Regional Needs Assessment
2013 Needs and Asset Mapping Project
In January and February 2013, the Fund undertook conversations in 14 of Maine’s 16 counties1 to learn more about the needs of women and girls facing challenges to economic security. The meetings focused on poverty indicia and related issues for women and girls by county and statewide compiled by the Fund from various sources, and the perceptions of those attending of the accuracy or inaccuracy of that data. Those meetings resulted in a “Needs Map” which outlines the priority needs articulated in the conversations. More than 100 community members and 15 volunteers were involved in organizing and holding those meetings.
As a continuation of that project, the Fund convened a second series of meetings to examine those priority needs as well as assets perceived as addressing or potentially addressing them. A total of 17 meetings took place in 15 of Maine’s 16 counties2 during the months of October, November and December 2013. Primarily volunteer leaders from the community and from the Fund’s board organized and convened local community members to discuss the needs of women and girls facing challenges to economic security, as well as the assets of their communities to address those needs. Those meetings involved a combined 120 community members as well as 33 volunteers and staff of the Fund as leaders. There was minimal overlap of volunteer participants in the first and second round of meetings.
Leaders were asked to report on the groups’ observations about the extent of unmet priority needs and perceptions about the assets within the community to address them, either in fact or in theory. This information can be useful to the Fund as a grant-maker discerning where unmet need exists, assets in place to address those needs and other resources and dynamics of the community related to them.
Each report was then reviewed by staff of the Fund to identify information most useful for its grant-making and resource-building purposes, specifically:
- Key “Learnings” from each county conversation about economic security for women and girls;
- Additional Priority Needs not articulated in earlier meetings;
- Spontaneous Networking/collaborations/problem-solving;
- Key Observations on Assets; and
- Participation/Fund Awareness/support and engagement.
Several themes emerged in many of the meetings, as well as recurring dynamics helpful to the mission of the Fund, such as:
1. Participants in most cases learned about organizations, programs and individuals addressing needs around economic security about which they were unaware or had only limited knowledge.
2. Participants’ increased awareness of assets to address needs also prompted spontaneous problem-solving ideas and actual plans to immediately address unmet priority needs.
3. Ideas about possible collaborations were spawned, and to varying degrees, plans for implementation were begun.
4. The Fund’s understanding and awareness of issues related to need, as well as potential areas for financial support by the Fund to address needs, was increased.
Additionally, common themes arose among the second county discussions about need when the groups had the opportunity to see what other counties had included. Health and dental care, transportation, aging, aspirations and generational poverty seemed to be common challenges that most groups highlighted if they had not their original discussion.
There was also great pride in community assets which were diverse and generally unique, but frequently included libraries, small business supports, health and education organizations, domestic violence/sexual assault providers, big brother/big sisters or similar mentoring programs, the area agencies on aging, as well as resources the Fund and communities have long identified, and many amazing women identified as mentors and examples.
Please click on the links below for the indicia considered, a map with identified priority needs, and county-by-county summaries.
County-by-County Summaries. More detailed findings available on request.
This project was made possible with generous support from the Sam L. Cohen Foundation, the Emanuel & Pauline A. Lerner Foundation and the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation.
 Franklin and Somerset Counties were not included due to the lack of available volunteer support.
 In Franklin County was it not possible to find a volunteer to assist the Fund. In Oxford and Washington counties, two meetings were held.