Accelerating Best Practices in Peer Support Around the World

Program Development Guide

Assessing Community Readiness for Innovative Strategies

Chapter Navigation

1. Organizational Readiness

2. Assessing Community Needs, Strengths and Resources

3. Assessing Community Readiness for Innovative Strategies

4. Building Community Partnerships


Assessing Community Readiness for Innovative Strategies

Community readiness is the degree to which a community is ready to take action on an issue. It is issue-specific but can vary across dimensions and different segments of the community. Assessing community readiness to address a particular issue or to adopt innovative health care strategies can lead to program failure or success.

The Tri-Ethnic Center at Colorado State University’s Community Readiness Model is an “innovative method for assessing the level of readiness of a community to develop and implement prevention programming. It can be used as both a research tool to assess levels of readiness across a group of communities or as a tool to guide prevention efforts at the individual community level.”


The Community Readiness Model Defines 9 Stages of Readiness:

  1. No awareness
  2. Denial
  3. Vague awareness
  4. Preplanning
  5. Preparation
  6. Initiation
  7. Stabilization
  8. Expansion
  9. High Level of Community Ownership


Assessment of Readiness is Done for 6 Key Dimensions:

  1. Efforts
  2. Community Knowledge of Efforts
  3. Leadership
  4. Community Climate
  5. Community Knowledge of the Issue
  6. Resources

A level of readiness from 1 to 9 is assigned to each dimension. Strategy development then relies on these community readiness scores, with dimensions with the lowest levels of readiness typically being addressed first.


The Process for Conducting a Community Readiness Assessment includes:

  1. Identifying the issue
  2. Defining the community
  3. Conducting key respondent interviews
  4. Scoring to determine the readiness levels and
  5. Developing strategies consistent with those readiness levels

Typically 6-10 key respondent interviews are conducted, with each respondent answering a set of 20-36 questions. Key respondents are carefully chosen to represent the overall community (school, government, medical). Completed interviews are independently scored by two individuals who then determine a consensus score for each dimension of each interview. Final dimension scores are obtained by averaging (dimension) scores across all interviews; the overall score is then calculated as the average of the six dimension scores.


Figure 4. Stages in Community Readiness

Figure 4. Stages in Community Readiness

Stages in Community Readiness (Figure 4, right)

  1. No Awareness. The issue is not generally recognized by the community or the leaders as a problem. “It’s just the way things are.”
  2. Denial. There is little or no recognition that this might be a local problem but there is usually some recognition by at least some members of the community that the behavior itself is or can be a problem. If there is some idea that it is a local problem, there is a feeling that nothing needs to be done about this locally. “It’s not our problem.” “We can’t do anything about it.” Community climate tends to be passive or guarded.
  3. Vague awareness. There is a general feeling among some in the community that there is a local problem that something ought to be done about it, but there is no immediate motivation to do anything. There may be stories or anecdotes about the problem, but ideas about why the problem occurs and who has the problem tend to be stereotyped and/or vague. No identifiable leadership exists or leadership lacks energy or motivation for dealing with this problem. Community climate does not serve to motivate leaders.
  4. Preplanning. There is clear recognition on the part of at least some that there is a local problem and that something should be done about it. There are identifiable leaders and possibly a committee, but efforts are not focused or detailed. There is discussion but no real planning of actions to address the problem. Community climate is beginning to acknowledge the necessity of dealing with the problem.
  5. Preparation. Planning is going on and focuses on practical details. There is general information about local problems and about the pros and cons of prevention activities, actions or policies, but it may not be based on formally collected data. Leadership is active and energetic. Decisions are being made about what will be done and who will do it. Resources (people, money, time, space, etc.) are being actively sought or have been committed. Community climate offers modest support of efforts.
  6. Initiation. Enough information is available to justify efforts (activities, actions or policies). An activity or action has been started and is underway, but it is still viewed as a new effort. Staff are in training or have just finished training. There may be great enthusiasm among the leaders because limitations and problems have not yet been experienced. Improved attitude in community climate is reflected by modest involvement of community members in the efforts.
  7. Stabilization. One or two programs or activities are running and supported by administrators or community decision makers. Programs, activities or policies are viewed as stable. Staff are usually trained and experienced. There is little perceived need for change or expansion. Limitation may be known, but there is neither in-depth evaluation of effectiveness nor a sense that any recognized limitations suggest a need for change. There may or may not be some form of routine tracking of prevalence. Community climate generally supports what is occurring.
  8. Confirmation/expansion. There are standards efforts (activities and policies) in place and authorities or community decision makers support expanding or improving efforts. Community members appear more comfortable in utilizing efforts. Original efforts have been evaluated and modified and new efforts are being planned or tried in order to reach more people, those more at risk, or different demographic groups. Resources for new efforts are being sought or committed. Data are regularly obtained on extent of local problems and efforts are made to assess risk factors and causes of the problem. Due to increased knowledge and desire for improved programs, community climate may challenge specific efforts, but it is fundamentally supportive.
  9. Professionalization. Detailed and sophisticated knowledge of prevalence, risk factors and causes of the problem exists. Some efforts may be aimed at general populations while others are targeted at specific risk factors and/or high risk groups. Highly trained staff are running programs or activities, leaders are supportive, and community involvement is high. Effective evaluation is used to test and modify programs, policies or activities. However, community members should continue to hold efforts accountable for meeting community needs although fundamentally they are supportive.


Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research's Community Readiness: A handbook for successful change This handbook provides practical steps and guidelines for communities or researchers to better understand the process of community change and to develop effective, culturally appropriate, and community-specific strategies for prevention and intervention.
Community Readiness from the Community Toolbox This section defines community readiness and introduces the Community Readiness Model.

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