Needs Assessment

Needs are the gap between what is and what should be. A needs assessment is a study to understand the needs of a group or community. In the refugee context, the focus of an assessment is to understand what the particular community your program is meant to support requires.


Target group Identify needs Proposed solution? How to get from the “is” to the “ought”



Target Group

When trying to assess your target group, consider the following questions. When conducting your assessment, also consider the needs of the host population.

  • Who are the main refugee population? Who are the local population?
  • What income & education level, skillsets do they have?
  • What were their previous occupations in their country of origin?
  • What sectors do they want to work in?
  • What are their current livelihood strategies?
  • What are their experience in the formal and informal market?
  • What sectors are they working in? With what salaries? What type of businesses have they started, and with what success?
  • What common work rights violation do they face, if any?
  • Any difference in experience based on factors such as culture, ethnicity, education qualification, and geography that leads to different livelihood outcomes?
  • How far are the existing domestic legislation that protects the right to work enforced in practice?
  • What are refugees’ experience in obtaining work permits or a business license? What challenges do they face? Any assistance to help them access employment?
  • Have they been able to access banking in practice? Where else do they gain capital to start businesses?

Identify Needs

When identifying needs, consider the following:

  • If refugees cannot access legal employment:
    • Is access to legal employment denied in total or only in part?
      • Getting refugee status approved?
      • Acquiring work permits?
      • (Non)-existence of any method of entering legal employment? What are the specific obstacles to accessing legal employment?
  • Can refugees work on their own (entrepreneurship, peddling)?
  • Refugees can work, but there is no demand for their skills (skill supply/demand mismatch)
  • Refugees do not know how to access their rights or opportunities
  • Refugees feel isolated and helpless

For more detail on conducting needs assessment, see Legal Services Needs Assessment and Community Needs and Resources Assessment.