“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation” – Seneca; Roman Philosopher
I recently interviewed Roger Philips, friend, social entrepreneur, and perpetual systems analyst – asking him for details about a successful/memorable event that he had planned. He attributed the success that he had to early planning, involving others, and not growing weary from comments by naysayers.
In instructional design work, the early phase of the planning process is referred to as a “Needs Assessment”. There are many ways to assess needs – but the goal is that it should help program planners to be successful…not just by luck, but by design. The more formal the needs assessment process, the more data you will have if you need that to apply for funding – but it really doesn’t have to be long, arduous and painful.
In general, the process that I like looks like this:
- Identify people to talk with that represent diverse interests, locations, and viewpoints. I like to do this with a small committee – so that even the thinking about who to involve is not just from my head.
- Ask your committee to schedule discussions with people who are and who are not your current audience – designed to let people talk and help you to listen.
- Prepare a way to capture discussions (I like to use Qualtrics, but there are many options). Each of your committees might want to call 3-5 people and enter data into your survey.
- Review initial data and look for common themes, and ideas.
- Based on the themes, and ideas of the committee, you might want to prepare a follow up quantitative survey – that can be handed out, or sent by e-mail/social media.
- Review data and consider next steps.
In part Roger’s event was memorable and well attended because he did not work alone – he involved others early on, talked with many people, got their ideas, looped back around to them, helped them know that their ideas were helpful, and he and the team that he was working with designed a program that others were interested in and ready for.
If, like me, you might want to see what this looks like in the form of actual sample resources…you might find the following particularly helpful: