NGOs must learn to assess community needs

BY: Daily Graphic
File photo
File photo

Community development entails the provision of infrastructural facilities for the people. This can be attained through a number of organisations, which include the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

NGOs are non-governmental, non-profit making and self-governing entities which set out to ameliorate the plight of the people in dire need of life-sustaining facilities in society.

The organisations play crucial roles, especially in deprived communities, by complementing the efforts of the central government to ensure holistic development.

However, sometimes in their quest to execute some of their programmes, NGOs fail to properly assess the needs of the people in beneficiary communities and the net effect is minimal or little impactful.

And that is why the Daily Graphic adds its voice to the recent call by the Volta Regional Director of the Department of Social Welfare, Stella Mawusi Mawutor, that NGOs implementing human development and community empowering programmes must first carry out proper needs assessment and baseline studies to identify the real needs of their targeted beneficiaries.

That, she explained, was necessary to sustain the programmes and impact lives positively in the communities, in addition to ensuring positive outcomes, without relying always on donor support.

Mrs Mawutor made the call at the inauguration of the Mount Saviour Foundation and opening of the training centre of the foundation at Anyirawase in the Ho West District in the Volta Region a fortnight ago. Mount Saviour is committed to providing education, employable skills, soft loans and other forms of assistance for orphans, the homeless, the youth, women and the less-privileged in society.

Community needs assessment is a collaborative process that engages community stakeholders in determining the nature and extent, both of needs and resources, in a community. A community needs assessment typically identifies and responds to a specific social problem or problems in a community. It elucidates the gaps in the existing service delivery system that need to be filled in order to address the problem.

It identifies the strengths and resources available in the community to meet the needs of children, the youth and families. The assessment focuses on the capabilities of the community, including its citizens, agencies and organisations.

The Daily Graphic has observed that despite the massive support most NGOs give to vulnerable individuals and communities, the support packages turn out to be unsustainable because many are directed at only areas where there is ready donor support.

Beyond doubt, Mrs Mawutor is right in her observation and suggestions. There have been many instances when school, health and small-scale business and other projects embarked on by NGOs in various communities get stalled and are never continued due to the curtailment of donor support for the projects.

NGOs have supported the state by stepping in to fill the gaps where the government has not been able to extend its arms. However, the moment donor support ceases, the activities of NGOs cease, and they jump to areas where they can easily secure new funds. This does not address the felt needs of the targeted communities effectively.

Indeed, humans are the most important resource and asset that any community or country possesses, for which reason any effort by an individual or group to plan and initiate programmes targeted at the well-being of the people is a worthy mission which deserves support and encouragement from stakeholders and sponsors.

It is, therefore, gratifying to know that programmes by the Mount Saviour Foundation to reduce poverty and hunger and assist the vulnerable are based on baseline studies. It is hoped that the foundation will not operate in isolation but collaborate with the relevant government agencies to work in its focused area, which invariably involves the vulnerable.

We hope that other NGOs operating in some of the communities across the country will undertake proper needs assessment to inform their choice of projects and interventions, so that the expected outcomes can realised.