Getting started

The first step in creating a community-led action plan is to find out the priorities of people in your community. By priorities, we mean the things people would like to happen, or change, in the community.

To do this, you will need to engage with the wider community, involving everyone who wants to give their view. This can be done through the use of surveys and questionnaires, and templates for these are provided. You may also want to involve the wider community in designing and carrying out the research – a process known as community-led action research.

Planning your research

It is important in any piece of research to clarify what you want to do, why you want to do it and what it might involve. At the outset, a research plan should be developed, which should consider what your research question(s) will be as well as the subsections below on choosing your methods, making sense of your findings and how you will use your findings.

As you go through each of these subsections, you will find guidance on both the questions you should be asking yourself whilst planning to undertake a piece of research and guidance on how to carry it through. However, you do not need to think of them as a list of things you do one after the other but as a set of issues that all inter-relate. For example, how you choose your research methods will be influenced by the skills and resources you have available to you. In the same way, you may have to adjust your approach as you go due to resource constraints or something unexpected happening.

Key points:

  • Clarify the whats, whys, whens and hows of your research from the start.
  • Always try to consider the different elements of the research process together rather than separately.
  • Keep the community action plan cycle in mind while planning your research - the reaching out, planning ahead and keeping on track sections of this site are also relevant.

Choosing your methods

A range of methods are available for finding out the priorities of your community, and different methods will be appropriate for different groups. You might ask some people their views through a questionnaire, and others to take part in a focus group. It doesn’t matter as long as you are gathering appropriate information and reaching all groups in the community. In the reaching out section of the tool we refer to the National Standards for Community Engagement which give pointers on the things you should think about to ensure inclusivity.

You can also use different methods to get answers to the same question. If different methods lead to the same result this will leave you more confident in your findings. If they don’t, then further research may be needed!

Key points:

  • Choose appropriate methods for the different groups of people you are going to engage.
  • Make sure you determine the correct way to apply the methods chosen.
  • Be clear what the appropriate methods to use at different stages of your research are.
  • Make good use of the skills of your group – if someone is well versed in a particular method then this may be the best one to use.
  • Think about what resources you need to use different methods and how much time you will be able to contribute. 
  • Consider ethical issues to gathering people’s views – will you ensure anonymity and confidentiality? It is also important to avoid being intrusive when conducting research, especially with vulnerable groups.

Making sense of your findings

This is the part of the research that people usually find the most demanding but ultimately the most rewarding, as they take all the data they have collected and pull it together to try and make sense of it. It is essential that you give yourself plenty of time to go through this process as this is where you will pull out all the rich information and use it to develop your community-led action plan. See the analysing your data fact sheet for more.

Key points:

  • Organise your data, e.g. put ID numbers on questionnaires. Gather all your notes together.
  • Prepare data for analysis; e.g. transcribe focus groups.
  • Make hard copies and/or electronic copies of your findings – one working copy and one for safe keeping.
  • Keep both copies in a safe place, particularly if you have any identifying information on them.
  • Get to know your data, read over it several times.
  • Start to identify themes and categories and sub categories.
  • Develop connections and evidence.
  • Take time to reflect on your findings

Using your findings

The next stage of your research is to use your findings to shape your community-led action plan and the other sections of this toolkit will take you through the different stages of doing this.


    Templates, fact sheets & more