A Critical Insight into Needs Assessment Technique and the Way Social Needs are Actually Assessed
Needs assessment is regarded as a powerful tool for addressing the needs for a program, and for various other purposes including strategic planning for resource allocation, priority setting, and improving the course of an ongoing program. As such, it is portrayed as an ideal and necessary step in policymaking. On the other hand, however, there are some growing concerns about the actual needs assessment practice which is believed by many to be prejudicing the performance of countless policies and programs. Hence, looking into this dichotomy of views and the way social needs are actually assessed are of particular interest. The present contribution seeks to delve deep into the technique of needs assessment and to give an insight on what ought to be done in the field and what is being done in fact. A systematic literature search was conducted to identify and analyze all available research studies that address the function of needs assessment, the problem definition in need assessment, the identification and classification of needs, the definition, description, and specification of target populations, and the description of the nature of service needs. The content of the relevant sections in each study was then read and reread with the aim of determining how social needs are assessed indeed. The result has shown that needs, their identification, and the way they are met, are in most cases determined by experts and agencies, not the needy populations. The search has also revealed the existence of significant gaps between the needs identified by professionals and those seen as important by the people who they are supposed to benefit. Finally, the result suggests that experts and agencies’ definition and identification of needs or target populations only reflect their own views or choices of program activity and the reasons they brandish in seeking for funding.
Keywords:Needs Assessment, Policy Evaluation, Social Needs
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