Analyzing Community Issues

Information by itself is not useful unless you know what it means and can use it to make better decisions. You should study and compare different sources of information to try to find certain issues that will influence current and future development in your community.

Tools for Community Analysis There are many ways that a “picture” of the community can be taken. What is important is that the “picture” is correct. Some of the tools available to you include:

Data Collection Gather data about the community, including data on population, employment, housing, and businesses.

Public Meetings Public meetings are good places to find out about community plans and the reasons behind them. Attend a public meeting, such as a meeting of a city council, neighborhood association, Chamber of Commerce, or other civic organization. Report back to your class on what you saw and heard. Pay special attention to who participates and how decisions are made.

Surveys A survey using a questionnaire to ask people about an issue or about themselves is a good way to find out about a community. A survey can tell you things about a community that "raw" numbers, such as census data, cannot.

Interviews Oral interviews with residents, leaders, and businesses will often uncover features of a community that do not show up in data and surveys.

Focus Groups Focus Groups bring small groups of people together to present their views on various topics. The information collected helps planners and policy better understand how certain issues affect different parts of the community. It is one way of making sure that all parts of the community have a chance to contribute and for getting an explanation for something that has happened. 

Census data Census information can provide valuable population, demographic and political information. This information is provided online by the U.S. Census Bureau.