TASK 4: Measure Community Readiness

Note: This section was adapted from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.27

There are many resources available to measure community readiness, and most of them acknowledge that community readiness occurs in stages. The Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research at Colorado State University,34 for example, has identified nine stages of community readiness:

  • Stage 1: Community tolerance / no knowledge. Substance misuse and abuse is generally not recognized by the community or leaders as a problem. “It’s just the way things are” is a common attitude. Community norms may encourage or tolerate the behavior in a social context. Substance misuse and abuse may be attributed to certain age, sex, racial, or class groups.
  • Stage 2: Denial. There is some recognition by at least some members of the community that the behavior is a problem, but there is little or no recognition that it is a local problem. Attitudes may include “It’s not my problem” and “We can’t do anything about it.”
  • Stage 3: Vague awareness. There is a general feeling among some in the community that there is a local problem and that something ought to be done, but there is little motivation to do anything. Knowledge about the problem is limited. No identifiable leadership exists, and/or leadership is not encouraged.
  • Stage 4: Preplanning. Many folks clearly recognize that there is a local problem and that something needs to be done. There is general information about local problems and some discussion. There may be leaders and a committee to address the problem, but no real planning or clear idea of how to progress.
  • Stage 5: Preparation. The community has begun planning and is focused on practical details. There is general information about local problems and about the pros and cons of prevention programs, but this information may not be based on formally collected data. Leadership is active and energetic. Decisions are being made, and resources (time, money, people, etc.) are being sought and allocated.
  • Stage 6: Initiation. Data are collected that justify a prevention program; however, decisions may be based on stereotypes rather than data. Action has just begun. Staff are being trained. Leaders are enthusiastic, as few problems or limitations have occurred.
  • Stage 7: Institutionalization/stabilization. Several planned efforts are underway and supported by community decision makers. Programs and activities are seen as stable, and staff are trained and experienced. Few see the need for change or expansion. Evaluation may be limited, although some data are routinely gathered.
  • Stage 8: Confirmation/expansion. Efforts and activities are in place, and community members are participating. Programs have been evaluated and modified. Leaders support expanding funding and program scope. Data are regularly collected and are used to drive planning.
  • Stage 9: Professionalization. The community has detailed, sophisticated knowledge of the prevalence of the problem and related risk and protective factors. Universal, selective, and indicated efforts are in place for a variety of focus populations. Staff are well-trained and experienced. Effective evaluation is routine and used to modify activities. Community involvement is high.

Don’t try to skip stages. For example, if you find that your community is in Stage 1, do not try to force it into Stage 5. Change must happen through preparation and process, not coercion.

SAPC Planning Tool