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«Ananda Mitra More about this book: ©2011 Sagamore Publishing LLC All rights reserved. ...»

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Needs Assessment

A Systematic Approach

to Data Collection

Ananda Mitra

More about this book: http://www.sagamorepub.com/products/needs-assessment?src=fdpil

©2011 Sagamore Publishing LLC

All rights reserved.

Publishers: Joseph J. Bannon and Peter L. Bannon

Director of Sales and Marketing: M. Douglas Sanders

Director of Development and Production: Susan M. Davis

ISBN print edition: 978-1-57167-575-0

ISBN ebook: 978-1-57167-619-1


Sagamore Publishing LLC

1807 N. Federal Dr.

Urbana, IL 61801 www.sagamorepub.com More about this book: http://www.sagamorepub.com/products/needs-assessment?src=fdpil This book is dedicated to those who have sought reliable data and conducted accurate data analysis to make important decisions about how they serve others.

More about this book: http://www.sagamorepub.com/products/needs-assessment?src=fdpil More about this book: http://www.sagamorepub.com/products/needs-assessment?src=fdpil Contents Acknowledgments



Chapter 1: Citizen Input as the Voice of the People

Whose Voice?

Voices that Change

Voices that Matter

Chapter 2: Key Objectives in Citizen Data Collection

User vs. Non-user

Describing Recreation

Recreation Needs

What People Think

What People Do

Who the People Are

Customizing a Study

Chapter 3: Methods of Collecting Input

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Methods

Selecting a Method

Chapter 4: Talking to the Community

Elements of the Focus Group Meeting

Chapter 5: Asking Questions

Questionnaire Wording and Formatting

Factors to Consider in Questionnaire Design

Chapter 6: Collecting Data

Response Rate

Self-Response vs. Interviews

Telephone Interviews

Mail Data Collection

Alternative Forms of Data Collection

Chapter 7: Where the Data Comes From

Definition of the Population and Listing the Population

Obtaining Representativeness in the Sample

Determining the Optimum Sample Size

v More about this book: http://www.sagamorepub.com/products/needs-assessment?src=fdpil Chapter 8: Data Analysis

The Basics

Independent and Dependent Variables

Setting Up the Data for Analysis

Descriptive Analysis

Analysis of Trends

Tests of Difference

Analysis of Relationships

Factor Analysis and Reliability Checks

Chapter 9: Managing A Study


Process and Skill Management

Resource Management

Chapter 10: Outsourcing

Criteria for Making a Wise Choice

Steps in Selecting a Research Group

Chapter 11: Data Utilization

Chapter 12: Special Applications


One-Time Decision Making

Special Groups

Appendices A Adult Questionnaire

B Youth Questionnaire

C Questionnaire Cover Letter

D Survey Map

E Outgoing Envelope

F Reminder Postcard

G Web-based Questionnaire

H Reminder E-mail

I CompuRec

J Executive Summary

K Action Plan

L Presentation Slides

About the Author


vi More about this book: http://www.sagamorepub.com/products/needs-assessment?src=fdpil Acknowledgments I would like to this opportunity to express my thanks to my wife and son as they have patiently tolerated the erratic writing schedule that was required to complete this book. Without a doubt, this book would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of Professor Joseph Bannon, who has pioneered the idea of doing scientific research to assist in public policy planning with respect to leisure and recreation.

His work has inspired me to continue to develop this area of research. In many ways, I am also indebted to the staff of nearly 100 recreation agencies with whom I have had the opportunity to work over the last couple of decades. I have learned from conducting studies for these agencies, and I have learned from the thousands of people I have had a chance to meet in nearly 700 focus groups over 20 years. All of their input helped me to write this book. Of course, this book would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of my family across the world, my colleagues at Wake Forest University, and a rich tapestry of friends. I am indebted to you all.

vii More about this book: http://www.sagamorepub.com/products/needs-assessment?src=fdpil


The idea of collecting citizen input before making decisions that would affect the lives of the citizens is fundamental to a democratic society where the people in power are supposed to serve the citizens who put them in charge. Furthermore, collecting this information becomes crucial when it is the citizens’ money that would be spent by those in power. To conduct public planning without bringing the “public” into the process seems to miss the mark of sound planning for local governments. This book provides a road map for collecting citizen input that is reliably collected and honestly used. Consultants use a variety of ways to collect citizen input, and the methods vary in rigor and the quality of information produced.

Unfortunately, much of what is touted as “citizen input” serves as “dog and pony” shows where the citizens get a feeling of being involved without any reliable and trustworthy data coming from “public meetings” and such events that are periodically held by consultants. This book provides a rigorous approach to collecting citizen input. As is the case in any scientific method, this book offers a treatment that can be conducted by anyone who is able to follow the directions in the book correctly. This makes the process repeatable and testable, both of which are critical to the scientific method. For the recreation practitioner, this book illustrates the best practices of collecting citizen data, and most importantly, allows the recreation professional to recognize unscientific attempts at citizen data collection and to be wary of information generated by less reliable methods.

–  –  –

I first became acquainted with Ananda Mitra in the early 1980s when he was a staff member at the University of Illinois Survey Research Laboratory. He was involved in developing needs assessments and community surveys, and I asked him to evaluate several questionnaires created by the Office of Recreation and Park Resources at the University of Illinois. I discovered that he was extremely well qualified in the area of needs assessment and understood survey research better than anyone I had ever dealt with.

As a result, he then became a colleague, and we worked together over the years to conduct over 100 needs assessments for park and recreation agencies throughout the country, evaluating and reporting on the recreation and leisure needs, desires, and future developments in numerous communities. Ananda understands the importance of eliciting supportable data and making it accessible to agencies in a reliable and user-friendly manner so they may more efficiently and effectively meet the needs of their constituents.

Assisting agencies in these vital needs assessments has become more important than ever in the current economic climate with its focus on leaner budgets and operating funds. All public agencies must critically analyze all expenditures, facilities built and maintained, and programs offered in a continued effort to better serve the public with a decreasing supply of discretionary cash.

Community health has become a high priority across the nation. Changing population demographics in the last decade have reflected the growing number of baby boomers reaching senior citizenship. This section of the population is growing at a rapid pace and is far more active and healthy in its retirement years than in generations past. This important constituent group will increasingly consider and in fact demand more opportunities to partake in active and healthy activities in their communities.

In this book, Needs Assessment: A Systematic Approach to Data Collection, Mitra explores important concepts in collecting citizen input and describes specific techniques and methods of accurate and relevant data collection.

He underlines the necessity of using proper methodology to develop reliable questionnaires for adults and youth that will produce quantifiable and supportable data. He also outlines the importance of focus groups and how to conduct them in an effective way to provide citizens with satix More about this book: http://www.sagamorepub.com/products/needs-assessment?src=fdpil isfactory opportunities for input on all needs assessment topics in their communities.

There is a wealth of information in the Appendices covering sample questions for adults and youth, sample mailing pieces and emails, executive summaries, action plans, and presentation material. Mitra also discusses CompuRec, a program he personally developed, which allows agencies to take the information collected in the needs assessment and interpret the data to suite their communities’ specific needs in ways never before possible. They can go far beyond the results reflected in the final report and extrapolate more detailed and specific information and apply it to their constituents’ wants and needs.

Ananda Mitra has appeared at countless state and national conferences, giving presentations on systematic data collection and conducting needs assessments. Within these pages, you will discover much of the valuable insight he has gained while working with hundreds of board members, focus groups, and a wide variety of constituents about the importance of

collecting reliable citizen input in needs assessments. Needs Assessment:

A Systematic Approach to Data Collection does not just give direction about how to conduct surveys; it is a roadmap to creating action plans developed from the data collected to improve recreation and leisure facilities and opportunities for future generations.

–  –  –

In a democratic system of governance, the most important element of decision making is the opinion of the citizen. In America, the entire governmental system is fundamentally based on the principles laid out in the Constitution, which puts power in the hands of the people who ultimately choose the people who run the government.

This same principle applies to every aspect of governance, where every citizen is offered the opportunity to provide a voice in the decision-making process. This principle was easier to apply when the citizenry was smaller;

and it was possible for local governments to conduct meetings where every member of the community was present to voice an opinion and perhaps cast a vote when a decision was made. For instance, in Massachusetts, towns with fewer than 6,000 people are expected to make decisions through the open town meeting form of government, where every member of the town is expected to participate in a democratic process when a decision is being made by the local government (towns with more than 6,000 people in Massachusetts can make decisions using a representative town meeting form of government).

The voice of the citizen has played a critical role in the development of government and its services in the United States, and that same principle motivates the need for conducting citizen data collection with respect to parks and recreation management discussed in this book.

The primary focus of this book is the way in which recreation services are delivered to a constituency through a local government agency. This process of delivery is quite different from the form of recreation provided by private agencies. The difference in the way recreation delivery is managed by the public and private systems stems from a fundamental difference between the purposes of the entities. The private recreation provider, such as a health More about this book: http://www.sagamorepub.com/products/needs-assessment?src=fdpil Needs Assessment club, is in the business of making a profit by marketing its services to its most lucrative customer. The health club is interested in identifying a market segment that is most likely to pay for the privilege of using exercise equipment and would sell its services to that market. The club feels no obligation to market itself or to offer its services to a large population group as long as its target group is able to provide sufficient business. For example, the wellknown national chain Gold’s Gym first opened in 1965 in Venice Beach, California, and was targeted toward the body building sub-culture with Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of the early patrons of the first store. The focus on a target market with the intention of making a profit by providing a narrow set of services makes it simpler for private recreation providers to collect information from their market. The private provider is essentially interested in a “market” which will yield “customers” and “users,” whereas the public recreation provider is interested in a “citizen,” whose interests could be very diverse and who might never become a customer in the narrow sense of being a user of a recreation opportunity.

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