Needs assessment

Identify the needs and priorities of your target group

A needs assessment appraises the current situation and analyses what improvements are important for the people living in the project area with regards to issues within the scope of the project. During project planning it can be used to identify priorities of the project’s target group and inform project design.

Purpose and link to IQC

The needs assessment helps in two ways. It allows determining whether the scope of the intended project addresses a real need of the target group and thus protecting a project from biased planning serving only particular interest groups. It also helps in defining priorities and confirming the project outcomes in order to maximise benefits for the target group.

How to

1.   Identify needs

Gather information about the target group’s current situation. What are current WASH and/or WRM practices and where does the target group see a need to improve services (what are pain points and what improvements do they desire?). Collect this information through a participatory approach e.g. in the form of 5 – 10 interviews or focus group discussion(s) and thorough observations at the site. The data collection could evolve around guiding questions such as:

  • How is water currently being managed? Or what sanitation facilities/practices exist?
  • Who are the main water users in the area and for what do they need water?
  • What services would improve the current situation? Where does the target group see deficiencies in service delivery?
  • How should service delivery change with new services/infrastructure?
  • What aspects are important to consider with regards to new services/infrastructure?

Analysing the responses and observations should enable you to identify the gaps (or needs) between a present state (what is) and a desirable state (what should be/is desirable).

2.   Evaluate needs and related project options

To identify the most pressing needs that the project could tackle it is important to analyse both the underlying causes of problems that were highlighted and the perceived importance of the different needs (compare example in the table below). Establish the possible project options for each of the identified needs. Use the overview of needs, causes, importance and project options to establish project priorities and the best suited project interventions.


Need Causes Importance

(low, medium, high)

Options for project interventions
Reduce the time to fetch water Water point too far away


Nearby water points broke down because of lack of O&M

high –       Built a water point in the village

–       Repair broken water points that are close by and establish an O&M scheme

A more reliable water pump It takes long to repair the pump when it breaks high –       Organize a responsible committee for O&M

–       Increase storage capacity

3.   Validate conclusions with the target group

Go back to the community members and discuss the conclusions with them:

  • How do the selected needs reflect their concerns?
  • Do they think that the proposed project interventions can be useful in solving their needs?

Document their feedback as well as how you will consider it in the project design.


Feedback Action to be undertaken
A new water pump would not work for long, because the old one broke soon after the last project was completed and no one repaired it. This would likely happen to a new one as well. Set up a responsible committee to organise repair works and collect & manage fees for future repair works


References & Further Readings

  • 2010. A Water and Sanitation Needs Assessment for Kisumu City, Kenya.
  • KWAHO/UNDP INITIATIVE. 2013. Report on the Assessment of the Capacity of Water Actors to Effectively Participate In Water Sector Reforms in Bondo District.
  • S. Department of Education. 2001. Comprehensive needs assessment.
Last updated 04 May 2018

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