Building on the strengths of your community: A guide in 8 simple steps

Many resource-dependent communities in Canada face similar challenges. Stories of mill closures, job losses and other hardships have dominated the news for years now. Yet there are communities, which, when faced with a major threat or downturn, have worked together to rebuild and reinvent their local economies.

What do these communities have in common? Some people call it “community capacity.” What it boils down to is an ability to mobilize the knowledge, skills, and resources that exist within the community. Although the current context is difficult, all communities have the ability to build their capacity.
Developed by the Canadian Model Forest Network, this guide aims to help communities with an important step in the local development process – doing a community assessment. This is an exercise that brings a group together in order to gather information about their community. It helps provide a deeper understanding of what their community looks like and what issues local people are concerned about. A community assessment can be the foundation for community monitoring, local planning, economic development and improved governance.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to community assessment. Instead of prescribing a specific approach, this guide provides an 8-step process for conducting a community assessment. The guide also includes a resource section, which features a wide variety of tools, techniques and information sources that are readily available, most often on the Internet. Users of the guide can thereby pick and choose from amongst these options to tailor their community assessment to their own needs. Specific resources for Aboriginal communities are also integrated into the guide.
The focus of this guide is primarily on forestry-dependent communities, but the tools, resources and lessons are broadly applicable to rural and urban communities more generally.