Vision Module

The Vision Module includes guidance, prompts, tips, and resources for the following CNA components.


Characterizing your community’s demographics, and crafting a compelling story of your community’s experience and aspirations.

Identifying racial equity issues in your community and how they could be exacerbated by climate change, and exploring your organization’s commitment to racial equity.

Identifying key partners and stakeholders representing and/or serving the community, including both existing partners and new partnerships that could be cultivated.

Understanding existing community priorities for social equity and climate resilience based on past and ongoing community engagement efforts.

Before getting started, first gather any existing community needs assessments or related plans and documents, including those created by partner organizations serving the same community, that can serve as a quick reference for, or be updated through, this CNA development process.

1. Community Profile

In order to create a robust Community Needs Assessment, you must first define the community of focus. Clearly defining your community – who it includes, what their characteristics are, and where they are located – is a critical first step as your community’s profile will serve as the foundation for all other components of your CNA.

2. Racial Equity Evaluation

First – what is racial equity and why is it important? As stated in The Greenlining Institute’s Greenlined Economy Guidebook:

Racial equity is not only a commitment; it is a continuous practice of transforming behaviors, institutions and systems that disproportionately harm people of color. Equity means increasing access to power, redistributing and providing additional resources, and eliminating barriers to opportunity in order to empower low-income communities of color to thrive and reach full potential.

A racial equity approach recognizes that color blindness preserves the status quo and its systemic barriers to equity. Rather, by utilizing a race-conscious approach that shines light on complexities and anticipates the challenges ahead can one develop a truly transformative agenda for change. It is important to keep in mind that racial equity impacts intersect across gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, immigration status and other identities.

The process of evaluating racial equity – and taking meaningful action based on evaluation findings – is an ongoing endeavor and something that cannot be rushed. As such, this section is intended to serve as a starting point for a deeper racial equity evaluation. While this section is intentionally focused on racial equity, this process can also be adapted to evaluate social equity more broadly.

Before you begin, it is important to note that your own implicit biases can influence evaluation results. To minimize potential “researcher biases,” consider the following:

  • If you do not have a clear understanding of what racial equity means, first spend some time reviewing a few resources such as The Greenlining Institute’s Racial Equity Toolkit or Making Equity Real in Research Guide (see page 18 for guiding questions for equitable research).
  • Consider your attitude towards quantitative data compared to qualitative data (e.g., information gathered through interviews and stories). Do you trust or value one more than the other? What makes data untrustworthy or unreliable to you? How might different types of data resonate with different people? How can you leverage both quantitative and qualitative data to create a more comprehensive understanding of your community’s racial equity issues?
    • It is important to recognize that the research field itself – including the process in which research topics are selected, how research methodology is designed, and who conducts the research – can be affected by researcher biases and result in gaps in research and data.
    • Disaggregating data by race and other demographic characteristics can reveal the severity and salience of inequalities.
    • Throughout the Racial Equity Evaluation process, make note of research gaps and ways in which these gaps could be filled through community-based participatory research.
  • Consider the privileges you have (or lack) based on your race, ethnicity, age, gender, education level, income level, family background, and other factors that could lead to researcher biases.

3. Relationship Mapping

This section is focused on mapping your relationships with existing partners, identifying new partnerships that could be cultivated, and exploring strategies to deepen your relationships and build coalitions. Partnerships and coalition building are critical to addressing the diverse needs of your community, many of which are often results of entrenched societal issues. Working with a broad spectrum of partners and allies can help you access and leverage different assets and resources to achieve your community’s vision for social equity and climate resilience.

4. Community Priorities

This section is focused on deepening your understanding of community needs and priorities, as they relate to social equity and climate resilience, and will need to be revisited throughout the CNA development process.

Community needs are constantly evolving, and authentic, ongoing community engagement is critical to ensure that your understanding of community needs is an accurate reflection of the needs that your community identifies.