IV. Select a social assessment tool

CPB Self-Study Module
STEP 4. Collect audience information relevant to the environmental practice and specific behaviors


D. How can a natural resource professional select a social assessment tool?


Guidelines for selection

Social assessment tools differ in terms of the amount of time, money, and/or expertise required to effectively use them as well as the kinds of information that they can help you access. You will want to choose a particular tool or set of tools that is best for you given a variety of considerations.

The two most important considerations prior to selecting a social assessment tool are:

  1. The purpose or reason for conducting the assessment in the first place.
  2. The kinds of resources available for conducting the assessment.

For selecting the assessment tool based on the purpose, consider:

  • What kinds of information are you looking for? (Qualitative or quantitative? Generalizable to an entire community of interest or specific to individuals within the community?)
  • How will the information be used? (Building commitment to action? Creating public awareness?  Educating stakeholders?  Designing, implementing, or evaluating outreach programs?)

For selecting the assessment tool based on the kinds of resources available, consider:

  • How much time do you have to conduct the assessment?
  • Do you have any financial resources to conduct the assessment?
  • What kinds of skills do you currently possess that might help you in conducting the assessment?
  • What kinds of local assistance are available to help you in conducting the assessment? (Are members of the community of interest willing to volunteer their time and/or expertise?)
  • What kinds of partners or co-sponsors might be actively involved? (Are any local or regional organizations, government agencies, private sector groups, or other special interest groups interested in providing assistance?)

For example, suppose that you are looking for qualitative information about how decisions are made within a particular community in order to design an outreach program that works with and through existing local power structures in order to effectively promote community participation and the goals of outreach efforts. You have 2 weeks time, limited financial resources, and good observation and listening skills. You also know that several individual members of the community of interest are willing to volunteer their time to help you with your assessment. Last, you have been in contact with a local non-governmental organization that conducts environmental awareness campaigns within the community on a regular basis and is willing to assist you by sharing pre-existing information about the community with you.

Given your purpose or reason for conducting the assessment and the kinds of resources available to do so, the following combination of tools would be ideal:

Background research into any published/unpublished materials relating to the community of interest (books, journal articles, newspaper articles, magazine articles, websites, government documents etc.)

Informal interviews with Key Informants (University of Illinois Extension, PDF) from both the community of interest and the local non-governmental organization

Direct and/or indirect observations (University of Illinois Extension, PDF) at public events, forums, Community Meetings

Focus Group Discussions (University of Illinois Extension, PDF) with a number of community members that are willing to volunteer their time to assist you in your outreach efforts.

Table 4 provides details about the kinds of skills required for effectively using the social assessment tools that we have recommended for use by natural resource professionals.

Table 5 provides a list of the pros and cons involved in using the different kinds of tools we have recommended.