Colorado State University Extension is conducting a Community Needs Assessment (CNA) in order to better understand the pressing issues facing Colorado today.
For over 100 years, CSU Extension has helped people in Colorado find the answers they need for a healthy home life, successful business and thriving community. As needs change across the state, CSU Extension is gathering input to help tailor programs and services to serve the unique needs of each community.
Population growth and changing demographics
The recent census highlighted Colorado’s changing demographics, representing a shift in community make up and community needs. The state’s population grew by 14.8% between 2010 and 2020. Additionally, Colorado communities are getting older. According to the State of Colorado, the number of people over age 65 in 2050 will be nearly three times as many as in 2010, growing twice as fast as the total population. As the population grows and ages, it also becomes more diverse. Bell Policy estimates that ethnic and racial minority populations are expected to grow from 1.7 million in 2017 to over 4 million in 2050.
Aligning resources to serve the needs of an ever-changing Colorado
Extension brings the resources of the University to local communities. As community needs change, Extension’s work in communities changes as well.
“Extension’s mission is to ‘empower Coloradans to address important and emerging community issues using dynamic, science-based educational resources.’ The Community Needs Assessment is how we formally and methodically identify those issues and align our resources accordingly,” said Cary Weiner, Extension Assistant Director of Program Support.
“While the CNA won’t change how we work overnight, it’s planting a seed and giving us a data-driven foundation to align our resources with the needs of an ever-changing Colorado,” said Weiner.
Partnering to serve more Coloradans
Not only will the needs assessment inform Extension programming, but also that of Extension community partners.
“In Eagle County, we are eager to use the Community Needs Assessment to help the Extension Agents prioritize future programming to better serve the needs of Eagle County community members,” said Glenda Wentworth, Eagle County Extension Director and Family & Consumer Science Agent. “As an added bonus, sharing the results of the CNA with other local non-profit agencies will help those organizations be more effective in their programming efforts.”
Expanding programming to historically underserved audiences
The needs assessment is ongoing, but initial insights are already shaping how Extension is considering future programming.
“Our initial perceptions survey last summer indicated a need to increase programming to underserved audiences,” said Tim Aston, Interim Extension Front Range Co-Regional Director and Arapahoe County Director.
As CSU continues to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion, Extension leadership is exploring methods to be more inclusive in programming. The assessment process provides an opportunity to expand services and reach populations who historically haven’t engaged in Extension programming. It involved six focus groups in languages other than English (Spanish and Somali), dozens of interviews with key informants from underrepresented demographic groups, and strategic efforts to widen the reach of community surveys to those who may not be familiar with Extension.
“The CNA allows us to take a step back, be really inclusive and purposeful in our outreach, and calibrate what we do and how we do it so that we maximize our impact working with communities,” said Weiner. “It is our way of staying true to our mission and to the even larger mission of CSU as Colorado’s land-grant university.”
Make your voice heard. Participate in the statewide survey.
The ongoing needs assessment utilizes mixed methods to gather information including secondary data assessment, key informant interviews and a statewide survey.
The statewide survey, the final stage of the assessment, is open to all Coloradans. Colorado residents are invited to complete the survey at extension.colostate.edu/communitysurvey. The survey closes on June 27, 2021.
Local wherever you are
With offices in 63 Colorado counties, CSU Extension is local wherever you are. Questions about the needs assessment? Contact your local Extension office today.