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Re: needs assessment question

  • Subject: Re: [cg] needs assessment question
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Sat, 26 Oct 2002 12:30:29 EDT

Re:  interests needs survey models

As a person who currently works in publishing, media and marketing (some 
days, I have so many hats on my head.  It feels like I'm wearing helicopter 
propellers) I respect and use paper and Internet survey questionnaires, in 
person and conference call focus groups.

However, when the Andy Rooney and Judy Garland, "Lets put on a show!" bug 
bites  you, nothing beats walking through your neighborhood, talking to your 
neighbors, and starting on a few small neighborhood beautification projects 
to see if anyone helps you "whitewash the fence."  Community gardeners 
generally self-identify by their love of gardening, willingness to actually 
do the work with others and actually be civil to other people doing the work. 
 Having been involved with community gardens since I threw seed bombs over 
fences on the lower east side and moved rubble with Adam Purple, I question 
the efficacy of an assessment questionnaire.  Viable community gardens 
develop best from the ground up, not the top down. 

Now mind you, I'm urban, so my ideas may not apply to some place that has 
huge back yards like the one that the cops in Washington State backhoed for 
sniper evidence. ( Forgive us, but my wife and I noticed that one could feed 
a whole family and have room for flowers or make a nifty community garden if 
there wasn't too much lead in that space.  Space starved ommunity gardeners 
are incorrigible!) 

You still need that questionnaire to get funding, eh?
My idea: 

Find a beat-up middle aged social worker in one of your gardens (there has to 
be at least one) to walk the walk with you in the neighborhood in question, 
learn what you want to get done (i.e., dreams of lush gardens, happy 
multiracial groups gardening together, food security considerations, 
Shangri-La, etc.) and run it through her well honed b.s. detector. 

The questionnaire that this good natured social worker will create for you 
(for an effusive flower arrangement, dinner and drinks, a lovely note of 
acknowledgment suitable for her c.v. and tastefully framing on the wall of 
her dismal "cube") will probably have this kind of structure once you've 
found your target area(s) / population(s). It may be helpful to have nice, 
unthreatening folks with clipboards, coffee and donuts as well. Make the 
survey taking as pleasant as possible. 

I. Age, sex, neighborhood, ethnicity, pertinent socioeconomic questions. 

II. General questions dealing with neighborhood structure and problems.

III. Questions about use of public space (how many times do you use the 
parks/playgrounds, do you feel safe out of doors, etc.?) DO YOU KNOW WHAT A 
COMMUNITY GARDEN IS? ( This is the time that you need to do some serious 

IV. Do you get enough fresh vegetables, would you grow some for your family 
if you had the opportunity - IMPORTANT: WOULD YOU WORK TO MAINTAIN AND HELP 
NEIGHBORS. If so, how many hours a week, month, year. Could you see yourself 
being involved in fundraising, meetings in non-gardening seasons.

V. Would you like a lawn/park like area in your garden where you could have 
birthday parties, weddings, religious or memorial services outdoors which 
would not be like the local park, regulated by the garden but available by 
application by the community at large? 

VI. Do you think your church or neighborhood organization would sponsor this 
kind of community garden.

If the answers seem to point towards the questionnaire taker being a live 
one, then invite them to a meeting (more coffee and donuts) where you will be 
planning the organization of the new garden. 

Also, when you and your social worker (not a student, beaten-up, sly and 
reality-based is best) review your results be prepared to be honest.  
Sometimes it's best to walk away from a garden project if what the community 
really wants is affordable housing or a senior citizen home.  Maybe your 
focus should then be the incorporation of garden and greening elements in 
those projects. 

I tried -- however, the best way I know of to create a community gardening 
community it to get a small bunch of crazy people in an abandoned lot who 
bemuse the neighbors by doing the impossible -- actually creating one of 
those community garden things and suckers the neighborhood to buy in through 
outreach, social events and cute gardeners in cut offs.

As always, best of luck,

Adam Honigman,
Volunteer at the Clinton Community Garden who hasn't worn cut offs for years 
(maybe too many donuts...)

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

To post an e-mail to the list:  community_garden@mallorn.com

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