Opening Doors and Building Capacity: Employing a Community-Based Approach to Surveying

Kaplan, S.A., Dillman, K.N., Calman, N.S. & Billings, J.
Journal of Urban Health. 2004;81:291-300.

Although many community-based initiatives employ community residents to undertake door-to-door surveys as a form of community mobilization or for purposes of needs assessment or evaluation, very little has been published on the strengths and weaknesses of this approach. This article discusses our experience in undertaking such a survey in collaboration with a coalition of community-based organizations (CBOs) in the South Bronx, New York. Although resource constraints limited the already-strained capacity of the CBOs to provide supervision, the CBOs and community surveyors helped us gain access to neighborhood buildings and to individuals who might otherwise have been inaccessible. The survey process also contributed to the coalition's community outreach efforts and helped to link the CBO leadership and staff more closely to the coalition and its mission. Many of the surveyors enhanced their knowledge and skills in ways that have since benefited them or the coalition directly. The participating CBOs continue to be deeply engaged in the coalition's work, and many of the surveyors are active as community health advocates and have taken leadership roles within the coalition.

Wagner Faculty