Identifying Needs and Opportunities


Identifying Needs and Opportunities



Inclusivity is an important factor in creating collective agreement over your plan. See the Community Engagement chapter for more detail. This is closely related to the engagement section because with good engagement, people are more willing and able to take part in decisions about identifying needs and aspirations as well as taking forward future actions to address needs and aspirations identified.

Thoughtful engagement across the community is important to create a meaningful plan, which empowers, and attracts participation from local residents.

An inclusive approach should be considerate of everyone in your community, this requires an ability to reach out to those less able to engage and to listen to the range of views and perspectives.

This will allow a wide range of input to addressing to your community’s needs and challenges, as well as identifying opportunities and working collectively to deliver any plans in a way that provides creative solutions which include everyone.

An inclusive approach can also be used when considering problem-solving options using social enterprise. Social enterprise can provide an opportunity for those disadvantaged in the community to take an active role in delivering solutions, for example through supported employment or as active volunteers.

Many social enterprises have an employability element providing opportunities for people who may face barriers to employment and are often excluded from traditional employment models but can be included as part of the wider community benefit from the enterprise activity.

Responding to a pre-determined need or opportunity that provides a focal point

It is often the case that communities will come together when a specific challenge or opportunity presents itself.

For example – the threatened loss of an important service, or the presentation of an opportunity to generate income for community benefit through a local asset – such as renewable energy.

In this case the ‘what’ is already identified. It is important to then consider options for enterprising solutions.



The Enterprise Assessment Tool provides an opportunity to review the issue or opportunity and consider options to develop social enterprise approaches as a response.

Identifying needs and opportunities

Identifying needs and opportunities is an important first stage in bringing together a plan if there is not already a pre-determined focal point.

Gathering feedback can be done in a number of ways. A community survey is an effective method of gathering a range of ideas and perspectives. This provides a framework allowing the wider community to feed in their priority needs and aspirations.

With continued collective community engagement, people taking part will input on how they wish the information gathering to be carried out.

When approaching your needs and aspirations, it is important to consider how social enterprise solutions may be developed to address these.

Encouraging a focus on this aspect from an early stage can help stimulate ideas and identify assets, which may not otherwise have been recognised.

You should work with members of your community to collectively develop a research plan and question which considers the following elements:

  • What, why, and who it might involve
  • What is available both structurally and people
  • How best to make use of available skills/expertise within the community.

The community toolkit will assist you to think about the types of questions to ask, and how to develop a research plan.

Survey methods for gathering feedback


Community surveys provide an opportunity to gather feedback from a broad range of individuals across the wider community. Ensuring those with barriers such as literacy or access are able to provide their input will require additional focus. The community toolkit resource also provides a template for a community questionnaire, linked below.

It can be of benefit to add a specific question asking for ideas for enterprise opportunities that could be developed to provide income for community benefit, to see what ideas come to light.

Digital survey tools such as ‘Survey Monkey’ can also be useful in reaching a broad range of stakeholders. However, it is also important to consider digital access and confidence – are all members of your community able to participate digitally?

If the answer is no, you should provide an alternative option for people who would not be comfortable providing their input online.

Survey Monkey and its equivalent tools also provide the opportunity to produce survey analysis in the form of graphs or tables, so can be of value to add to the information gathered in hard copy format.


The Glenbarr Community Investment Survey provides an example of a more open question approach – “identify priorities for enterprise”.

The open ended questions allow people space to write down all of their thoughts, feelings, and visions down onto paper, and to have them included in the results.

This format can also be of value to stimulate ideas for social enterprise locally. See the link below for a template survey to gather enterprising ideas.

Focus groups for gathering feedback


Running a focus group can provide an opportunity for a more detailed discussion around particular issues or aspirations.

They are particularly good for exploring questions in more depth, and people’s ideas can build on and challenge one another’s.

A focus group can also provide an opportunity to discuss some findings that have already been gathered via a community survey or to explore specific ideas.

There are also a number of other methods for gathering feedback, which are presented in the Community Engagement Resource. These include useful tools such as:

  • Public Meetings
  • Art and Creativity (photography, video, songs, poems, artwork)
  • Street Stalls
  • Community Mapping
  • Workshops and Focus Groups
  • Web-based Engagement

Case Studies

Ross of Mull and Iona Community Plan

(Written in English)

Used community engagement to identfy and prioritise local issues and create a community action plan.

Identifies the community research methods and processes used: Survey, focus groups, open public discussion, visits to local groups and households.

Focus on commuity participation that is inclusive and accessible for people living in extremely remote areas.

Glenbarr Householder Survey

(Written in English)

A template of the community survey used to inform the priorities and actions outlined in the Glenbarr Community Investment Plan.

This survey was used to collect ideas and opinions from local residents. You can adapt this to fit the needs of your own community.

COMCOT - An Innovative Tool for Improving the Competitiveness of Community-Based Tourism

(Written in English)

Good example of identifying and prioritising community needs. Consultation with local people to identify issues using formal and informal discussion.

Additional research undertaken with businesses and local markets to establish general feelings towards issues raised, and using results to inform prioritisation of issues within the action plan.

Finland Community Guide

(Written in English)

Short guide of good practice to assist you in taking forward social enterprise activity. Explains how to get started, and identify your motivation and mission.

Describes how to map out the needs and hopes of local people, touching on market analaysis, and the business planning process for community-based social enterprise.

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