Needs Assessment: An Unfelt Necessity
By Rural Research Team
In recent times, impact evaluation has gained a strong foothold in the development sector. Impact evaluation assesses the changes that can be attributed to a particular intervention. Impact assessment is understandably useful in development work, as it is critical to determine the effectiveness of development programs and/or interventions. When first designing a development intervention, it is important to begin by conducting a needs assessment. The needs assessment will help to identify the primary goals of the intervention and can help guide the project’s design so that it is most effective and fulfills as many needs as possible. A well carried out needs assessment will increase the likelihood that a intervention has an observable outcome.
Social problems result from the interplay of various social, economic, political, cultural and environmental factors. It is important to examine what role each of these factors play in in social problem when designing an intervention. A needs assessment will systematically explore, determine and explain the primary contributors to a problem and what needs to change in order to resolve the problem.
In the development sector today, many organizations assume that they already fully understand a current state of affairs and its causative factors. They rush to begin an intervention without conducting a needs assessment. For instance, some programs exist that try to improve child enrollment in local schools. Low rates of enrollment can result from several factors including bad infrastructure, poor quality of teaching, high cost of education, distance of school, lack of incentives, lack of parental interest, and child labor among others. Without conducting an area specific needs assessment, it is impossible to know with any certainty what factors are most responsible for low school enrollment. Therefore, it is likely that interventions created without a needs assessment may not target the appropriate problem factors and will fail.
Following from this, it is important that in order for most development interventions to be effective, a needs assessment should be conducted before the intervention is designed.