuring that you fully understand the needs of the target audience with whom you are working. This is where teams must begin their needs assessment. Then, they start researching the issues surrounding the problem.
Beginning with secondary research gives your team a good understanding of the general needs of your target group, but teams should dig deeper and conduct primary research as well. This is where you can engage members from your anticipated target audience.
The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. By skipping this step, you’re incidentally silencing the voice of the very same people you are attempting to empower.
Beyond ensuring that you fully understand the issues surrounding the people you would like to work with, needs assessments are also important in setting a baseline for where the target audience currently are in respect to where they would like to be.
For example, suppose that after speaking with a potential project beneficiary you determine that they are slipping more into debt every month. To determine a baseline, you could figure out how much total debt they have, how much they are currently making and what their monthly costs are, amongst other things.
To progress the conversation, ask how these facts are preventing them from living the life they would like to lead. Perhaps they were unable to provide their family with Christmas gifts last year and would like to change that this year. This can act as a goal which they can work towards.
Now that we have determined where the project beneficiary currently stands and where they would like to be, our initial needs assessment is complete. Now we can move on to Taking Action, where your team will continue working with your target audience to develop a sustainable solution to their problem.