Understanding the Community

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Guiding Principle # 2

NORC programs gather different types of information from many sources at different points in time and use them for many purposes and multiple audiences.

Responding to the needs of older residents requires knowledge at two levels—the big picture macro perspective and the more narrowly and precisely focused micro perspective. An aerial view helps NORC program staff see the big picture – the “macro” perspective – while a closer, on-the-ground look offers essential micro-level detail.

At some points in the evolution of a NORC program, understanding broad political, social, or economic trends is critical; at other times, the focus shifts to learning about more specific issues. In either case, having current and comprehensive information is particularly important for:

Those who are new to a community and want to make the case for establishing a NORC program.

Those who have been working in the community for a long time and want to take stock of what has changed, what has been accomplished, and where to go next.

Those who are considering a new project and want to gauge the likelihood of success.

At any of these stages, access to information can help to:

  • Identify health risks and service needs among older residents.
  • Inform planning.
  • Design and evaluate new projects.
  • Shape messages to stakeholders.
  • Attract new support.
  • Better develop a proposal making the case for funding.
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