As you know, the core components of community assessment are similar to the old Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS). In last week’s post, Community Assessment in the New HSPPS, we talked about what’s the same and what’s different. In today’s post we provide tips and resources to support a strong community assessment.

If you look around Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center (ECLKC) you’ll see a variety of resources related to community assessment. One that we think is particularly useful is the Community Assessment Matrix. This resource helps programs to plan for information gathering and clearly specifies data that are required per the HSPPS. It lists many other data points you might consider looking at to enrich your community assessment. The matrix is grounded in two key questions – what do you want to know, and how will you gather the information you need?

Another resource you might be interested to explore is Five Steps to Community Assessment: A Workbook for Head Start and Early Head Start Programs Serving Hispanic and Other Emerging Populations. There is rich information in the guide about the steps to complete a community assessment, types of data, how to analyze and report data, and using data for planning. A disclaimer, though – this resource has not been updated to reflect the new HSPPS.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as your program plans its next community assessment:

Know your timeline. Give your team plenty of time to plan for the community assessment, gather and analyze information, get input, and report findings. Determine when you need the community assessment to be complete. Then, back into all the steps that it will take to get there and use that to determine your starting point.

Know your team. Determine from the start who will be part of your community assessment team. Define clear roles and responsibilities. Determine if and how Policy Council, Board, or other stakeholder groups will play a role or need to be kept in the loop related to your progress or decision-making.

Map out your plan. Once you have your timeline and you have your team, map out the steps to complete the community assessment. Ask your team questions such as, what data is required by the HSPPS and is there other data we want to collect? How and from what sources will we collect information? Consider if focus groups or surveys could enhance your community assessment and build all data collection efforts into your timeline.

Leverage partnerships and support. Your community partners might have information they would be willing to share with you to enhance your community assessment. Think about whether you know of other community organizations that have completed a community assessment or may have surveyed community members on their own.

In some cases programs find it useful to bring in outside support to guide the community assessment process, collect data, and develop a comprehensive report. Foundations for Families offers assistance conducting community assessment as part of our consulting services to Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Please feel free to be in touch to explore how we can assist your program.

Thank you.

P.S. Here’s the last post in this series – how to strengthen your community assessment with an equity lens.


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