Utilization of needs assessments by decision makers: A comparative analysis of assessment methods

Eleanor R. Penn Blyden, Florida International University


The major purpose of this study was to ascertain how needs assessment findings and methodologies are accepted by public decision makers in the U.S. Virgin Islands. To accomplish this, the following five different needs assessments were executed: (1) population survey; (2) key informants survey; (3) community forum; (4) rates-under-treatment (RUT); and (5) social indicators analysis. The assessments measured unmet needs of older persons regarding transportation, in-home care, and socio-recreation services, and determined which of the five methodologies is most costly, time consuming, and valid. The results of a five-way comparative analysis was presented to public sector decision makers who were surveyed to determine whether they are influenced more by needs assessment findings, or by the methodology used, and to ascertain the factors that lead to their acceptance of needs assessment findings and methodologies. The survey results revealed that acceptance of findings and methodology is influenced by the congruency of the findings with decision makers' goals and objectives, feasibility of the findings, and credibility of the researcher. The study also found that decision makers are influenced equally by needs assessment findings and methodology; that they prefer population surveys, although they are the most expensive and time consuming of the methodologies; that different types of needs assessments produce different results; and, that needs assessment is an essential program planning tool. Executive decision makers are found to be influenced more by management factors than by legal and political factors, while legislative decision makers are influenced more by legal factors. Decision makers overwhelmingly view their leadership style as democratic. A typology of the five needs assessments, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses, is offered as a planning guide for public decision makers.

Subject Area

Public administration

Recommended Citation

Blyden, Eleanor R. Penn, "Utilization of needs assessments by decision makers: A comparative analysis of assessment methods" (1995). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9531373.