In June, 2010, The United Way of Central Carolinas (UWCC) teamed up with the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute to create a regional community needs assessment. Just completed, the needs assessment is part of a broader effort to redefine the organization to be more in concert with the environment in which it operates.
The purpose of this study was to assess the most critical needs of the UWCC region and to identify effective channels to address those needs. To accomplish this, the Institute’s research team used a multi-faceted approach that focused on UWCC’s three current funding areas – Children and Youth; Crisis, Housing and Stability; Health and Mental Health – and encompassed the five counties the organization serves – Anson, Cabarrus, Iredell, Mecklenburg and Union. While the UWCC region is comprised of five individual counties, this study assessed needs primarily from a regional perspective, allowing the research to identify the greatest needs of the region as a whole and then recognize how the severity of those needs may vary within the region.
To gain a sense of community needs that have been identified previously, the first phase of research consisted of reviewing community assessments that had been conducted in each of the five counties within the last ten years. The collective body of studies for each county was summarized and then synthesized for the region. With the knowledge gained from the review of previous studies, the most important and region-relevant statistical indicators for each of UWCC’s three funding areas were determined. Data for these indicators were then collected from various secondary data sources at the county level and aggregated for the UWCC region to create a data-based profile of the five-county region.
The information gathered through the review of existing community needs assessments and the initial data profile for the five-county region framed the primary research, which consisted of an online survey of local organizations and a series of community expert panel forums. The survey of local human service agencies was utilized to gauge the current array of services already being provided in the region and to hear the service provider perspective on the region’s needs which focused on barriers, gaps and unmet needs of agencies and their clients as well as suggestions for improvements.
The final phase consisted of community expert forums that were conducted to engage and gain insight from local experts on needs relating to each of the three funding areas. Panelists reflected on the findings from the previous phases and discussed the community’s greatest needs, identifying gaps in services.
Findings from the study are presented in the Executive Summary. The entire report is available at both the UWCC website and the Institute’s website. UWCC will continue its collaboration with the Institute as a databank partner in the Institute’s new Charlotte Regional Indicators Partners program, through which all data gathered for UWCC will be updated continually and made available online to the public. This web portal will be accessible later this summer via both the UWCC website and the Institute’s new Charlotte Regional Indicators website.
Photograph courtesy of United Way of Central Carolinas