Rural Community Needs Assessment Toolkit

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This resource is intended to help rural organizers and civic leaders understand how to use Drop-off/Pick-up community surveys for building progressive civic infrastructure in small towns and rural communities. Education Fund’s innovative use of a drop-off/pick-up survey methodology, an approach that has been shown to reduce nonresponse bias, takes canvassing for community perspectives to a whole new level.

Blending door-knocking and community-based research techniques, this approach empowers local leaders to develop the right questions for their neighborhoods, hear from a wider range of community members than can be reached by traditional canvassing techniques, and generate local solutions that respond to local needs.


If you’re interested in conducting your own Local Progress Report and want support, please reach out to [email protected]. We can provide guidance as well as give you access to a complementary training slidedeck. If you’d like us to present on our 2022 Ohio Local Progress program, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Toolkit Summary

In 2022, Education Fund collaborated with three local small-town and rural Ohio groups (Indivisible Applachian Ohio, Newark Think Tank on Poverty, and Fairfield Think Tank on Poverty) to conduct Local Progress Reports.

The need to capture a more holistic set of community perceptions, amplify the needs of ignored neighbors, and turn these community needs into a winning rural prosperity agenda drove the development of the Local Progress Report project in three Ohio Counties – Athens, Fairfield, and Licking.

The approach is innovative along the dimensions of developing the project, intentionally radical community inclusion, and civic infrastructure-building. Field team leaders noted reflections in four themes:

  1. The Local Progress Reports help shift the paradigm about people in rural communities.
  2. Rural progressive power in Ohio is possible: working from a nonpartisan angle opens doors (literally).
  3. Local Progress Surveys can hopefully change policy – and so much more.
  4. The Drop-Off/Pick-Up survey methodology is high effort/high reward.

Data from the surveys yielded valuable insights into community priorities within neighborhoods that often go largely unreached; higher rates of nonvoters, geographically difficult-to-reach locations, and systemic barriers to civic engagement mean that these perspectives are likely unrepresented elsewhere.

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