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Community Action Agency Board Members Toolkit in a Nutshell

CHAPTER FOUR:  Community Assessment and Planning

 This section includes an outline and methods for developing a CAA strategic plan for reducing poverty.

    Some elements of this chapter are hyperlinked. If there is http or www at the start of the underlined item, clicking on it will take you to a website for additional information. If the underlined item does not have a www, then clicking on it will jump you to another document in this workbook (which may be on a CD or on the Cal-Neva web site).

     To start, read through this chapter to get the general idea of the structure and contents, then go back to the top and start clicking away. Feel free to modify any of these materials for your own use. You can do some or all of these pieces, and you can do them in any order.

The Six Steps in Community Assessment

  1. Learn about the economy and how it operates.
  2. Map the social values that shape our society and your community.
  3. Describe the composition of the population and the trends (demographics).
  4. Describe the physical environment.
  5. Assess political realities and trends.
  6. Review the assessments done by other organizations.

The Six Steps in Strategic Planning

  7. Identify problems and opportunities – the existing conditions.
  8. Identify existing and potential community resources.
  9. Develop goals.
  10. Develop outcome measures.
  11. Set priorities.
  12. Create strategies that really affect the causes of poverty.

These steps always appear on paper as linear, sequential activities. The reality is that you will skip around.


 A. The Six Steps in Community Assessment

     Clicking on a hyperlinked item takes you to background information and exercises that are on this CD ROM, or in the longer version of this Toolkit that is on the Cal-Neva website. (Currently at )

 Step 1)  Learn about the economy and how it operates.

  a. Basic principles of capitalism.
  b. Unbundling the economic opportunity structure from the rest of our society.

 Step 2)  Map the social values that shape our society.

What people believe, especially about fairness rights, civil rights, equality, who should do what for whom.
  a. Demographic trends and discussion of possible implications.
  b. Key issues:  Immigration, migration and social mobility.


Step 4. Describe the physical environment.

Step 5. Assess political realities and trends. 

Step 6. Review the Assessments Done by Other Agencies

    Review the community assessments and other people’s plans. Don’t re-invent the wheel.

 Then – moving into the six steps of anti-poverty planning.

 Step 7. Identify problems and opportunities.

 Step 8. Resources in the community. Who is already doing what?

 Step 9. Set Goals.

 Step 10. Develop Outcome Measures.

 Step 11. Develop criteria for priority setting.

 Step 12. Strategy Development.


The Changing Face of California

Demographic information is available from the excellent U.S. Census Bureau website at Use the American Factfinder.

For California, the Public Policy Institute of California has two excellent reports. They are found at: and

You can find the same data elements for your county or city through your regional council of government or the State Data Center.


End-of-Chapter 4 Quiz

1. Name at least one of the steps in Community Assessment.
2. Name at least one of the steps in Strategic Planning.
3. Where can we get information on demographic trends in the U.S. or in California?
4. Is immigration an important issue in community planning? Why?


Answers to Chapter 4 Quiz

1. See the list of 6 steps of community assessment.
2. See the list of 6 steps in strategic planning.
3. The U.S. Census Bureau and the Public Policy Institute of California.
4. Yes. The voters have tried to reduce or eliminate services to immigrants who do not have legal authorization to be here.

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