Step 2 takes a snapshot of your community to help develop your understanding of its strengths, needs and opportunities.

Strive to understand your community from several different angles for a comprehensive picture of what exists, what can be built upon and what is needed.

Understanding the community context

By gathering and organizing available information about your community as a whole and assessing existing information/data, your team is better situated to see the bigger picture of your broader community context. Below are some ideas for gathering information about your community. 

Search your community online

Learn about its size, the economic drivers , location, recreational aspects, physical features (built and natural), local government, age groups, income range and other demographic information.

Go offline

Pick-up a local paper or newslettercheck out posters, displays and billboards; visit your local tourist centre; look for special attractions, community news and upcoming events.

Visit municipal buildings

Find a contact or tour around to become more acquainted with these important local settings.

Talk to everyone

Gather information in formal and informal settings about what is important to local citizens.


Walk around your neighbourhood and note what you see.

Learn about past projects

Find out if there have been community surveys, assessments, plans, and/or projects undertaken in the past that you can build on.

Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund has developed the following templates to help gather information about your community:

Community profile

As you gather information about your community, it’s helpful to put it all in one place. Completing the Community Profile template will prompt numerous ideas about what information to collect, as well as interesting ways to capture the information using diagrams and graphs.  

Community asset map

A visual tool, asset maps show the community in a positive light by clearly marking resources, connections and ‘gifts’ in and around a community on a map of the region. Asset maps compliment community profiles by creating an even more comprehensive picture of your locale.  

Diagram adapted from the Asset-Based Community Development Institute (2016)

Collective team assets inventory

Supplement your community asset map by mapping the strengths, skills, and personal connections of individual team members. Try the Collective Team Assets Inventory for gathering the talents, skills, passions and interests of your team. Team resources can be leveraged as part of developing a community action plan.

Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund has also developed the following tools to help you assess your community:

Community Capacity Assessment Tool (CCAT)

Community capacity is closely related to the idea of asset-based community development as it helps teams identify and address aspects of leadership, resource mobilization, skill-building opportunities, the existing culture, communication, and partnerships within a community.

Learn more here.

Healthy Places Action Tool (HPAT)

HPAT helps communities appreciate how much their social and physical environments support good health, which in turn contributes to the prevention of chronic conditions, including cancer. This tool assists you to:

  • Identify community strengths and areas for improvement
  • Get a snapshot of the community’s characteristics
  • Define improvement areas to guide action on policy and environmental changes that influence healthy living

Learn more here.

Community Stories

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  1. Horne, L., Bass, V., & Silva, S. (2013). Multisector coalitions build healthier communities through ACHIEVE initiative. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 19, 281-283.
  2. Stewart, M., Visker, J. D., & Cox, C. C. (2013). Community health policy assessment of a rural northeast missouri county using the centers for disease control and prevention's CHANGE tool. Health Promotion Perspectives, 3, 1-10.
  3. Kim, S., Adamson, K. C., Balfanz, D. R., Brownson, R. C., Wiecha, J. L., Shepard, D., & Alles, W. F. (2010). Development of the community healthy living index: A tool to foster healthy environments for the prevention of obesity and chronic disease.50, Supplement, S85.
  4. Health Planners Toolkit, Module 5, Health Systems Intelligence Report 2006, Community Engagement
  5. Ennis, G. & West, D. (2010). Exploring the potential of social network analysis in asset-based community development practice and research. Australian Social Work, 63(4): 404-4173
  6. Asset-Based Community Development
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