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3. Community Themes and Strengths Assessment - Overview


The Community Themes and Strengths Assessment answers the following questions: "What is important to our community?" "How is quality of life perceived in our community?" and "What assets do we have that can be used to improve community health?"

The Community Themes and Strengths Assessment is a vital part of a community health improvement process. During this phase, community thoughts, opinions, and concerns are gathered, providing insight into the issues of importance to the community. Feedback about quality of life in the community and community assets is also gathered. This information leads to a portrait of the community as seen through the eyes of its residents.

Including Community Themes and Strengths in the MAPP process provides the following benefits.

  • Community members become more vested in the process when they have a sense of ownership in and responsibility for the outcomes. This occurs when their concerns are genuinely considered and visibly affect the process.
  • The impressions and thoughts of community residents help to pinpoint important issues and highlight possible solutions.
  • The themes and issues identified here offer additional insight into the findings uncovered in the other assessments.

Listening to and communicating with the community are essential to any communitywide initiative. Mobilizing and engaging the community may be a daunting task. However, when successful, it ensures greater sustainability and enthusiasm for the process.

How to Conduct the Community Themes and Strengths Assessment

Step 1 - Prepare for the Community Themes and Strengths Assessment.

Establish a subcommittee to oversee the Community Themes and Strengths Assessment. This subcommittee should determine the most effective approaches for gathering community perspectives. Possible approaches include the following:

  • Community meetings;
  • Community dialogue sessions;
  • Focus groups;
  • Walking or windshield surveys; and
  • Individual discussions or interviews.

The subcommittee should select a variety of approaches that will best reach broad segments of the population. Then, identify the skills and resources needed to conduct the activities.

Step 2 - Implement information gathering activities.

When implementing selected activities, the broadest participation possible should be included. The subcommittee should identify groups or individuals whose voices are not being heard. Also, the subcommittee should ensure that the logistics—how, when, and where the meetings are held—promote good participation.

Step 3 - Compile the results of the Community Themes and Strengths Assessment.

The subcommittee should keep a running list of ideas, comments, quotes, and themes while the activities are being implemented. Subcommittee members should also note possible solutions to identified problems or innovative ideas for providing public health services. The results of this phase are compiled into one central list.

Step 4 - Ensure that community involvement and empowerment is sustained.

Although the specific activities conducted (i.e., focus groups, windshield surveys) occur on a finite timeline, the dialogue that has opened up within the community should be never-ending. Participants involved in the Community Themes and Strengths activities should continue to be involved throughout the remaining phases of the MAPP process.

Three levels of information gathering occur during the Community Themes and Strengths Assessment:
  • Open discussion to elicit community concerns, opinions, and comments in an unstructured way: Asking open-ended questions ensures that issues of concern and interest to the community are raised. If concerns are properly addressed, this activity can raise the credibility of the process and underscore its community-driven nature.
  • Perceptions regarding community quality of life: Questions about quality of life in the community help pinpoint specific concerns. This may highlight aspects of neighborhoods and/or communities that either enhance or diminish residents'' quality of life.
  • A map of community assets: Asset mapping is an important tool for mobilizing community resources. Through this process, the capacities of individuals, civic associations, and local institutions are inventoried.

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Webinar: September 17, 2014

 


Conference: September 17, 2014