Departmental Papers (SPP)

Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of this Version

January 2005


Knowledge-based intervention has been a hallmark of community practice since the turn of the last century. Indeed, the social survey movement of the 1900s was a direct outgrowth of efforts on the part of community practitioners to systematically: 1) identify the nature, extent and severity of new and emerging social needs in their communities; 2) organize people and institutions to respond more effectively to those needs; and 3) establish baseline measures against which intervention successes and failures could be assessed (Zimbalist, 1977). Even the renaming of one of the profession’s leading journals of the day, Charities and Commons, to The Survey illustrates the importance that practitioners assigned to the role of scientific inquiry for advancing practice. Mary Richmond’s Social Diagnosis (1917) offered further reinforcement of the powerful relationship that practitioners recognized to exist between knowledge-based intervention and the realization of more effective outcomes. Today, of course, community practitioners all over the world seek to incorporate rigorous approaches to needs assessment, planning, program development and evaluation in their work with communities and other social collectivities (Andrews, 1996; Balaswamy & Dabelko, 2002;Chow & Coulton, 1996; Conner et al., 1999; Drummond, 1995; Johnson, 2002; Sawicki & Flynn, 1996; Schultz et al., 2000; Telfair & Mulvihill, 2000; Wong & Hillier, 2001; Zackary, 1995).


Copyright Sage Publications. Postprint version. Reprinted from The Handbook of Community Practice, edited by Marie Weil (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005), 28 pages.



Date Posted: 18 December 2006