We use cookies to help us provide you with the best experience, improve and tailor our services, and carry out our marketing activities. For more information, including how to manage your cookie settings, see our privacy notice.


Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Covid-19 update: Government guidance changed on 19 July 2021 - we're currently updating our information in response to this. In the meantime, visit the government's guidance on lifting restrictions.

Community-made content which you can improve Case study from our community

How to map & analyse the needs of your local area

Whether you are new to an area, or have been working there for years, it is easy to assume you know the needs of the local community, and are responding in the most appropriate way. However, needs change over time, and the needs of the ‘usual suspects’ who can be expected to respond to surveys and attend events don’t necessarily align with the needs of the community as a whole.

The examples below show ways in which Fair Share Trust Local Agents can map the needs of the local area, and explore difficulties grant makers could face.


Mapping the territory

Some methods used by Local Agents:

Area: Anglesey

Need:  develop a picture of state of play in Anglesey

Mapping Method: Geographic map of Anglesey & corresponding notes showing:

  • Number of inhabitants & ages.
  • Voluntary groups & Partnerships.
  • Play facilities , Including conditions, insurance maintenance etc
  • Training Needs.
  • Planning & Funding,

Area: Darlington

Need: Identify sites form amenity improvements.

Mapping method: ‘Pins for Bins’ – residents put pins on a map of the riverside to show where they wanted improvements. These results were then used by the council for future maintencance projects.


Broad Local Panel Membership

In Abram, Wigan, the local panel was small, with 5 core members. Although committed and knowledgeable, the members noted that a wider panel might bring in a different perspective, particularly in relation to geographical needs in the different townships which make up the ward. Local Agent had success when directly approaching individuals who were known to be active in their local (under-represented) communities. While this issue was sorted out, the panel decided to look strategically at how funds were used to ensure a lasting legacy.


Ask the Professionals

The Knowsley Local Panel realised that priorities were likely to have changed since the neighbourhood assessment document was first drawn up. The Chair was also the Chair of the local Primary Care Trust, and was able to invite public health specialists to panel meetings to inform priorities for the next lot of funding.


Attracting the 'Unusual Suspects'

Despite the success of the direct approach, Local Agents need to ensure that consultation on needs included the wider community and not just active community representatives. Example:

Project: ‘Young Voices form the Villages’ North Lanarkshire

Issue: Capture the views of young people in 4 villages.

Approach: staff worked with young people to produce films that touched upon:

  • Views of community life.
  • Changes & services they would like to see.
  • Mental health, transport & youth services issues.

Outcomes: Films shown to local councillors & stakeholders. Approach combined discussing issues with development of skills in young people. Some young people were invited to Local Panel meetings.


Mid-term Feedback

Some Local Agents have found it useful to undertake mid-term evaluations, getting feedback from partnerships & stakeholders. The Darlington panel carried out a half-way evaluation, which consisted of workshops and round-table discussions. Crucial to the success of the process was allowing time for representatives to take the discussions back to their full partnerships to ensure full agreement to the issues and needs raised.

 In South Lanarkshire, the ‘Step Up to SMART’ project sought open feedback from participants on its training courses. This has enabled the organisation to better understand the needs of the groups that they are serving, and to adapt their service provision in response. Needless to say, if you solicit this kind of feedback, you or your funded projects must be prepared to act on the results!


Piloting Projects

A key success of the Fair Share Trust has been the ability to test new ideas and initiatives in local areas. Sometimes anticipated needs may not reflect reality, especially where the evidence for need is subjective, and running pilot phases allows you to measure the take-up of a service. One local resident and advisory group member suggested that there were a number of men in the area who would be interested in a fathers’ support group. This was seen as a gap in provision. However, it soon became apparent that the need was only perceived by the individual who had put the idea forward. This highlights the need for wider consultation before planning, as well as the fact that a group may try and ‘make things work’ even when it’s clear that the new initiative is not sufficiently supported.

 On the other hand, the Royston Stress Centre was awarded a grant to set up and run a small stress service in the Dumbarton Road Corridor area of Glasgow. Due to the success of the project and good uptake of the service, a waiting list had to be set up – evidence that further development was required. The group was able to provide good evidence to the Scottish Community Foundation as to need, when they approached them for a second grant.


Summary of key information

  • Don’t assume you know local needs, no matter how well you think you know the local community.
  • Attempt to gather the views of the entire community.
  • Engage people in thinking about their area through representations like maps, pictures & charts.
  • Consider the breadth of Local Panel membership –in terms of background, expertise & knowledge.
  • lnvite the professionals to give their view – but don’t forget to cross-reference against the opinions of local residents.
  • Present a needs assessment ‘survey’ in a more attractive package, for example filmmaking, art or storytelling, to attract a wider cross-section of the community, in particular young people.
  • Allow enough time for representatives to take your consultation to their contacts for broad community buy-in.
  • Seek open and frank feedback, and be prepared to act on the findings.
  • Seek evidence of need through pilot phases or small-scale projects.
  • Refresh needs assessment regularly.


Page last edited Apr 13, 2017 History

Help us to improve this page – give us feedback.