The Citizen Handbook


Citizen Participation


Activating Citizen Power

Identify Community Needs

Knowing the specific needs of your target community will guide your activities to ensure they are effective. Understanding the common concerns in your target community will help you to do things like build support for an issue, recruit volunteers for a project or identify partners for collaboration.

Consultations can occur in many ways and modified to meet resource and/or time constraints. Specific methods like questionnaires and surveys are helpful, but informal meetings such as in women chamas, community events (e.g. weddings, funerals, cultural dances, etc.) and open-ended discussions (e.g. village debates, barazas, etc.) are more useful. Open citizen forums are the most effective, especially when they include common mwananchi and community leaders. Below are specific ways you can identify community needs.

Local Stakeholder Interviews

You should meet with important local leaders who have a stake in what you are doing or are planning to do. They are often the best people to know about the needs of the community. These stakeholders may be heads of community groups, local religious and tribal leaders, and public officials serving the community. Ask these stakeholders to identify important issues in their community, solutions to these issues, and to describe previous efforts to address them.

Also, use the opportunity to identify additional persons or sources of information that will be helpful in your research. Understanding how stakeholders talk about issues is just as important as knowing what those issues are, so take careful notes about the language and terms they use during their interview. Finally, use these meetings to build relationships that you can use in the future.

Background Research

The demographic and political make up of a community is critical to assessing the public's list of issues and concerns. You should start by using open government sources on economic and social statistics. Also, search for the latest available census data, which will provide a demographic make-up of the community. Identify possible marginalized or minority groups that might have different or more pressing needs.

Furthermore, you should identify existing government policies or actions taken by local authorities on key community issues, including budgets and regulations. Finally, always locate the boundaries of the community you are studying. If no official boundary exists, utilize any existing data to understand the physical boundaries that defines the community.

Websites for Statistical Research

· Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS)

     http://www.knbs.or.ke

· United National Development Program (UNDP)

     http://hdrstats.undp.org

· World Health Organization (WHO)

     http://www.who.int/gho/countries/ken/en/

· The World Bank

     http://data.worldbank.org/country/kenya

Community Mapping


An example of The World Bank mapping its projects in Kenya

One way of organizing your research is through a process known as ‘community mapping’. This is a way of visualizing and linking the information you collect to places and groups of people in your community. A basic map will include representation data by geography or location. Putting this kind of information into a visual map will help you to better identify trends and patterns within your community. These patterns will be useful later when determining where to conduct your work and when prioritizing your limited resources.

Polling & Questionnaires

A public opinion survey or questionnaire is a very useful research tool to identify community needs, particularly if no other research exists on the community. This tool can be very formal with statistical accuracy, but such a poll will cost money and require other scarce resources that may not be available to you.

A simple survey that measures public attitudes on local issues and concerns can be handed out along a street, from market stalls, in churches and mosques, posted out (if mailing addresses are available), or inserted into local newspapers. Make sure that your questions are direct and simple enough for people to understand. You should also provide proper instructions on how to fill out the survey and, if mailed or handed out, how to return it.

You should sort and record the data you collect from the survey to identify patterns in the community on common concerns and issues.For instance, youth might be more concerned about a specific set of issues than elders in a community might. Such a pattern is useful, especially if you are targeting youth.

Sample Community Questionnaire

Name:

Date:

Survey Location:

County:

Rank your answer based using the following scale of 1 to 4 (1= Very Important/Satisfied, 2 = Somewhat Important/Satisfied; 3 = Somewhat Not Important/Satisfied; 4 = Not Important/Satisfied)

Topic/Issue

How important is this to you…

How satisfied are you with…

1.

Access to local health facilities

1

2

3

4

1

2

3

4

2.

Availability of goods in the market

1

2

3

4

1

2

3

4

3.

Response time of police to emergencies

1

2

3

4

1

2

3

4

4.

Government officials listening to your needs

1

2

3

4

1

2

3

4

5.

If you could change one thing about the services in your community, what would it be?


Focus Groups

A very effective method of identifying community needs is to gather a group of people from the local community around a table to discuss current issues, why they matter so much, their causes, previous attempts at resolving them, and possible future solutions. This exercise, known as ‘focus grouping’, will provide a lot of information, including citizen needs, specific language and terms citizens use when talking about their concerns, and the challenges and possibilities for introducing alternative solutions to community problems.

Focus groups are a good way to identify opinions, but not always the facts behind issues. Do not assume the focus group results are factual. It is important to check statements before taking action. Finally, it is usually a good idea to audio or video record a focus group. This will help later when referring back to the information gained from the discussion. Be sure though that the participants give their consent before any recordings are made.

Conducting a Focus Group


Below are key steps in the focus group process:

1.   Define the purpose;

2.   Establish a timeline;

3.   Identify the participants;

4.   Generate questions;

5.   Develop a discussion guide;

6.   Select a facilitator;

7.   Choose the location;

8.   Conduct the focus group; and

9.   Analyse and summarize the results.

Source: Blank, Glen. "Conducting a Focus Group." Lehigh University, http://www.cse.lehigh.edu/~glennb/mm / FocusGroups.htm (Accessed July 2012).

Discussion Guide

You should develop a discussion guide prior to hold your focus group. This guide should include specific questions and direct the facilitator to lead the participants into specific topic areas. It is important that the facilitator remain neutral yet curious throughout the focus group. You will have limited time, which means you will only be able to ask a few different questions. Keep your questions open-ended like the ones below in order to encourage greater discussion.

Question 1: What do think are some of the concerns of this community?

Note: You might want to use a checklist to ensure that important topics are covered (e.g. health, education, safety). If towards the end of this part of the discussion no one has brought up a certain topic then introduce it into the discussion.

Question 2: What do you think are some of the strengths of this community? With what aspects of your community are you satisfied?

Note: Be careful to keep the discussion on track. You will find that some of the participants want to talk about their concerns immediately.

Question 3: What do you value about your community? What aspects of your community do you consider important?

Note: This is asking participants what makes them proud of their community (this is not necessarily the same as a strength of a community but rather what the individual’s value for themselves and their families).

Source: Sharma, Aparna, et al. "A Community Needs Assessment Guide," Loyola University, 2000.

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