Articles and How-to Tutorials for NGOs

Needs Assessment (Data Collection)

Written by Adel Salah

As we mentioned previously, the needs assessment process consists of five stages, and in this article will talk about the fourth stage of this process.

Collect information about the problems

We usually need reliable and clear sources of information and references for the following;

  • Proving that these needs and problems are real that targeted groups suffer from.

  • Reminding the donor that he has a commitment to contribute to finding solutions for these problems.

  • Assure government agencies that project activities will contribute to achieve these agencies’ plans, policies, strategies and laws.

These sources should be used when analyzing problems; when writing the analysis we have to write the problem in a specific, clear, realistic and measurable way within a specific time. These sources can be primary or secondary.

Primary sources:

Conducting need assessment in the targeted area is done by the organization itself. This is the strongest way to prove that there are problems in the targeted community; there, we can identify the beneficiaries’ needs in a specific, measurable and realistic way, as well as prove that currently targeted groups suffer from this problem. The organization should not ignore collecting information on the problems and needs of all categories (men, women, boys, girls, IDPs, refugees, marginalized, people with special needs) by focus group discussions with each group. Then, data is analyzed and written in a report called “needs assessment report”. In case of natural disasters or wars, organizations collect information by using ready-made models, which were agreed upon by most active actors and called: Multi-cluster Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA).

Although most organizations have problems in preparing needs assessment form and writing appropriate questions that help to collect information about the needs properly, it is preferable to do the following:

  • Analyzing problem using the problem tree as mentioned before.

  • Convert each point that appears in the problem tree to a question. It is preferable to have a question with multiple answers in order to facilitate the analysis of information and transform it into graphic forms.

  • Use the final information in the needs report to write the needs assessment paragraph of the project proposal.

Secondary sources:

In case the organization could not conduct needs assessment or time was not enough so that accurate information was hard to be collected about the problem and the needs of the targeted area, then the organization can use secondary sources.

The most important secondary sources we can use to conduct needs assessment and problem analysis are:

  1. Studies, surveys, researches and assessments conducted by other organizations in the same or nearby area, or counting on reports and publications issued by reliable local and international bodies like UNICEF periodic status reports or the Population Movements report issued by the working group assigned to monitor population movements run and funded by UNHCR… etc..

  2. International conventions, charters, treaties, resolutions and declarations issued by recognized international institutions like the Universal declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Security Council Resolution 1325: Youth, Security and Peace, the Humanitarian Charter for relief and others.

  3. Laws, legislations and regulations issued by the country in which the project will be implemented like Free Education Act, Safe Motherhood Act and Local Authority Act.

  4. Strategic plans or programs issued by concerned government agencies with the project like the Government Five-Year plan and the National Food Security Strategy.

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