Throughout your career as an Extension agent, it is ctitical that you asses the local situation, examining the many factors that can affect the planning and implementation of your educational programs. Because participation in Extension programs is voluntary, the programs you develop must meet important needs of the people the are intended to serve. An accurate situational analysis and needs assesment is essential in identifying those needs.
When you conduct a situational analysis, you will always find that there are more situations that need attention than you can possibly address within the constraints of the available time, money, and other resources. Thus it is necessary to make proactive decisions about program priorities. A situational analysis that includes advice from county and local leaders, members of the Extension Advisory Leadership System, other citizens who represent groups within the county, and personnel of other agencies can be very valuable in focusing your efforts and developing needs-based programs for specific audiencies.
Factors to Consider
Some of the factors to be considered in conductng a situational analysis are:
Defining the Scope
A situational analysis may be broad based or highly specific, depending on the program in focus. In either case, the scope of the analysis should have a clear focus and purpose directed toward a specific subject, clientele, time, location, or other pertinent factors.
If boundaries are not defined, the analysis will lack the focus nesessary for accurately assesing needs of targeted groups; as a result, developing sucessful educational programs to meet those needs will be difficult. For example, a home economics agent may conduct a situational analysis of the overall health of all citizens in the county if the rogram is on an "Eating Right for Life" nutrition education program intended to reach a broad spectrum of the county"s population. On the other hand, if prenatal nutrition is the intended focus, the situational analysis should be more specifically focused on obtaining information relevant to expectant mothers, such as their living standards, traditional eating habits, educational levels, and other factors that can be of value in identifying specific learning needs on the subject of proper prenatal nutrition.
It is important to recognize that the personal values and beliefs of the Extension agent and others involved in conducting the situational analysis may influence the conclusions drawn. To maintain the objectivity of the situational analysis, be certain to include groups or individuals representative of the county's citizens or of the targeted audience.
Forest, L. B. 1998. Working With Our Publics, Module 4, Situational Analysis. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service and Department of Adult and Community College Education, North Carolina State University.