Overview of the Project
Key leaders in Rutherford County, Tennessee, formed a committee to oversee the process of conducting a comprehensive assessment of the community. These leaders represent various sectors of the community, and the purpose of the project is to gather and compile information about the various interconnecting sectors within the county. This effort is expected to broadly guide efforts for effective community development.
Goals of the Project
The goals of the project are to enhance the quality of life in Rutherford County by coordinating the separate efforts of the various sectors and by targeting areas where efforts would have the greatest impact. It is expected that results will be seen in economic, social, and other indicators. The process itself is designed to involve members of the community and, through that increasing engagement, lead to a strong sense of community. To be most effective, it should be an ongoing cycle of assessment, planning, and interventions.
Conceptualization of the Project
Rutherford County is composed of many systems which interact and influence each other. This project is designed to provide information that enhances understanding of Rutherford County’s network of interacting systems and to guide efforts to meet needs, to plan and develop, and to increase engagement, resulting in a greater quality of life and sense of community.
The project is designed as an upward, participatory process. It is structured to be broadly inclusive and will solicit diverse voices from the community. The users of the report, broadly defined to be inclusive of many within the community, should be the driving force behind determining goals, providing the information, and using the results to move forward. The role of the consultants is to serve as technical, process, and subject matter experts in designing and carrying out the project.
The assessment is the first phase of what should be an ongoing cycle of assessment, planning, and interventions. It includes data gathering and feedback, and it will identify assets and needs within the county and identify key areas on which to focus efforts. The assessment phase will be followed by action planning. The emphasis will be on specific, targeted follow-up.
A review of community assessment projects in various locales showed that, typically, the following sectors of the community are assessed, so the project will be structured around these major sectors of the community:
- Business, employment, and the economy
- Human services and non-profit providers
- Safety and security, law enforcement
- Local government
- Other areas may be included, but these six areas are the starting point, and the project is developed around these areas.
Although designed as a comprehensive study across various sectors of the community and as an inclusive project intended to include diverse voices throughout the community, it is impossible to cover everything and everyone in one year. Therefore, the expectation is to address some important issues in a productive way, recognizing that some things may be set aside for future work.
For each sector, both soft data and hard data will be collected. Soft data include perceptions, attitudes, preferences, personal experiences, and other non-tangible input from people in the community. Data collection methods for soft data include public forums, focus groups, interviews, an online survey, and methods. Hard data are more specific and objective statistics (such as demographic information, economic indicators, crime statistics, or education levels). A report summarizing the data analysis will be made available to the public for the use of any interested parties. A few areas of focus will be identified for targeted action.
Project Support and Facilitation
Financial support for the project is provided by various organizations from various sectors of the community represented on the project committee. The Center for Organizational and Human Resource Effectiveness at Middle Tennessee State University was contracted to do the work.