Needs Assessments

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A needs assessment is a systematic exploration and analysis of "the way things are" and "the way things ought to be." A need is not a want or desire, but rather a gap between the current situation and the optimal situation. Using both qualitative and quantitative research, a needs assessment identifies gaps in training, programs, services and/or outreach efforts. Needs assessments can be used to identify and solve performance problems in order to direct a natural resource or outdoor recreation organization's future planning efforts.
Needs assessments can address a variety of issues and can answer many important questions including:
  • Problems or deficits: Are there problems in the organization that might be solved by training or other activities? Are certain outreach efforts reaching the desired audience?
  • Opportunities: Could the organization improve itself by taking advantage of or offering new technologies, training programs, or services?
  • Strengths: How can the organization take advantage of its strengths, as opposed to reacting to its weaknesses?
  • New directions: Can the organization take a proactive approach to move to new levels of performance and service? What can the organization do to make more informed decisions to meet the needs of important stakeholder groups?
The general strategy employed by Responsive Management to conduct needs assessments is to couple both internal assessments, an "inside-out" approach, with external assessments, an "outside-in" approach. Assessment from the "inside-out" means an organization takes a detailed look at where it wants to go as an organization, sets realistic goals and measurable objectives, evaluates its mission, and undertakes the job of better understanding the organization's internal attitudes, values, and vision for the future. Assessment from the "outside-in" means an organization gains a better understanding of and working relationship with its various constituents and the general public by learning the opinions, attitudes, and program priorities and needs of those external constituents toward natural resources and outdoor recreation. A thorough understanding of an organization's internal workings placed within the proper context of its external environment makes for the most informed approach in creating policies and strategies for the future that address the needs of important stakeholder groups.
There are various methodologies used to conduct needs assessments that target both "inside-out" assessments and "outside-in" assessments. An "inside-out" assessment may include employee focus groups and/or quantitative mail or telephone surveys of employees. Employee focus groups and quantitative surveys garner feedback from the "inside-out" about employees' attitudes toward agency and organization program priorities and needed future directions. By learning the perceptions and attitudes of employees, natural resource and outdoor recreation agencies and organizations identify areas of high effectiveness and gain insight into those program areas that need growth and improvement. Through an "inside-out" assessment, employees are given valuable input into their own task evaluations and are allowed to become active participants in the direction of the organization.
An "outside-in" assessment can include focus groups with stakeholders and/or the general population and/or quantitative mail or telephone surveys of stakeholders and/or the general population. For the general population survey, telephones are the preferred sampling medium because nearly all persons have access to a telephone, and telephone surveys elicit higher response rates and produce a more representative sample than do general population mail surveys. The goal of the "outside-in" assessment is to gain an understanding of the attitudes of external constituents toward the natural resource or outdoor recreation agency or organization and the values they place on natural resources and outdoor recreation. By learning the attitudes and values that external constituents hold toward natural resources and outdoor recreation, natural resource and outdoor recreation agencies and organizations can successfully design and implement programs, resource management plans, and conservation efforts that will enjoy broad public support. In today's tight budget constraints the need for broad public support for natural resource and conservation efforts is critical. Guided by the knowledge of the program priorities that the public values along with the knowledge of the type of messages that resonate with the public, natural resource and outdoor recreation agencies and organizations can effectively lobby public support and improve constituent relationships.
The knowledge gained from a thorough assessment of both internal and external constituents provides natural resource and outdoor recreation agencies and organizations with valuable knowledge to improve programs and to build strong partnerships. Awareness of the program priorities of employees and the general population produces long-term benefits to natural resource and outdoor recreation agencies and organizations and facilitates the development of plans that address important program priorities.
Responsive Management Experience
Responsive Management has extensive experience in conducting needs assessments and the use of quantitative and qualitative research on natural resource and outdoor recreation issues. Responsive Management has conducted almost 1,000 quantitative and qualitative projects over the past 18 years. Clients include the federal natural resource and land management agencies, most state fish and wildlife agencies, state departments of natural resources, environmental protection agencies, state park agencies, tourism boards, as well as most of the major conservation and sportsmen's organizations. Many of the nation's top universities use Responsive Management for data collection because they recognize the quality of Responsive Management's data services. Because Responsive Management specializes in researching only natural resource and outdoor recreation issues, our senior research staff and research associates conduct research only on these topics and understand the nuances involved in conducting such research.

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RM Conducts:
Telephone Surveys
Mail Surveys
Focus Groups
Personal Interviews
Park/Outdoor Recreation Intercepts
Web-Based Surveys
Needs Assessments
Programmatic Evaluations
Literature Reviews
Data Collection for Universities and Researchers
RM Develops:
Marketing Plans
Communications Plans
Business Plans
Policy Analysis
Public Relations Plans

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