Community auditing is a participatory research method used by a community for it to evaluate its own priorities and resources, thereby identifying their needs and raising the community's awareness of their own skills and relevant issues facing them.
Problems and Purpose
Community auditing is a method for evaluating, or identifying, what is useful for a community, carried out by the community in question. It is described as an 'empowering process [which] can achieve desirable quantitative and qualitative [community development] outcomes'.
Community audits can be performed on various levels - from organization to neighbourhood to city. What is important is that the audit is inclusive of those in need of provisions.
Community auditing developed as a participatory research method. The need came from the fact that increasingly, research is needed into the needs of various communities in order to secure effective services. However, traditional research methods are not always appropriate or helpful for some communities such as young people, vulnerable or isolated communities. Community auditing was developed at Manchester Metropolitan University to address this need.
Community auditing supports and trains members of the community, such as youth workers, to conduct participatory audits within the community. The process not only identifies the needs of the community but raises community awareness of resources, develops participants skills and knowledge of the relevant issues affecting them .
Origins and Development
Auditing is traditionally a method of evaluating most commonly associated with accounting - used to make an official record or account for a set of resources or assets. Community auditing departs from this account in that it aims to places the community's voices at the heart of the auditing process. It was developed as a method for youth and community workers to use and its principles are in congruence with principles and aims of community and youth work such as fostering conversation, informal education and challenging oppression .
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Participant constituencies will vary according to need. The most important point is that the audit is carried out by, and for, those affected. The 'community' is self-identified .
How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making
The audit is typically led by a trusted member of the community who is specially trained to facilitate the process. However, the aim of this person is supportive rather than directive, and the audit should develop a sense of ownership by the community. A range of research methods may be used but are chosen by the community, as is the agenda.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
Some of the challenges arising from using this approach include the time and effort required, as it is typically a slow process that demands patience and resources. It may also be a challenge for the worker leading the audit, given that they must not take over or manage the process, which can lead to frustration. Community members may have had negative experiences with researchers in the past and be reluctant to participate. Some communities or community members may also struggle to keep up participation throughout the process; Packham cites drug users as a group with erratic lifestyles as an example of this . Overcoming these challenges involves effective training and support for workers or agencies conducting community audits, as well as anticipation and planning for possible obstacles.
 Packham, C. (2000) Community Auditing: appropriate research methods for effective youth and community intervention, in Humphries, B. Ed. (2000) Research in Social Care and Social Welfare, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. https://academic.oup.com/cdj/article-abstract/33/3/249/384265/Community-...
Community Auditing as community development: https://academic.oup.com/cdj/article-abstract/33/3/249/384265
The community counts: a participatory approach to social audits: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3332553/
Community Audits: https://www.sustainweb.org/foodcoopstoolkit/communityaudit/
Lead Image: Community Audit/Living Streets http://tinyurl.com/y5bh7mg3