Community Needs and Capacities In Marshall County
Findings from the Community Survey
December 31, 2013
Local citizens residing in Marshall County completed the Capacity Assessment Survey designed to assess local needs for development and local perception of the level of community capacity within the following seven domains:
- Health and Well-Being of Local People;
- Skills, Knowledge and Abilities of Local People;
- Relationships and Interpersonal Communication;
- Community Initiative, Responsibility, and Adaptability;
- Cultural Diversity and Quality of life;
- Investments in Community and Financial Resources; and
- Sustainability and Healthy Ecosystems with Multiple Community Benefits.
Marshall County residents previously completed the capacity assessment survey in 2008 and the current (2013) survey results will be compared to the 2008 results in order to assess changes in perceived capacity within Marshall County over the five year period.
Characteristics of the Marshall County Survey Respondents
A total of 801 adults and youth responded to the survey. Ages of respondents fell within a broad range from 13 years to over 90 years of age. About two-thirds of the respondents were female (64.7%).
91% of all respondents reported they currently live in Marshall County and 39% are currently employed in the county. Respondents reside in all areas of the county. The highest percentage of respondents live in the Moundsville area (39.2%) and Cameron area (18.9%). Other areas of Marshall County represented by survey respondents include:
Glendale area – 11.7% of respondents,
Sherrard area – 6.8% of respondents, and
Benwood/McMechen area – 5.5% of respondents.
10.4% of the respondents indicated they live in some other area of Marshall County and 7.5% live outside the county and presumably work in Marshall County.
More than half (62.2%) of the survey respondents represented themselves as “Concerned Citizens”. Education professionals made up 13.9% of the survey respondents. Other respondents chose some other primary role within the community including:
Healthcare professional – 6.1%,
Social Services professional – 7.7%,
Local Business Owners – 5.6%,
Local Elected Officials – 2.1%, and
Development professionals – 2.1%.
A specially designed community survey tool is used to assess local perception of capacity. Survey responses were collected using the on-line survey tool during the months of September, October, and November of 2013. Some of the questions addressed through the on-line survey were designed to get citizen input about current community needs that might be addressed through local development projects. The survey also provided the necessary data to measure the level of local community capacity perceived by survey respondents across seven different areas of influence (domains). Further information about how the survey is designed and how survey responses are scored to assign a quantitative measure of local capacity is provided in Appendix A.
Simply put, the perception of survey respondents related to local capacity is summarized in this report for each of the seven capacity domains by averaging all responses for the five survey statements (variables) designed to measure each domain. A quantitative “score” for each of the seven domains is calculated. Possible scores for each domain may range from -2 to +2 but are generally found in the -1 to +1 range. Scores close to zero or in the negative range tend to indicate that capacity needs to be built within that particular domain and a positive score indicates that the team believes there is some level of capacity present within that particular domain that can be tapped for local development. Higher positive scores indicate higher levels of capacity and more agreement about capacity within that domain by survey respondents. Higher negative scores indicate lower levels of capacity and more agreement about the lack of capacity among survey respondents.
Since the survey respondents were not chosen randomly, survey results cannot be considered to be a statistically valid representation of the entire county population. Nevertheless, given the relatively high number of total responses and the geographic, age, and professional diversity of those persons who did submit responses, findings from the survey should provide a reasonably accurate picture of how local Marshall County residents view the needs and issues in their county. The 2013 survey was completed by considerably more people and by a greater diversity of people than was the case in 2008.
Survey Findings Related to Perceived Areas of Need
Respondents were asked two questions related to specific needs within Marshall County. A notable majority of respondents continue to indicate they believe alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD) are a “problem that needs attention” in the area where they live. In 2008, 78.5% indicated the ATOD issues were something that needed attention. In 2013 this percentage declined slightly to 72.9% of total respondents; however, ATOD issues continue to be seen as an area of considerable concern.
Survey respondents were also asked to choose what was needed most in Marshall County to improve the quality of life for local residents. A list of needs was offered and respondents were able to choose more than one response to the question, “What we really need the most in Marshall County to improve the quality of life for local residents is?” The 2013 responses about listed community needs are compared to the 2008 responses in the following table.
|More recreational opportunities||72.2%||63.2%|
|Additional educational opportunities||46.3%||37.9%|
|A community center||45.3%||30.0%|
|More emphasis on culture and the arts||34.7%||28.9%|
|Better healthcare facilities||33.8%||31.9%|
|Other areas of need||30.6%||22.4%|
The most notable change in how local Marshall County residents view community needs in 2013 as compared to 2008 is in the area of housing. The percentage of respondents indicating additional housing was what is really needed in the county increased from 11.9% in 2008 to 24.3% in 2013. This increased level of awareness related to housing needs is most likely a result of the increased demands placed on housing by the Marcellus Shale gas field workers who have been attracted to the county in recent years.
Smaller percentages of survey respondents indicated a need for recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, and a community center in 2013 than was the case in 2008. There was a wide variety of open ended comments offered by survey respondents related to areas of need within the community and a complete list of unedited comments is included in Appendix B.
Survey Findings Related to Domains of Community Capacity
Survey results are used to identify strengths and weaknesses in local capacity as those strengths and weaknesses are perceived by local citizens responding to the survey. Responses to the individual statements addressed through the survey are also useful in identifying specific local issues that may need attention as additional community capacity is built within Marshall County.
The survey results can provide valuable insight into local conditions and provide a local perspective of capacity that complements other statistical indicators summarized within the Marshall County Community Profile.
In some cases there may be a strong consensus of opinion among the survey respondents about a particular survey statement contributing to local community capacity. In other cases there may be very little consensus about a particular survey statement. When this is the case, the level of consensus about particular issues contributing to community capacity is noted. Variations in the way survey respondents see issues in Marshall County are to be expected and they tend to reflect the different roles and experiences of survey respondents.
Domain 1: Health and Well Being of Local People
Survey respondents believe some areas contributing to this domain are strong while others are weak. The overall score for this domain is +0.024 which is close to the overall score of +0.045 established from the survey responses in 2008. Overall, survey responses indicate a relatively low level of community capacity related to health and well-being; however, residents tend to see community safety, public education and early childhood programs favorably while the economic security and health of local residents are seen as areas of deficit. Respondents see safety issues in the county as a particular strength and the health and physical fitness of local residents as a notable weakness. The responses related to the health and well-being domain in 2013 were very similar to those in 2008.
The survey responses about the health and well-being of local people are generally consistent with the statistical data drawn from other sources and summarized in the community profile of Marshall County.
Initiatives that focus on promoting healthy lifestyles and physical fitness as well as any efforts to improve the economic security of local people should be areas of focus in order to improve the overall health and well-being of Marshall County residents.
Domain 2: Skills Knowledge and Abilities of Local People
Those persons completing the survey see a low level of capacity within this domain. The average score for this capacity domain in 2013 is -0.159 which is just slightly better than the score obtained in 2008 of -0.232. This score represents an overall perception that this domain is an area of weakness for the county. As was the case in 2008, all five statements contributing to this domain were seen somewhat negatively by survey respondents. A majority of people participating in the survey do not think public meetings are very accessible. Although there is not a clear consensus about the extent to which people are willing to help in addressing community issues and opportunities for local residents to develop new skills, survey responses also indicate these are areas of weakness within the domain. Those respondents offering an opinion were divided as to whether or not local people value life-long learning, and whether or not government decisions are made based on good information. Overall, however, survey respondents see these areas as deficient as well.
Improving skills, knowledge, and abilities and engaging more local citizens in community affairs are actions that would help build community capacity in Marshall County. The county would also benefit from strategies to: (1) increase citizen engagement in local issues, and (2) increase the number people helping with local community projects.
Domain 3: Relationships and Interpersonal Communications
Relationships and Communication is a component of local social capital and this is an area where survey respondents see some issues positively and others negatively. The overall score for this domain in 2013 is +0.059 which is an improvement over the domain score observed in 2008 of -0.030. This indicates some progress in improving working relationships over the past 5 years. Areas within this domain continue to need attention – most survey respondents continue to feel that people do not work well together and listen to all points of view. Survey respondents believe area residents trust one another to do what is best for the common good and a strong majority of respondents believe progress can be made when local citizens “roll up their sleeves and do it themselves”. Responses also indicate that a majority of those offering an opinion believe people lack knowledge about who to contact when they need help from outside the community. Respondents had mixed opinions about whether “people believe local officials generally act in the best interest of the community at large”.
Some increased capacity is noted over the past five years related to the general level of trust among local citizens and willingness to get involved in making things better. Strategies to increase the level of confidence in local government actions and action to build better relationships with outside resources should continue in order to further build capacity related to relationships and communication.
Domain 4: Community Initiative, Responsibility and Adaptability
This domain is a second component of social capital and addresses the sense of hope in the area, involvement of people in decision making roles, and willingness to help improve the community. There is some indication that social capital has been built in Marshall County over the past 5 years. The overall score for this domain in 2013 is still less than zero (-0.035) but is better than the score obtained in 2008 of -0.187. A majority of those offering an opinion tend think local residents “look forward to the future”. Survey respondents have mixed opinions about other issues related to this domain including the diversity of people serving in leadership positions within the county and participation on local boards. There is also no clear consensus that people volunteer their time to help with community projects or that the county has a local organization that gets people to work together on community goals.
Recommendations to build social capital offered in 2008 continue to be relevant in 2013 and include:
· Organizational support to mobilize people to work together and establish consensus about county priorities.
· Leadership development programs, and strategies to further engage local citizens in planning and decision making to improve local conditions.
Domain 5: Cultural Diversity and Quality of Life
Cultural diversity and quality of life is a domain where some capacity is identified by survey respondents. The capacity score for this domain in 2013 is +0.060 which is almost identical to score in 2008 of +0.062. Three of the five variables contributing to this domain are viewed favorably and two are seen as deficient. A desire to preserve local heritage, spiritual values, and a positive sense of place are all seen as contributing to capacity within this domain. A lack of recreational opportunities and a lack of opportunities for enrichment through music and the arts continue to be areas that may need to be addressed.
The preservation of local heritage and spiritual values are notable strengths that can be tapped to improve community conditions. Development of recreational opportunities and cultural events may be useful in building capacity related to quality of life in the county.
Domain 6: Investments in Community and Financial Resources
Community capacity related to investment and financial resources has also improved marginally over the past 5 years based on the survey results. The capacity score for this domain in 2013 is +0.036 which is better than the 2008 score of -0.089. 2013 responses indicate that local residents continue to believe that a “good business idea” would be supported by local banks and the majority of respondents offering an opinion tend to believe that local facilities are modern and well equipped. Entrepreneurship continues to be an area that needs attention as respondents indicate few opportunities to learn about starting a new business; however, there is a more positive perception about local business than was the case in 2008.
Continuing efforts to bring “good jobs” to the area and increase economic investments appear to be needed; however, the Marcellus Shale gas industry may benefit the overall county economy in future years.
Initiatives that promote entrepreneurship, training programs for potential entrepreneurs, and incubation of new businesses would likely help build financial capital in Marshall County.
Domain 7: Sustainable, Healthy Ecosystems with Multiple Community Benefits
This domain continues to be seen as the most positive component of community capacity by survey respondents; however the overall score has declined somewhat since 2008. In 2013 the capacity score for this domain that addresses stores of environmental capital is +0.168 which is lower than the score in 2008 of +0.228. County residents responding to the survey tend to believe the quality of the air and water is important to local development and also think people “treasure their natural surroundings”. A majority of those offering an opinion disagree that local industries engage in environmentally friendly practices and this may account for the slight decline in overall capacity noted over the past five years. Marcellus Shale gas drilling in the area may be contributing to a perception that the environmental capital of the area is being degraded.
Survey respondents generally seem to feel that people who leave the county want to return to the area and there appears to be an overall appreciation for the environment among county residents that provides a degree of environmental capital that can be drawn upon to support local development.
Community discussions related to the pros and cons of gas industry may be useful in further exploring community views about maintaining healthy eco-systems that benefit local communities.
Comparison of 2008 and 2013 Capacity Scores
When the overall scores related to the seven domains of community capacity are compared for 2008 and 2013 several changes can be seen. Small declines in capacity are noted in areas related to the health and well-being of local people and sustainable healthy eco-systems. The overall capacity score for cultural diversity and quality of life remained essentially the same; and community capacity related to community and financial resources, initiative and responsibility, and skills and knowledge increased slightly.
The chart summarizes the variation in capacity scores from 2007 to 2013 for each domain.
The scores assigned to each domain of community capacity based on the survey responses are intended as a way to describe the perceived level of one type of capacity as contrasted to another within Marshall County. The capacity scores for each domain reflect the opinions of those persons who participated in the survey. Generally speaking, survey respondents had mixed views about many of the community issues used to measure the level of capacity in each domain and the differences in perspective tend to result in low capacity scores since there is no clear consensus among survey respondents about many of the issues examined.
By assigning a numeric score, it is easier to identify domains of capacity that are perceived by those persons completing a survey as being present in the county and also identify those domains where more attention needs to be paid to building additional capacity.
Based on the survey responses, 2013 Marshall County survey respondents tend to believe some degree of local community capacity can be found in areas related to:
· Health and well-being of local people (safety and education),
· Cultural and quality of life issues (local heritage and spiritual values),
· Relationships and interpersonal communication (trust and belief in self-initiative)
· Community and financial resources (recent economic gains related to gas industry), and
· Local appreciation of environmental assets.
Areas of capacity perceived as particularly lacking include:
· Skills, knowledge and abilities of local people, and
· Community initiative, responsibility and adaptability.
Results of the capacity assessment indicate:
Ø A need for continuing efforts to build Social Capital and engage residents in community affairs, decision making, and projects to improve local conditions, and
Ø Strategies to build Human Capital through improved skills and abilities of people residing within Marshall County.
Compared to survey results in 2008, it appears that there have been incremental gains in local capacity within four of the seven domains and slight declines in two domains over the past five years. Although survey respondents identify some level local capacity that can be built upon, overall community capacity remains relatively low across all of the domains.
Appendix A – Methodology for Analysis of Survey Responses
Marshall County residents were asked to complete a survey in order to measure beliefs held related to 35 measures of local capacity. The capacity portion of the survey is composed of a series of 35 statements. Each of the seven domains of community capacity defined by the capacity framework (see appendix B of the Community Profile) is measured by five statements contained in the survey. Survey respondents were asked to evaluate each statement based on their personal knowledge of the larger community and choose the degree to which they agree or disagree with the 35 statements using a five point Likert-type scale. Responses for each statement can range from “strongly disagree” to strongly agree”.
Individual survey responses were analyzed to produce a composite score for each of the thirty-five variables. For purposes of analysis individual responses were scored from -2 to +2. Responses were scored as follows: “a response of strongly disagree was assigned a value of -2, disagree was valued at -1, neither agree or disagree is a neutral response and received 0 value, a response of agree was valued +1, and strongly agree was assigned a value of +2. The average of the assigned values for all respondents was then used as the score for each individual statement (variable). Finally, an average score was calculated for each of the seven domains by averaging the scores of the five variables related to each domain.
The score for each domain is based on a total of five variables multiplied by the number of respondents. Domain scores can range from minus two (-2.0) if all respondents strongly disagree to plus two (+2.0) if all respondents strongly agree. For any given statement it is highly unlikely that the average response will approach either -2 or +2. Statements that lack any degree of consensus will tend to be scored within a narrow range approaching zero. In general, positive domain scores indicate capacity is present and negative scores indicate the community lacks capacity in the area defined by the domain. Higher scores are interpreted as indicative of higher levels of capacity.
The level of capacity present within the county for each domain is reflective of the opinion and knowledge about the county of those persons completing the survey. Since the survey was not administered in a way that provides for a statistically valid sampling of all county residents, survey results are not necessarily reflective of all persons residing in the county. Levels of community capacity indicated by survey results can help to inform the more objective data available about current community conditions and help identify areas where building local capacity might be beneficial to local development efforts.