WHEN SHOULD YOU MAKE AN EFFORT TO UNDERSTAND AND DESCRIBE THE COMMUNITY?
- When you’re about to launch a community assessment. The first step is to get a clear sense of the community, before more specifically assessing the area(s) you’re interested in.
- When you’re new to a community and want to be well informed before beginning your work. If you’ve just started working in a community — even if it’s work you’ve been doing for years — you will probably find that taking the time to write a community description enriches your work.
- When you’ve been working in a community for any length of time and want to take stock. Communities are complex, constantly-changing entities. By periodically stopping to write a detailed description of your community, you can assess what approaches have worked and what haven’t; new needs that have developed over time and old concerns that no longer require your effort and energy; and other information to help you better do your work.
- When you’re feeling like you’re stuck in a rut and need a fresh perspective. Organizations have to remain dynamic in order to keep moving forward. Reexamining the community — or perhaps examining it carefully for the first time — can infuse an organization with new ideas and new purpose.
- When you’re considering introducing a new initiative or program and want to assess its possible success. Aside from when you first come to a community, this is probably the most vital time to do a community description.
- When a funder asks you to, often as part of a funding proposal.
While researching and writing a community description can take time, your work can almost always benefit from the information you gather.